LIMERICK: MADAGASCAR

Ifaty_beach_Madagascar

 Madagascar

Fabrice, from the isle Madagascar
Would make love like a rabbit, but faster.
When his tired wife refused him,
A mistress amused him–
And that’s how he brought forth his bastard.

lisa
April, 2014

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THE COUNTRY MOUSE AND SIX YELLOW CHAIRS (Central Pennsylvania, 2013)

As a little girl, I loved the fable of the town mouse and the country mouse. I was, and remain, a country mouse from rural Pennsylvania, but I loved to visit all those town mice living in distant cities. What excitement there was to be had: museums, stores, restaurants, attractions, music, variety! How curious it was to me that, every summer, families from my little town hosted New York City children through a program that provided those town mice with what was intended to be an unforgettable week in the country, complete with fresh air, county fairs, picnics, sandlot baseball games, hiking, and wildlife fun.  Human nature being what it is, I longed for what country life seemed to lack, while those kids looked forward to seeing sights the city could not provide.

In adulthood, I realized that happiness is not tied to geography, and that living in a small town doesn’t make one a small person.  Admittedly, we country mice might not find a bistro or boutique on every corner–if that’s what one desires–but there are little treasures in unexpected places.  Yesterday, I had lunch at Six Yellow Chairs, a cafe and gift shop located in the unlikely town of Lanse, Pennsylvania.  The owners and operators are local young people with the desire to do something special right here at home–and what they’ve done is special indeed!

Six Yellow Chairs, Cafe and Gift Room in Lanse, PA

Six Yellow Chairs, Cafe and Gift Room in Lanse, PA

In Pennsylvania, the first day of spring might be sunshiny bright or gray as granite.  And since the weather served up a colorless March 20, we decided a treat was in order.  Six Yellow Chairs is situated in a renovated home/ business front; the look is quaint, and the parking is convenient.

Once inside, the inspiration for such a unique name becomes apparent.  The focal point of  the main dining area, which seats up to 30, is a large, vintage table flanked by six ornate, bright yellow chairs.

Six Yellow Chairs main dining area, with the faux fireplace decorated for spring.

Six Yellow Chairs’ main dining area, with the faux fireplace decorated for spring.

Surrounding this  table are several smaller tables, each with its own set of chairs, and draped with crisp, white linens.  The decor is friendly, artsy, and interesting, with colorful pieces that pop against white walls.  Six Yellow Chairs is clearly a labor of love, and there are surprising touches to be seen everywhere.

Another view of Six Yellow Chairs' main dining area

Another view of Six Yellow Chairs’ main dining area

There is no printed menu at Six Yellow Chairs; diners will find the day’s selections written on the chalkboard.   Chef offers two soups, two salads, two entrees, and two desserts at a time, and changes the menu regularly.  I’d suggest calling ahead to hear what’s being served up on a particular day unless, of course, you’d rather be surprised when you get there–which would be fun, too!

The menu changes regularly, and offering are written on a large chalkboard.

The menu changes regularly, and offering are written on a large chalkboard.

With St. Patrick’s Day so recently passed, Chef was preparing corned beef with buttered cabbage on garlic mashed potatoes–yummy!  But I chose the second entree: sweet potato ravioli with roasted mushrooms and bacon.  The meal was generously portioned, served quickly, and beautifully

Beautifully presented in substantial white dinnerware

Beautifully presented in substantial white dinnerware

presented in substantial white dinnerware with utensils that felt heavy–not flimsy or cheap.   It’s amazing how having the food plated this way adds value and atmosphere–not to mention a perfect display for the for the chef’s fine and colorful meals.

Sweet potato ravioli with roasted mushrooms and bacon

Sweet potato ravioli with roasted mushrooms and bacon

Although the portions were satisfying, my friend and I saved room for dessert.  On the menu was a blueberry tart and fresh apple pie with homemade maple ice cream.  It was the tart that

Blueberry tart for dessert

Blueberry tart for dessert

called out to me, a treat which tasted every bit as good as it looked.  The tart shell was tender, the blueberries vibrant, and the dollop of whipped cream with mint leaves made a perfect garnish.

After lunch, we climbed the staircase (delightfully papered with vintage sheet music) to visit the gift room, filled with an ever-changing collection of unique items provided by local artisans.  The gifts are cleverly displayed, and needless to say, different from what might be expected in more traditional small town shops.

Handmade jewelry and purses

Handmade jewelry and purses

Unique jewelry made from vintage elements

Unique jewelry made from vintage elements

Adorable stuffed bunnies

Adorable stuffed bunnies

Small handbags, so colorful and fun!

Six Yellow Chairs also offers custom floral arrangements, designed and made on the premises by the owners.  Yes, the establishment truly is a labor of love—a business, to be sure, but more:  Six Yellow Chairs is a place for those who love creativity, craftwork, aesthetics, little surprises, and a town mouse experience in a country mouse setting.

Dried flower arrangements are among the gift offerings

Dried flower arrangements are among the gift offerings

Six Yellow Chairs  Cafe/Florist/Gift Room is located at 30 Knox Run Road, Lanse, Pennsylvania.  It is currently open most days from 7:00 am to 3:00 pm, with plans to expand the menu to include dinners.  Special occasions at Six Yellow Chairs can be arranged with help from the owners.  Note:  Six Yellow Chairs depends upon word-of-mouth advertising, so visit the Facebook page and spread the good news!

The best testimony I can give is this:  I only visited Six Yellow Chairs two days ago, and I’m already planning a return trip.

Enjoy!

~lisa

Big decisions like Halloween costumes need some guidance, so before you attempt to channel Christian Grey, a drag queen, or a bunch of grapes, why not consider dressing like a Pennsylvanian for Halloween? This informational blog will show yinz just how easy it is to pass for a resident of the Keystone State!

Cheaper Than Therapy:

Autumn in Pennsylvania:  the fiery foliage, the crisp temperatures, pumpkin flavoring in everything from ice cream to toothpaste. 

If there’s one thing Pennsylvanians love more than a garage sale, it’s Halloween— a holiday that’s equal parts cute and creepy.  Well, this year you don’t have to look beyond your back yard  to find the perfect costume:  just in time for Halloween ’11, we offer the finest in scare wear based on surprisingly accurate Pennsylvania stereotypes!

PENNSYLVANIAN LADIES’ HALLOWEEN COSTUMES

It’s hard being a single mom with two jobs.  But ladies, one word makes it easy to dress up for your Pennsylvania Halloween:  slutty.

That’s right, Pennsylvania gals from Jugtown to Intercourse* will be whispering Victoria’s secret on October 31st as they don the lingerie they wouldn’t be caught dead wearing any other time of the year.  Add a halo and wings, and you’re a slutty angel!  Pitchfork and horns?  Poof! you’re a slutty…

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SHE WALKED LIKE SHE WANTED IT

One evening near my fifteenth birthday, I was summoned to stand before the Kitchen Tribunal.  My mother was there;  recently widowed, understandably shell-shocked, and exhausted by the demands of a fragile household and three needy teenagers.  Also in attendance were my two older brothers, their adolescent snickering temporarily pushed aside by the weight and severity of the matter at hand, which was this:  A few days earlier, an acquaintance of  theirs (several years older, a bit snarky, and appropriately enough, named Dick) had driven past me as I crossed the Market Street Bridge, then reported to my big brothers that their little sister walked like she wanted it.   The family was solemn and disapproving;  the kitchen smelled of fried egg sandwiches and scandal.

Well, I was affronted!  I was mortified!  I was. . .intrigued.  So after clearing my good name with Mom and the brothers, I retreated to ponder this new development.  I turned it over in my mind:  She walked like she wanted it.  Those words couldn’t possibly apply to me, a self-described wallflower and slow starter who hadn’t yet learned how to flirt.  I mean, I certainly knew what IT was, but I wasn’t sure I wanted IT anytime soon.  To be honest, IT was a little scary.  Besides, exactly how did I walk like I wanted it?  What was happening back there that I didn’t know about? 

Therefore,  I turned to my cultural icons for clues.  The men on Gilligan’s Island (even the Professor!) were dumbstruck each time Ginger walked by, but I’d have described my walk as more . . . Mary Ann-ish.  And there weren’t enough Underalls in the world to make my back porch swing like Ann-Margret’s.  But in the privacy of my room, I had to admit I kind of liked knowing something about the way I walked caused Dick to take notice.  Is this what made Aerosmith’s Walk This Way such a dirty song?

Conveniently placed bamboo conceals Gilligan’s interest in Ginger’s leopard skin swimsuit.

Until that moment, the only womanly walk I’d ever analyzed was my mother’s.  Her long legs moved with quick, purposeful strides.  “Keep up, Lisa!” she’d insist as we rushed from store to store each Saturday morning, trying to get our shopping done before some deadline (Yes, I grew up in a world with downtown stores but no Amazon.com.). 

Mom also instructed me on how to walk like a lady.  “Move your legs from the hips, not from the knees, Lisa.”  And because I tended toward pigeon-toes:  “Point your shoes forward, Lisa.  Don’t let your toes turn in when you walk.”  I assure you, Mom was not being critical;  back in the day, it was a mother’s duty to teach her daughter the finer points of being a woman.   How ironic that the very walk my mom worked to cultivate in me would one day attract the attention of boys like Dick.

I never managed to duplicate my mother’s walk, though.  At 4′ 11″ inches tall, I just don’t have the equipment to cover ground in the same fashion.  Now 79, Mom still out distances me step by step.

But as I made my way through the mall recently, I couldn’t shake the eerie feeling of being stalked by my Great Aunt Lois (May she rest in peace.).  Great Aunt Lois was smart and generous, a veteran school teacher with a no-nonsense attitude, a woman esteemed by the family at large during my formative years.  Great Aunt Lois’s walk, however, was nothing like my mother’s. 

The Grand Dame was short, stout, and plagued by arthritis.  She waddled stiff-legged from here to there with knees and hips that moved like rusty gears.  I imagined her carrying an oil can in that oversized handbag on her arm.  And whoever was caught climbing a flight of stairs behind Great Aunt Lois had better not be in a hurry;  coaxing those creaky joints to rotate in such a manner was a process that simply could not be rushed.

And so it was Great Aunt Lois’s walk that followed me  past each store window— in the form of my own reflection.  Nowadays, I walk like I want some ibuprofin and a nice, long, soak.  And since he’s a grandpa now, I’m pretty sure Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler walks this way, as well. 

Dick, too.

And such, friends, is the walk of life. 

~lisa

THE HUMAN GALLERY

  

 

We are Creator and Creation
Both the artist and his art
Our first, lush days painted like frescos
Into flesh still wet and new
Sometimes Botticelli, sometimes Bosch
Swirling fusions of shapes and hues
Ever and always a work in progress   
                        
We are tattooed by mistakes   
False starts and regrets
The burned skin then displayed to all
Equally revered and reviled
By the circumspect eyes of patrons and critics
So achingly beautiful, so grievously lacking
Paradoxical and juxtaposed
                         
I stare at the easeled mirror
A reflection of my handiwork
Itself balanced precariously on a pedestal                                                    
Earnestly carved of self-mined marble
Transfixed by the veins, I chiseled deeply
Bloodied my hands and rendered the column
All in the name of articulation
                       
The human gallery is a carnival, a spectacle
Strewn end-to-end with masterworks
Each piece an opus, every creation a rhapsody
Yet one by one, they crash to the ground
Knocked from their underpinnings
By hecklers, by vandals, by fellow artists
Imperfections and faults exposed
                       
Yet despite motive, hunch, or vision
No matter the inspiration
There is one great equalizer:

Humanity.

We are given charge of a subtle palette
Then, tempered by our sameness
Must bravely reach toward exaltation

~lisa

THE LITTLE SPARROW IN THE BIG STORE

 

At the big home improvement store where I work, there are managers and project specialists and customer service associates.  There are cashiers, loaders, and night stockers.  But of all my coworkers at the big home improvement store, my favorite is the little sparrow who lives in the rafters.

In most stores, the presence of any animal would be an oddity at least, more likely a disturbance.  But because of our store’s size and openness, birds fly in and out at will.  They’ve become our unofficial mascots—ad hoc good will ambassadors at whom adult customers smile, and which their children regard with unabashed glee. 

What is it about birds that makes us humans feel all homey?  Our vocabulary is seasoned with bird-related idioms meant to evoke home and family:  A couple just setting up house is said to be nesting, with that first shared home likely referred to as a love nest.  Advancing one’s position in life is sometimes called feathering the nest.  An expectant woman is on the nest, or on the egg, and when the children are grown, we say they’ve flown the nest.  At that point, we nickname their parents empty nesters.

So charmed are we by our winged friends, that many of us openly invite them into our lives— transforming our yards into bird havens by decorating with feeders, baths, and nest-friendly houses.  Perhaps you’ve seen that clever commercial in which Mama and Papa Cardinal use their local home improvement store to build the bird house of their dreams.  That’s no coincidence.

Still, it’s not the result of advertising that I’m so fond of the store sparrows.   It’s the harmonic relationship which has developed between the two; it’s what the birds have come to represent to me:  adaptability and survival. 

Snugged in the beams above the lumber area cash register is a nest built by a little brown sparrow. I watched as the nest took shape;  at first she flew out the loading doors and back in again with twigs gathered from the ground, but soon she was incorporating materials from the store itself.  Tufts of insulation were carried up into the beams, along with snippets of twine and other packing materials.  The little brown sparrow and her mate made themselves at home in their adopted, block- and- steel meadow.   Undaunted by the noise, the clutter, and the close proximity to creatures of a much larger and much different species, they learned to raid the seasonal shop for spilled bird seed and other goodies.  And unless I’ve misjudged the signs, they’ve filled their carefully-built nest with a clutch of eggs.  How could my heart not be happy at such good news?

Who knows what brought the little brown sparrow into our store weeks ago?  It’s a big, wide world out there.  But journeys tend to begin and end as they like, and we make our homes wherever that road leads.  Sometimes the journey is geographical, with starting and ending points in different physical locations.  But for many of us, the journey is an emotional one—or a spiritual one, or one of self-discovery, or of self-improvement.  The point of some journeys—so it would seem—is to overcome an obstacle or survive a crisis with perseverance and grace. 

Likewise, the home we make might be a three-dimensional structure built of supplies found in the aisles of a home improvement store; yet, home can just as accurately be defined as that state in which a person feels comfortable with his situation, or within his own skin.  What a home, sweet home that must be!

I applaud the little brown sparrow:  her determination, her creativity, and the moxie with which she hops among employees and customers, shopping for bits and pieces to take back to her nest, are the embodiment of home improvement,  both literal and metaphorical.  I can only hope to do my job as well as she does hers!

ANOTHER MORNING OF RUMOR AND INNUENDO

It’s a cannibal town:
A place with dark secrets
Where tall, stately manors
And storybook cottages
Carry out deceptions.

Hidden by flirting, calico curtains,
Obscured by the pastel piety
Of  bathtub Madonnas,
Savages await the chance
To feast upon their own.

With an appetite for rumor and innuendo,
They gobble down everything placed before them,
Unconcerned by worth or shame,
Unaware that they have not been nourished,
But rather, diminished by careless consumption.

Feigning polite chatter, vampires
Walk these tree-lined streets;
Thirsty for scandal, aroused by pain
Pausing only to spit out bits of flesh
Shredded along with simple truths.

And the anguish of those devoured
Goes unnoticed, as always—
Unimportant.  Inconsequential.
Carried away on the breeze
Like the benign music of windchimes.

~lisa