Tuesday, July 24, 2007

MOMMAS

MOMMAS

With a name like colonial Williamsburg, I knew it was going to be old, but American old is nothing compared to Europe old. Its like the Parthenon vs. the Liberty Bell. So I was quite surprised to find a colony of retired Greek gods there.

It all started shortly after my roommate, Bruce, and I arrived at college. Most of the students were in dorms, but we had managed to get a great college apartment. It was on a side road right off of campus. The small college town didn’t really have bars. The main social centers were small Greek delis that had pizza, gyros and pitchers of cheap beer. The road that passed our small apartment complex led to my favorite deli—Mommas. Mommas wasn’t much to look at. It wasn’t much more than a shack with a small parking lot, a few trees and a dumpster.

I’ll never forget the first night I found myself at Mommas. I was lying in my bed, which was next to a window that faced the road. It was around eleven at night and I heard a couple of laughing women pass my window in the direction of Mommas. After about 30 seconds, I heard the clip clop sound of hooves following the women towards Mommas. Since I had never seen any hooved animals since I had arrived, I was intrigued and thought further investigation was imperative. I jumped out of bed, threw on some jeans, put on a hat and a t-shirt, grabbed my wallet and headed out towards Mommas. When I got outside, I could hear the giggling of the girls and the rhythm of the hooves from down the road. I started down the sidewalk. Mommas popped out of the shadows as I got closer. There was an impressive car in one of the spots in the parking lot. It was on older model car—a light blue convertible with a white stripe down the middle and a white ragtop. Some cute girls ran out of the front door giggling and ran around back and in through the back door. Although I was tempted to follow them, I opted for the front door. I turned the door knob slowly and walked through the door, and I faced a small counter with a cash register, and behind that counter was a large man, a formidable man. He was about 6 feet 5 inches tall, had a full beard and his forearms were the size of loaves of bread. He seemed to almost radiate electricity. In a low powerful voice, he asked, “Can I help you?”

I had never been there, so I responded,

”Yes, please, but let me look at the menu real quick.”

He grunted. I figured out what I wanted and ordered, ”a pitcher of Miller and fries, please.”

“How many cups?”

“Just one, please.”

As his iron-like fingers banged against the old-fashioned cash register, sparks flew off from the contact. He brought me three cups, and then said,

“Someone will bring your order to you shortly.”

I turned the corner into the main room. There were about 6 booths, a long table in the middle, a couple of mirrors on the walls, a couple of pictures of Greece and a juke box. The place was empty. I don’t know what I expected. It was just a deli outside a small college. I went to the juke box first. It had some really great selections on it, like Rage against the Machine, Cypress Hill and Fishbone, but there were also some strange things. Selections 166 and 167 said “Greek music:instrumental.” Thinking it might be some band I had never heard off, I pulled out a dollar out of my jeans and put it in the machine and hit 167. It was exactly what it said it was—Greek music, instrumental. I liked it. I felt like a gypsy wandering through the countryside. When I looked up from the juke box, the place had come alive. I don’t know where they came from; I hadn’t heard anybody come in.It was almost like they had just popped out of the walls. There were a few young, dark-haired women laughing and wandering around the room. There were a few older folks (they must be local). There was an extremely beautiful and slightly mysterious woman sitting in a booth by a mirror. I could have sworn I heard hooves clicking in the back room and maybe a flute. There was a guy with long curly blonde hair that the young women seemed to be checking in with. Then, around the corner came a small guy wearing sandals carrying a pitcher of beer and a paper plate with fries on it.

He walked up to me and said, “I think these are yours, sir. Enjoy.”

AND I DID.

When I got back to the apartment that night, I told my roommate all about my new discovery. He had to go, I insisted. And he did. He loved it. What isn’t there to love about cheap pitchers of beer.

That weekend, Bruce and I decided to walk around the town. Williamsburg was the definition of anachronistic. It was a historical restoration of a colonial town funded by the Rockefellers in the early 1900’s. You could find candle makers, weavers and taverns where the waiters wore puffy shirts and entertainers came to the tables playing a harp or some other colonial instrument. The college which was in town was the second oldest in the United States, chartered in 1693. Occasionally, Bruce and I liked to walk around the colonial section to tourist watch. Today, we saw something new. Behind the candle wicking shack, in a field, was parked a light blue convertible with a white racing stripe. Despite the fact that it was very un-colonial, I recognized it instantly. It was the car that was parked outside Mommas. Sitting in the car was a young man with long blonde curly hair. Yes, he was at mommas the other night also. And surrounding the car were several dark haired young women. Could these be the women from mommas ? it seemed like too much of a coincidence. There was something going on here…

So I knew that I would be having a pitcher at Mommas that night. Before I left the apartment, I felt drawn to a deck of tarot cards that I used occasionally. I had several decks, but one favorite. I kept them in an ornate wooden box next to my bed. It was a deck based on Greek mythology. Each card of the major arcana represented a different deity of Mount Olympus. I often used the deck to do readings for drunk women who wandered down the street. Sometimes, rather than doing a full reading, I would pull two or three cards from the major arcane, as a sort of succinct summary. That night, the two cards I pulled were the High Priestess and the Fool. The High Priestess card depicted Persephone, who represented the unconscious mind. The Fool depicts Dionysius and is called the fool because he is beginning a journey. He is the first card in the Major Arcana. I don’t believe in the tarot’s ability to predict the future, but I did thought this was a good omen, and I headed towards Mommas with a big smile on my face.

I walked down the street without incident. I got to the front door, went inside and gave my usual order. This night, though, I noticed the big guy at the cash register had a Z monogrammed on his shirt. He brought my three cups again. I went into the main room with my three cups and a pitcher and looked around. There was plenty of room. In the booth in the corner of the room was the same mysterious woman, but she was not sitting alone tonight. One of the young dark-haired women was sitting with her, and she smiled openly at me and made a subtle motion with her head that I should join them. I looked at my cups—1-2-3, and then I counted the two of them and me—3. Finally, there was a reason for the 3 cups. I joined them and was surrounded by unbelievable beauty. The mysterious woman had dark hair and the most amazing eyes I had ever seen. If eyes really were the window to the soul, I wanted to spend the rest of my life in that soul. She introduced herself as Persephone. Wow, cool name. the dark-haired woman introduced herself as Meliae, Another cool name. She had a leaf in her hair. I pored everybody a cup of beer and we started to chat. I started out bold,

“What’s up with this place? There is something weird going on in this place.”

Persephone answered, ”Are you familiar with the ancient Greek gods?”

“The residents of Mt. Olympus? Vaguely, yes.”

“you know they were immortal, yes?”

“yes, I knew that.”

“So if they never died, where did they go?”

“ I don’t know. Where did they go?”

“They came here to Williamsburg, to retire.”

Williamsburg?”

“yes, why not? It is a lovely place. The nymphs, the beautiful women around here like Meliae, are here to take care of them. Immortality keeps them alive, but the nymphs keep them vital…”

“Oh really. Isn’t that special. What are you drinking?”

“the same swill as you. I can see that you doubt me. Over the last couple of weeks, you have become a regular here, so you are involved…”

“whoa. Are you saying that I am a Greek god?”

“don’t be ridiculous. I’m just saying you have been noticed.”

“noticed?”

Don’t you find it strange that the man behind the counter gives you three cups when you ask for one?”

Yes, actually, I did think that was kinda strange.

Yes, that is a very old king’s attempt at communicating with a mortal. Its very subtle and not very effective. I can help you understand, if you’d like.”

Sure, for the record, I think you’re nuts, but if you have something to offer, I’d love to hear it.

She leaned towards me and made contact with those mesmerizing eyes,”What I need you to do is go back and look at that silly little tarot deck you play with. You know the three cups that Z has been giving you? The three of cups is card in the deck. Go read about that and meet us at the maze tonight at midnight.”

I was feeling hypnotized, but I managed to blurt out,”Wait, there are at least two things in that sentence that I don’t understand: who is ‘us’ and what is the maze?”

“Us is the community—the retired community. Do you know the Governor’s palace in the colonial sector? There is a maze made with hedges in the back. It was constructed in 1935. When you come to the front gate at midnight, we’ll have someone there to lead you to us.”

So back to the apartment and the tarot deck. I looked up the three of cups. It represents the story of Eros and Psyche. They have a special relationship. Eros only will viosit Psyche under the cover of night. Psyche agrees to this, but one night she wants to see her godly lover. She lights a lamp, but a bit of oil falls on Eros, waking him. He scolds her for her lack of faith and banishes her to solitude.

Interesting, I thought. Now, off to the maze. I headed out for the colonial part of town. There wasn’t much going on, other than a few tourists wandering around. As I approached the maze, I wondered who would be meeting me to lead me in. when I got about 20 yards away, I saw someone moving near the entrance. Before I actually saw it, I heard that familiar clip clop-clop of hooves. Then I could smell it—like a sweaty animal in a hot barn. Then I saw it. From the waist dow, it was a like a goat—hairy, thick legs that ended with hooves. From the waist up, a man with little nubs of bone coming out of his head, like baby horns. Pan! Of course, the God of the woods. Who else would lead me?

I followed the clip clop to the center. There were candles and a lot of the people I recognized from Mommas.. Persephone was seated at a table in the center. Pan motioned me to approach the table. I did, and Persephone looked up and said,

“Split the cards, please.”

I did, and she pulled three cards off the top and flipped them over. The cards were:THE LOVERS, THE HIGH PRIESTESS AND THE FOOL.

She studied the cards for a moment, and then declared, “very interesting. I think this means that you are intended to fall in love with me and that love that love will stay for many many years, unrequited.

I was a bit flabbergasted. “I’m supposed to fall in love with you?? You must be fifty years old. I’m a college student.”

“Actually, I’m more like five thousand years old. You will know me only in your dreams. You will never be five thousand years old.”

She wasn’t lying…Even now, twenty years later, I wake in the middle of the night and she is on my mind

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