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The Tentacle


December 28, 2007

Pushkin's Yule

Roy Meachum

The English pointer in my life still misses the Santa-red scarf he wore for years. En Masse's Pam left town a few Yuletides back, taking along her wonderful smile and great heart. The scarf was her project.

As readers know, Pushkin reigns as the mayor of North Market Street and its environs, which cover most of downtown Frederick. When not promenading for admirers, he tends to rest-up on the love seat across the library from the computer.

My best friend also eats, of course, and that has much to do with his pleasures strutting over the business district sidewalks. In every block merchants keep on hand goodies, otherwise known as biscuits. But not Christmas day.

In all my 25 seasons here, I have never known downtown to be so desolate, devoid of human life. Few cars appeared during our outing. Parking spots were in over-abundance.

Even Joe Cohen's always open oasis of cigars, cigarettes and British goods was tight as a tick at midday Christmas. Coming back from a family gathering that evening I felt comforted to find his corner blazing with light.

For the first time in a life spent along North Market, pointer Pushkin circled downtown and came up empty, of mouth and paw. Before mounting sympathy, readers should know all his favorite merchants had duly fattened boy dog.

Portobello Road's Kat made the most fuss as is her wont and presented to my four-legged buddy a gift in elegant wrapping. At every appearance, she treats the pointer as visiting royalty, due elaborate greetings.

Eric at Cinegraphics took advantage of Hanukah's earlier arrival and spent the holiday season trying to develop Pushkin into a likely contender for Washington's baseball team. His treats wind up as training material to make the boy dog a better catcher. Over the months, what started as an over-the-counter exercise has lengthened.

Eric spots Pushkin close to the cash register and backs up half-way across the store; he then proceeds to pitch the treats high in the air. The designated Washington National impressively catches most of them. No mean feat!

With Pam long gone, En Masse owners Sharon and Herb still take care of the critter who was among the first to welcome them when they moved the flowers and elaborate accessories in. The pet cookies are tucked away in a suitable jar close by the back counter.

Alicia L's Pat and her charming lady crew make affectionate noises when we appear at the door. Especially busy at this time of year, they always find a moment, while making sales, to find a baked bone. It's a real treat when Pat's gorgeous granddaughters are on hand. As has been established in these columns, Pushkin favors young females of the pre-kindergarten age. And they love him.

In warmer weather, boy dog and I plop down on the bench that "Uncle Joe" placed under the British flags that proclaim both his Manchester origin and many of his goods. The infinite variety of the beer and ale from his native islands ever fascinate and so do some prices. Over $5 for a store-bought brew? I never heard such a thing.

In the corner store, North Market and Second streets, I'm consistently shocked at cigarette prices, nearly 100 times more than World War II post exchanges: five cents a pack and fifty cents a carton. (Since I didn't smoke at the time, I sold the weekly ration for $80 to Germans who worked for my Army outfit.)

For Pushkin, Joe Cohen's supply is about an inexhaustible supply of dog bones stored in a porcelain jar. The crowd that comes and goes sometimes provides me tasty morsels of a different sort.

Come to think of it: these were generally ordinary days for Pushkin. Friends made the holidays more intriguing for me; I was invited out to dinner several times. Family and close chums fed and entertained in the run-up to Christmas, which I spent with my children and grandchildren.

And that meant the English pointer spent more hours than usual sprawling on the library's love seat. He gently barks a lot from that perch; after all when you live with a deaf man (me) you must (as a caretaking dog) keep him informed of sounds he cannot hear.

As all our world knows, I love Pushkin very, very much.



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