Posts Tagged ‘Meeting new friends’

So I spent a few days in The Poconos recently, which gave me a chance to explore the little town of Stroudsburg and some of its haunts. I stayed in a hotel a few blocks from Main Street, and while the walk didn’t seem dangerous to me, I did pass through a somewhat sketchy neighborhood along the way. The folks at the hotel said it would probably be best to drive, especially late at night, but I thought what the hell. As my late great friend Jigger once said, “It’s always best to experience some of the local flavor.” Jigger was always right, so walking uptown became the norm those few days for me. Because of this I’d spoken to several locals along the way every evening.

Anywho, my last night there I once again forego the car and walked up to Newberry’s Yard of Ale, a cool little establishment where I’d come to know the bartender, a kindred soul named Frank. Frank and I became buds from my first sojourn up to Main Street and he’d been educating me on all things Stroudsburg. He even knew about Mr. Dominick A. Lockwood, a gentlemen I wrote about earlier in the blog entitled A Friend I Never Knew. Frank even supplied me with some anecdotes about him, which I used in my blog.

After sampling a couple of Frank’s adult beverages and eating an incredible grilled salmon wrap, I began my walk back to my hotel, just sauntering along and checking out the local architecture. It was after midnight and as I walked down a dark street I was suddenly met with an incredible aroma.

Barbecue.

At 12:45 AM.

And damn, it smelled good. Hey, I’d just eaten but for some reason that grilled salmon hadn’t filled me up.

I stopped at the corner and stared down the alley but could see nothing but some wisps of smoke coming from a porch a few houses down, accompanied by some laughter and back-and-forth banter.

On a whim, I headed down the alley, and as I approached the house I heard a voice:

You lost? The hotel’s that way.”

All I could do was laugh and say this:

“I know, but I was drawn by that smell.”

To my delight, at that point the voice invited me to join them on the porch for some of the best damn late night/early morning barbecue I’d ever eaten.

I soon learned that the barbecue was the recipe of Sheldon, who lived in the house attached to the porch I was sitting on, and that he’d gotten it from his grandmother, who he affectionately referred to as Noona.

Or Noomaw.

Or something.

Bottom line? Man, it was good barbecued chicken.

Perhaps the highlight of the evening (morning?) came when a car pulled up and cousin Marlin hopped out with a couple of his friends. They grabbed some chicken and sat down on the porch. It was probably 10-minutes later when they noticed the obviously out-of-place dude on the wicker chair in the corner. It was pretty dark after all. Marlin then leaned forward and asked:

Who the hell are you?

Amid much laughter we all realized that nobody knew the answer. I’d never introduced myself. I remedied that quickly, had a few more laughs, and I finally made my way back to my hotel around 2:00 AM, extra covered plate of tasty goodness in tow, courtesy of Noona.

When Jigger said “local flavor” I don’t think he meant it literally. But he did mean to not be afraid to experience new things, and that’s exactly what I did that night. And I made some new friends and experienced some great flavors because of it.

And damn, that was good barbecue.

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I’ve always been sort a serendipitous guy, running into famous people imagesTIQZBT0Xand interesting situations and whatnot. I like to think you just have to be unafraid to seek things out sometimes and make your own luck, ya know? Hey, you read about my fun on the porch in PA, didn’t cha?

Or maybe that’s a crock of bull. Maybe I’m just lucky.

Anyway, the other night I stayed in beautiful downtown Winston-Salem, NC. Not a bad city it turns out. There were a lot of restaurants and bars around my hotel, as I found out when I took The Spark for a walk around the neighborhood. I sauntered by a bunch of outdoor patios with lots of music playing, just a festive atmosphere all-around. But, I had Spark with me and I couldn’t really go in anywhere, so I had j-u-s-t decided to go back to my room and hit the hay.

But that’s when, from somewhere nearby, I heard live music playing.

If you know me, you know I’m a sucker for live music. The vibes were coming from somewhere a block or so away, so my plan was to take a walk over and check it out. If it looked interesting I’d take the pooch back to the room, return and sit down for some music and an adult beverage.

With Spark in tow I followed the beat of the drums until we came upon a house on a residential street. Shoot. It wasn’t a bar after all. It was some kind of a backyard bash with a live band. Sounded fun but it was obviously a private party, so I was out.

Or not.

As I stood there in front of the house a guy came running out the front door, apparently going to his car to get something. Since I must have looked a little lost standing there with my dog, he asked if I was looking for somebody. Then this happened:

Me: “No, not really. I’m staying over at the hotel, was walking my dog and heard the music. I thought it was a bar so I was coming over to check it out. If it looked cool I was going to take Sparky back and return to check out the band. I didn’t realize it was a private party. No big deal.”

Random Dude: “Well, it is a private party, but bring Sparky and come on back. This is my place.”

Me: “You sure? I can take the dog back first.”

Dude: “Hell no. We’re dog people. Come on back and grab a drink and a lawn chair. Does Sparky need some water?”

Next thing I knew I was in the fenced-in backyard being introduced to everybody, lounging on a lawn chair and listening to a funky little 3-piece combo playing everything from Elvis to Gaslight Anthem.

Spark? At one point I looked over and he was on a picnic table, lying on his back and getting a belly rub from a girl that looked like Christie Brinkley in her glory days. I swear at one point he looked over at me and grinned, like, “Yeah, check me out dad. Jealous much?”

The crowd was a mix of young and old, and at one point a middle-aged guy came over and sat beside me. Turns out he was the coach of a small D-1 football team in North Carolina and had played at Nebraska in the 90’s. We chatted for awhile, and when we both realized we had athletics and music in common we sort of hit it off. When he went to get a drink I searched him up on The Goggle and found that he’d played in the NFL and had started at safety for the Carolina Panthers for 9-years. He’d neglected to mention that little tidbit to me. Long story short I have a standing invitation to stand on the sidelines with the Campbell Fighting Camels football team this coming season.

Oh, and Sparky’s invited but he’ll have to stay in the coach’s office with Sonya, their Silky Terrier. Spark always seems to come out ahead on these deals, ya know?

Sparky.

So we ended up hanging out until the band quit, and then we hung out a little longer. The crowd thinned down from about 40 to probably 12-15, and then we sat around and shot the breeze for awhile longer. Finally, Spark and I said our goodbyes to our new friends and headed home.

It’s weird because I’ve never really considered myself a people person. I mean, I love kids but I’ve never been that fond of grown-ups. My True Friends List is short but fiercely loyal. Anyway, over the past couple of months I’ve wondered into two different parties with complete strangers, from different parts of the country, had a great time, and made some good friends.

What the hell, has my retirement made me soft or something?