Saturday, July 31, 2010

Long Valley restaurant is like a trip to the Iberian peninsula

Long Valley has a wealth of great foods, from fresh veggies at farm stands to pizza
parlors, to Chinese restaurants and even fresh seafood. Now you can add something else: Portuguese barbecue.

The restaurant is owned by Maria Graca who gets help from her daughter, Vania Guerrerio.

"Around here, there was nothing Portuguese,'' Guerrerio says, "so we figured it would be a good spot for the business to bring out the new culture into the town.''

The spot is Tina's Portuguese BBQ on East Mill Road, and it's named Tina's because of the owner's middle name.

"Everyone just calls her Tina,'' Guerrerio says of her mother, Maria Graca, "Her second name is Valentina. So it's just a short abbreviation for it.''

The meals at Tina's are aimed at meat lovers.

"The chicken and the pork ribs are pretty popular,'' Guerrerio says. "The combo,
half-chicken, half-ribs, is the most popular.''

Also topping the bill and sure to get customers salivating are the BBQ T-bone steak, a pork-cutlet sandwich and grilled pork chops, all of which are from recipes Tina brought here from Portugal.

There's also Portuguese sausage, and appetizers such as codfish pastries and shrimp cakes.

Great desserts also are featured at Tina's, made with recipes from Portugal and sitting in a display case ready for customers to choose.

"We have the pistachio pudding, a chocolate pudding with whipped cream, flan, rice pudding and custard cakes'' Guerrerio says. All of them are made from scratch.

Tina's is mostly a takeout place, with only a few tables and chairs on the patio. You can call ahead and expect your food to be ready when you get there.

"It wasn't big enough to have a sit-down place,'' Guerrerio say. "We figured we would do takeout, just put a couple of chairs out there for the summertime if people wanted to eat there.''

And the customers have certainly approved. The pickup process is fast here, and some customers can even be seen leaving their motors running as they rush into the store and rush back out, eager to bring their delicious food home.

"We've been getting a lot of positive comments,'' Guerrerio says, adding that people keep saying that they "needed something like this in the area.''

Tina's also prepares dishes for parties, bringing the food right to customers if the order is large enough to warrant the delivery service.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A look at history, a taste that's great

Devour some of The Black Horse Pub's delicious buffalo wings and crab cakes, enjoy its wide assortment of seafood, and daydream about the history of this charming restaurant.

"The Black Horse has been around since 1742," says manager Thomas Coyle.

The Pub, which stands across the courtyard from the award-winning Black Horse Tavern, was initially a stable and a stagecoach stop on the road to Scranton, Pa. There are 20 seats in what is now known as the Olde Pub, and there's another section built in the early 1980s that enlarged the dining area to include a full bar with more seating.

The pub and the tavern are owned by Villa Enterprises Inc. of Morristown.

As interesting as the history and architecture are here, what's even more fascinating is how delectable the food is and also how generous the portions are.

"We serve generous portions of food," Coyle agrees, adding that many people can't even finish some of the meals.

The Pub has an extensive menu. Appetizers include such popular standard fare as buffalo wings, nachos and french-fried zucchini, as well as cheese and wine-bubbly shrimp, which is served in a cheese and wine sauce; homemade potato pancakes, steamed shrimp and vegetable dumplings.

There's a list of hearty pub sandwiches including French dip, Maryland crabcake and North Carolina pulled pork. A broad range of entree salads feature steak, blackened chicken and others.

There also are country-style comfort foods such as chicken pot pie. There's char-broiled burgers with numerous toppings, sirloin steaks, filet mignon, BBQ baby-back ribs, sea scallops, sesame tuna, fresh lemon sole and more.

"We have our famous raw bar, which on Mondays through Thursdays, we have out front," Coyle says, "where you can see a chef shucking clams and oysters."

Desserts include fresh pies that are made on the premises.

The Black Horse Tavern and Pub are obviously very popular, and Coyle attributes this to the tutelage of his general manager, Michael Horty, who has been manning the pub for 15 years and who is always changing the menu and keeping everything fresh.

Having two restaurants on the same property affords their guests choices that most other restaurants don't have. The Black Horse Tavern and Pub allow customers to choose between a casual pub or the upscale fine dining restaurant known as the Tavern, and the motto at both is, "Only the best for our patrons — since 1742."

Monday, July 19, 2010

What If Inception Were Analyzed By Dream Experts?

When Christopher Nolan first announced that he was making a movie that took place “within the architecture of the mind,” I got nervous, really nervous. This wasn't because it meant that I would soon have to think at the multiplex, but because I had been working on a book of my own for the past three years that dealt with a universe within the mind, and I thought, uh oh, he's going to steal my thunder.

Well, Inception came out this past weekend and it couldn't have been farther from what my book is about. But in my boning up on dreams, I studied a great deal of the Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung, who is arguably most famous for his work on dream analysis, with the collective unconscious and archetypes being two of his most studied discussions. Now, I'm not claiming to be an expert in Jungian concepts such as the self or the collective unconscious (And I'll even direct you to two links that might describe it better than I can: here and here) but in a nutshell, Jungian Archetypes are basically the rawest, innermost characteristics of ourselves that exist within everybody at the deepest level of the collective unconscious, which is basically the deepest realm within ourselves.

SPOILER WARNING: What follows should only be viewed by people who have already seen Inception. It contains heavy, critical spoilers which will impact your viewing of the film. If you haven’t seen Inception yet, stop reading and don’t come back until you do.

And in watching Inception, I think I definitely saw something of Jungian archetypes in all of the characters who interact with Leonardo DiCaprio's, Dom Cobb, in the movie. So much so, in fact, that I actually think ::Spoiler alert:: that the entire film might actually just be Dom Cobb's dream and that all of the main characters in it were just different segments of himself that had to concoct an elaborate mission just so he could reach some level of catharsis within himself. When the mission was completed, he was finally able to confront his demons and he was granted the clarity to finally see his children's faces in the end because his guilt had finally been resolved amongst his archetypes. I know, I know, it's a pretty crazy theory and I'm sure you'll hear even crazier ones in the weeks that follow, but just hear me out for a little bit and maybe you'll see where I'm coming from with this. But for a moment, I'm going to attempt to examine the characters of Inception using the methods of dream experts. Here's what I think they'd have to say.

Mal/The Shade as The Shadow Archetype

One of Jung's most prominent archetypes is the shadow, which is mostly the darker side of oneself projected into an entity. This archetype can be represented as many different figures, from people to animals that might have haunted you in your childhood. The way archetypes work is like this: they aren't really the shape that you see but more a feeling or emotion that is transformed into an entity that we can relate to, and the shadow archetype represents the worst parts of ourselves and the evil that lurks within us. So, if you're still following me here, then you'll know that Mal is certainly the evil that lurks within Dom. I mean, it's even in her name, (Mal in Latin means evil, after all).

But let's look even deeper. As we know, Mal is already dead by the first time we see her in Saito's dream on the Shinkansen. She killed herself after she thought that limbo was still reality and that the world she lived in was all a lie. As we know, she only thinks this because Dom Cobb performed Inception on her and he feels that he is the cause of her death, so his dark side is manifested in Mal, who might as well just be a literal shadow because she follows him everywhere he goes, much like a shadow would. This leads to disastrous results, like in the form of a freight train through the streets or as an assassin in the snow. Mal in every way is the darker side of Cobb that he can't contain, and that's what makes her such a threat, because deep down, he knows that she's really the worst side of himself, and everything she does affects the rest of his innermost archetypes.

Arthur/The Point Man as The Hero Archetype

Let's face it, even though Dom Cobb is the star of the show, he's hardly the hero. He's more like a broken down sad sack dealing with shameful emotional issues caused by his dominant shadow (See above). But Arthur, who is willing to take on an onslaught of bad guys in a constantly shifting hallway so his friends can enter into a deeper dream state, is pure hero material, especially when he runs the risk of being “killed” and sent to limbo in such a heavily sedated state.

Arthur is everything Dom wishes he could be but can't because he has so many ghosts following him around. He gets to kiss the girl, save the day (Notice that he's one of the first ones to wake up in the submerged car and pull the others to safety), and doesn't fail in his mission to lead the bad guys away from his friends. While Dom, on the other hand, fails in every way, even allowing his shadow/Mal to “kill” Fischer Jr. from behind, which compromises the entire mission. So, if we're keeping track of our Archetype discussion, that would mean that Arthur is also Dom, but the part of him that is brave and courageous and willing to put his life on the line for his friends. He doesn't have any excess baggage. He's just all business, and all kickass.

Saito/The Tourist as the Father Archetype

The father archetype is a very strong figure in the human psyche, as it's one that gets what it wants and has a great deal of control in the person he inhabits. And in every way, that's what Saito is, acting almost as a dues ex machina by the end of the film with his ability to literally overturn the law so that Dom can return to America. Saito would be the side of Dom's character that would be authoritative and demanding. In other words, he would be the boss when it got right down to things. We already see that Dom's not the boss of his own team as his second architect doesn't even follow his instructions when he tells her not to go deeper into his mind. She does just that and sees what Mal is really capable of doing within him. So in that way, Dom has very little control over his circumstances, while Saito is exactly the opposite—he gets what he wants and knows how to get it.

Note that not only did he convince Dom to plant inception in a business competitor's mind, but he also got to tag along with the others as a tourist, which is highly dangerous and a definite risk factor in a mission like this. Saito gets whatever he wants. So is it any wonder why he gets shot so early in the mission? Dom can't deal with a figure like that right now within himself, as he has his own problems to deal with. If anything, he needs a strongly based mother archetype, one who will take care of him and not demand too much out of him. Unfortunately, there isn't one to be found in this movie, making his catharsis that much harder.

Eames/The Forger as The Trickster Archetype

The Trickster Archetype is deceptive and shady, and Eames is the shadiest of them all. Working as a forger in reality and as a shape shifter in the dream world (even switching genders at one point to lead the target off-guard, which is VERY Trickster-esque), Eames is the side of Dom that can still laugh at itself and crack a smile, but also the great deceiver that can't tell reality from a dream. The Trickster is very prominent in the film in that Dom lies to not only his team but also himself, believing that he has everything under control when he knows deep down that he's a complete and utter mess.

It's in Eames' dream in the snow fortress that Dom is truly confronted with his shadow, and it's at that point that he knows that he can't lie to himself anymore. The Trickster proves it to him by putting his shadow front and center there for him. And with his shadow “killing” Fischer, she is also killing the child within him (More on that in a second).

Robert Fischer Jr./The Mark as The Child Archetype

Robert Fischer Jr. just wants acceptance from his father, and like the child archetype, he is the side of Dom who desires to be innocent again. Note that when Fischer's safe opens, he pulls out the pinwheel that he had in the picture with his dad. This side of Dom is very tricky to discuss as Dom actually deceives the child within him by lying to Fischer at the bar and claiming that the images he sees are really trying to kill him when their purpose is to actually save him from dream thieves, Dom being one of them.

This leads me to believe that Dom is trying to move on from the helpless side of himself by this part in the movie and doesn't want that innocence to hold back. He wants to be more like the father archetype and have control. But Dom can't reach catharsis by subduing his archetypes, and by bringing Fischer back from the dead in the end, it allows him to open his safe, which I definitely think is tantamount to Dom's rebirth, which is a part of what the child archetype represents within the dreamer, a new beginning. So yeah, it's some pretty heady stuff.

Ariadne/The Architect as The Anima Archetype

The Anima is the feminine side within a male (Whereas, the animus, would be the male side within a female) and she represents who a male truly is rather than who he presents himself as in reality, and in many ways, what that's what Ariadne represents for Dom. Out of all the other characters in the movie, she's the closest to being who he really is—note, all of the details he tells her are basically the same details he's telling us, too, with the audience being a part of who he is, as well, being that we're living inside his head while we watch the movie—and she's also an architect, which Dom once was too before his shadow became overbearing.

Think about it, it's Ariadne who goes with him into limbo when everyone else has to stay behind. She's the one who tries to pull him away from his darker side and get him to move on so he can be himself again. She's basically a young Cobb with a vagina. I don't know how else to explain it.

Miles/The Mentor as The Wise Old Man Archetype

Miles, Dom's father-in-law, is the wise old man within himself, and believe it or not, this might be the most complex archetype of all to explain. This is almost a paradox of sorts really (Like those twisting stairs in the movie), in that he is both knowledge incarnate, but also the teacher within himself that is able to take in his anima as a student. I don't know. I really can't wrap my head around this one. Maybe you can do a better job.

Yusef/The Chemist as The Self

The self represents both the conscious and the unconscious worlds within oneself, and that's what Yusef is in this mission for Dom. He is both the link to reality and the also harbinger into the dream world. By being the initial dream that his team enters within, believe it or not, I think Yusef might be the closest to who Dom really is as an individual by having all of these archetypes swimming inside himself. Remember, Yusef is the only other one who knows about Limbo on the onset, as Dom must have been dabbling with chemicals himself to get to that sort of state with his wife. So it is in Yusef that we have the whole to the other segmented sections of Dom, and by allowing his other archetypes to sink deep within him, he is allowing them to all come to grips with each other.

Whoo, that was a lot of mental calisthenics right there. What do you think? Can you piece the puzzle together any better?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Everything on a pizza — or a bagel

Every town should have at least one pizzeria, deli and bagel shop. Not only does Long Valley fit the bill, but they're they're all under one roof.

"We do pizza here; we do subs, salads and appetizers, but our main thing is pizza," says Robert Prudente, owner of Long Valley Pizza, Deli & Bagel.

He used to work down the street at Salerno's before the owner asked him if he wanted to make the big jump as owner of this location. And since Salerno's sells pastas and the like down the street, why sell a similar product? That's where the deli part comes in.

"Most of the time, people will come in and the kids want pizza, and you want lasagna, and the wife wants linguine with clam sauce, or something, and we don't do that," Prudente says, "So I figured that if we do the deli, you can come in and get an Italian sub, the kids can get pizza, your wife can get a grilled chicken Caesar salad, and it seems to be working."

Okay, so the deli angle makes sense, but bagels? Prudente has an answer for that, too.

"One of the stores where the restaurant is, used to be a bagel shop," Prudente explains while taking a sip of coffee (and yes, coffee is sold here, too), "So, I said, wait a minute, there's no bagel store in Long Valley now, so I said, 'You know what? We have to open up a bagel store.' "

And just like that, you can now enjoy a Taylor ham, egg and cheese on a bagel at 7 at night if you like and still take home a pizza for the family.

Oh, and speaking of pizza, you haven't had anything like this. If you look in the back of the small but comfortable shop, you might think you see a kitchen, but don't be fooled. That place back there is not a kitchen, but rather a laboratory: Some of the creations they come up display scientific ingenuity.

"Oh, we do crazy stuff," Prudente says. "One of the ones that we used to do but we stopped because people have allergies is peanut butter and jelly pizza. We put peanut butter and jelly and just a little bit of cheese on it just to hold the dough down. Pull it out, let it cool, put on the peanut butter, and then we do half strawberry and half grape jelly."

This crazy combination comes out every so often, but Prudente doesn't do it on a regular basis because the oven is used for so many other different meals, from burgers to pancakes, and he's aware that peanut allergies can cause severe reactions.

If your heart just sank because you want a slice of peanut butter and jelly pizza, don't be too upset. This shop has plenty other great slices to offer.

"Honey-mustard chicken is very popular," Prudente says of the sumptuous slice that swaps pizza sauce for honey mustard and has little bits of chicken fingers sprinkled on it. "I'm going to say it's almost more popular than pepperoni. The kids love it."

There also is a macaroni-and-cheese slice, a buffalo chicken slice, and (in this writer's humble opinion) a Sloppy Joe slice that is the greatest combination since hydrogen joined with oxygen to make water.

"We ran it (Sloppy Joe's) for a special. We had a little left over, and we threw it on a pizza," Prudente says.

"We like just about everything that we make, but it's up to the people," he says. "When they come in, especially when we try something for the first time, we usually cut up a couple pieces, and then, if they ask for it again, then we know it's usually pretty good."

In addition to pizza, the shop also is known for its stellar Thumann's meat sandwiches. Prudente wants to add one new product to the deli menu to give it that extra kick: "Right now, there's a gentleman who lives in Long Valley, and he has his own provisions company in Jersey City. He brought me his own stuff in, and it's fantastic."

If the deal goes through, Prudente would still sell Thumann's meat but would also sell the Long Valley meat.

"And it's called German Valley Provisions, which is kind of nice, too, because Long Valley was originally called German Valley." Prudente says.

Chapter One--In the Beginning

“What do you mean all of this wasn’t here just a second ago?” A bright blue body of light in the shape of a ten year old asks. As he says this, a vertical line splits the sky in half to form a horizon, “Do you mean, THE THINKER created all of this just right now?”

“He created the Internal Landscape,” the blue light’s companion says, himself a sharp red body of light with the crooked posture of an old man, “This land you see before you is still taking shape and is only a fraction of what THE THINKER has created from a single thought. In fact, there’s even a whole universe beyond this one that THE THINKER has created, and in it, blossoms the world of man.”

“The world of man?” The boy asks, standing in a levitating bubble with his companion and staring at the snow capped mountains that are sprouting up in the distance, “What is man? Am I man?”

The father closes his eyes and manipulates the slanted ridges of the mountain peaks with his mind. With a painter’s precision, he molds the slopes so that they slide down at just the perfect angle to capture the majesty of the rising sun.

“No, my son, you are but a tadpole right now, but you will be, someday,” the father says, opening his eyes and putting his hand on the boy’s shoulder, which deepens the son’s color from light blue to navy blue and even makes him grow a bit taller. The father stares even further into the distance with his third eye now and peers beyond the rigid mountain range that he just created. He sees a fertile mass of dirt sitting emptily behind it. Closing his eyes again, he envisions oak trees shooting up from the earth like weeds, and they do so at his command, growing so rapidly that they already disappear into the gray clouds that he created by simply upturning his head.

“Wow,” the boy exclaims, looking from his father to the trees, “Did you just do that?” and the father opens his eyes and smiles at his son.

“One day, mankind will grow just as those trees have grown,” the father says, “THE THINKER has great plans for mankind some day; most importantly, the ability to worship Him and create interpretations of Him using me as their guide.”

“And what do they look like, father?” The inquisitive boy asks, squinting and trying to initiate his own third eye.

“Don’t strain yourself too hard, my boy,” The father says, reading his son’s thoughts, “What is it that you would like to create and I will create it for you.”
“I want the sky to be green,” the boy says, and the father nods his head.
The sky, red as the dawning sun, begins to flicker and blur in color until it has a deep green shade to it that blends with the leaves of the oak trees that he just created.

“This is amazing,” the boy says, “But how come I couldn’t do it by myself?”

“You will never achieve the ability to create something from nothingness, as THE THINKER hasn’t given you that purpose in life.”

“And what is my purpose, papa?” The boy asks, growing a bit taller so his head now reaches his father’s chest,” and why do I keep growing while you stay the same?”

“You, my boy,” the father exclaims, grabbing the boy’s hand, “Are growing because you are learning so many new things that will help you in life while I have nothing new to learn as I was born omniscient. And to answer your question about what your purpose is, you were born to protect the most important gift of all.”

“And what’s that, father?”

“The gift of conviction,” the proud father says, and he kisses the boy on the forehead, “You were born to protect me, the embodiment of conviction, and the keeper of imagination.”

The boy, who has quickly grown to be a young adult, looks down at their orb and frowns.

“Father,” he says, his voice squeaking as a teenager’s would, “If you are the keeper of imagination, then can’t you create something more impressive than this bubble for us to stand in?”

“The youth do complain,” the father says, still smiling and looking over at the gleam from the ice on the mountains he created as the sun finally hits it, “I shall give us a home and this shall be my greatest creation yet. I want you to close your eyes for this one, okay?”

The young adult does as he’s told and can slowly feel the bubble beneath him lowering to the ground, which is soft and comforting on his feet when he touches it. All of a sudden, he can feel himself rising at a rapid rate. He opens his eyes and sees a flat yellow surface in front of him, but his father puts his hand over his eyes.

“Uh uh huh,” the father says, “I told you to keep them closed.”

When the ascension finally stops, the father removes his hand from his son’s eyes, and the young adult looks around and sees that he’s in a circular room now with strange pictures all around them. The pictures start to the right of a window that is wide enough to still see the mountains and the trees outside of. In the first picture to the right of the window, there is a small yellow dot that gradually increases in size with each picture until it reaches the window exactly opposite from the first window. Immediately after the second window, there are more pictures of the ball of light getting bigger and bigger until they reach the final picture before the first window again. This picture contains the image of a figure just like themselves, but without a light encircling him. This figure has something that looks like a finger with a hole in it that hangs between its legs and brown strands that sit atop its head. It looks like the young adult and his father but different. The son doesn’t understand what any of this means.

“What are these pictures of, father?” the son asks, a bit frightened by his new surroundings, “And what are we currently standing in now?”

“Ah, you miss your bubble already?” The father says, rubbing his son’s head, “This, my boy, is actually an amalgamation of structures that shall someday be prevalent in the world of man. This top floor that we’re currently on, rounded in shape and appearance, is called a room. Man will one day take shelter in them to rest their heads from nature. As for the pictures, they are of the creation of man, and that strange figure at the end is man himself, THE THINKER’S most complex creation.”
The young adult looks at the man in the picture and down at himself and he grows a deeper shade of blue.

“As for the rest of the building,” the father continues, now walking around on the solid ground of his creation, “The floors beneath us are made of something called steel, which man shall manipulate one day when they develop the intellect to do so. You may not realize it, my boy, but we are standing in what shall one day be one of man’s greatest achievements, a structure so high that it scrapes the heavens themselves and gets them even closer to THE THINKER, and that, my boy, is what is called progress.”

“Mankind shall be very lucky one day,” the young adult says, his voice getting deeper still and his height growing a few more inches.

“They will be indeed,” the father says, but just as he says it, a sharp feeling like fingers squeezing the back of his head, pinches him hard, and he knows that it can’t be good. He staggers back and forth, reaching out for the nearest wall.

“Father?” the son says, catching him, “What is it?”

“Did you feel that?”

“No,” the son says with fear in his voice, “What did it feel like? You look like you’re in pain.”

“I am, son,” he says, cringing, “Come, please, bring me to the other window.”
As the father and son travel over to the other side of the room, they see that the sky, once playfully green in its color, begins to flicker again until it’s back to being red with a hint of yellow to it.

“What happened to our sky, father?” The young adult asks, bringing his father to the window.

“That happened, I’m afraid,” the father says, and they both look down at a strange crystal structure that seems to be building itself in a harsh and crude manner. The crystal, bright and shimmering, stacks itself together in loud, obtrusive bursts like logs being stacked on top of each other.

“What is that, father?” The son asks, now taller than his father and with a voice as deep as a grown man’s.

“The end of paradise,” The father mutters, staring down as the tower looks as if it’s is being built with actual thought put into it.
The crystal grows rapidly, but carefully, and as the father and son watch it grow, they can see the stainless stalagmite beginning to intertwine at its base to form two inanimate snakes, racing around each other to the get to top.

“Are you forming that, father?” the son asks as the iridescent crystal shoots its way up. In its beauty, it explodes in a prism of colors from the sunlight that lands atop of it, making them squint at its splendor.

“No,” The father says, knowing with the insight that THE THINKER has blessed him with that this moment would eventually come, “Your mother has built it, for your mother is Logic, and she thinks things through.”

“I have a mother?” The adult asks, “And why does her home look like that? It’s hideous.”

“It is, my boy, and as you have grown quite a bit since we first starting talking, which must have been the glorious THINKER’S intention, I shall explain it to you in the clearest way possible. Logic is our enemy.”

“But why, father?” the adult asks, wanting to understand as the outline of a yellow and a green body of light can be seen in the crystal across from them, “And who are those two shapes over there in the distance?”

“The yellow one is your mother, and the shorter, green, one is your brother, the protector of Logic,” the father grumbles, “They are our enemies because they contradict me.”

“But why,” the son asks, startled by this sudden change of events, “Why do they contradict you, father? Can’t we live in peace with them?”

“No, we cannot, because they do not believe THE THINKER is the creator of all things,” the father says, his red shape growing fuzzy like static as he squeezes his son’s shoulder.

“But how can they not believe?” The son asks, angered at how anyone could not have absolute faith in THE THINKER when the world that stands before them exists.

“They do not believe because THE THINKER has made them believe only that which can be proven empirically,” the father says, “He has done this to create balance in the world for man.”

“I still don’t understand,” the adult says, feeling less and less confident than he did only minutes ago, “Why would THE THINKER create something that wouldn’t believe in Him?”

“Because THE THINKER wants man to have a choice,” the father says, looking up into his son’s eyes to show his sincerity.

“Oh,” the son says, still not quite understanding, “I think I get it.”

“You don’t have to lie to me, son,” the father says, forcing his color to deepen again, and hearing in the distance beyond his oak forest, the construction of new territory in the Landscape in the shape of a desert, “I do not expect you to understand everything right now. All you need to know is this: I will be your guardian, and in turn, you will guard me.”

“Yes, father,” the son says, bowing, “Always.”

“And in guarding me, you are guarding the sake of mankind,” the father continues, watching the yellow figure and her son walk away from the crystal front so they cannot be seen anymore.

“I will do whatever is asked of me,” the adult says, his blue light a gray color now as a bit of fear pervades him.

“That’s a good boy,” the father says, now reaching up to touch his son’s shoulder,

“It has not happened yet, but men will one day begin to die and you will guide their spirits to their ultimate decision, for you, my son, are now mature enough to be a CONVEYOR, and CONVEYOR’S are meant to guide.”

The son doesn’t know what any of this means but he accepts it anyway, forcing his color to go back to deep blue.

“And what will you do, father?” the son asks, looking down at him.

“I will leave an impression on mankind and they will build towers such as the one we’re standing in right now. They will make a means to transport themselves other than with the feet that THE THINKER has given them. They will create great art. Some of it will be of the world outside of them, but much more of it will be of the worlds inside of them, as I will grant them the ability to see the great art and beauty in things. But most importantly, they will create our THINKER in the image that they see fit and worship and cherish Him, and my son, this is where you come in, and it will be the most important task that you will ever embark on in your entire life.”

“Anything, father,” the son says with the light of a new dawn in his eyes.

“One day, when I call on you to do so, you will give up your immortality as a CONVEYOR to become a real man like in the one in the picture over there. And when you do so, you will lead another man to the most pernicious parts of the Internal Landscape to prove to mankind once again that THE THINKER exists, for one day, man will forget.”

“But why, father?” the son asks, suddenly light blue again, “Why would man forget?”

“Because your mother will eventually get the upper hand with mankind, and they will believe more in her than trust in me.”

And at this, the man stares at the crystalline tower shaped like a beanstalk outside his window and abhors his mother and brother for making man blind to THE THINKER.

“You have every right to hate them,” the father says, “But don’t let hate impinge upon your focus. Your mission is of the utmost importance because THE THINKER is everything, and man’s abandonment of Him will be his downfall. When the right people come along who will be able to invigorate man’s faith in THE THINKER, I will speak to them through their dreams, and bring them here to the Internal Landscape. You will then protect them as if you were protecting me. Do you understand?”
The son, who would do anything for his father, feels the sense of duty weigh down upon him, but he nods his head anyway, knowing that his father would never steer him wrong.

“I will do whatever it takes to protect mankind and to appease THE THINKER,” the blue body of light says.

The father squeezes his son’s hand and turns cherry red in his glee, “I knew you would, my boy. Now, come, let me show you the rest of the Landscape that lies within the deepest regions of man’s mind. You will be traveling through it every day from this day forth, and it shall be your home. But remember, son, when the right people come along, I will speak to them, and you will be ready.”

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Heavenly flavors hit the Spot

Have you ever walked into a bakery and instantly knew how delicious everything must be just by the way it smells? That's just how it is at The Sweet Spot Bake Shoppe in Chester, which smells just as good as Christmas morning, if not better.

The Sweet Spot recently won best bakery, voted by you, the readers, in the Mendham, Chester, Washington Township area.

"You're getting real ingredients, which a lot of people have definitely been craving" co-owner Cheryl Burger says, "We've seen that reaction; they're dying to have real things again."

The Sweet Spot isn't your typical bakery and might not have some of the items that you might be expecting from a bakery, such as fruit tarts and pies. Instead, this visually appealing shop specializes in one particular treat, one that's grown very big over the past few years — cupcakes.

"Obviously, cupcakes are popular right now," says Burger, who runs the shop with her sister, Carolyn, "It's a hot item, and I think we had seen a lot of cupcake places popping up."

Carolyn had seen a lot of cupcake shops in particular as she once worked in the city before the two opened The Sweet Spot.

"I sold title insurance and my sister worked for the Wendy Williams show," Burger says of their previous occupations, "So it was definitely a huge change for both of us, but both of us grew up baking, (and) have always loved baking."

The two own the shop and it's truly a family-run business, as the sisters usually bring in their father, mother, and younger sister to help out when orders get very specific or big.

"I do most of the baking and Carolyn does most of the decorating," Burger says, "My dad's here Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, to help up front; my mom is here throughout the week. She's either making frosting or doing fondant decorations for us. She's very good with miniature things.

"Our younger sister will also be here over the weekends sometimes," Burger adds,

It's good that the whole family's involved, because even though they just opened up this past February, they've already been pushing a great deal of their product, with a lot of patrons even suggesting new flavors for their cupcakes, which the sisters are happy to make if they think it would be good for the shop.

"The vanilla latte was one," Burger says about a customer suggestion, "I was like 'that's easy enough.' We have vanilla cupcakes, (and the coffee butter cream, and) I think that was out the next day, or later that day."

Also popular are the "worms in dirt" cupcakes, which feature Gummy Worms poking out of them, S'mores cupcakes, and the big daddy of them all, the red velvet cupcake, for which Burger, though she likes them, doesn't really see what all the fuss is about.

"I mean, it tastes fine, but people go nuts for it, and I'm like, 'it's just fine for me,' " Burger says, laughing.

"There's others where I'm like, 'this is really, really good,' " Burger adds, "I'm a purist, vanilla cake with chocolate frosting, like that, I'm like, 'oh, my God, this is the best thing ever.' "

While The Sweet Spot might not have many of the other items that you would find in a typical bakery, it does have two other treats: larger variations of their cupcakes, and a nice selection of cookies.

"We have cookies, a couple of bar cookies and things like that," Burger says, "Because there isn't a bakery in town, we wanted to have a little something that people could take."

She says some people like to mix and match, combining their cupcakes with their cookie products.

"A lot of people have us cut up the bar cookies into quarters, and they'll combine that with our mini cupcakes and do this little dessert platter," Burger explains, "And that's a good grab-and-go (item) if you want to walk around town. You know, just grab a big chocolate chip cookie and you're out the door, ready to go."

The sisters are also greatly into giving back, participating in an event called "Share Our Strength," which aims to help end childhood hunger in America, and Relay for Life, at West Morris Mendham and West Morris Central high schools, which is the main fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.

"We're here, (and) we're happy to be here in the area," Burger says, "Anything that we can give back in the immediate area, we're more than happy to do it."

The sisters also are happy to patch the hole that opened in the town when the original bakery closed down.

"Chester bakery has been gone for a while, and we grew up in Long Valley, so all of our birthday cakes when we were little were from Chester bakery," Burger recall, "We were familiar with the area and we couldn't believe that a (standalone) bakery hadn't come in here in the meantime, and we were very happy to fill that void."