We had quite a good and varied crowd at last night’s coffeehouse at Windber’s Grand Midway Hotel. Plenty of regulars, a few past guests we hadn’t seen in a while and a sprinkling of total newcomers. It being the last one before Halloween night, I again donned the creepy Bell Boy costume from last weekend’s Dracula Con (complete with fake blood spatters, undoubtedly from customers who didn’t tip well enough–hee), Synthia was in her flowing Hotel Madam gown and Amber came in a witchy get-up (but no pointy hat–what’s up with THAT, girl?).
Pretty much everyone else came in “ordinary” street clothes, but most seemed in the proper almost-Halloween spirit. I started the movie program off with a remarkably silly B-horror/bad sci-fi flick from 1959:
Young bride (Beverly Garland) comes to the Louisiana Bayou country in search of missing husband. He’s been injured and become guinea pig for mad scientist who treats his wounds a laser-like thingie and medicine derived from local gators. You know where this leads, of course. Hubby ends up a guy in bad rubber alligator suit from the waist up and runs amok. Old Lon Chaney, Junior is also around (with an obsessive score to settle with the swamp reptiles, thanks to losing a hand in a long-ago gator attack). The hook he’s sporting is as fake as the rest of this chestnut.
Overall, that one’s worth a laugh or two.
Anyway, we had several youngsters romping about the place. In addition to Ron and Sam’s little boy (Frankie), one of the newer role-playing gamers brought his two kids. The younger of those was kind of spooked by the place, until he met some of the very welcoming/friendly people in attendance. He settled in eventually, even joining his Dad for some of the Pathfinder campaigning in the dining room.
With active kids and a good number of spirited adults, the place did get occasionally loud. But on balance, things went well.
Checkers were played by the younger set. A couple adults wanted to play chess but, alas, nobody remembered where the pieces had been put away prior to last weekend’s big doings. Blair got back around 9 PM and knew immediately where they were, but by then the would-be Grand-Masters (Nick and Brandon, if memory serves) were thoroughly immersed in the fantasy adventuring.
We didn’t do any full tours of the building. But Amber did show one of our young newcomers the World’s Largest Ouija Board (painted on the roof). A former Windber cop was visiting and brought his brother (who’d never been to the Midway) along. I had a good chat with them and pointed out all the outstanding sights on the first floor. Also showed copies of Blair’s two films and, when they expressed interest, called up on my laptop the cover art to various books and magazines I’ve had stories in.
I also mentioned (to them and others) a project I’m just beginning. An editor in England (one I’ve worked with before) is doing a sort of tribute anthology to HG Wells’ classic novel The War of the Worlds. That book centers on how England dealt with those nasty Martian invaders. For the new book, he wants to see how other lands reacted to the off-world attackers. I’d spent much of the past several days researching the real-life culture, history and situation of my chosen nation circa 1896. Now I just have to write it. I’ll let everybody know how that goes.
My talking about this project reminded one of our regulars about November being National Novel Writing Month (yes, it’s a thing) and his hopes to complete the one he’s long had in mind.
Anyway, the second DVD of the night was a step up in quality: Vincent Price in
The Last Man on Earth. That, of course, is the first of several films based on Richard Matheson’s classic End of the World Thriller I Am Legend. In this version, Price is battling people transformed by a plague into shambling, vampire-like monsters (not to mention his tortured memories of his lost loved ones). I think it’s somewhat better than the later Chuck Heston version (The Omega Man) and the most recent take (Will Smith in I Am Legend), although all have their good points. And, as one viewer pointed out last night, none of them quite reached the heights of the book version.
Along with the above mentioned activities, and drinking coffee, other hot drinks (and even a couple cold sodas), a range of conversations took place. I noted two people talking about prison reform (no idea how that particular topic came up–maybe due to the upcoming elections?). Two other people, Mark the Plumber and Mark the Bus Driver (yes, we have an abundance of ‘Marks’ around here) later discussed engineering projects (yes, really) as well as politics.
On a less pressing (and weirder) matter, upon his return Blair solicited ideas about how best to remove the water from the massive coffin sitting atop part of the bar after Dracula Con. This item (a real, ornate coffin) was converted into a giant cooler and held the soft drinks served last Saturday. Those that weren’t sold have been removed to the more conventional electric-powered refrigerator but the ice that had been packed around them has melted.
The final film of the evening was yet another epic SF/Horror blend, this one justly known as a classic:
The original zombie epic from George Romero! News that cast member Kyra Schon (who years later appeared in Blair’s own Zombie Dream) is to host a special showing this weekend in Bedford made it nearly inevitable that we’d honor this landmark in suspense and gore (and even a bit of very dark, ghoulish humor).
As noted, Blair Murphy got home at about 9 PM, so I was relieved of the responsibility of running things for the last couple hours. Thus he was on hand to receive a new piece of art from two late arrivals. It’s yet another image of Martha, probably the Midway’s most famous ghost (there are several). A 19-year-old employee back when it was a fully functioning hotel, she died on a third floor balcony when shrapnel from some 4th of July fireworks nearly beheaded her–in 1911.
The night drifted toward the usual 11 PM closing time. The crowd gradually thinned out and Amber headed home. The coffeehouse supplies also waned (by the night’s end one of the three flavored creamers we’d started with was completely empty, another was sits last legs, not a grain of sugar was left in the place, nor was there any cocoa mix remaining).
Syn and I slipped into the kitchen. Getting ourselves and the place ready for coffee night, we hadn’t found time to eat a proper supper. Sure, we split the oversized O’Shea’s candy bar I bought that afternoon at the library (support your local library anyway you can folks!). But that and some coffee wouldn’t do. So we put together sandwiches featuring Buffalo Chicken cold cuts, mayo and basil pesto. We retired upstairs to Syn’s cozy apartment to watch the last half of an episode of the Netflix original series
Atypical, followed by the next full episode. It’s a great show, about a family with a son with autism who’s about to graduate high school. He’s high-functioning, but still struggles in certain situations. The rest of the family has their issues, too. It’s your basic blend of family drama and comedy (a ‘dramedy’ in TV parlance) and very, very well done. Syn relates to it, from her own experiences and those of others with autism we know well.
So we munched our sandwiches and enjoyed a mini-binge watching session of one of our favorite shows. For me, it was a real nice way to end a pleasing and successful evening.