This piece is something that I wrote several years ago to describe a neighborhood in the fictitious town of Crescent City. It is the setting I have chosen for the new stories of Susie and Johnny that I have been writing.
I can see and hear a lot of things from my window. You see, I am a writer. My wife Carol and our cat Norman live in a condo that is in a neighborhood with many other apartment buildings. It is an older neighborhood that is coming to life again after many years of neglect. There are many small shops, businesses and a few schools. In our apartment, my desk is positioned so that I sit close to the front window of our apartment. I can look out and watch people. I have witnessed many events looking out my window. Mostly just little, normal, every day events like the hearing the laughter of children, angry shouts of someone that feels hurt or wronged. I can also hear the seasons. I hear birds singing in the spring and the soft crunch that people make when they are walking by in freshly fallen snow. I like to tell the stories that I see and hear from my window.
Sometimes, I can smell things through my window. Just yesterday I caught the smell of fresh bread baking. So, I just have to get out and get some. It made me SO hungry. You see there’s a small bakery just up the street. Rob and Jenna Murphy just opened it up about a couple of months ago. Nice kids & hard workers too. They make some of the best French and sourdough bread that I have ever tasted; the biggest, fluffiest, sweetest, fullest cream puffs you have ever seen or tasted and…and….and gigantic cinnamon rolls to DIE for.
I like Rob and Jenna a lot. Let me tell you a little bit about them. They were married just a few years ago right out of community college. They both worked really hard in the culinary program there and at other bakeries learning the craft of what they do. They also managed to scrape together enough time and money to send Jenna to a special culinary school to learn to be a pastry chef while Rob specialized in artisan breads. After that, they found an old storefront and spent the rest of their savings and some borrowed money setting up their dream.
They didn’t get a whole lot of business to begin with so they gave away samples of their baked goods around the neighborhood. Gradually, the word got around and people started buying their breads and pastries there. After awhile, Rob & Jenna picked up some used tables & chairs from a restaurant that closed and set a few up in a corner of the storefront so that customers could sit and enjoy a hot cup of coffee or tea and with their fresh morning pastry right there in the shop. Rob is planning on starting to serve sandwiches & soups for lunch. I’m looking forward to that. His bread is fantastic.
I go over every couple of days for a loaf of Rob’s bread and one of Jenna’s giant cinnamon rolls. Jenna told me that I could cut the roll in quarters and freeze some of it. I can now heat the unused portion in the microwave and have fresh hot cinnamon roll every morning with my coffee. On days when I am wrestling with writers block, the thought (and smell) of that cinnamon roll coming warm and fresh out of the microwave are all that I need to make me excited enough to get up and face the day!
Oh and they take all of their leftovers to the mission over on Front street. Now THERE are some happy folks!
That brings me to the point of this week’s View. These two are working hard and living out the American dream. They are also doing something else. They are living their faith out loud in front of all of our neighbors. It’s not just that they take leftovers to the mission; they are open with all of their customers. You notice something different about their shop as soon as you walk in. The music in their shop is a mix of old hymns and new contemporary Christian music. It’s always there in the background. It’s not in your face. The cheerful attitude of the Murphy’s tells you that there is something different about them. They always treat all of their customers like family. It’s not unusual for Jenna or Rob to sit down with a customer over a cup of coffee and discussing whatever is on the customer’s mind. People feel free to share their lives with Rob and Jenna. They seem to possess wisdom beyond their years. Between the great food and the great people in their shop, Rob & Jenna are already making an impact in the neighborhood.
Well, I’m headed out to get some of that bread that I have been smelling all morning while I was writing this. I think that I see some garlic bread and pasta in our future. Do you want to come along? Great! I’ll show you around the neighborhood on the way. Let’s go!
Out the door, down the stairs through the lobby and out to the street. It is a beautiful day out today. I see lot’s of blue sky and some white fluffy clouds with just the lightest breeze that is coming from the direction of the Murphy’s Bakery.
Across the street you can see, our corner grocery run by the Nguyen family. They are originally from Vietnam so they have some additional items in their store that reflect their heritage. When we have our annual neighborhood block party they serve some of that delicious Vietnamese Pho Beef & Noodle soup. That stuff is unbelievable! They have three some small children that are in the local school.
On the corner on this side of the street is Mr. Cimino’s Butcher shop. Tony and his wife Rosalie have run this shop for almost thirty years. Their children have all grown up and started their own families. Some have left the area, but two of the children, Maria and Tony junior are working in the shop so the grandchildren are there too a lot of the time when they are not in school. They are learning the business from their parents and grandparents. My family gets all of our meat from there, but we especially love the Italian sausage and prosciutto that we get from them. It is wonderful stuff. Oh, and you can always hear an Italian opera somewhere in the background of their shop. I never really liked opera when I was growing up, but, now, I always associate it with the Cimino’s Butcher shop and that wonderful sausage and prosciutto. It gives me a warm feeling to hear La Boheme when I walk down the street or hear bits and pieces of Rigolleto from my open window.
Across the street we have our little drugstore; Harry’s has been here so long that it still has the racks of comic books near the front door and the soda fountain counter. You can still get real old fashioned soda’s here and ice cream sundaes. This drugstore is run by Harry. I don’t know Harry’s last name. Everyone just calls him Harry and I have never asked about it. He has been a pharmacist almost since, well, it’s just been a really long time. It’s also a great place to get cards for all of the occasions of life and just a little bit of almost everything else. It is amazing the stuff that he has in there. If you can’t find it, just ask Harry. He’s got it in there somewhere.
Across the street you can see the Anderson’s Hardware store. There is another place with almost anything that you can think of. Bob Anderson took the store over from his uncle about 5 years ago and associated with Big-Value to get more name recognition, but he has still kept that neighborhood feel to the store. His wife Marion usually runs the counter and makes all the keys, but Bob is always there helping people with their projects or teaching dummies like me how to change a washer or fix a hole in the wall. He even came over one time to help me install a ceiling fan with a light fixture for our dining room. Talk about great service! Bob and Marion have become close friends of ours. We love spending time with them.
About two blocks up the street is our church. It is called Grace Neighborhood Church. Our pastor Tom Johnson spends a lot of time visiting with folks in our neighborhood and it seems like every time there is a need some where, there he is lending a helping hand. The next time you visit, I‘ll take you up to visit him. He’s a great guy and you’ll love his wife Margie and their two kids, Susie and Stanley.
Well, here we are at the Murphy’s so I’ll say goodbye until we meet again to discover what I can see in the View from my window. God Bless you.