Mitch Newmore’s Journal

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“…there are no classical guitarists who don’t know who Eric Clapton is…”

Here’s a brand new story blog written by the same guy who writes all my stuff…

https://mitchnewmore.wordpress.com/

Mitch Newmore is a character in the Cedar Point RPG in the virtual world, Great Canadian Grid.

Mitch is a 27-year old musician (guitar and woodwinds) who has lived in the local area his entire life. He plays gigs all around the area and also gives lessons but sometimes has to take part-time jobs doing other types of work to support himself.

Cedar Point is a small (fictional) town in British Columbia, near the border with the United States. The time is the present.

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While The Cat’s Away

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“Sir, does your cat fly?” my assistant, Mr. Afterthought, called from the outer office.

In a rather matter-of-fact tone, I might add.

“Come again, Mr. A?”

Oh yes, I had heard him clearly but really, is there any other appropriate response?

“I say, does your cat fly sir? As far as you know?” he elaborated.

“No, Mr. A. Not as far as I know.” I went on, “In fact, I will venture to be unequivocal on this point.” I cleared my throat. “My cat does not fly.”

“Odd,” said Mr. Afterthought.

I waited for more but all I heard was the shuffling of paper.

“Was there something else, Mr. A?”

I mean, spit it out man, let’s have it. If you are saying it is odd that my cat does not fly, well, it just seems to me that a much more substantial elaboration is called for here.

“Well sir, your neighbor has sent a messenger with an unusual complaint. Regarding your cat, sir.”

“Yes?” I rose from my desk and walked into the outer office.

“It seems the cat…” he searched for the right word, “…appears…in her chess club every so many minutes. At all hours sir.”

“Appears?”

“Yes sir. As if he’d flown in.”

“Flown?”

“Yes sir.” He handed me the note.

Hmmm.

“Does he play chess, sir?”

“Pardon?”

“Your cat,” he said.

“Uhh, no. I think I can be rather unequivocal about that one too.”

“It’s good to hear sir.”

I finished reading the note. “Cancel my afternoon, Mr. A.” I grabbed my coat and prepared to go out into the snow of Winterfell.

“But Ambassador, all you have is a pickup by the dry cleaner,” Mr. Afterthought said as he looked at my calendar.

“Well, cancel that then. No, don’t cancel that. Uhm…well, do whatever it is you do when I’m not here. OK?”

“Yes sir.”

“I will have to go and investigate this matter straight away, at the pub.”

“How convenient sir.”

***

Ulysses The Cat has been living in Storytellers Pub in Winterfell Laudanum for quite some time now. He makes himself scarce when customers are in but when things are quiet, he’ll roam around as if a deputy on patrol.

But a couple nights ago, about an hour before last call, Ulysses wandered in from wherever he goes and roamed about the bar and the adjoining sitting room. He stayed clear of patrons looking to pet him but otherwise ignored the diners and drinkers.

After closing, I was watching Ulysses make his rounds as I enjoyed one last round of my own. I lost sight of him a few times but I was half-reading the paper and tending to my tobacco and liquor and not paying that much attention.

Now as I worked my way across the snowy streets of Winterfell, I began trying to remember fully those “lost sight of” moments There must be some explanation other than a flying cat.

***

Iggy was working the bar when I arrived.

“Hey boss,” he said as I took a seat, “Lunch?”

“Yes, starting with a pint,” I said.

“You got it.”

I gave him a look.

“Sorry. I meant — Straight away sir.”

I smiled. Iggy is new, an apprentice time traveller from the 21st century who is visiting Winterfell and Caledon and studying here for the summer. Yes, it’s January…well, it’s summer in his hometime. His sponsor with the Time Travellers Guild is a friend of Uncle Manuel back in Dankoville. Iggy arrived with a letter of introduction from my uncle. He’s picking up some spending money, tending bar at the pub.

“Have you seen Ulysses?” I asked.

“Yes sir. He was running around here just a moment ago.” We both looked around for the cat, who was nowhere in sight.

“You haven’t noticed anything different about him, have you Iggy?”

“I don’t think so, boss.”

I told him about the complaint from the chess club.

“There were a couple of times yesterday when it did seem like he was here one minute and gone the next,” Iggy said. “And maybe the other way around as well. It was busy here though, I didn’t have time to really notice. Did seem like he sort of vanished.”

Hmmm. A disappearing flying cat.

It was quiet in the pub, the weather had seen to that. More snow. It was still a quarter to noon, the lunch crowd hadn’t come in quite yet and while they might not add up to a crowd on a day like this, there would still be a few.

In the middle of my brisket sandwich (it’s our lunch special on Tuesdays), accompanied by a delightfully dill pickle and some chips, I saw Ulysses out of the corner of my eye, sniffing at the red ball of yarn I’d left for him in the sitting room.

I watched him play and then wander around the pub. When he came near I said hello but he paid me no mind and trotted past. I broke off a tiny bit of brisket and held it near the floor. After a moment of watching me, Ulysses approached and took the brisket.

When he finished eating, he resumed his rounds. A few minutes later, I saw him run behind the bar and I got up and walked around it to offer him more brisket. But he wasn’t there.

I continued looking. Iggy looked too. No cat. A couple of minutes passed. I returned to my seat.

And there was Ulysses, over in the corner by the bookcase. How did he get by us without notice?

The only thing I could do was order another pint and monitor that cat. A few regulars and a few others had braved the weather and were now enjoying lunch. Iggy was handling the small group alone and seemed to be keeping up.

I watched Ulysses go from one corner of the pub to another and points in between,  stopping here and there to stare or wash or scratch, looking every bit like a normal cat.

At one point he seemed to disappear. I don’t mean that literally. I simply lost track of him. He’d gone behind the bar and not come out, as before. I went behind the bar to look and again, no cat. I returned to my seat. Hmmm.

A few minutes later I noticed Ulysses in the corner by the bookcase.

I had not seen him fly nor had I seen him disappear. But something was definitely going on. Mr. Afterthought had been right, this was odd. Very odd.

“He must have some hiding place,” Iggy said as he returned from taking an order.

I finished my pint and Iggy came to clear my plate.

“Leave that,” I said. There was a small piece of brisket remaining. I cut it down further and took a piece. I walked around behind the bar as Iggy went about his work.

I stood there and watched Ulysses’ every move. I did not take my eyes off him.

After staring at the fireplace in the sitting room for a few minutes, Ulysses came back into the front room and started for the area behind the bar. I watched him approach me. I  knelt down to offer him the brisket. I reached out. He saw the brisket in my hand and watched to see what I would do. When it was clear to him I was not about to move, he came toward me to take the brisket.

But before he could, he disappeared.

I do mean that literally this time. He was there one moment but not the next. Iggy saw it too. We looked at each other. “Quickly,” I said and ran out the front door. “Charles,” Iggy said to the busboy as he tossed him his bar cloth, “you have the conn.”

Around the corner and down the street I ran with Iggy trailing behind, to the Queen Alice Chess Club.

The door was open and I ran right in and stopped. No one was in presently. Then Iggy came running in and nearly crashed into me and did succeed in knocking over a vase of flowers – which fortunately he caught before it hit the floor.

We looked at each other and grinned, sheepishly. The silliness of the moment caught us both and we laughed. Two grown men – one with a handful of brisket – running through the streets in the snow, no topcoats, and running full speed into a chess club, of all places, chasing after a disappearing flying cat.

Well, here we were. Now what? Our laughter died and we both stood there, neither knowing what our next move should be. (A little chess club humor ;))

“Do you play, boss?” Iggy motioned to a chessboard in the middle of the room.

“Not really,” I said, “my brother Hudson is the chess master in the family. My father was quite fond of chess, more so in his younger days…”

As I waxed on about the history of chess in the Whitfield family, Iggy took a seat and started playing a match by himself. We were both caught by surprise when Ulysses trotted in from the next room. He appeared a bit surprised as well.

Iggy and I exchanged glances but did not move. I felt something soggy in my hand and then remembered the brisket. Slowly, I knelt.

“Here ya go, boy.” I said quietly and reached out.

Ulysses sat and looked at me, then Iggy, then my hand. He came to me and took the brisket and ate it immediately. He looked at me, asking if there was more. “All gone,” I said as I reached to pet him.

Ulysses rubbed his head against my hand, then turned and looked at Iggy again as if asking if he had any brisket. He walked back toward the next room. But he never made it. Poof.

Iggy jumped up from the chessboard, ready to run back to the pub.

“I’m going to wait here,” I said, “you’d better go back and see how Charles is doing. And keep a watch for Ulysses.”

“Okay boss.”

***

About ten minutes went by, give or take. And then Ulysses went by. And then he was gone again.

I sat down at the chessboard and resumed Iggy’s match. I should have asked him to send Charles over with a pint of stout. I lit a cigar and waited for Ulysses to reappear.

A few minutes later, there he was, sniffing at a plant in the corner. A minute later, he was gone again.

This was one of those times that I wished I carried a timepiece. It might be helpful to determine whether Ulysses was making his appearances at the chess club at regular intervals. It might also help to know exactly how long he spends in the chess club on each visit and whether that interval coincides with the amount of time he is gone from the pub. Or does he have additional stops on his route?

And, even though both Iggy and I have seen Ulysses vanish right before our eyes, we must still eliminate any possible means the cat could use to cover the territory between the pub and the chess club. We can’t just assume he goes from pub to club in a snap. That may well be the case but still…we must prove it or at least disprove other methods.

I began thinking about how to answer these questions. One person could be stationed at the pub with a timepiece and another at the chess club with same. Another could be stationed halfway down the street to see if Ulysess passes through on the way between the two. A fourth should be stationed in the tunnels below the street. Until I saw Ulysses vanish before me, I would have guessed the only recently-discovered Winterfell tunnels might come into play here. Now, I don’t think so but still, we must eliminate that possibility. A fifth person must be assigned to watch the skies…just in case we have a flying cat on our hands. A disappearing flying cat.

A team of five people would be needed and I, of course, would oversee this entire operation, stationed…at the bar. Well, it is conveniently located. (Mr. Afterthought was right again!) That makes six people – and the appropriate timing devices and photographic equipment – to record the comings and goings of a cat.

As an explorer who has led expeditions into unknown places and times, the idea of six people tracking the movement of a cat – and the associated cost of such an endeavor – did seem to border on the ridiculous. In fact, it may have pushed beyond that border.

Still, what choice do I have? My cat is entering the chess club on a regular basis without so much as applying for membership. If I am going to put a stop to it – and I must for the sake of my neighbor – then I have to find out first, exactly what is causing this phenomenon.

I can just hear them now at the Time Travellers Guild when I tell them my cat can disappear into thin air.

At least I can still say I haven’t seen him fly. Yet.

***

Queen Alice Chess Club

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Winterfell%20Laudanum/138/226/22

Storytellers Pub

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Winterfell%20Laudanum/206/209/22

Mr. Whybrow

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OOC:

Thanks to a g+ post last week by Ms. Beth Ghostraven, I learned of the RL passing of the gentle being behind the avatar, Alastair Whybrow.

Mr. Whybrow was my friend and neighbor when my Evergreen Pub was located in Caledon SouthEnd in Second Life, right across the street from his fine jewelry store. I will never forget my first day in the neighborhood when Mr. Whybrow came out of his store to greet me and to comment favorably on the addition of the pub and to offer any assistance.

We chatted about neighborhood news on a regular basis, always remaining in our proper Victorian characters, even in IM. But we did drop the formality of Mr. Whybrow and Mr. Whitfield when in private convo, then it was always the more familiar, “Mr. W.” And we would delight in the fact that we were both Mr. W. and therefore the convo often became rather silly, even when serious issues were being discussed.

But my favorite memories of Mr. W, will always be the spur-of-the-moment RP he would engage in, in ISC (Caledon) Chat. Usually it was something started by someone else. Then Alastair would jump in and get the ball rolling. And soon we were off on some brief, silly, joyous Caledonian adventure. Whether I joined in the RP or just read along with others tuned in at that time, Mr. Whybrow always gave us a series of laughs.

When an opportunity to relocate my pub came up, Mr. Whybrow purchased my land and created a nice public garden, which I returned to visit a few times.

This morning I went back to the old neighborhood in SouthEnd. I knew there would be some sort of remembrance in place, as they always do these things right in Caledon. Both Bluebird Park and the parcel where his Sparkle of Sound fine jewelry store and adjacent buildings stood are now the sites of memorials and tributes. Flags in Caledon are lowered to half staff in Mr. Whybrow’s memory.

I shall raise a glass to Alastair Whybrow this evening at the new location of the Evergreen Pub. You touched me and many others with your kindness and humor. Fair winds, Mr. W.

Seamus & Me

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Awhile back on these pages, I was telling you a couple stories involving my old friend Seamus Gumbo. Did I ever tell you how we became friends?

It was back when I was Mayor.

Haven’t I mentioned that before? Hmmm…

For a few years I ran a small town in the latter half of the 20th century. Up north. Nice little town square. A couple dozen shops, a few offices, a bunch of brownstone apartment buildings in two directions, woods to the north, a lake to the west. Fairport. Nice town. The port wasn’t much. Just a small dock. But it had been a local shipping center back in the day as Fairport was located at the confluence of the Deitide River and Fair Lake and there was access to the railroad.

At the corner of Hamilton and Main, across from the Fairport Convention Center, was the local head shop. It was a gathering place for musicians, writers, artists and other creative types. A lot of younger people hung out there, as you might expect.

When I was campaigning for Mayor, I had to give serious thought to whether to stop in and shake hands with the proprietor. I had to think about how it would look if an opponent or a newspaper columnist or some busy body made a big deal out of a candidate going into a head shop. I had to weigh that against the fact that this was a locally-owned business selling completely legal products and the owner was accepted by the business community and belonged to the Chamber of Commerce. And I had to consider its popularity too. I wondered what the balance was between the pro-head shop and anti-head shop vote. I also considered that my two opponents – who, unlike me, had lived in the town their entire lives – probably would never even consider going in there.

Six weeks before the election, the local newspaper’s poll had me running second, just two points ahead of the third place finisher and eight points behind the guy in first. My campaign manager – the owner of the local shoe repair shop – met me at the diner on the morning the poll came out.

“We gotta do something to shake things up,” he said.

“Yeah,” I agreed, “It’s not looking too good, is it?”

“You know how the baseball managers, when they’re six games out with six weeks to go, they tell the reporters, ‘We just gotta pick up a game a week and we’re right there.’ You’ve heard that, right?”

I nodded.

“Well, they never do it,” he said. “And we’re eight points down with six weeks to go. We need better than a point a week.”

“You’re really cheering me up,” I said.

“Good,” he answered. “Put on that happy face and go out and shake every hand in the business district.”

“I already did that.”

“Do it again. Six weeks to Election Day – now they’re finally paying real attention. Get in there and talk to every one of them about something that matters to them. An issue, the town, their business, their family, whatever it is. Just let them know you’re a nice guy and you’re listening to what matters to them. And whatever thing they make their biggest point about, write it down in a notebook. Right there in front of them. People see a candidate writing down their complaint or their idea, they’re gonna vote for that candidate. Plus, you’ll have a new list of things to address in your appearances the rest of the way.”

“Okay,” I said.

“So go see everybody again. And see anybody you missed. Did you miss anybody?”

“Just the head shop owner,” I said.

He thought a moment. “What do you think?” he asked.

“I think he probably knows I visited every shop around him but not him. Though I’m sure Hendricks and Ross did the same.”

“Well,” he said as he assessed the risk, “like I said, we gotta do something to shake things up.”

I nodded.

“If you’re the only one who goes in there, he’s going to tell all his friends. And they’re going to love you for recognizing them as part of the community. And if the others make a stink, the head shop people might rally behind you.”

“The Head Shop People?” I laughed. “Isn’t that a band?”

He laughed. “Might be. Why don’t you go over there and ask them?”

I did. There wasn’t any fallout. Nor did the Head Shop People get out the vote and lead me to a landslide win. There was no impact on the election at all. But other things happened in the campaign and it seemed the race was tightening. And when it was over, I had been elected.

Which leads me to my story…

I’ll never forget the second time I met Seamus Gumbo.

A couple weeks after I was sworn in as Mayor of Fairport, I walked into Gumbo’s Head Shop. I had been making it a point to stop into one local business every day to discuss what we were doing to address various issues. During the campaign, I thought it over first before coming in here and now as Mayor, I did ask myself the question again. But I didn’t have to think about it for more than ten seconds this time. It was the right thing to do. It was a legal business and I was treating it like any other. I expected this visit to be pretty much like at all the other shops.

But you know it wasn’t. If it was, I wouldn’t be telling you about it…

“What’s happenin’ Mr. Mayor?” Seamus greeted me. He put down a box of Zig-Zag and came out from behind the counter to shake my hand. “Welcome back. Thanks for stopping by. What can I do for you today? Maybe a nice pipe? We have some on special, now check this out…”

He pulled out from a display case, a tray of pipes and bowls of various sizes and colors.

“See anything you like?”

“I wasn’t really shopping,” I said, “I came in to chat.”

“Oh, of course, Mr. Mayor.” He put the pipe tray back in the display.

“Please call me Danko,” I smiled.

“Thank you Danko. And call me Seamus.”

We talked about some on-going issues such as traffic flow downtown and the need for more public parking.

Then a delivery man interrupted us.

“Come on back, Mr. May — Danko. I just have to hold the back door for Jake, we can keep talking.”

We walked behind the counter and into the stockroom, past Seamus’ office to the back door. He held the door as Jake the delivery man unloaded boxes from his truck. Seamus and I continued to talk about town business.

When Jake was done, Seamus spoke with him for a moment and signed a receipt and stood in the door as Jake pulled out of the alleyway. I was looking at the posters on the wall outside his office.

“Hey Danko,” Seamus half-whispered.

I turned toward the door but he had stepped outside into the alley. I walked through the doorway and as I did a strong whiff of marijuana entered my nostrils and Seamus’ outstretched hand was offering me a joint.

I stopped short.

Seamus was holding in his first toke and motioning to me to take the joint.

I walked past him and down the alley. About halfway. Looked around. Checked the height of the fence and whether there were any open windows on the building next door.

I walked back to Seamus and took the joint. I puffed. And handed it back.

We said nothing. Just smoked.

After we each had several hits, Seamus said, “I can’t believe I’m getting high with the Mayor!”

“I can’t believe I’m getting high, period,” I said as I took another hit.

“When’s the last time you got high?” Seamus asked.

“Must be twenty years,” I answered as I handed the joint back to him.

“The last time you got high was twenty years ago?” Seamus asked in surprise.

I hesitated for a second. But I took a chance…and answered truthfully.

“Twenty years from now,” I said.

Seamus was about to put the joint to his lips as he heard me. He stopped and looked at me. Then he looked at the joint. “This stuff must be better than I thought,” he said.

I laughed. Seamus took another puff. As he held it in, he spoke…in that gutteral way people do when they’re holding in a mouthful of pot smoke, “So let me get this straight. You’re saying the last time you smoked a jay was twenty years from now?” He paused. “In the future?” He continued to hold that puff while I responded.

“That’s what I’m saying.” I smiled.

“Uh-huh,” Seamus looked me over as he blew out the smoke. “You’re not going to tell me you’re a Time Wizard, are you?”

“No,” I said, shaking my head.

“Didn’t think so,” he said.

He handed me the joint. I looked him in the eye.

“You?” I asked.

He smiled. “Yup,” he said. I would have had no reason to suspect Seamus was a Time Wizard but after he broached the subject, I could see where this conversation was going.

I took a hit. And in my gutteral voice said, “Time traveller,” as I tapped my chest with the fingers that weren’t holding the joint.

“Son of a gun,” Seamus said smiling. “What are the odds, man?!!”

We shared a laugh. And the rest of that joint.

Back in the day: Seamus in Gumbo's Head Shop.

Back in the day: Seamus in Gumbo’s Head Shop.

 

The Tunnels

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Towers, tunnels…it seems if there is some structural phenomenon that can’t be fully explained, somehow I always end up being the one who investigates it. But, I guess when it says “Explorer” on your business card, that kind of thing is an occupational hazard.

When I got into the exploring business, I knew I’d be dealing with the “unknown” but I thought of that in terms of place – unknown territory, a new land, what have you. I never really thought I’d come in contact with “the unexplained” or “inexplicable.”

But that was before I settled in Winterfell.

Recently I was telling you about when my friend Seamus Gumbo visited me in Winterfell. He discovered a trap door in the floor of Storytellers Pub. Right next to the bar by the back door. Somehow I never noticed it before. He climbed in and came back up with a story of a labyrinth of underground tunnels beneath Winterfell. Amazing. Something to explore! And right under my feet…well, under my pub.

But at the time, I was physically unable to investigate these tunnels. I had good reason to be in such condition…I’d been drinking all afternoon. With Seamus. He was in no condition to investigate further himself. We decided to explore these tunnels the next day.

I slept in. Apparently Seamus had too because at three o’clock in the afternoon, I still hadn’t heard from him. Finally, I sent a messenger.

At about 5:30, Seamus walked in to the pub. He was moving slowly.

“I was supposed to meet you for something?” he mumbled as he sat down next to me at the bar and motioned to the bartender for a cup of coffee.

“We are going to investigate the tunnels,” I reminded him.

“Tunnels,” he looked at me, clearly trying to recall the previous day’s events through the haze of the morning after. Or the late afternoon/early evening after.

“Yeah. Don’t you remember? The hole in the floor? Trap door? Tunnels…every direction?”

“I remember a ladder,” he said as he accepted the fresh coffee.

“Yes…” I jogged Seamus’ memory and went over my plan to explore the tunnels.

“You’re the explorer, right?” Seamus asked. “Do you really need me? I have sort of a headache.”

I laughed and patted him on the back. “Take the rest of the day off, old-timer. I’ll let you know what I find.”

He just nodded and sipped his coffee.

Ulysses The Cat was pawing at the trap door as I  pulled on my overcoat to head into the underground of Winterfell. I lit my lantern and opened the trap door and the cat scurried away. “Take it slow, Shay,” I said, smiling as I started down the ladder. “Yeah,” I heard him reply.

***

At the bottom of the ladder, I was in a tunnel that led immediately to a staircase. Down the stair was an intersection of tunnels. To my left and right were more staircases, back up to ground level, I assumed. Straight ahead there was another intersection and beyond that a three-way stop. I followed each direction until coming to an end or another intersection, upon which I would walk back the way I came so as not to get lost. It was dark but the lantern I carried was not actually necessary, there was just enough light to see without it.

I continued to follow the tunnels in this manner and found that they went on and on. In the process, I came across doors to empty rooms. What was this place? A dungeon? Secret storage spot? Was this built for escape or some military advantage? Why have I, as Ambassador, never heard Lady Twilight or Admiral Beaumont speak of these tunnels?

Or do they not know? Maybe I should alert them both immediately!

But how could somebody build this extensive tunnel system without being observed?

When I started following the staircases up to ground level to see where they led…I was astonished to find they took me right to the middle of the street. They were not hidden at all! If you were to walk down the street in Laudanum or Absinthe that day – the right sections of the right streets – you would see trap doors that you could open and follow down to the tunnels. But they weren’t there two days earlier!

***

I returned to Storytellers Pub to make some notes. Later, I went down into the tunnel again and placed a marker at the bottom of the staircase leading to the pub. (Just in case some night I’m coming back through the tunnels after a couple rounds at the Wolf & Raven in Absinthe. Well, it’s easy to get lost down there.)

***

Lady Twilight is in semi-retirement these days, so I take most matters to Princess Selena. I had to bring this to her.

By the time I met with the Princess the following day, Winterfell was abuzz with talk of the sudden appearance of underground tunnels. On the way to Rosehaven, I tried to avoid people so they wouldn’t ask me questions I could not answer. A couple of people called to me, “Good morning, Ambassador!…” and I could tell they wanted to chat but I just waved and walked on.

At the Castle, I waited for Princess Selena to arrive. She is not a big fan of mornings.

***

When we met, I reported my findings to the Princess, leaving out the part about Seamus, the trap door, Ulysses the Cat and the six ales, one stout and stray whiskey or two.

When I was done, the Princess had a strange smile on her face. “I had a dream about tunnels,” she said.

“A dream?”

“It was sooo vivid.”

“I see,” I said. I wondered what this dream had to do with the actual tunnels under Winterfell.

“That was three nights ago. In the morning, when I woke, I went out…and there they were.” She smiled.

“The tunnels?”

“Yes.” She continued smiling.

“Oh.”

The Princess laughed. “I haven’t told Mum yet. Would you like to tell her?”

“You’re trying to make me laugh, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” she said. We both laughed.

“No, if this is connected to your dream, I would most definitely not like to be the one to tell the Seneschelf,” I said, “…unless, of course, you want me to.”

“Oh no, I wouldn’t really ask you. I’m going to tell her, of course. Just waiting for the right moment.”

“Well, people are definitely talking about it in the southern towns,” I said.

“Yes, I’m sure. I guess now is the right moment.” She smiled and stood. I thanked the Princess for her time and wished her good luck.

And then left as quickly as I could before she could have second thoughts about who should tell her Mother.

***

On my way back to Laudanum, I decided rather than do my usual and take the ferry to cross the canal, I would use the tunnels instead.

It took longer as I was careful not to get lost. And I did stop a couple of times to open doors and look inside empty rooms.

The thought then occurred to me that walking through these tunnels that were the apparent result of a dream, was like walking through the mind of the Princess.

That was a bit too weird.

I immediately stopped exploring and headed straight for the staircase that led up to the Storytellers Pub and ordered an ale. And a stray whiskey.

***

One last thing… If you should find yourself wandering about the tunnels of Winterfell and should become lost…or simply thirsty, keep a watch for my marker – a large ‘S’ – and follow that staircase up to Storytellers Pub.


Visit Storytellers Pub in Winterfell Laudanum, Second Life and see if you can locate the trap door to The Tunnels. 🙂

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Winterfell%20Laudanum/210/210/23/

Pizza Wars

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Last October we had a big bash at The Evergreen Pub in Dankoville. We had a lot to celebrate. I had just take over ownership of the pub (it used to be the Town Tavern), Uncle Manuel was retiring, I was replacing him as the president of Whitfield Farms, The Evergreen had just signed a deal with The Pheasant’s Roost Tavern of Ireland to carry their beer and Jamie Wright of The Pheasant had come over to be Guest Bartender at The Evergreen. We threw a big pizza and beer party and had a great time. The place was packed!

I had no idea I had started a war.

“The Great Pizza War,” as Dave, one of my bartenders at The Evergreen, calls it.

It started innocently enough. The local paper ran a story about the event – mainly because it was the first public announcement of Uncle Manuel retiring. The article was mostly about Manuel and Whitfield Farms but they gave the pub a really nice mention too. The only problem was the quote of Rusty Piersen, a local farmer, who said we had the “best pizza in the Tri-County area.”

Problem being we’re just down the street from Mario’s Villa, the pizza restaurant. Their slogan? “Best Pizza in the Tri-County Area!!!!!” With five exclamation points.

About a week later, I was having lunch at The Evergreen, sitting at my usual table by the front window. As I gazed across the street at the park, a man suddenly appeared on the street side of the window. He pointed at me and smiled and walked the in through the door of the pub.

It was the owner of Mario’s Villa.

“Ah, Mr. Whitfield, Mario Barstardi. Sorry to interrupt your lunch. Might I have a word?” he said as he sat down across from me.

“Yes, certainly. Can I order you some lunch?”

“Oh no, thank you. I’ll just be a minute,” he said.

“What can I do for you, Mr. Bastardi?”

“You had a pizza party here last week,” he said.

“Yes, we did. It was quite a success.”

“Mr. Whitfield, I’m glad your party was a success,” he said, “good for you. That is fine. But I know you are new here. I mean…Dankoville…you are and you aren’t,” he smiled. “The town is named after you but you’ve never really lived here. Summers as a boy, I believe. But you were here to stay with your relatives, this is not your hometown. Not even now, if I understand?” He smiled again.

“That’s true,” I acknowledged, nodding my head.

“And so, I don’t expect you to know the customs here, among the business community. We…cooperate rather than compete, you see?” He smiled.

“I’m all for cooperation among the local businesses,” I said.

“That is good to hear. Of course, I am not surprised, knowing your family here. Your Uncle Manuel – very good man, very good. Mushroom, pepper and onion. Of course now he takes the gluten free but back in the day…oh well. Twenty years ago, Manuel would have his pepper and onion but it would be sausage instead of mushroom. Oh yes. And your Uncle Chester, a crazy man yes but always very pleasant, anchovy, onion and extra cheese.” He smiled still again.

I smiled as I recognized my uncles’ taste buds. Mr. Bastardi knew his customers.

“Well, we obviously can’t compete with you in the pizza business, Mr. Bastardi,” I offered.

“There, you see!” he said. “But your pizza party, maybe you didn’t realize…that is direct competition for me now. The newspaper called your pizza the best in the Tri-County area.”

“They were quoting a customer –”

“Yes, I know. But THAT is MY slogan!” he shouted. The patrons at the other tables and at the bar looked over at us. Irv, the day bartender, looked over and pointed to Mr. Bastardi with a “Do you want me to throw him out?” look on his face. He seemed rather eager to do so. I shook my head no, trying to avoid Bastardi’s notice.

But he was too lost in what he was saying to notice. “That is DIRECT competition! THAT is what I am talking about,” he said with his voice still raised above normal level.

“Well yes, I understand,” I said quietly, “but there is nothing about our having pizza on the menu here that is an attack on your business. We do pub food here. Pizza is pub food.”

“Of course. But you are in the bar business. I am in the pizza business,” Bastardi replied. “I sell beer and wine but I don’t go out and say I have the best wine selection in town – even though I do – because that is not my business. Pizza is my business. I promote pizza. I make money on the beer and wine, sure but I don’t go out and compete with you who are in that business. I don’t market that. I market pizza. You sell beer, wine, the hard liquor and the rest. You market that. But you don’t market pizza. That is my area. That is how we do it here. You see?” He smiled again. I got the feeling Bastardi’s smiles do not necessarily denote happiness.

I hadn’t thought about anything like this at all when I bought the pub, so I was completely taken by surprise and really had to give this matter some thought before replying. So that’s what I told him. It wasn’t what he wanted to hear.

“What is there to consider? You market beer, I market pizza. Simple. You can sell pizza, I can sell beer. But we don’t market that. We don’t step on each other’s toes. You see?” He smiled. Of course.

It would have been nice to just say yes. But this was a business decision about my pub and Bastardi was right, I was new to this market. I didn’t want to ruffle any feathers but I wasn’t going to make a decision to not market a popular item just because another business wanted me to. I had to look into this.

“I will give it some thought and be in touch,” I said.

“You do that, Mr. Whitfield.”

He smiled. And got up and left.

If I knew then what I know now, I would have initiated a pre-emptive strike in The Great Pizza War. But I was new in town, I was naive about people.

And so I didn’t realize then that Mario Bastardi had just fired a warning shot.

***

Editor’s note: You may visit the OpenSim virtual world Dankoville via the hypergrid: 198.255.235.132:9000:Dankoville

Mario's Villa in Dankoville

Mario’s Villa in Dankoville

 

Acquiring Aquaetas

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A week later, back home in Winterfell, I received the documents regarding ownership of Aquaetas. Quin included a letter which thanked me again but was otherwise simply a description of the enclosed documents which I was to sign and return. There were no surprises here until the last sentence above his signature…

“I should also inform you of the news that Miss Dot has resigned her post with The Trust.”

Oy. I guess that didn’t go well. It’s really a shame to see Dot Macchi depart The Trust. I will miss her, she is the reason I am here! Well, who knows, maybe some time away from things…or persons… Of course, she did go on that sabbatical once before. Hmmm. Oh dear, maybe this is final.

I first met Dot and Quin here in Winterfell four years ago. Seems I have known them both much longer than that. That’s the way it is with Time in these worlds I travel.

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