The house next door to my late grandparents’ old house on Exeter Avenue in West Pittston has always had quite a reputation for being haunted. Bob Weaver, the first owner, was supposed to have been possessed by Satan. Recently the house’s current owner was cleaning out his attic and found quite a scary artifact of Bob’s world. Rams and goats are traditionally associated with Satan worship. Last week I visited him for a few hours and was somehow inexplicably smitten with the sight of the stuffed creature. What should have been an enjoyable visit made me feel quite seriously uncomfortable.
Bob Weaver, my late grandparents’ next door neighbor, was real. I’ve been using him as a recurring character in stories of mine. This is my third story about him.
Recluse Bob Weaver was my grandparents’ next door neighbor on Exeter Avenue in West Pittston, Pennsylvania, until he died mysteriously in the late fifties. Locals say his remains are still in the cellar of his old house even though it was long ago bought by lawyer Jared Jennings. Every time Mr. Jennings invites me to go downstairs with him I cringe with terror. A lot of folklore has grown up around that cellar. Somehow, though, an inexplicable irresistible force always demands that I presume to tamper with fate, whatever the cost.
Junk food has always been quite a major weakness of mine. Whenever I’m anywhere near even the general vicinity of ice cream, cake, candy or any other exceptionally tasty dessert, I go plum out of control. At least it’s not an entirely destructive weakness though. I always tell Mary Anne and Steve about my long standing habit of virtually never being the first one to open any container of food, and that includes dessert of any kind. At my old Knights of Columbus council, Council 794 in Lindenhurst, New York, they used always to have Dunkin’ Donuts at their bingo games. I invariably ended up making sure I got some when I helped at the games. Once in a while I take advantage of coupons I get for discounts at Dunkin’ Donuts and go somewhat overboard. That’s only one example of the many kinds of desserts that can send me totally into a state of rapture. If I were ever forced to live anywhere near the immediate vicinity of someplace like Jitty Joe’s, the famous Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania ice cream parlor, I should end up having to go completely overboard. It’s in Moosic. I truly enjoy all their favors, especially the distinctive ones like teaberry, rocky road, or anything with lots of fudge, nuts and syrup in it. Everyone who’s ever been to Jitty Joe’s acknowledges it as the best ice cream known to mankind. Grablick’s was in West Pittston, in Luzerne County, when I was a kid. Their ice cream was exceptional too, but Jitty Joe’s is quite a worthy successor. I find it quite impossible to believe when someone informs me that he doesn’t like chocolate or some other dessert. Ever since I was a kid, home made apple pie has always been my very favorite dessert, though pie from a store, including apple, isn’t all that good. I’ve already covered this topic before so I shall just refer to the gist of it. I enjoy all kinds of sweet things, dessert in general. The only thing that bothers me is when I get something sticky that either melts or drips down my chin or any other part of me. That’s quite a seriously annoying and frustrating feeling. I honestly don’t think I have any kind of a neurotic attachment to dessert. The best part of my fondness for sweet gooey food is that when my supply has run out I don’t end up missing it to the point of having to go overboard. I have quite a happy healthy relationship with my sweet tooth.
I’ve never had any one specific sweet food or dessert that can be classified as the only one that’s simply irresistible, although home made apple pie , ever since I was a kid, has always been my very favorite pie. I’ve always had quite an insatiable appetite for chocolate and other flavors of dessert. My one and only advantage, when it comes to this problem, is that I’ve never been especially compulsive, in a neurotic kind of way. When the absolutely ultimate ice cream, candy or whatever is, alas, all gone, I’m quite content to wait until the next time it’s available, though I know that very many people have such a hard time with that. My problem is that until it’s gone I can go nuts constantly absent mindedly eating it. Whenever there’s a significant amount of candy, ice cream or some other nice dessert around I always wander over to it and keep incessantly eating. When my cousins and I used to bowl together with the Knights of Columbus in Wantagh I was quite notorious for my habit of incessantly eating Cheez Doodles, simply because they were constantly there. The last time Mary Anne, Steve and I drove to Pennsylvania, to spend a little while in Wyoming, we stopped at such an especially nice old fashioned candy store, Sweet Expressions by Geri, in Denville, New Jersey. It was like a kind of ultimate fantasy land for me, filled with such overwhelmingly enchanting colors and smells. The entire time I was there it took quite an enormous amount of will power for me not to buy anything significant. It’s the kind of place someone would expect a real Willie Wonka to have. I’ve always been overly fond of things like chocolate, marshmallow, caramel, rocky road and anything rich and creamy. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups can drive me crazy too. In Moosic, Pennsylvania, there’s a really nice place named Jitty Joe’s. They sell the best ice cream I’ve tasted since Grablick’s that was in West Pittston when I was a kid. As nice as Mr. Softee and all those other kinds of ice cream companies are, Jitty Joe’s has everyone beaten. They have all the flavors I’ve referred to, and very many more. As smitten as I’ve always been with desserts and all the sweeter richer foods life has to offer it’s quite a good thing I make sure they’re not constantly available.
Easter went really well considering all our trouble lately. Mary Anne, Steve, Michael and Bridget showed up from Long Beach. Sam was visiting his other grandmother in Florida. Erin was with her family in New York. Uncle Frankie and Fran were both here and Aunt Lauren and Uncle Jim paid a visit too. All worked out except that it was entirely too fattening for me. Unfortunately Michael and I didn’t get any cigars , nor did Steve go for his usual ice cream trip. As always there was trouble with lectoring. Gabrielle’s mother called and asked me to lector for Gabrielle on Easter Sunday so all their family could be together at the Easter Vigil. Jared called and asked me to cover for him on Palm Sunday. I ended up being one of the lectors at the Holy Saturday Vigil anyway. The lay Carmelite meetings have been going well. Last week’s meeting was cancelled. I went to Rose Chairge’s on Luzerne Avenue in West Pittston a few weeks ago to get a haircut. My last haircut was at the Pittston Tomato Festival in the summer. A few days ago the Wyoming Free Library, in conjunction with the Methodist church next door, had one of their regular book sales. I made sure I got a few books, as I always do. There was quite an interesting selection. I even found “The Awakeners” by Sherri S. Tepper. I first heard of her when I took Marlene S. Groner’s ethics class at S.U.N.Y Farmingdale a long time ago. For that class I was forced to read “The Gate to Women’s Country”.
Pittston’s annual Tomato Festival was a couple of weeks ago. As always I made sure I went a couple of days. Each year I see the same guy from the San Cataldo Society. He always recognizes me & reminds me that I showed up the previous year. This year, instead of a basket of cheer, he sold a basket of lottery tickets. I had a really nice time but it’s more about eating than anything else. I didn’t get anything to eat this year. Each day, on my way over there, I could never help noticing that on Main Street in Pittston, there was a nice little barber shop that only charged five dollars a haircut for the duration of the festival. I made sure I got one. I usually go to Rose Chairge in West Pittston but I couldn’t resist the price. It was raining when I went there. I parked in the library’s parking lot & walked down to the barber shop’s neighborhood. This month’s lay Carmelite meeting went really well too. We always meet at 9:00 a.m. on the third Saturday of each month at the Little Flower Manor in Wilkes_Barre. We always welcome new members. Nothing significant or drastically different happened at the meeting. St. Monica’s Guardian of the Redeemer men’s group still meets regularly too. St. Barbara’s Catholicism meetings are over. The last one was last night. Br. Patrick went to California for the summer so Fr. Phil covered for him. Gino & Michelle have succeeded in adopting officially their three kids, who have all started their first day of the new school year today. Uncle Frankie’s birthday party went well. He was just recently away for a week to visit Fran so I ended up having to get his mail for him. Yesterday was Jo~Anne’s birthday. She’s one of my oldest friends from Queens. My nephew Michael’s twenty~fourth birthday was on August 24. He had a really nice day with his girlfriend Erin. My parents spoke to him on the phone.
Until the middle of last month, I had never once, in my thirty~three years of driving, through both New York & Pa. , gotten a single ticket for a moving violation. One morning last month, though, a policeman on Tenth Street pulled me over for failing to yield to a pedestrian at the crosswalk in front of the school. Unlike most schools around here, there was no traffic control. The very next day I made sure I sent a check in the mail to West Pittston because I wanted to make sure that everything was paid for & over with as soon as possible. Yesterday I got a notice in the mail claiming that no one had ever gotten my payment. I called the police department in West Pittston. A woman answered. She claimed that they could find no record of my ever having paid. Two minutes after we hung up she called back & said that the secretary who was in charge of that had never bothered to put it into the right place. Everyone knows how much trouble I could have gotten into for never having bothered to pay for a ticket like that. It’s a lot more trouble than it’s worth so I didn’t dare to take any chances. Although I was technically in the wrong, I still say I didn’t do anything that was the least bit dangerous. Besides that, Luzerne County always has been among the most corrupt places in the state so I like to think I was framed.
Fr. Justin Belitz OFM is the founder of the Franciscan Hermitage and author of "Success: Full Living," "Success: Full Thinking," & "Success: Full Relating." His teachings incorporate spirituality, science, and art for personal growth and development.