Unexpected family business took me back to the land of my birth.  Seems Aunt Jean is feeling under the weather — not entirely unusual for an 89-year-old.  Her 91-year-old boyfriend is feeling even punker than her, which isn’t helping the situation any.  Cousin Joyce tried to pry her out of the house to move her down to South Carolina, but Jean was having none of it.  It’s sort of like those last few people in Centralia — also Mountain City Regional people — the ones who refuse to leave their homes despite the fact the fires of hell are raging in their very basements and they’re being offered hundreds of thousands for bungalows that aren’t worth two cents.  In short, we coalcrackers have to be extracted from our homes with the jaws of life, no matter how ridiculous the situation.  It’s a territorial thing.Observations: There’s no one there.  I mean, I haven’t seen the population numbers; I don’t have to.  There’s just no one there anymore.  See, I’m used to crowds here on the Jersey Shore.  Go out to eat and you have to avoid certain places because they’re always crowded.  Plan to go to certain entertainment venues and all you worry about is parking.

In Lantenengo County, this is no longer a problem.  It’s a shame, too, because some people are giving it an honest-to-goodness try.  I’ve been to more nice dining spots and lounges there in the past year or two than ever before, but it doesn’t seem to matter.  There is simply no audience.  And you can see it in the proprietors’ eyes.  They’ve spruced up their place, they’ve replaced the wooden plank that had been sitting on cinderblocks on the floor with a real, fully-stocked bar with name-brand liquors, but … there are no customers.

I don’t know what the future holds.  I do know that I can now go to almost any place in the county, order a Tanqueray and tonic, and not get the stink eye.  I could probably even order something with a little umbrella in it and not get beaten up.  They’re trying; they really are.  But the young folks are all moving out.  Nahas Avenue still looks like a bomb hit it.  The mall is nearly empty.  If I knew how to save it I’d share the secret, but I don’t; I simply don’t.

Now available even at Club 21!