It was a relief, watching Nature in Small Doses (TM) draw its last breath, but it was also a bit like stumbling backwards where all this midlife crisis stuff was concerned. What might have been the beginning of an alternative lifestyle was just more work, and I was pretty sure more work wasn’t one of our objectives. And though the arts and crafts gig fell through the cracks, we still had a few more tricks stuck up our tattered, threadbare sleeves. Granted, they were little more than sophomoric sleight of hand, misdirection, quarter-behind-the-ear tricks, but they were tricks just the same and maybe, just maybe, there’d be a silver dollar, or a fiver back there.
The first rabbit we pulled out of our hat was Cheryl’s Kitchen, a well-known, laid-back, counter-culture organic restaurant in Yellow Springs, Ohio. The owners, laid-back and counter-culture though they might be, were apparently going through their own midlife crisis, and, mathematically speaking, the ratio of amount of work invested in the restaurant to the pleasure gleaned from it was top heavy in favor of well that’s enough of that. Id est.: they wanted out. But they couldn’t just put the restaurant up for sale: they were counter-culture and laid-back. They had to do something creative; something worthy of the 1960s ethos so pervasive in Yellow Springs. They didn’t want to come off as just another example of the materialistic status quo. And what they came up with was a contest … with an entrance fee, of course. (They might be counter-culture and laid-back, but incense and Birkenstocks weren’t free, you know.) The Grand Prize was ownership of Cheryl’s Kitchen.
Living in Yellow Springs and running a little restaurant seemed like, if not a solution to all our problems, then certainly an improvement on our condition.
The contest, aside from the entrance fee, was right up my alley. It was a 500-word essay; the topic was: World Peace as a Menu Choice, with a Side Order of Jorma Kaukonen. Contestants were to explain and describe and intimate just how they would go about carrying on the counter-culture and laid-back tradition of Cheryl’s Kitchen, should it be theirs to carry on.
Sheri and I banged our heads together like the augmented breasts of a porn star getting humped from behind, crafting an essay worthy of a Pulitzer Prize, never mind winning us the restaurant. It was a good essay, full of our love of nature (true), our experiences with organic gardening (true), our love of cooking (a little white lie), our love of Yellow Springs (true), and how much we really, really, really wanted to own Cheryl’s Kitchen (so far away from the truth it nearly snuck up on it from behind). How could we possibly lose?
Well, one way was for there to be no winner at all, which was precisely what happened. According to the owners, whose pockets were now stuffed with untold hundreds of dollars in entrance fees, response to the contest was so small it was hardly worth the effort. It smacked of scam. Phone calls to Cheryl’s Kitchen went unreturned; letters to the owners came back in an Elvis Presley song. Cheryl’s Kitchen shut down and we were left holding the rabbit (see the beginning of the chapter).
The next trick up our sleeve – sawing the girl in half – resulted in a girl in desperate need of stitches. We attempted to buy a bed and breakfast in Adams County.
Adams County was one of those subtle serendipities that salted our crackers during Nature in Small Doses (TM) . We set up our booth for an early-May Redbud Festival and were almost immediately submerged in a tidal wave of neighborly people and unpaved nature. Glenn and Donna, our hosts at the Old Country Bed and Breakfast (and our very first B and B experience) were charming and quaint and down to earth. All the folks who passed through our booth were likewise charming and quaint and down to earth and most shared a similar enthusiasm for nature. We talked with gardeners and herbalists and bird watchers and star gazers and ‘shroomers and wildflower chasers. We learned that area woodlands were a carnival of spring ephemerals and migrating song birds and tasty morel mushrooms. We were told that there were several prairie remnants in the county, and during the summer they were carpeted with colorful wildflowers which were, in turn, infested with equally colorful butterflies. We were promised night skies full of more stars than we could ever possibly imagine. Owls hoo-hooed; coyotes howled; turkeys gobbled, and whippoorwills wept like ghosts in the night. It all sounded too good to be true, and all from the mouths of the friendliest people we’d ever met, usually while they bought some of my photographs or t-shirts, or some of Sheri’s herbal soaps and vinegars.
We wondered if maybe we hadn’t fallen into some kid of Salem’s lot or worse, Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood gone terribly, terribly wrong. And we were smitten.
Adams County became our home away from home; we returned for more Redbud Festivals, as well as a couple of Mountain Thyme Herb Festivals in the fall; we returned to the B and B a few more times and we began renting a cabin; we hunted morels and chased butterflies and bathed in meteor showers; and we suddenly had lots of new friends. It was alarming.
With this midlife crisis proctologist sticking its finger up our bums, and the notion that life as innkeepers might be a bit of Vaseline, all the while bathed in the rich, syrupy sunlight of Adams County, we took matters into our own hands. We tried to buy Old Granny Shirley’s Bed and Breakfast.
By this time, we had been on the Ohio arts and crafts circuit for the better part of two years, and we had stayed in several bed and breakfasts along the way. We had mingled with guests and owners; we ate a variety of breakfasts; we sat back and observed. It appeared enticingly simple. And now there was one for sale in Adams County. It continued to be too good to be true.
We toured the inn. We sat with a realtor. We filled out paperwork, peed in a cup, and left stool samples.
And then we were told how much of a security deposit old Granny Shirley needed to make this work.
“Christ, Granny Shirley, that’s a lotta money. And this is Adams County we’re talkin’ about here. The average annual income’s like $6,000.”
“But I thought ya loved it here.”
“We do. We do.”
“An’ I thought ya wanted to move here.
“We do. We do.”
“Well there ya have it then.”
“But we don’t have that kinda money.”
“No … we spent it all on Cheryl’s Kitchen.”
And that was that. It wasn’t all too good to be true. It was simply too expensive.
We might have felt as if the universe was conspiring against us, but we already knew that. That was our status quo, and like most people of our generation, the status quo was something we wanted no part of. (True, most people of our generation had at it with the status quo about 30 years earlier, and with minimal success, I might add. But wasn’t that the point of all this, our midlife crises? Shaking loose the bonds of the status quo and living life on our own terms? And wasn’t that some of why we were having a midlife crisis in the first place; we didn’t wrestle with the status quo 30 years earlier and wasn’t it time we did so now?) And with all of that in mind (which really was overkill, huh?), we eagerly stuck our hands back up our magic-infested sleeves and pulled out … voila! … the Lianhan Sidhe Herb Farm, Trillium d’Flora, Proprietress.
The Lianhan Sidhe Herb Farm, Trillium d’Flora, Proprietress, was way out west, on Vashon Island, in the Pacific Northwest. Vashon Island was notorious for old hippie back-to-nature types, and the Pacific Northwest, that was practically Alaska, wasn’t it? Throw an herb farm into the mix and you just might as well forget it. It’ll never happen.
And it didn’t.
We tried in any case.
Trillium d’Flora, Proprietress was, by her own admission, the most renowned herbalist in the world, not to mention the diva of the Wicca crowd. She came from what she called, “esoteric stock.”
“…Merlin’s bloodline, ya know.”
“And my daddy was the love child of Delores d’Flora and Jack Parsons.”
“Indeed.” She inflated with obvious pride. “And Granddaddy Jack, as we all know, was the father of so much more.”
“You don’t know Jack Parsons?”
“Um … no?”
According to Trillium d’Flora, Proprietress, Jack Parsons was a rocket scientist, a poet, a beatnik, and Aleistair Crowley’s right-hand man, the High Priest of the Ordo Templi Orientis.
“What the hell are you talkin’ about?”
“He was a rocket scientist. The first. The progenitor of our space program.”
She nodded enthusiastically. “His close-knit cadre’ of visionaries became JPL.”
“Yes. He, of course, moved on to more important things by that time.”
“Yes. The Ordo Templi Orientis.”
“And … uh … Delores d’Flora?”
“Delores d’Flora. Yer grandmother? What about her?”
“Oh. Her. Well, she was an aspiring film star when she found her way to the group…”
“The group? JPL?”
“No, no, no. The Ordo Templi Orientis.
“And granddaddy Jack blessed her with his magical seed.”
“Yeah, he did.”
“And daddy was baptized in Delores d’Flora’s name in order to protect the issue of Jack Parson’s loins.”
“Of course. There were others, nefarious henchmen of darkness, who would stop at nothing to bring an end to the miraculous and magical legacy of the High Priest.” And with that, Trillium d’Flora, Proprietress, the latest in the legacy of Jack Parsons, swelled once again with renewed pride.
“And the, um, herb farm?”
“The herb farm?”
“Oh. Right. The herb farm…”
As the latest in the magical bloodline of Merlin and Jack Parsons and possibly Mr. Wizard, Trillium d’Flora, Proprietress felt there were more pressing matters to be attended to than running the Lianhan Sidhe Herb Farm. And evidently the future of the Earth was at stake, but we didn’t get into it. As it turned out, she wasn’t really interested in selling the herb farm, but instead leasing it, with the option of selling it to us later should the future of the Earth be more work than she realized.
To be certain we weren’t nefarious henchman of darkness ourselves, she asked for a deposit that no amount of quarters behind the ear could cover.
“Give old Granny Shirley a call. She’ll give ya our answer.”
And that was that. We went to the magic well three times and brought up a bucket of empty each time. We evidently couldn’t do magic if our lives depended on it, which they quite nearly did. We were bad at magic. Going off and being innkeepers was pretty much all that was left.
Or was it?
(Author’s note: Okay, so there is some exaggeration and tall-tale-telling in there, but the Jack Parsons stuff is partly true, and all three possibilities were real and obviously none of them panned out or this story wouldn’t exist to tell. Maybe it doesn’t.)
“Bad at Magic”
Copyright 2007, 2017 Gregg M. Pasterick
All Rights Reserved.