Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Friendly Community Center in Barrett Township

No. No! It’s not what you think. It’s a place to get fit, stay healthy, and have fun.
By Kevin Conroy
“We’re a community hub,” smiles Nicole Abrams, director of The Friendly Community Center, where participants serve one another with support, learning, and friendship.
But the Friendly Community Center is having an identity crisis, and many people remain confused about what this center is. Let’s start with what the Community Center is not. Friendly Community Center is not part of any library, is not exclusive to residents of Barrett Township, nor is it an average senior center.
Yes, the building at 6683 Route 191 in Mountainhome, PA, was dedicated as the Barrett Friendly Library in 1913, but there is nothing library left about the place. Architect Bill Raczko, whose accomplishments include projects at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Smithsonian Institution, and Yankee Stadium among many others, saw to that in an $820,000 renovation spanning two years. Old shelving was removed down to bare timbers, and the building repurposed to become an inviting, open space for another century of service. A timber-vaulted ceiling and old stone fireplaces remain to add character in the bright, clean span.  
“We were part of a wonderful, dedicated team of members in the community who made the Center possible,” say Bill and his wife Joyce.
And, yes, the Friendly Community Center does lease their facility to the Monroe County Area Agency on Aging to serve lunch and provide wellness programs for seniors. Board member Nancy Hooke calls the Community Center the senior center of the future. “We don't just focus on the elderly, but also on generations living well,” Nancy says. “We are so much more than just a senior center.”
Well the seniors must be good sharers, because the Friendly Community Center arranges other activities morning noon and night. People of all stripes meet up there, people of contrasting interests and ages, whether they’re into travel and history, snowshoeing, or the thrill of catching and banding Saw-whet owls.
“You get to see a lot of people you don’t see every day,” says Elaine Bubb, who teaches gardening there. “It brings in a wide array of folks. FCC offers a lot more than what people are thinking.” She’s right. In fact, membership includes so many programs we can’t present all of them here; what follows is only a cross section of their offerings. 
“I guarantee you’ll make new friends,” says Barrett Bird Club founder Darryl Speicher, who joins with local bird enthusiasts at Friendly Community Center. “The gist of Barrett Bird Club is to get together and share our love of birds. We gather to share photos, recent sightings, and become more knowledgeable on where to go locally to see birds in varying habitats. We have themes and programs, and invite guests to speak about what birds we might see in the winter, say, that we can’t see any other time of year. We also organize birding adventures that meet at FCC on a Saturday or Sunday, and go from there.”
Fitness classes, including Cardio Sculpt, Barre Fitness, Zumba, Yoga, Qi Gong and Tai Chi, some of which are designed for people coping with mobility issues, require varying levels of membership to join. So what is it about the community center that makes it a good place to hold the Men Get Fit program? “The people of Barrett Township and the surrounding area,” says National Academy of Sports Medicine-certified Bob Larsen. “Great people, great community!” Bob’s style of interval instruction is one of the most effective ways to get fit quickly, and allows men of any age or health level to exercise without feeling they’re competing. “The room we work out in is spacious and clean,” adds Bob. “FCC also has an outdoor exercise circuit we use on nice weather days.” The group has had substantial gains in overall fitness, with the cardiovascular conditioning of the participants increased tremendously.
Great Decisions, a national program of thought-provoking discussions sponsored by the Foreign Policy Association, is held at the Friendly Community Center. “Truthfully, our group almost invariably comes away from each discussion with the conclusion that there are a few clear answers to most issues,” says 2018 moderator Karen Tetor. “The discussions give us greater insight into the challenge of developing foreign policies, and the danger of not understanding the complexities.”
Many programs do not require membership to join.
The Women’s Circle is a sisterhood run by Colleen LaScala and Sue Ruskin-Mayher. “Our women’s circle is the perfect fit,” says Colleen. “Women of all ages meet in an informal gathering where we greet one another without judgement. It’s an opportunity to share about our day, week, family life, maybe even health concerns. It’s a nice way to show support and learn from the wisdom of others. Friendships continue to develop as word gets out about what a fun and caring group we have here at the Center.”  
Cub Scout Pack 89, established in 1955, is a living part of Pocono community history. At its first meeting, the Pack 89 boys put on a skit called “Westward Ho!” Today, Scouting is for both boys and girls. “Our Scouting program is a fun, hands-on learning experience. It truly builds character and leadership skills,” says Leslie Petroff, who is den leader along with husband Nick. “The FCC provides a safe environment to conduct our meetings, and our Scouts love meeting there. I can't begin to tell you how fortunate and grateful we are to be able to have our meetings at the Friendly Community Center. FCC is a hidden gem!”
The Barrett Township Historical Society’s Cresco station museum is so chockablock full of displays they choose to hold their meetings at the Friendly Center. Because BTHS doesn’t know beforehand if they will have a large or small gathering, the Community Center’s flexibility makes their setup easy. The sound system connected to a large display screen is HDMI ready for presentations from any laptop, whether it be about the train “Phoebe Snow” or the old Buck Hill Inn. “The FCC is welcoming,” says BTHS President Donna Bisset. “If one is new in town, it’s a great way to make friends and find out what this area has to offer. It supports and nourishes our community, and keeps us connected.”
Northeast PA Area Health Education Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the quality of health for people in our region. Their “Diabetes – Prevent T2” program, held at the Friendly Community Center, has helped people lose weight and control their diabetes. Some participants lowered their A1C. Some are no longer on insulin.
Weight Watchers has been losing weight - 500 pounds in 12 weeks for 15 participants! “I find that this is one of the best meetings of Weight Watchers I have ever attended,” says one member. “The support we give each other is beyond expectation.” That speaks volumes about the Center and the community it lives in.
“The Community Center welcomed us with open arms,” says a member of Alcoholics Anonymous with nearly forty years of sobriety. “When the church we were meeting in closed, there was a very real chance AA would no longer have a presence here in Barrett Township.” How many drivers are not driving drunk due to those meetings. This is an example of how the Community Center reaches far beyond its doors and into society.
The Friendly Community Center offers its building for lease, too, and is generally available Saturdays and Sundays for 3½ or 8 hours.
Linda Langdon rented the building for her daughter’s bridal shower. “Nicole was wonderful to work with,” says Linda. “The kitchen is large and a number of people can work in it at the same time. The two rooms were perfect and easy to decorate for the occasion. You basically had to bring decorations and food; the rest was there.”
“We rented the FCC for our daughter’s first birthday,” adds Dora Pereda. “Nicole was so helpful and insightful. It was a pleasure to rent, decorate, and celebrate in it.”
 A number of events are presented periodically at the Community Center, like line dancing; some require membership, some don’t.
Armchair Travel, free and open to the public, offers travelogues from all over the world, from national parks to South African safaris. “Not everyone can afford or is able to travel,” says series originator Jane Bartholomew. “Here they can journey vicariously, learning about foreign culture, society, and even foods.”  
If you really are travelling, French for Fun might be the thing. The class is for people who know some French, to pure beginners, and its goal is to have students learn basic French expressions.  “We have a lot of fun, so don't be afraid to come join us,” says instructor Yvonne LeBlanc. Last year, the class did a chocolate tasting in French.
A membership would be the best course if you’re ready to participate in what the Friendly Community Center has to offer. All the information you need, including facts on programs for seniors and their caregivers, is at www.thefriendlycommunitycenter.org/programsandevents/
You’ll be glad you subscribed to the newsletter for upcoming special events and reminders, too.
« Notre centre communautaire invite ses membres à se réunir pour continuera se développer et à se supporter les uns les autres, » dit Yvonne.
“Our community center invites its members to come together to continue to grow and to support each other,” says Yvonne.

Quotes in this article have been edited for length and clarity.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

The long journey
By Kevin Conroy
In the mid-1970’s, the Cresco Railroad Station may have been the loneliest spot in the Poconos. The place gave no hint of its past, a roiling past that included as many as a thousand passengers a day, the parking lot jammed with horses and buggies and automobiles that would turn today’s heads. There were fortunes made in trade. Among the thousands of pieces of freight delivered there? Five barrels of pork delivered to Cresco in 1896 from Armour & Co, in 1900 a one hundred twenty-five pound barrel of soap, freight charge 25¢.
The Cresco Post Office stood close by and Barrett’s main thoroughfare ran directly through the station property for additional action. The sharp turn in the track visible from the east side of the station was the site of a violent train wreck in 1903; a wreck that tempted two boys to walk from Mountainhome to Cresco to inspect the wreckage and approach a tarp. Two boys, too curious.
But in the 70’s the place stood deserted as the train tracks creaked only with the sun’s heat.
The line, originally laid in 1857 when the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad ran a line from Scranton, Pennsylvania, to Hoboken, New Jersey, was for freight, hauling the likes of coal, lumber, and leather, but without provision for passengers. Cresco made do with a pile of railroad ties covered with tarp to receive goods at that time. Only months after the track was laid, the economic downturn and ensuing panic of 1857 curtailed the need for shipments. The resourceful DL&W Railroad recognized a want for people to escape congested cities, and so began passenger service to points east of New York into Pennsylvania, augmenting a boom of inns and hotels that dotted the Pocono Mountain map. Barrett Township alone hosted upwards of seventy-five places to lodge, and droves of those lodgers arrived by rail at the Cresco Station.
Construction of the station proper began in the 1870’s, and after three years to complete stood ready in 1880 to pick up and deposit passengers. Painted a deep green with maroon trim in the typical Delaware Lackawanna style, the station’s upper windows were of stained glass, with Victorian embellishments and gingerbread dressing out the truss ends and gables. Facing trackside, the building had a three bay window area, protected from baggage cars by iron bars, where the station master viewed trains and tracks both east and west. The crossing gates at the road were hand operated.
The interior was simplicity itself, consisting of a baggage room, the station and ticket masters’ room, and a waiting room.
It wasn’t long before sheds were built to shelter the horses used for transportation. (The station predated automobiles.) Later, in the 1920’s, a canopy, which soon had to be doubled in size, was built for the autos and busses used to transport passengers to places with names like Onawa Lodge and Monomonock Inn. 
In the 1880’s, railroading established standard time zones across the United States and implemented safety modernizations like air brakes. It was a time of improved passenger comforts, with the introduction of in-car heating and open ended observation platforms. And the Pullman Company began manufacturing dining cars; the DL&W dining service menu included Welsh rarebit, shad roe with bacon, pickled lamb tongue, and Heinz euchred pickles. 
Through the 1890’s, the rail was used in main for payloads: ice, railroad ties, hides, sprags (coal mining car brakes manufactured by Theo B. Price in Cresco.) Trout eggs from the Paradise Trout Hatchery shipped all over the U.S. from Cresco.
Railroads were a major asset to a small community like Barrett. The Cresco spur, a mile of track radiating from the main line, delivered freight into the town. Materials for building Skytop Lodge arrived by rail; entire house kits purchased from Sears and Roebuck made their way along the spur. Late 1920’s deliveries of light lines for Pennsylvania Power and Light came back to the station in the form of electricity. But by the 1970’s, the last freight car to use the spur got stranded behind Theo B. Price Lumber and needed to be rescued by crane. The track was subsequently torn out.
The 1930’s and the war years belonged to the railroads, and Cresco station reached its heyday in the 1940’s during WWII, when gasoline and rubber rationing made car travel difficult. People weary of war flocked to the Poconos for escape. The Cresco Station had three business windows at that time: a ticket window and a Pullman coach window, and Western Union had a man dedicated to telegrams. A telegram received in the office read: “Send the overcoat I left there to L J Laugan Hotel Columbia Scranton by express today.  DeKay.
President Eisenhower’s post-war highway plan ushered in an automobile culture that allowed travel with more freedom than the railroads could provide, and railroad passenger use plummeted during the 1950’s, even as some American railroad companies tried to stem the tide with new equipment and promotional advertising for passengers that rarely came, although some riders still enjoyed the amenities offered. “In the late 1950’s we would take the train from Cresco into Hoboken, then the subway into New York,” says Warren “Mickey” Miller of Cresco. “We’d be tourists in the city, go to a show and shop. Then we would take the Phoebe Snow back and have dinner on the train. It was very elegant with beautiful silver and china. Dinner on the train was always special.”
But by the 1960’s passenger service was left for dead, and railroading went into spiraling decline as trucking ate away at its freight business. The Cresco Railroad Station closed in 1968 with the arrival of one final passenger train.
In 1970, Karl Weiler, of Weiler Abrasives, leased the station building from Conrail to use for storage. “At that time we began to maintain it,” says Weiler, “replacing rotted flooring and putting on a new roof.” He negotiated a $1-per-year lease in consideration for his efforts. Weiler also used it for a time as a brush outlet.
In the 1980’s the thought of using the building as a museum occurred to Weiler, and the Weiler Family Foundation eventually purchased the property from then owner Monroe County Rail Authority. But in the summer of 1989, vandals took a leisurely two weeks to destroy the station interior before the damage was discovered and reported. The blackguards smashed stained glass windows, solid oak doors, antique light fixtures emblazoned with the station masters insignia, and other irreplaceable antiques. The boys were discovered and charged, but their bestial gaiety still stings the community thirty years later. The event disappointed Weiler in the extreme, and he boarded up the building.
The vandalism, to some extent, became a catalyst for Weiler to begin restoration of the station. In the 1990’s he got to work, hiring builder Clark Bartholomew to lead construction. “It was a big project,” says Weiler. Bartholomew had special router bits made to shape replacement woods with historical correctness. Using photographs Bartholomew reproduced the car and bus canopy once used by area hotels. 
After completion of renovations, Weiler turned the station keys over to Jacqueline Magann, chair of the Barrett Township Historical Society, to open it as a museum. “We wondered, ‘how do we fill this building!’” says Mrs. Magann. But as word got out about the project, people began to bring items, and now the building could pass for Barrett’s attic. It is chockablock full of artifacts from the township, many of which date back more than a century. The permanent display of the Patriotic Order Sons of America has an excellent example of folk art, and the baggage room has been set up as a country store but includes a barber chair from Skytop Lodge and a dog sled from Buck Hill Inn. Civil War muskets are on permanent display, as is the electric scoreboard from the Barrett High School gymnasium.
Some pieces original to the station remain: large photographs of the Pocono landscape, a placard advertising round-trip tickets to Niagara Falls for $5. The telegraph ticker still holds its original place in the stationmaster’s room.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, an excursion train from Scranton’s Steamtown arrived late at the Cresco station as a freight train first assumed the track’s right-of-way. The freight made its halting pass by the station and around the sharp bend in the track, the site of earlier train wrecks, the turn where it is still rumored train cars lie submerged in the adjoining bog. The place where two curious boys walked down the track to see a wreck, and lifted a tarp to see what lay underneath. It was the wreck where the engineer, the fireman, and a passenger were killed.
Passengers from the Steamtown excursion detrained with smiles to inspect the old Cresco Station restored, to look at her exhibits, listen to fiddle music, grab a hot dog …to bring life to the place.  

Thursday, October 4, 2018


Stateliest in the realm

By Kevin Conroy
The long driveway feels like primal forest lined with flowers, then it comes into view, all stone and windows, turreted and mossy-roofed. Before you stands the French Manor. 
One is struck with a sense of the majestic. Under a massive arch the door heaves open to reveal a handsome lobby. “Bienvenue!” smiles co-owner Bridget Logan Weber. “Welcome to the French Manor.”
For decades, the French Manor has been a yardstick by which other restaurants have been measured. “The restaurant is so important,” explains owner Genevieve Logan Reese. “It supports the overall business and makes us a destination.” And while this chateau does frame the youthful elegance of Chef Adam LaFave’s dishes, to view the Manor as solely a restaurant would be a disservice.
The French Manor has for many years been a Four Diamond awarded country inn. Built in 1937 by entrepreneur Joseph Hirshhorn to curate a massive art collection, this stone-for-stone replication of a French chateau was purchased by the Logan family in 1990. The Logans enhance the estate on a consistent basis and, in 2009, complemented the inn to include Le Spa Fôret. “The spa is a getaway for adults,” says Bridget.
Poised to arrange a relaxed, pampered, and restorative experience, Le Spa Fôret is an investment in one’s self. An elegant salt water pool greets guests as they enter; the cedar sauna stands to one side, complete with eucalyptus water.
Guests, inn guests and day guests alike, begin at the well-appointed reception area. Essential oils in a number of blends are available for treatments. Bright changing rooms and wooden lockers await; a cozy fireside is the perfect accompaniment for a warm bamboo massage. At dusk, tai chi is offered on the lawn.
In the Spa Suites, massive four poster beds host percale sheets; leather sofas expect to be relaxed in. Out on the private balconies the views are spectacular in every season, often the perfect spot for the Inn’s gourmet breakfasts. Traditional fare as well as house specialties are available at breakfast time. Exceptional is the Healthy Riser, poached eggs served with mesclun salad tossed in extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice. So is the Breakfast Parfait of fresh berries layered with yogurt and homemade vanilla almond granola.
“We bring the spa experience to all our guests,” says Bridget.
In the Manor house, Turret Suite hosts a lovely French swag bed and sweeping, thirty-mile view. It is a spot filled with romance.
Evening dining experiences are fascinating. Under the soaring ceiling of the great room, damask covered tables sparkle with fine china and silver, while out on the veranda things are a bit less formal. “Even close to home the veranda feels like miles from everywhere,” says Bridget. Either is an apt setting for Chef LaFave’s creativity.
“Knowing I have made people happy,” says Chef LaFave, “is the most important part of my job.” Chef’s Mer et Terre, pairing grilled venison with butter-poached lobster, shows true genius in his deconstructed béarnaise sauce of Malbec reduction, caramelized shallots, tarragon oil, and cured egg yolk. All Chef LaFave’s dishes are thoughtfully presented and display a master level of creativity.
The major demand facing this business may not be what one would expect. “My greatest reward is our staff,” says Genevieve. “But making the perfect match of employee’s talents to their responsibilities can be challenging.” As a result, the service is not pretentious, but courteous and helpful in every aspect of the French Manor experience.  
Whether dining, lodging, or taking advantage of spa treatments, the French Manor may be the stateliest venue for life’s enjoyments.

Monday, October 1, 2018

A Morning on the Lackawaxen

This rail and river excursion made for the perfect outing

A blue heron flushed from the river bank, its wings beating over the water as we slowed our kayaks and watched in silence as it moved downstream.
Five of us kayaked the Lackawaxen that day, taking part in the Rail and River Excursion from Honesdale to Hawley, a good ten mile stretch of water. It gave a sense of peace and excitement to paddle downstream as our guide Dan Corrigan pointed out native medicinal plants and ancient stone walls still standing from the D&H canal. The air breathed cool and refreshing; now and then the water quickened and the boats sped along. Bald eagles lit from treetops. A kingfisher -- A green heron -- A red-tail hawk.
Corrigan, owner of adventure sports outfitter NorthEast Wilderness Experience, in Honesdale, PA, knows the Lackawaxen River: the wildlife, history, plants. He also knows where caution is the rule, and is always vigilant on the water. Dan stands to help with a friendly push at launch or a pull at landing, or to give a hand in and out of a boat.
We pulled up for a couple of stops, one for lunch that was included with the trip and felt just right. Another stop took us to Lock 31, a historic point on what had once been the D&H Canal, which predated the city of Scranton, and was used to transport coal to America’s budding industrial regions.
This river and rail outing was developed as a joint venture between Dan Corrigan and railroad operator Tom Myles. Myles began his career in 1963 with the Pennsylvania Railroad and now operates the Stourbridge Line, a historic twenty-five mile rail route overlooking the Lackawaxen River Valley. Corrigan and Myles are also working together with the State of Pennsylvania on a “Rails and Trails” hike and bike byway abreast all twenty-five miles of the Stourbridge Line.  
Near the end of our river trip fish started rising, some next to the kayaks, and small rapids made for a bit of wet fun. Traveling all morning felt effortless; it consisted mostly of steering downstream.
We pulled out of the river at the Settlers Inn in Hawley, PA, then took a short jaunt to the Stourbridge Line rail platform still sporting cast 19th century benches. The whistle reached us long before the train came into view… right on time! Myles’ beautifully restored 1946 engine, one of the earliest diesel locomotives built, pulled up to the siding and we embarked the passenger car filled with chatting riders.
The train was a restful and interesting contrast to paddling, with lots of conversation. Views of the river came from one side of the car, beautiful northern Pocono woods and cliffs from the other side. As the train pulled into Honesdale we got an intriguing and uncommon look at the town.
The rail and River Excursion turned out to be a morning perfectly spent, one we were woebegone to have end.

Following the Pumpkin Trail

Pumpkins from here to there

An old farm truck bumps along the dirt road alongside a field, edged with sunflowers, where gleaners pick tomatoes for the local food pantry. We make a turn into the woods and come out at a corn field, then drive up a hill to the pumpkin patch. 
Doug Race, third generation of the four-generation Race Farm in Blairstown, NJ, tells about pumpkins planted on high ground to protect from flooding rains, how a best patch, like this one, is set in virgin soil not yet infected with phytophthora, a disease that attacks vine plants.
The first row we walk matures jack-o-lantern pumpkins, their thick skins and deep ribs baking in the sun, turning the bright orange prized by pumpkin carvers. A few rows over, tan-colored cheese pumpkins ripen their heavy, dense fruit of fine textured meat that’s right for baking and cooking.
These pumpkins are destined for the Monroe Farmers Market in Stroudsburg, PA.

Pumpkins add color to the Saturday morning Monroe Farmers Market now that the season has come on. People mill around the produce stands choosing pumpkins depending on their intended uses… Halloween pumpkins are in for October, cooking pumpkins, found all winter, are made into everything from pie to pasta. Rene Mathez, of the Mathez Farm nestled beside the Paulins Kill in Columbia, NJ, suggests some shared qualifiers between all pumpkins: a pumpkin should always have a good handle, and there shouldn’t be any soft spots, marks, or green.  
Maria Menegus of Menegus Farm, from Belvidere, NJ, talks about the versatility of pumpkins, mentioning jack-o-lanterns, sure, but warted and white pumpkins for decorating as well. She uses cooking pumpkins for more than pie and bread, suggesting them as vessels for soup and stew.

Using a squat, tan-colored pumpkin from the farmers market, Chef Nicola Mersini, owner of Momento Restaurant in Stroudsburg, PA, prepares a traditional pumpkin ragout from Tolino, Italy.
Before getting started we split a bottle of mineral water at the granite bar of Momento, where Chef Nicola tells of learning French-infused Italian cooking in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy. Bordering Switzerland and France at the base of the Alps, Piedmont possesses a sophisticated culinary tradition, one so apparent in Chef Nicola’s work and philosophy.
We begin the dish in the herb garden, where Chef picks fresh sage. Minutes later, at the range, a copper sauté pan heats on the fire. Chef peels and cuts the pumpkin, exposing its brilliant orange flesh, and after putting butter and oil into the pan, adds sliced garlic and slivers the sage; the pumpkin and herb go in next. Pumpkin loves garlic! he exclaims. The pumpkin slowly browns as he makes clear there is a conversation going on between the ingredients. The flavors change shape, some come to the forefront, some recede.
He adds consommé and simmers, in the meantime boiling goat cheese ravioli infused with lemon. The ravioli is tossed into the pan with sweet butter, and the dish comes together simmering under a lid. Once plated, Chef Nicola grates dry Sicilian Ricotta on top and drizzles a little olive oil to finish.
The pumpkin is firm, tender and meaty. The powerful flavors of sage and garlic are tamed to background notes, while the sauce works with the goat cheese ravioli to make this a well-bred dish, just the thing for fall and winter.

Pumpkin has arrived on the menu at the Settlers Inn in Hawley, PA, but the team of Dunsmore and Genzlinger have something other in mind. They carve pumpkins for the Story Telling Dinner at Settlers.
Grant Genzlinger puts pumpkins together as vignettes: pumpkin wine tasters around a table, while David Dunsmore uses pumpkins as an artist’s canvas. Dunsmore prizes mature, thick skinned, deep ribbed jack-o-lantern pumpkins for their superior color.
Dunsmore’s techniques are clever: he may carve the trunk and branches of a tree inside a pumpkin, manipulating the thickness of the flesh to create varying degrees of light, then pierce the outside skin to create highlights that, illuminated from within, display intriguing nuance.
Genzlinger is secretive about where his pumpkins come from. Two months before work begins, Genzlinger visits growers to point out which pumpkins will make the cut, and the final pumpkin head-count is a little over one hundred.
Everyone is invited to participate in carving at the Settlers Inn, and though many hands participate in carving every year, Genzlinger points out that once illuminated and the lights are down, “All pumpkins look good from a distance.”

Pumpkin Ragout
For Each Serving:
1½ C Pumpkin, peeled, seeded, cut into 1” cubes
Salt, Fresh Ground Pepper, Sugar, all to taste
2 Tb Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tb Unsalted Butter
½ Clove Garlic, sliced
2 or 3 large Sage Leaves, sliced
1 C Consommé or Chicken Stock
6 Fresh-Pasta Goat Cheese Ravioli
2 Tb Unsalted Butter
Dry (salted) Sicilian Ricotta
2 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Toss the Pumpkin with a sprinkle of salt and pepper; set aside.
Slice garlic and sage; set aside.
Heat a non-reactive pan over moderate heat, add 2 Tb olive oil and 1 Tb butter. Add garlic and cook a few moments, then add pumpkin and sage, sprinkle with sugar, and lightly brown the pumpkin, 6 to 7 minutes. Add consommé and simmer 10 minutes.
Boil the ravioli 1½ minutes, drain and add to the pumpkin along with 2 Tb butter, cover and simmer 2 minutes.
The sauce should be lightly thickened. Plate the pumpkin and ravioli, grate cheese over top, and drizzle with 2 tsp olive oil.  

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Up-and-coming excellence

By Kevin Conroy
There comes a point when a million can become a singularity of experience, as with the Honesdale art installation Paper Caves, as with the town of Honesdale itself.

Original sketches for Paper Caves culled influences from nature and architecture, but the work evolved on its own into the surging masses of paper cones sculpted into cerebral folds, or cave walls; perception builds upon how one immerses in the experience.

Brainchild of Samuelle Green, a Parsons School of Design grad who specializes in internet-based prop sets and commercial murals, Paper Caves inhabits the first floor of a building at Basin and Main Streets in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. Green, tired of the Brooklyn life, returned to her native Honesdale and corralled a group of artists into creating this massive work comprised of paper. “It’s nice to have it in an unexpected place,” she says.  

Green formed an undulating structure from wire mesh, and artists supervised by Greene came to cut the bindings from old books, books of different ages and age colors from almost whites to antique sepias, twisting individual pages into long, elegant cones set into place. One is struck by the fact that each page contains the expressions of some human mind in print; it is almost as if they whisper to passersby.

One of the great beauties of this work is its accessibility. Children love it, recognizing flowers and beehives in the wall patterns; adults are amazed at the cumulative effect of the cones, estimated to be at one million. “Here people can see art for art’s sake,” says Green. “A lot of people aren’t able to access an immersive installation.”

Paper Caves, at host building Basin and Main (eponymously named for its address) is open from 1 till 4 on Saturdays, and groups are welcome with prior reservations. The easiest way to make contact is through the Facebook page, Basin and Main at Lot 21. Keep an eye on the web page, too, www.basinandmain.com  for upcoming BYOB music events. Green has stated the work will remain intact through this summer before it is dismantled.

And when that happens what a pity for Honesdale.

But Honesdale is tough. Before America’s late 1800’s influx of immigrants, before the City of Scranton, before Honesdale itself, the location was a muddy, rough-and-tumble hub where the D&H Gravity Railroad traveling from Lackawaxen coal fields met the D&H Canal that transported coal to the Hudson River, from there to America’s newly forming industrial centers. All of this is explained and displayed at the Wayne County Historical Society Museum.

More than Honesdale’s attic, the museum also houses a large collection of Native American artifacts, including a dugout canoe circa 1600. The stunning cut glass displays from local industry are worth a look. You can’t miss the Historical Society, it’s the only building on Main Street with a locomotive in the window.

Take some time to wander around Main Street. It’s worth a day.
Bloom, at the corner of 10th and Main, is a donation-based shop filled with colorful scarves, handcrafted jewelry, beads and artwork. All proceeds from Bloom, including monies from group jewelry-making parties, support programs for women and children battling cancer. It is part of a larger organization established in 2000,The Portable Playhouse, a nonprofit that provides art therapy programs for women and children in wards and outpatient cancer centers.

“We are in the process of building a new retreat center for women and children fighting cancer,” says Bloom proprietress Maryann Corey. “It will be completely free of cost to our guests.” The project name LonaKana means “Gift from Heaven” in the Hawaiian language. Conceived by Corey, the facility is intended to provide a peaceful environment to promote healing and brighten spirits.

Half a block distant is a narrow passageway squeezed between two 19th century buildings that leads to several shops and a secret garden: this is Maude Alley, an unexpected find bounded by 10th and 11th streets on Main. The Mount Pleasant herbary grows botanicals in nearby hills and meadows, their shop perfuming the Maude Alley courtyard. Bā&Me Vietnamese restaurant serves up soothing pho, the classic Vietnamese soup of rice noodles, cilantro and mint, ginger and garlic in a clear vegan broth of flavors subtle and impossible to pinpoint. The pork spring roll is a burst of freshness wrapped in clear rice paper displaying rice noodles, cucumber, herbs, and pickled carrot set off with complex peanut dipping sauce.

Honesdale traffic stands on its brakes the instant a pedestrian steps off the curb onto Main Street. And both sides of the Street are cool.

We’ll get to coffee in a second, but first a word about Black & Brass’s chocolate bars. One variety, made with Black & Brass French roast, contains 72% cacao and salted caramel. Whoa! The coffee is great, too, their Arabica beans roasted in house. “Relax a hot minute,” says owner Travis Rivera. “Take a hiatus from the world – your job, the challenges of the day – to enjoy a good cup of coffee.” A body can’t help but unbend there the furniture is so comfortable, the atmosphere so sociable.

Tea your thing? Diagonally across the street from B&B is Loose Leaf Pages, an independent bookstore specializing in small press and self-published books. When you walk in the place smells nice from the herbal blend loose leaf teas they brew. It’s relaxing and stimulating, a place to cozy up with a good book and good cup of tea as the world goes by. That is, unless you have a train to catch, which is altogether possible.

Excursion trains run spring, summer and fall on the Stourbridge Line from Honesdale, like the hour-and-a-half Pocono Express taking in grand views of the Lackawaxen River, or the two Fourth of July trains leaving from Lackawaxen and Hawley that take you to downtown Honesdale in time for the fireworks, then back again. Avoid those parking issues.  

There are special event trains throughout the year: the WWII Troop Train, the Beer and Brat Fest, and the Ritz Theater and Dinner Train, and more. Much more. Calendar and tickets available at www.thestourbridgeline.net. Check out the collaboration between NorthEast Wilderness Experience and the Stourbridge Line; it’s a half-day kayak trip down the Lackawaxen and a train ride back to town. No paddling upstream. 

When you disembark after an outing what could be better than some great eats and a great beer. Right next door to the Loose Leaf tea room is Here and Now. 

Here and Now brewery doesn’t bother with cliché farm-to-table labels, they’re hyper-local and that is who and what they are. Owner Allaina Propst has a huge respect for local farms. Actually, Chef Benjamin Cooper moved from Boston to work on a farm, then came on board at Here and Now. Cooper changes the menu to match ingredient availability; the ramp and parmesan soup is a good example: ramps are available wild for a short time in spring, then exit the menu when they’re done.

Propst set up shop in what was once Main Street’s Woolworth 5 & Dime to create an urban, minimalist feel of raw brick walls with patchy mortar and the original tin ceiling. The eats and brews amaze. Duck Fries, French-fried potatoes cooked in duck fat, are crisp, delicious, and served up with tangy homemade mayo. The Kelsey in the Woods Pizza of shiitake goat cheese, caramelized onion and garlic sausage will have you stomping your foot on the floor it’s so good.

The house porter, Bat Patterns, is a dark, complex roller coaster of bitter with tones of grapefruit and baking spice. Light and refreshing is Le Dale, the house saison, well rounded with a slight dissipating bitterness and a note of citrus. So have at it.

Have at all of Honesdale… the antique shops, the architecture, the friendly people. Check out The Cooperage. There’s always something going on there from the monthly farm market to live music and entertainment, their artisan craft show. www.thecooperageproject.org

The best time to visit Honesdale is Thursday through Saturday. Unless you’re going to church the place is closed for business on Sunday. And you should really go see Paper Caves before it closes. You really should.  

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Cult of the AR15 Assault Rifle
The “Rod of Iron” ministry in a tiny Pennsylvania town sparks alarm

Sean Moon, handsome, buff, intelligent and personable, is at times an earthy preacher delivering the Sunday sermon in sweats, using the word “pissed” and referring to himself in third person not as Reverend Moon, but as “The King.”
At other times, as in a series of his videos, he wears a crown of bullets behind his “Rod of Iron,” an AR15 assault rifle.
“The center of the kingdom of God is the crown and land ownership and GUNS! The AR15 assault rifle, the rod of iron - it’s the center of the kingdom!” he yells, pounding fists on the table in one of his videos. “It is the center of Christianity… It’s the center of Jesus’ own vision for his kingdom!” He then begins to dehumanize potential detractors who would likely consider him theologically deviant, namely clergy, by calling them "glitter bugs," “stupid idiots,” and "pieces of trash."
If Reverend Moon believes his own rhetoric, that he is indeed a king and the son of God incarnate, then a person clearly out of touch with reality is beginning a militia in the heart of the Poconos. 
Dehumanization is a theme that continues in another video where he shows himself indoctrinating children into militia activities. A piece of meat hangs from the ceiling of a garage-like space, and as though fireworks were taking place, the children ooh and ahh as Moon slashes the meat with a weapon. In another scene he is shown effectively teaching a youngster how to cut a person’s neck open using a martial arts blade.
In his book Less Than Human, Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others, David Livingstone Smith argues that “Dehumanization weakens our inhibitions against behaving cruelly toward our fellow human beings... It acts as a psychological lubricant, dissolving our inhibitions and inflaming our destructive passions. As such, it empowers us to perform acts that would… [otherwise] be unthinkable.”
An event held recently by Moon caused upheaval at a local grammar school, forcing a letter from school officials to children’s parents citing the “nature of the event” for the relocation of children to other campuses, the nature being an invite for 600 of Moon’s followers to bring their “Rod of Iron” AR15 assault rifles to the ceremony. The circumstance garnered a strong showing of Pennsylvania State Police observers.
“It is not a blessing of guns,” said church front man Timothy Elder in response to public opinion several days before the event, “It is a blessing of people.” True enough for those who believe Moon endowed with spiritual noblesse. More than 100 exclusively heterosexual couples showed for the occasion, many of whom carried AR15 assault rifles, all of whom wore crowns.
The ceremony was a strange mix of religious custom and pageantry. Festooned in a large filigree crown and purple cape emblazoned with Unification Church insignia, Moon processed into the congregation. Close behind, dressed in the same accoutrements but carrying a gold-colored AR15 assault rifle, followed “The Queen”. The Star Spangled Banner blazed from speakers. At one point in the ceremony a loud cheer went up, assault guns aloft.  
What people are drawn to a religious organization fairly obsessed with the assault rifle. Do they feel isolated or conflicted about their natures? Do some feel ineffectual to begin with, motivated by anger? Joseph Szimhart, a mental health professional and nationally respected specialist in cult information, intervention and education, believes not. He says to keep in mind that groups like Moon’s want deployable agents, so anyone who is very imbalanced or too fanatical right away will either be abandoned or kicked out. “For the most part, people are attracted to three things with any cult: self-improvement, world improvement, or a transcendent idea. Everyone is vulnerable to entertaining these ideas,” explains Szimhart. “In general, the average cult member is an average citizen that slowly gets radicalized while adapting to a new social system that becomes self-sealing. Those that remain [in a cult] do so while adapting to increasing demands over time.”  
During the ceremony all cult members bow to their “King,” Sean Moon.
A self-proclaimed messiah, Korean billionaire Sun Myung Moon founded the Unification Church, known to detractors as “Moonies.” During the ceremony, Sean Moon parroted his father Sun Moon’s teachings, saying of his father’s birth, “Christ returned in 1920,” then claimed his father was the word of God incarnate, the third Adam, and both man and God. Sun Moon claimed he and his wife were The True Parents of humanity, their thirteen offspring The True Children. In a sermon Sun Moon once boasted, “The whole world is in my hand, and I will conquer and subjugate the world.” He died in 2012.
The Unification Church religion is a mashup of Christianity, Confucianism, megalomania, and anti-communism. Accusers have long charged the group with kidnapping and brainwashing, incriminations denied by cult leaders, but reports by defectors are strikingly similar in their allegations. One persistent complaint is that lower members of the religion were expected to bring in $100 dollars a day from selling trinkets on the street or they would not be permitted to sleep.  
The level of hypocrisy in the leadership of this group is staggering. 
The youngest son of the Moon family, Sean was born in Tarrytown, New York, as a prince in the Moon clan, and is considered by followers to be as holy as his father. San Francisco based film director Teddy Hose, son of Moonie-member parents, shares his memories of growing up in a house owned by the cult near to the Moon family estate. “Sean Moon would stop by as a kid to terrorize the second generation kids. He'd lock them in a closet until they cried, made them fight each other for his pleasure, and fart in a room and command the kids to smell it up. Parents and guardians could do nothing because they saw him as spiritual royalty.”
After graduating the suave Hackley School, Sean Moon attended Harvard Extension School, and earned a Master of Theological Studies, which is lay training in theological studies, from Harvard Divinity School. In 2009 the senior Moon crowned him as his “heir and successor” in several ceremonies both in Korea and New York.  
Another of Sun Moon’s thirteen children, Justin Moon, a proud member of the Unification Church, began the gun manufacturing company Kahr Arms in 1993. With a 5 million dollar loan from his father, who was famous for preaching world peace, Justin developed and produced small, highly concealable handguns that fire large, deadly ammunition; some inner-city emergency physicians blame those guns for a drastic rise in fatal shootings.
Justin Moon’s Kahr Arms relocated from Rockland County, NY, to Pike County, PA, a short drive from the Unification Church in Newfoundland. Kahr Arms’ adjoining gun shop and outlet, Tommy Gun, welcomed Donald Trump’s son Eric to speak for its 2016 grand opening.
With the death of Sun Myung Moon his organization splintered, one portent of which was spearheaded by Sean Moon. The Young Jin Moon Charitable Foundation, a non-profit established in 1999 with assets of 9.2 million, financed by Kahr Arms, bankrolled the 2013 purchase of a former Catholic church in Newfoundland, PA, where Sean Moon conducts his activities.
During his blessing ceremony with AR15’s, Sean Moon claimed all forms of political Satanism will cease on the face of the earth. In a press release prepared for the event, he stated, “When the Communists took over [North Korea] he [Sun Myung Moon] was imprisoned and sent to Hungnam prison where people were worked to death.” Nevertheless, Sean Moon reports that he attended the 2011 funeral of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il, paying his respects directly to the succeeding tyrant, Kim Jong Un. Following the death of Sun Myung Moon, Sean Moon visited communist North Korea again, this time receiving official condolences from the brutal, xenophobic Kim Jong Un. Moon, who preaches strident anti-communism, brags about being allowed to travel directly from the South Korean capital of Seoul to the North Korean capital of Pyeongyang, passing directly through the demilitarized zone by car.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society, has designated “Rod of Iron” ministries a hate group, stating the Unification Church’s ideology is racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic. 
Moon ignored numerous requests to discuss his “Rod of Iron” ministries. In a written statement he remarks, in part, “Christians… are being persecuted and even killed because of their beliefs in many countries around the world… The right to self-defense with a firearm is not only an American right; it is a human right… Only God gets to define what his kingdom is and how it will be ruled. It will not be a ‘welfare state’… In the Book of Revelation, Christ speaks repeatedly of ‘ruling with a Rod of Iron’… In the same way, each of us is called to use the power of the ‘Rod of Iron’ [AR15 assault rifle] not to harm or oppress as has been done in the satanic kingdoms of this world, but to protect God’s children.”