Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Beneath the Lake - Travel Through time to 1949! Presented by Casi McLean


The houses began to get closer together as we approached Sidney, typical of a small town. Bobby pulled up, parked in front of a quaint steel diner shaped like an old RV with a red and yellow neon sign that flashed Eat at Millie’s. Square glass tiles curved around the corners meeting the bright red roof at the top. “Here we are,” Bobby said, getting out of the car. “Millie serves the best eats south of the Mason Dixon. It’s no Varsity, but I promise Atlanta’s got nothin’ better.” 

When we walked in, I felt like I was sucked into an old-fashioned movie set. The classic jukebox played Ezio Pinza’s “Some Enchanted Evening” Really? That song was way older than I was. Mother had loved South Pacific and after she died, Daddy had played the old vinyl incessantly on his antique record player. It was a perfect accent to Millie’s retro ambiance, though. Formica topped counters surrounded a soda fountain bar lined with red-leather cushioned stools on steel bases. The entire restaurant oozed with authenticity. 

“Say Millie, how’s the special today?” Bobby asked the woman behind the counter. 

“Bobby Reynolds, do you need to ask? Now, sit yourself down. Fried chicken just came out fresh and hot, so you and your lady friend relax in your booth, and I’ll bring out a couple of plates.” 

“What a gal.” Bobby grabbed a newspaper from the bar. “And what do ya know? Today’s paper, too.” He walked over to one of the booths and sat down. “It’s pretty hard to eat standin’ up, Maddie. Come on over here and take a load off. I promise I won’t bite.” 

Carefully sliding across the red cushioned seat, I looked around for a menu but couldn’t see one anywhere. I crossed my hands on the Formica tabletop. “This place must have cost a fortune to reproduce. Everything is so realistic.” 

“I’m not sure, but wait till you taste Millie’s fried chicken. It’ll melt in yourmouth, and her mashed potatoes are the cat’s pajamas.” 

“The cat’s pajamas, huh?” I smiled, playing along with his slang. “It smells delicious, but honestly, I don’t eat fried foods very often. The cholesterol is over the roof, and mashed potatoes destroy my waistline. Do you think I could see a menu?” 

He looked at me with a perplexed stare. “Sorry, Maddie. Today’s menu is fried chicken. But I’m sure Millie would rustle up a hamburger and fries or a hotdog if you prefer.” 

Before I could answer, Millie stood at the table holding two large plates filled with fried chicken and okra, mashed potatoes with gravy and hot biscuits smothered in butter. She had two huge slices of cherry pie balanced on her forearm. The aroma was amazing, but I could almost feel my arteries harden and the pounds roll onto my hips. 

“You dig in. I’m gonna jazz this place up.” Bobby bounced out of the booth toward the jukebox. “Any tune you’d like to hear?” “How about some Doris Day or Ella Fitzgerald?” I replied, keeping in the retro spirit. “Oh, why not be adventurous and throw in some Lady Gaga or Taylor Swift.” He shrugged, turned, and began sifting through songs on the jukebox. 

Biting into Millie’s chicken took me back to my childhood, sitting in Grandma’s kitchen, my feet swinging back and forth beneath the seat, chicken leg grasped in one hand, biscuit slathered with butter in the other. Grandma called it comfort food, when the aroma and flavor brought back wonderful memories. And the fried okra and mashed potatoes only added to the mood. I practically inhaled the first few bites promising myself that when my body healed, I’d work out extra hard to make up for my splurge. I’d just taken a big gulp of Coke when I glanced down at the newspaper Bobby had brought to the table. I read, choked, and spewed soda across the booth. He’d said today’s paper, but the date at the top of the Sidney Gazette read: Sunday, November 6, 1949.

After lunch, Bobby gave me the grand tour of his hometown. I felt like I was wandering through a scene from Back To The Future. At any moment I’d see Michael J. Fox pull up in his DeLorean and warn me about breaking the space-time continuum. But no one could have designed a Hollywood set as perfect as Sidney. The streets were lined with classic storefronts. Metal signs advertised: More Doctors Smoke Camel Cigarettes and The Smoothest Men Use Barbasol. When we pulled into the service station, attendants rushed out to the car to fill the gas tank and clean the windshield. People dressed in clothing like I’d seen on American American Movie Classics. Every detail reeked of an era tucked into the pages of history. Prices appeared in sync as well. Gas for seventeen cents a gallon, milk for thirty-four cents. And a loaf of bread cost only eight cents. Offhand, I couldn’t think of a single item in the twenty-first century that sold for under a dollar. 

The local theater featured Cary Grant and Ann Sheridan in I Was A Male War Bride. Tickets for the show cost forty-six cents. It would have been impossible to create such an elaborate hoax. The drive around Sidney felt surreal. Was I drifting through a dream, or lost in time? “Moonlight in Vermont” a scratchy, romantic melody, streamed from the AM radio, deepening the uncanny ambiance. Phone booths dotted every street corner and the local A&W drive-in buzzed with activity as carhops roller-skated back and forth serving root beer and burgers curbside. My senses battled a tug of war with my intellect. Visible reality convinced me I had been swept into the past, while logic screamed impossible. So I focused on what I knew for sure. Bobby had found me after my accident. Instinct was all I had to rely on, and my gut said he was a good man, a little cocky at times, but decent. My mind raced trying to make sense of the vintage town rolling past me. 
Nothing resonated, until I noticed a road sign that read: Looper Speedway. Looper. I’d heard that name somewhere before. “Bobby, can we go to Looper Speedway?” 
His tone revealed a tinge of excitement. “You like the races?” I nodded, offering an agreeable smile. “Max Looper and his nephew Edwin are friends of mine. We can take a drive down the Gainesville-Cleveland Highway to see the track if you’d like.” He frowned. “Unless downed trees from the storm have blocked the way.” 
Why did Looper Speedway sound so familiar to me? I’d never been to a racetrack racetrack in my life. Had I? No. Why would I want to watch grown men chase each other around in a circle at ridiculously dangerous speeds?” 
“Say, if you really want to see the cars race, how about going with me next Saturday? That is, unless you’re sweet on someone else.” 
“I was, but not anymore.” My thoughts spun to Cole, drenched, with daffodil petals stuck to his face. The sorry, lying jerk. “The truth is I tore out of the party into that storm, because I walked in on my boyfriend kissing someone else.”

This is a really enjoyable, fun book. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend... 

Imagine if you would attending a party hosted by your best friend in this decade, seeing your main man getting it on with another woman, fleeing in anger and, then, being followed so that you are forced off the road...and wind up in the past! All that she had been thinking about was that, once again, she had been betrayed by somebody with whom she thought she was in love...

Even then, though, she did remember the emotional jolt upon meeting Rob, a neighbor of her best friend...

The emotion behind my icy comments must have resounded a lot louder than I’d intended as the crowd below hushed. I turned in a huff, glancing over the banister, and realized I wasn’t alone. All eyes gazed up as if some starlet had spilled fine Bordeaux on her snow-white Valentino dress. Dropped jaws and blank stares fell over the entire room and followed me step-by-step down the lavish, never-ending staircase. To make things worse, soft background music amplified through the silence “…when you find your true love…fly to her side…or you’ll dream all alone…” 

Perfect: a romantic ballad confirming my loveless life. I had to say something to break the tension. “Lawyers,” I announced, wishing I could just fade into the woodwork and disappear altogether. Halfway down the steps, I felt a rush of emotion explode inside. My head swirled. Dear Lord, please don’t let me collapse right here in front of everyone. I held the handrail tightly to keep from losing my balance. 

That’s when a single pair of hands in the middle of the crowd began to clap, slowly at first, inviting others to join. When Rob’s cobalt eyes met mine a flood of tranquility flowed through me like warm honey, calming me as if he had willed my composure.

I loved it~ And it is certainly fun to relive parts of your past life, experiencing them anew...or, like the main character, Lacey Montgomery, seeing what, to her, from 2012, must be a retro town and people from the far past... and memories of her own family members talking about the past...

Lacey was rescued from the lake by a strong hand who pulled her to him. She learned his name was Bobby and, for some reason, she felt safe with him--more safe than when she had been with Cole - the bum! It took awhile for Lacey to grasp that something was very wrong. For one, they couldn't find her car and therefore she had nothing--no purse, cell phone, clothes...and a potential way out of wherever she was and back home...

Bobby was gorgeous and she found herself responding to him, even when, after he had taken her home with him to meet his sister and, hopefully, borrow some dry clothes for the damsel he had rescued. She immediately was accepted and realized that she felt, for perhaps the first time in her life, at home!

The book goes back and forth between 2012 and 1949-50. In the present, readers read about a stalker, a man who wants to find Lacey Montgomery, no matter what... Readers are teased in the present while enjoying diving into the past where living is easy...

Many readers may not remember the period of time in which Lacey had fallen, but I remember the decade, most from the continued music for the time period, which continued to be popular for many years...Love songs to dance to were the rage during that big band era that followed... Here's two of my favorites by one of the singers mentioned by Lacey...

There was one major problem Lacey encountered... she found what the definition of many words, often used as slang or sayings in her 2012 world, meant something entirely different. That's how, when she talked about Bobby with his sister, that she got the impression that Bobby was a love 'em and leave 'em kind of guy--again... Still it was apparent to everybody in the small town, that Bobby and Lacey were falling in love, even when Lacey realized what must have happened and hoped that she would find a way to go home...

Because she knew one thing...the town where she was actually living...was, in her time period, completely under the lake into which she had driven and almost drowned... Was it fate, a God incident? For surely, it was clear once Lacey realized the future for this small town, she had a chance to help those people who were to lose their home through eminent domain...

I've already downloaded the next two in the trilogy...and looking forward to seeing how McLean manipulates time into a true adventure for those of us living in the present world...

Maybe I'll be able to go back? Would you want to? I know one thing, people were kinder. They were good people and wonderful neighbors... Given the world of today--it's wonderful to escape back into a wonderland...even if only for the length of time reading a fantastic book! Enjoy this one!

Summertime is coming! Spring jonquils are out, forsythia is second to bloom in my area of Pennsylvania... Looking forward to smelling grass being mowed and new flowers appearing daily through the upcoming months...
Had my pre-op review this past Monday, tests, lab work and questionnaires of issues being considered... Wow, I didn't have this much action with my brain surgery... Strange isn't it, cutting into the brain is less invasive than cutting into my hip and remaining/replacing damaged bone... Don't remember whether I mentioned that I walked out of an earlier potential hip surgeon's office and immediately asked for a second opinion... What a difference in approach, professionally speaking... So, remember, if you are worried about what your doctor is saying or have a right to seek a second opinion! God Bless... 

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