Saturday, April 6, 2013

Pulled Pork and Pearly Gates

Hey there, Readers! 

Sometimes a blog post or story comes to me in a flash.

This one came on a plate, in a bun. You'll see what I mean.

Okay... here's the story:

~ ~ * * ~ ~

So there I was, standing before these huge closed gates. I wasn’t sure, exactly, where I was or how I got there, but it was foggy as all get out. I mean, you couldn’t even see the ground through the thick swells of mist rising up, like somewhere there was one of those Hollywood special effects teams and those boys were logging some serious overtime on the fog machine. It was so thick I really couldn’t see anything but those huge gates and this tall booth sitting next to them. It looked like a security station or an information booth; I was hoping for the latter because I was asking for directions. The metal security shutter was rolled down over the booth window, but there was a big sign hanging from the window ledge next to a red button.

Please Ring for Service

I shrugged, stepped up to the booth and planted my thumb on the button. Instead if the buzz I was expecting, or even the sound of a doorbell ringing, I heard a few strains of harp music coming from somewhere inside. Great, I thought, a gated hippie commune, then leapt back in surprise! That steel shutter rolled up with the speed and snap of a popped window shade, nearly causing the simultaneous stopping of my heart and filling of my pants.

“Can I help you?” said the man inside. He was a big guy, tall, and he might have been smiling. I wasn’t sure about the smile because this dude had a thick white beard. No, not a beard, a BEARD! You’ve heard of spade-beards? This guy had a backhoe. An earth-mover. Many a hard-core biker would break down and weep like a small child cutting onions in a tear gas factory at the thought of having a beard like that. He could have been wearing a uniform or he could have been buck-ass nude under all that facial hair: I’d never know unless he turned away.

He was using that deep windowsill like a desk, with a big ledger book, a nice-looking pen set, and even an engraved name plate right there up front: S. Peter — Reception.

“Uh, yes,” I said, edging forward, “I hope so. I think I’m a little lost.”

“Perfect,” said the beard, voice booming. “This is the place we hope all lost souls end up!”

High as a kite, I thought, recalling the odd doorbell.

“No, you don’t understand. I really don’t know where I am, and—”

“You don’t know?”

Pete stood next to me now, though I hadn’t seen him move. His beard had sprouted a pair of arms, and a hand rested on my shoulder. The blue eyes above the beard looked kind, and surprisingly not the least bit red-rimmed or glassy.

“You, my friend, are at the Gates of Heaven.”

“So I was right,” I said, slumping with relief. “This is a hippie commune!”

The eyes shifted from kind to bemused.

“No, my son, though this is about as High as you can get. I’m talking about… Heaven!”
He made a grand sweeping gesture with his free hand. Of their own accord those tall gates swung open and the fog followed suit, whole banks of the stuff moving aside like a huge damp curtain… and my jaw dropped.

Angels. Everywhere I looked, there were Angels. Flitting from cloud to cloud on wings of light, playing horseshoes on a cloud to the right, attending a harp class on the cloud to the left. In the middle of it all, standing by a huge Celestial Webber and working two spatulas at the same time as He served out burgers and dogs to the huge winged crowd watching the horseshoe match, was a Being of Light so intense I couldn’t look directly at Him until I slipped on my Oakleys.

“Hey,” I said, pointing toward the grill. “Uh… is that—”

“Yeah,” the beard interrupted. “He makes an excellent burger. His hot dogs, though…”

A hand waggled.

“They’re just so-so. He thinks they’re terrific, though, and we don’t have the heart to tell Him. Now, you’re a bit of a surprise, friend. What’s your name?”

“Rob,” I said, dazed.

“Rob… Rob…”

He stepped back to the front of the booth and went up on tip-toe to read the ledger book upside down. I saw that he did indeed wear a robe behind that beard, thank the Great Griller In The Sky.

“I don’t see an appointment for you here, Rob. Can you tell me just how you got here?”

I scratched my head.

“You know, I have no idea. The last thing I remember is sitting down to lunch in Estes Park, and—”

Pete spun around, beard flying.

“Wait. You were having lunch in Estes Park? Estes Park Colorado?”

“Yeah, why?”

“In Lonigans Saloon?”

“Well, yeah. How did you know?”

He was nodding now, the end of his beard dusting the tops of his sandals.

“Let me see your watch for a minute.”

I pulled the timepiece from my wrist, still too dazed to question him. He held the watch in his palm for a moment, squinting at it.

“You had the pulled pork, didn’t you?”

I stared at him.

“How in the He— Uh, in The Other Place did you know that?”

He waved a hand about airily.

“Oh, it’s a well-known metaphysical fact that the pulled pork sandwich at Lonigans Saloon in downtown Estes Park is a little bit of Heaven. Aw, I should have figured it out right away — this happens quite a bit, you know. Don’t worry, it wears off after a minute or two.”

“Wow,” I said, looking about. “Good sandwich!”

“You ain’t kidding. Just count yourself lucky you didn’t have the Red Hot Grilled Chicken.”

“That brings you here too?”

“Nope. Sends you somewhere else.”

He aimed a thumb downward.

“You mean—”


“It’s that bad?”

“Naw, it’s terrific! But it’s hot as He— Uh, it’s just really hot.”

The clouds began to swirl about me in a silent cyclone of mist and fog as the Gates, the Booth, even Pete himself began to fade.

“I think it’s wearing off,” I shouted, trying to be heard over the windless wind. Pete just waved a hand in farewell, his beard split in a big grin.

~ * ~ 

There I was again, sitting at my table in Lonigans, an empty plate on the table before me, the last bits of wonderful flavor from that pulled pork sandwich lingering on my tongue.

“You okay?”

I looked up to see Ivy, the bartender, looking at me, concern written across her face.

“I think so,” I said. “Why?”

“You sort of seemed to go away for a while. Didn’t look like you were in there. You sure you’re okay?”

“I’m fine. Better than fine, actually. Can I have a pulled pork sandwich?”

“But, honey, you just ate one. Don’t you remember?”

“Oh, I remember. I remember everything. That’s why I want another sandwich.”

I held up my arm, indicating my bare wrist.

“I think Saint Peter just scammed my watch. Can I have the sweet potato fries with that? This might take a while.”

~ ~ * * ~ ~

So there you have it. Can you guess where I was this week? I'm on my way back to Boston in a while, but I wanted to share this little adventure with you. Seriously, I flew almost 1,800 miles and then took a three hour car ride to have the pulled pork at Lonigans.

You can check them out at 

I don't know where you are reading this from, but you want my advice? If you're within, say, 1,000 miles of Estes Park, then make the trip.

Just bring an extra watch if you do.

Talk to you later!

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