Category Archives: Local Color

A Little Strangeness Keeps Life Interesting

payphoneYesterday I was jogging on the peninsula, which is not unusual for me. If you aren’t familiar with Erie, Pennsylvania the Presque Isle peninsula is beautiful. The running trail starts out along the bay and goes around the peninsula onto the lake Erie side. I’m not quite up to jogging the entire trail. (It’s a little over 13 miles…hahahaha…Nope.) At around 2.3 miles the ranger’s station is nestled into the trees near a pond. The station, a squat brown building that the trail loops around, also houses public restrooms. On the front of the building is one of the last remaining pay phones known to man. It should be roped off as an antique. Viewing it is a window into a mysterious past where people actually carried around pocket change.

On this day, while I’m dragging my body around the peninsula with promises of a doughnut if I can just make myself keep going another mile, I hear an odd ringing. An old fashioned ringing.

The pay phone was ringing.

It was like a scene out of The Matrix or a bad horror movie.

I stopped and spun a circle, the feeling of being watched overtaking me. (I may have an overactive imagination. I prefer that to “paranoia”.)

I almost didn’t stop, but my curiosity got the better of me. I approached the phone slowly, sweating, exhausted from my run, the ringing surreal. I stretched out my hand half expecting to have someone jump out and laugh.

Holding my breath I picked up the receiver. Who will be there? Will someone say, “Hello, Brightly.”

I pick up. No voice greets me. “Hello?” I whisper, breathless, heart pounding.

Silence.

My pulse skyrockets. Then, “Hello. This is the $$$$$$ Collections Agency. I’m looking for Enrico *last name totally slaughtered*.”

I laugh fairly obnoxiously. “This is a payphone in the middle of Presque Isle State Park.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“We’ll try again later.” (Clearly not believing me.) The person hangs up.

Points for persistence, I have to say that.

I continued on with my run, but I almost wish I hadn’t answered the phone so I could have pretended that I was in the middle of an espionage movie, starring (Insert Your Favorite Action Star HERE.)

I hope you all have a little weird in your day today, just a little something to keep things interesting.

Happy reading!

Ki

kibrightly


Check out my newest book Trust Trade!

trusttradefs_v1Life hasn’t been good to Jeb Birchman. When he attempted to escape his abusive, zealot father, he found himself on the streets, making a living the only way he knew how, the victim of more violent men—one of whom orchestrates a series of vicious attacks that leave Jeb deaf. Now that he’s aged beyond his latest client’s interest, Jeb knows he needs to escape his risky lifestyle before it’s too late. Seeing one last chance for himself, he earns a GED and enrolls in college.

Freddy Williams enjoys a life that couldn’t be more different from what Jeb has survived. He loves sports, being a personal trainer, and hanging out with friends. The son of deaf parents, Freddy is an outspoken advocate of the Deaf community and works as an interpreter at his college. When he meets Jeb at the bookstore, he’s struck by how attractive he is, and as they get to know each other, he finds Jeb’s good heart just as appealing. By the time he learns of Jeb’s past, it’s only a few steps behind them, and Freddy must make a choice between school and his familiar routine and protecting the man he’s falling in love with.

See a sample of Trust Trade here.

Purchase Links

Amazon

Dreamspinner Press

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Filed under Local Color, Patreon, Presque Isle, Running, The Peninsula, The Writing Trenches

Restaurant Review: Mellow Moods in Shepherdstown, West Virginia

It’s been a small bit since I was in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Life kept me on my toes. I submitted yet another book to Dreamspinner Press, and I’m awaiting their judgement as to whether or not they want it. (They most likely will, because I’m that awesome. {Things I tell myself to keep from being jittery while I wait to hear back from the publisher. But no, wait, I really am awesome! Yeah…yeah…}) I also am finishing up the production process on The Shape of Honey, which is amazing. I have nothing but wonderful things to say about working with the Dreamspinner team. They’re professional. They’re helpful. They truly make the work I give them shine before it’s released into the world, and I love them.

But, that’s not why I’m writing this morning.

I’m writing to review Mellow Moods Café and Juice Bar, which can be found at 119 German Street in the beautiful historic downtown section of Shepherdstown, purportedly West Virginia’s eldest town. The architecture of the area definitely has that tendency toward embellishment that captures the zeitgeist of the turn of the last century. It’s southern charm to the nines. Plunked in the middle of this wave of nostalgia is a business that has a wonderfully northeastern hippy-progressive vibe, and that’s where I’m taking you.

Mellow Moods.

After you walk in the wood and glass front door, it’s something that should remind you of the general stores of your childhood if you’re over thirty, you’re in the main eatery/food production area. The floors are unfinished wood. To your right is the register with it’s prerequisite chalk board menu above. Pastries are proudly displayed and range from vegan to your average run of the mill fare. The tables are wooden and well used and, for some reason, are variable in height giving the place an eclectic vibe that is only enhanced by the art on the walls.

And, oh, the menu is unique and made me do an internal jig. Everything was fresh, organic, and all of the produce was local. I was inspired. I was in heaven. I wanted to eat way more than would be healthy.

Before I ordered I actually took a walk around the rest of the restaurant. If you pass through the main sitting area and go to the right there’s a side room with couches and books to entertain small people so they don’t run amok while you’re trying to eat your food. I suppose if you were a cute new couple (or one of those old hat couples that somehow still want to touch each other every five minutes) you could sit there and cuddle while having your coffee. On through that room is another sitting area with tables and, holiest of holies, a natural wooden bar made from half a log with OUTLETS above it. Anyone who regularly totes around their laptop knows the frustration of finding a cute new place and realizing you’ll never go spend your money there because of the dearth of outlets.

Also, if you are one who likes to sit outside, though it was a horrifically humid 90 degrees the entire time we were there, they had a very cute stone veranda out the back along with a small grassy yard. It was well taken care of and there was an explosion of flowers planted all around. To the right of the back door, under a set of stairs, was a two seater, white porch swing. We did sit out there for a bit before the heat drove us inside.

And did I mention the art work? Every wall has something new and unusual to look at. Even the bathrooms are a joy for the visual senses.

I was instantly in love with this place. I mourned the fact that I was on vacation and would only get to take advantage of it for a few days.

Now, let’s move on to the important parts. The food, the service, the wait staff.

I was in town for two days and made a point of hitting the café on both them. Service was prompt and the lovely, tall woman with short dark hair that took my order was friendly both days, even when I was standing outside the door waiting for them to open the second day, which frankly, is annoying when you’re working an open shift. I know that from experience, so kudos to her for not rolling her eyes at me. She judiciously used Y’all in all conversations with entering customers, as in “Y’all let me know when you’re ready!” which added to the colloquial joy of my trip.

(I have to say, she was kind of trendy in her svelt, “I don’t give a fuck and probably buy local” dress, but she also didn’t feel the need to wear a bra. I mean, she didn’t NEED to wear one. She was slim. She was young-ish, most likely a college student if I had to guess. There wasn’t much to wrangle. As a former barista, I already know of the unfortunate design flaws that usually put a small refrigerator directly below the espresso machine, and, true to form, as I was watching her make a drink she had to bend down and, as most female clothing has at least a semi-plunge in the neckline……I’m a bad person, but I totally looked. They were just THERE. I’m not sure that adds to your desire to frequent the place or not, but…yeah. It was nice in that “seeing a pretty body is always awesome” sort of way. I’m assuming she owned that shit and didn’t care or she wouldn’t have chosen that particular outfit combo.)

Okay, so the food and drinks:

I had never been there before and I was a tad overwhelmed by the choices. The first thing I asked is whether or not they had decaf espresso (I know, I know, but health issues relegate me to the land ‘o decaf.) and I was disappointed that they don’t, in fact, carry it. However, I was able to get their Brain Coffee, also described as an ‘Oil Coconut Latte’ even though it technically is not one, in decaf. It was good. Basically, just a divine decaf roast—perhaps the best one I’ve ever had—with a shot of coconut oil on top. I was surprised. The coconut oil added a creamy richness to the drink I wouldn’t have expected. The first day I got it I added cream, which made it perfect and nearly like a real latte. The second day I got it I didn’t, and it was still wonderful and much healthier.

On my second morning I got a Beet Red juice, which is carrot, apple, beet, celery, and ginger. It was sweet and I probably would have added more ginger to it, but it was a deliciously healthy start to my day. I enjoyed it a lot. Fresh juice bars are few and far between in my hometown so it was neat to see them actually juicing everything to order, which also meant that service wasn’t fast food fast. It was, “we’re making real motherfucking food here” fast, which means that everything took about ten to fifteen minutes to get out, especially if there was someone in line directly ahead of you. This is not a place you want to rush through or should expect to be able to rush in and out of. There’s also no call bar, the people behind the counter actually bring your food and drinks to you, which is kind of nice. I always feel a bit like I’m cattle when I hear my name called at a bar and my food is left to sit there all lonely.

Food wise, I decided to go with a Salmon and Swiss Sammie, which has fried egg, cheese, fried smoked salmon, spinach, tomato, onion, and ranch. You can choose any one of their variety of breads to get this on, and I picked toasted rye. It was much better than I anticipated. You could tell all of the food was fresh. The salmon made everything taste rich and almost buttery. The produce gave every bite a bit of crisp, fresh herbals. It rocked my socks off. I wanted to lick the plate.

Once again, I was so sad I wasn’t a local.

My significant other is a challenge to travel with, as he has to eat gluten free, but we were able to find one dish on the menu he could have. The Hot Maple Quinoa. It’s Quinoa with maple syrup, apples, walnuts, and chevre cheese. (That’s goat cheese and if you’re unfamiliar with the bright, herbal sourness of it you need to get some.) I was initially suspicious of the cheese, as I wasn’t convinced it would go with everything else, but it made the bowl of quinoa pop in a delightful way. We totally stole this idea and we use it at home now since we cook a lot of quinoa.

The only dud we had while we were there was from the kid’s menu. We got them a cheese quesadilla because we weren’t sure they would eat anything else, and they didn’t touch it. I suspect it was because of the whole grain tortilla. After it sat for about ten minutes it sort of turned into tasteless cardboard, which was totally our kids’ fault for letting it sit around, but it was a tad disappointing. (They ended up eating it later because we didn’t stop for dinner until late, with much grumbling.)

Finally, the pricing wasn’t bad for what it was. You can’t expect cheap when you’re getting fresh, local and organic produce, so juices were 6.75 for a large, Lattes and Coffees were a little cheaper than your average Starbucks run, and you could easily spend between 6-10.00$’s per person, per food order excluding drinks, meaning you might spend about 20.00 per person with a specialty drink and an adequate tip if you’re stopping for a full meal. If you’re stopping by for drinks only it would be a completely reasonable outing as far as your wallet is concerned.

There were so many cool things on the menu, I want to share just a few even though we didn’t get a chance to try them. This is not the full menu, just the things that piqued my interest.

There is a HUGE juice list, but I think these sounded the coolest:

Morning Dew-Cucumber, lemon, mint, and agave necter

Garden Elixir-carrot, celery, cucumber, garlic, basil and optional hot sauce

Pink Sun-orange, strawberry and grapefruit

Fresh Pressed Sodas:

First of all I was just dumbfounded by the idea of making your own soda. How wonderfully inventive, and awesome.

Vanilla Thai Coconut

Grapefruit Raspberry

Orange Basil

Lemon Lime Mint

Smoothies:

Skinny Monkey-Banana, honey, and soymilk

Orange Dreamsicle-oranges, yogurt, and vanilla agave

Coffees and Espresso Drinks:

Other than the Brain Coffee I talked about the coffee menu was completely standard and less imaginative than the rest, but the rest IS awesome, so whatever.

Breakfast Sandwiches:

Breakfast Grilled Cheese-honeyed goat cheese with fig preserves, fresh basil on cinnamon bread.

Maple Egg-egg, chedder, local veggie sausage, grilled onions, maple syrup on choice of bread.

Lox Sammie-Wild caught salmon, cream cheese, capers, tomatoes, onion, sprouts, and greens on bagel.

Light Eats:

Bowl of Kale-seasoned sautéed organic kale. (So simple, right?)

Cold Sandwiches:

Powerhouse-sprouts, cucumber, lettuce, tomatoes, onion, Muenster (my favorite melting cheese!) cheese, and honey muster on sunflower bread.

Curried Free Range Chicken Wrap-sweet curried Organic chicken salad with grapes and cashews, lettuce, and onion.

Hot Sandwiches:

Red Rice and Hemp Burger-with cheddar, BBQ sauce, lettuce tomato, onion, on ciabatta.

Tempeh and Avocado Reuben-with sauerkraut, Swiss and vegan 10,000 Island dressing. (I’m not sure if that is a typo or if it’s so awesome it gets 9,000 more Islands than a normal Reuben.)

Salads: Quinoa Salad-mixed greens, quinoa, garden veggies with fresh pesto and balsamic.

Plus they have add-ons for everything.

Conclusion: The place was pretty freakin’ fantastic. If you’re ever in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, stop in.


Check out my book Threefold Love.

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Filed under Local Color, Restaraut Review, Travel