Downtown Dirt by Manhole: Hedgehogs, and the Season of Change

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F@#$ your early spring; I want a beer.

So that despicable little keystone rodent has pulled his yearly bamboozle, the shameless con known here in these good ol’ U. S. of A. as “Groundhog Day.” It’s a pretty sweet gig, if you’re a groundhog, or else a resident of a certain asswagon burg in the crushingly dull coal ruins of mid-state Pennsylvania. Every Feb. 2, a varmint named Phil emerges from his burrow on Gobbler’s Knob—and no, I did not make up the name “Gobbler’s Knob,” though I might wish for all the world that it were so—he comes out of his hole a mile or two outside the town of Punxsutawney, Penn., and looks for his shadow.

If he sees it, so the story goes, it portends six more weeks of wretched winter weather. If the shadow is absent, it bodes an early spring.

Now, if any of you have ever met a groundhog, you already know that this is all gibberish, hokum of the basest sort. Groundhogs are vulgar creatures; their mean little hearts are full of hate. Poor in spirit are those who would pin their hopes to the questionable devices of such a beast.

Sure enough, that little bastard Phil lied to us just last year—popped out of the hole according to sked, no shadow to be found, and predicted a ravishing early spring season. And just in case you missed it, Jake, spring of ’13 was mostly a drudge, a cold, rain-sotted affair that left us yearning for sweet June, and the warm caress of summer.

This year, it looks like he’s done it again. Though—praise be—this time it seems the pendulum of his prevarications has swung back in our direction. Because in ’14, Phil saw the shadow on that cold day in early February. Yet here we are, just a couple of weeks on, and the weather is already taking a favorable turn, manifesting a long spell of agreeable temps even as the gentler promise of March looms on the near horizon.

All of which is another way of saying: it’s time to think about spring, and another Season of Change here at Scruffy City Hall, and at our very own Preservation Pub. I suppose we could have just said that in the first place, but sometimes things just press upon us, matters of bewildering gravitas and far-reaching import. And then we are off, plunging into the tall weeds of a brutal and sweeping cultural analysis. That’s how we roll, Jake. It is our raison d’etre.

In any case, with a new season upon us, it is worth more than a passing note that our Benefactors, i.e. Pres Pub first couple Scott and Bernadette West, have very recently taken a more hands-on role in the day-to-day function of Oodles Uncorked, the lovely Tuscan/wine bar down the way at 18 Market Square. Oodles has always been part of the family, so to speak, since its inception in the early ‘00s. But in the main, it has been the bailiwick of West clan patriarch Jim West, who has overseen the place the last decade or so with an inimitable mix of orneriness and good humor.

Papa Jim will remain a regular presence over at Oodles, but now Scott and B. have been asked to take the reins of daily operation. A powerful evolution is brewing over at 18 M.S. now; stay tuned to this space for more on that particular story.

Meanwhile, over at our very own Preservation Pub, it is business as usual. Which is to say, the P.P. continues to serve as the best, and best-loved music venue/social hub our fair city has to offer. But I’ve said it before, Jake—“good enough” is for losers. And so you will continue to see more of the tweaks that have evolved the Pub into the imposing tower of craft beer and wicked fun that it has become lo, these last few years—the kind of place where Magic Beer Trees sprout from the fertile grounds of a starlit Moonshine Rooftop Garden, and the taps flow in golden rivers into the wee morning hours, dispensing the sweet elixirs of hope eternal and good cheer.

We’ve spoken a great deal, lately, of Scruffy City Hall. Which makes sense, what with the place just opening its doors and all, providing the city with the newest and best in Pagan Viking concert-hall technology. But please keep in mind that our spiffy new venture is open every night, whether for music or just for lolling about and having a brew or three from one of the 39 craft-beer-devoted taps. The place makes for a majestic, yet imminently comfortable hang-out locale. And over the next several months, further changes—installing the downstairs brewery, building out another rooftop patio in the fashion of the Pub, to name but two—will push it ever closer to becoming the Taj Mahal-esque entertainment super-emporium the Benefactors envisioned when they first laid plans to drafting paper some two years ago.

And that is all, for now. Let us be off, to other and better things. Because there is a time for talk as well as a time for action, Jake. Knowing the difference is what separates the men from the boys

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