I was wandering my way to the coast the day before yesterday, killing time before an appointment in Margate, New Jersey. Somewhere in Delaware, I took a wrong turn. I wasn’t in a big rush, and geocaching.com showed a big interesting line of caches up ahead, so I went with it.
Do you ever run into places from your dreams on trips? I remember twelve years ago, I discovered a town in Indiana, a place I’d never visited previously, that I was sure was the setting for one of my strangest recurring dreams. Oddly enough, I don’t think I had that dream again, after I encountered the house… Call it deja vu or just funky brain chemistry, it’s an eerie feeling.
This time, it was a corner store, with a muted gray calico cat reclining on the sidewalk in front. I was parked and out of my car before I figured out why it was familiar. Not a dream this time; it completely reminded me of the setting for a friend’s short story. (Currently out for submission, but when it gets published, I’ll share a link with you. It’s amazing.)
I can’t even explain why the place reminded me of the story. The action takes place in a bar, not a corner store. And it’s not exactly based in reality — it’s set in a small town in upstate New York that only exists on maps, in order to catch plagiarists. But the story starts with a lost tourist, and calico cats. I walked in the swinging doors.
It was a bar. A song about meeting the devil at the crossroads was playing, and I was all alone.
WHAT. I started to freak out, just a bit. A waitress came out from the back, surprised to see me, her reddish/purple hair pulled up behind a bandana. “Hey! Can I help you?”
“Oh, yeah. I guess… what time is it… 1pm… I guess… Lunch? Are you doing lunch?” I wasn’t terribly hungry, but I had to stay.
“Sure! Sit anywhere.” She brought out a menu — Cajun food. In Delaware. Okay… “Staying for the weekend?”
“No, I… kind of took a wrong turn, and felt like I had to stop.”
She nodded. “Yep, that’s how most people get here.”
And with that enigmatic line, she disappeared behind the doors to the kitchen, leaving me alone with the devil at the crossroads again.
Turns out this country store/Cajun restaurant was also a blues venue. I ordered the Andouille po boy, and pried a bit.
St. Georges was founded around 1730, with the formation of a tavern in ’35 and a road, the King’s Highway, in ’62. The town thrived for a good while, but then, in 1939, calamity. A freighter took out the bridge that connected North St. Georges and South St. Georges, as well as providing for tourist traffic through downtown.
In 1940, the town asked the state to revoke their charter. “Actually, a town no longer exists,” stated an alderman in the local paper. “So we do not propose to continue the expense of running one.” The feds were planning to replace the bridge, but in a slightly different location, and it would be a skyway, completely bypassing the historic downtown area.
WHAT. I’d wandered into a real-life version of my friend’s story. Not sure how, but I did.
I sipped my beer in unincorporated North St. George, across the street from the house that George Thorogood lived in and had a studio in throughout the 80s, and hoped that the world would still be in color when I walked back out the door. (Man, I wish I could send you a link to that story. Soon.)
When I was leaving, I stopped to say hi to this fella. He was pretty mangy and beat up, the notch in his ear marking him as a well-known feral. Through the window, I saw a commotion in the bar, and the waitress ran out the door in a panic to shout at me. “Careful! He bites!”
He kept walking up to me for love, though, so I kept scritching. “I can tell — he’s got that look, the one that tells me he’s going to turn on me in a second, but I do love the mean ones.”
She still looked doubtful. “He just got back today, from a stay in jail. They pick him up every now and then when someone complains. There are a ton of other, nicer ones if you want to pet a friendly cat.”
Nope; I wanted to scritch this beat-up, badass kitty. I got nothing from love from him, despite the look in his eye, and we made our farewells a few minutes later.
Saint Georges Country Store. If I don’t return from this trip, seek me out at the bar there.