A Conversation for 30 Hours in Hooverville: A Novel Experiment

15 November: 2 pm – 3 pm (First Day)

Post 1

Dmitri Gheorgheni - Not Banned in China

It is 2 pm. Do you know where your characters are?

15 November: 2 pm – 3 pm (First Day)

Post 2

Dmitri Gheorgheni - Not Banned in China

Wlad actually arrives a few minutes before 2 pm at the River Pirates' Inn, so that he can set up his equipment in the tiny 'ballroom' on the bar side of the inn, away from the main restaurant. Here are tables, a small stage, and a dance floor – and here the seniors and other ballroom aficionados gather in the early afternoon for an hour of Polka Party before their meal.

For those who haven't reached the age yet, or who haven't been much around people over 75, it's a fact that the older one gets, the earlier it is advisable to consume one's main meal. Since most people in Pennsylvania eat their main meal in the evening, this poses a problem for the elderly, who really need to get to bed earlier, and who don't need their sleep interrupted by digestive anxieties. Restaurant owners know this, and have invented the 'Early Bird Special', a cheerfully-named discount meal that starts serving at 3 pm. Everybody's happy: the seniors get their comfort food in cheery surroundings, and the restaurant earns a small cushion against the volatile nature of the food service market.

Wlad doesn't mind the gig – he likes the old folks – but he wishes they had better taste in music. He's kind of looking forward to the next decade, when the Baby Boomers are firmly in the demographic. Maybe then they'll request something different. It would be fun to play some acid rock. Or even Peter, Paul, and Mary. But for now, the trusty Yamaha is being set up for polka. He attaches the amplifier and does a sound check as the first customers file in and claim their tables. He waves cheerily at Mr Grzyb. They have bonded over mutual problems with spellcheckers.

'Hi, Mr G! How's it going today?'

'Hi, Wlad! Just tip-top, thanks. My granddaughter won a prize at the Tractor Show this year.'

'Did she, now? Well, congratulations! I know you're proud.'

'Yes, I am. She takes good care of that '49 Case. Drove it in herself, too! When I asked her how she learned, she said, "From watching you, Grandad. You have mad skills." Now, wasn't that a nice thing to say?'

Wlad agrees that it is. Soon the small but noisy crowd is assembled, and he brings them to attention with a few cheery chords on the Yamaha, which is now tuned to 'accordion'.

'This thing is like Tom Slick's Thunderbolt Greaselapper,' he thinks. 'It turns into anything you need it to.' [If you don't know who Tom Slick is, you aren't the cartoon connoisseur you believe yourself to be.] Wlad urges the crowd to choose their partners for the dance, and then begins playing polka.

'The things I do for love and utility money,' he thinks. Personally, though he loves the seniors, he feels guilty playing this stuff. Deep inside, he wishes he could educate them into a love of something more soulful (and with better chord progressions). But this is what makes them happy, so this is what they shall have. As he plays, he free associates, which leads the 'Tic Toc Polka' to have somewhat different lyrics from those envisioned by its composers.


For the dancers, the hour flies by to the accompaniment of jolly sounds, laughter, and tapping feet. They work up a good appetite for the cabbage and kielbasa lunch.

smiley - dragon

15 November: 2 pm – 3 pm (First Day)

Post 3

paulh. the world is a circus, but why d I have to work without a net?

At twenty minutes past 2:00, Arsenio heard flute music in the distance. As it came closer, he recognized the tune:

"Someone must be a Simon & Garfunkel fan," he said to himself. Then the door opened. In came Rose Lapin playing the tune on a pan flute. Several members of the Librarian Condor Preservation Society
were behind her.

"El Condor pasa," they told him reverently.

Then he realized what it all meant.

"Mr. Siala won't be able to make it today, but he has donated a generous sum in advance," said Professor Dasgupta.

This meant that Arsenio would probably not have to listen to "Bluebird of happiness," which he was not fond of anyway. Probably Rose was playing the flute because she knew she wouldn't have to sing.

"When did you learn the pan flute?" he asked her.

She rolled her eyes. "I studied ancient instruments, none of which are at all practical these days," she said. "Mostly I was trying to become an organist and pianist, and I learned to lead a choir. There are absolutely no jobs around here for people who can do that. I don't know what I'm doing to do."

Arsenio patted her shoulder sympathetically. "You still have your voice," he said.

"Yes, and I earn ten dollars for singing solos at the Fourth Church of Hooverville. And twenty dollars for playing the organ there when Mr. Butterfingers is indisposed. That won't pay enough for me to get my own apartment. I still live with Dad. I was *so* impractical in choosing a major."

"Most people are," Arsenio said. "Very few end up in careers related to what they majored in. You're only just out of college. You have a *huge* amount of talent." What he didn't say was that she wasn't getting the amount of exposure that she needed, at least not yet.
Ah, but maybe there were other venues that no one had thought of.

At any rate, the charity tea went well. All the lemon squares got eaten. No expensive china was broken. The kids with guitars only sang one verse of "Librarian Condor." Those who had money parted with it graciously. One could hope that the condors would be grateful for this!

15 November: 2 pm – 3 pm (First Day)

Post 4


*So let me get this straight.* Old MacDonald looked up at Cuddles from her four foot ten height. *This English 'moochy dude' arrives in our lovely town, drops in at this very clubhouse to have a beer and ask about an old photo?*

A tilt of the head both invited and forbade any dissent. *So what do we, as a club - we, as a club trying to transform public perceptions of motorcycle riders - what do we do?*

*He did look pretty shady Mac!* Cuddles blushed down at the Equalizer.

*Oh, that's cool then, 'pretty shady', that's fine! That justifies kidnapping and drugging a freaking Brit tourist! Great job!*


*Butt, Cuddles, was apparently what you were thinking with!*

*This will put us back years! Set public opinion against the 'Pirates, bring the Law down on us, not to mention the civil suit!*

She held a finger up to stifle any further comment.

*Let me think - alone - meeting adjourned! Oh, and Cuddles, get me a latte and an avocado toast!*

Cuddles was truly shocked - Mac hadn't even said please.

15 November: 2 pm – 3 pm (First Day)

Post 5

Caiman raptor elk - Yes, but what if the box is REALLY big?

Hi Anna,

The Mayor has been found.

Well, effectively she found us. She's at the town hall now, so you can go and meet her. Could you tell her I found the battery of her laptop? I forgot to tell her, because she urged the Sheriff and me to investigate some alleged acoustic terrorist attack which I never even noticed.
I hope the Mayor is impressed with your plans to create The Pink Ball-Pool that the Pirates asked for, with sufficient clearance not to annoy the people using your public vegetable garden plots and enough room for the free of charge pony track around town. Did you ask Wilhelmina to help you sort out the catering business? You are going to do that later. I guess she will be delighted to have a dependance. From what I hear, she already employs two students. This might be an opportunity to have some more student jobs. How about that Strollercoaster idea of yours? Yes, that kid friendly and wheelchair accessible Librarian Condor flight indoor attraction you developed with the park ranger. I don't see how the Mayor could say no to any of that. I mean, it will be a large boost to local business and create entertainment even for people who wouldn't be able to afford something like it.
Please know that whatever happens, I am proud of you.


OK. What next Sheriff? Any leads on anything you care to investigate? The anarchists?

The problem with anarchists is the lack of organisation, so it might be hard to have anything stick on them. I have some experience in that, you know…

When I was still a little Fred, I was hiking in France with my brother, Ted. Because we found out that we couldn't make it to the next campsite on foot, we started to hitchhike. Eventually we got picked up by a car which apparently belonged to the inhabitants of an anarchist commune further up the valley. Imagine us, with our big backpacks, squeezing in a small car which had already got three people in it and no space left in the trunk (they just came back scavenging the dumpsters behind the local Supermarché). So with packs on our laps, we could only look out by looking up through the rear window of the car. Passing through a village (you know, the kind where the main road run straight through the village center) they stopped in the middle of the road to get some baguettes, causing a massive traffic jam in both directions. (the advantage of being an anarchist is that you don't care). When we reached the commune, they asked us to stay for a cup of tea. When we asked how our host came to live in this commune, he answered that five years ago he had been hitchhiking, just like us, and never left. That was when Ted and I stood up in unison and got away as quickly as possible without being utterly rude.

So, not the anarchists then?

We could also try to find out more about the fire.

About that shot you heard before the fire. I was busy retrieving writing implements from a goose in my yard, considering to shoot that oversized duck. But I didn't need to in the end. You can check my gun if you like to verify it hasn't been shot recently…

Hmmmm… Apparently it has been. But not by me.
So who did? I'll ask Paula. Maybe she took it when she got rid of that bear.

What do you think of the current shape of our Lady? I call that an improvement. The old Themis now looks more like her daughter Astraea. Just hope she doesn't lead our town astray.

15 November: 2 pm – 3 pm (First Day)

Post 6

paulh. the world is a circus, but why d I have to work without a net?

smiley - laugh

15 November: 2 pm – 3 pm (First Day)

Post 7

Tavaron da Quirm - Arts Editor

Wilhelmina drives out of the town in her car. The densely built inner town soon makes way for houses with large gardens and then there are only a few pastures and fields. For a while Wilhelmina drives behind a tractor pulling a manure tank, praying to Nighthoover for it to get off the road – which it eventually does, soon providing an authentic smell to the air in the country side. Wilhelmina reaches the road down to the river, which can now clearly be seen through the leafless trees. Only a few yellow and red spots shine brightly in the sunlight. She crosses the bridge and drives on through a landscape consisting of forests and fields, scattered with a few farms and a small collection of houses which can barely be called a village.

The drive goes on along the tree-covered slopes of the forest, slowly winding upwards. High conifers shape a consistent canopy, interrupted only by the occassional hole left by the missing leaves of a deciduous tree. Some last yellow leaves shine brightly against the dark background.

Wilhelmina drives past some intersecting roads leading to different forest trails, a camp ground and a collection of small huts which are rented mostly to tourists and city dwellers in summer. She follows the asphalt road to a crossing and makes a turn into a dirt road. This part of the road for some reason never got finished, which will probably make it inaccessible by car soon, as it cannot be cleared by a snow plough.

After a few minutes she reaches a clearing with a parking space and the ranger's office, a contemporary building which was opened only a few years ago. She was there at the opening party with architect Lorenzo Violin, who was obviously very proud of his work. He talked a lot about the orientation of the building, the direction of the wind and the views from the windows. He called it a 'new interpretation of the traditional log cabin'.The building was made of locally reclaimed pine and had a modern flat roof which according to the plans should be covered with local plants to better 'blend into the environment'. Wilhelmina already saw on her previous visits that it was now used as a roof garden, she wonders what the architect may say to that. She also knows people were talking about how the building didn't fit in the area and there were bets on how many winters the flat roof would withstand. They shook their head about the Californian architect who obviously knew not too much about the local weather. Personally, Wilhelmina likes the look of the building and she hopes people are not right.

Wilhelmina gets out of her car and puts on her jacket. She also brought a wool hat and gloves, to be on the safe side. The sun is warm on her face but the air is cool and she knows it is chilly in the shade under the trees. She takes her backpack, locks the car and walks towards a trail into the forest.

15 November: 2 pm – 3 pm (First Day)

Post 8

Elektragheorgheni -Please read 'The Post'

Sandy decides to do a short hike on one of the trails near the river and peep at the remaining colorful leaves before the next windstorm causes them to drop. He is wearing a neon orange hunting cap and loud orange jacket for safety as there are likely to be itchy-fingered novice hunters and he has no intention of getting shot accidentally. Where local farmers paint COW on their cattle it's best not to take chances. He also has a stout waking stick to help with some of the steeper gradients. This is a cherished heirloom from his grandfather, Peter.

Starting at the trail head, he admires the Nighthoover River bank and climbs into the deep woods. Squirrels are busy gathering nuts, and some noisy crows are complaining in one of the higher leafless trees. The air is so fresh and whatever the existing noises are muted unlike the screaming sirens and loud firemen's horrible noisemaking. The occasional gunshots he hears are far off. Getting close to an intersection of trails he stops and stands still allowing a female black bear walk by with two cubs close behind her. Wow that was something he thought and released the breath he doesn't realize that he'd been holding. She looked like she was a several hundred pounds and he he knows enough not to mess about with mama bears. He hopes she had a nice dry den somewhere to winter in.

15 November: 2 pm – 3 pm (First Day)

Post 9

SashaQ - happysad

Sheriff Rowdybush is glad of Fred Ireland's help with the Mayor's situation - he is in awe of the fireman's ability to tell a tale, too.

The Sheriff mentions to Fred that he has a lead over at Hooverville University so he will be heading there shortly. Before he sets off, though, he makes a note in his notebook about Fred's gun having been fired. If that were connected to the Lady of Justice Fire, it would complicate his theory a bit, but would still fit with the main idea of it. It would also add to the crimes of the perpetrators, though, so they might not be mostly harmless would-be anarchists after all... He strokes his chin while he ponders different scenarios.

He asks Fred to call him as soon as he hears from Paula.

He looks up to the statue when Fred draws his attention to her, and notices the fire has thinned the metal considerably. He makes a noncommittal sound about whether it is an improvement, and he thinks of his Deanna, but does agree with Fred about the resemblance to Astraea rather than Themis, and admires the fireman's knowledge of Classical History.

The Sheriff's walkie-talkie buzzes, and he calls through to Sergeant Irwin to ask her to let the Registrar know he is on his way, then he zooms up Main Street again. He passes the Waffelhaus, the China Shop and the Book Emporium, but has to slow down as he goes past the River Pirates Inn as people are gathering ready for the afternoon Polka Party. He hears a bit of the jaunty Polka tune then carries on up the road to the University.

When he arrives in Reception, the Registrar is waiting for him and holding a sheet of paper. They go to the meeting room to study the information the Registrar has found, which is the list of students who are studying the module HUC6911 and who have just learned about the properties of Phosphorus. The Sheriff decides to speak to the students to see what they can tell him, so he gets ready to go into the lecture theatre where their theory session is just finishing.

15 November: 2 pm – 3 pm (First Day)

Post 10


A small buzz alerts Wynken De Woordesmyth. It's the camera trap app! Something big just went by one of the cameras. Excitedly, he opens the app up and looks at the video.

Oh. It's Wilhelmina Schreckenghast of the Waffelhaus Café. He didn't even hear her arrive! Too focused on the condors. He turns around, looks down towards the parking space … yes, there's her car.

She should have just checked in with him before hitting the trail. The bear might still be near!

But it didn't appear to be at all an aggressive bear. She should be safe … surely she remembered to bring her bear repellant.

He expands the window showing the drone feed again. The condors are all satiated now, still standing off to the side, resting and digesting. Once their crops have emptied a bit, they'd be able to fly back to their roosts. Of the moose, only bones remain. Right. He reactivates the engines … deftly maneuvers the drone off the tree and sends it towards the skeleton. The condors show no sign of distress at its approach. He can move in closer.

He zooms in as much as he can. Either the moose died of illness, old age, or starvation - but that's not likely at this time of year with so much greenery still in the park - or something killed it. If something killed it, that something must have been big. Wolves? There is only a single pack of about twelve wolves in the park. They are here on the high plains, often enough. But could they have downed a moose? And … when Wynken sighted the carcass, there was plenty of meat still on it. If it was the wolf pack, they'd have eaten much more of it. They'd have still been around, and would have chased away the condors.

Zoomed in close, he inspects the ground around the moose remains. The soil is soft and he can see the footprints of the condors all around. And then … yes! A huge print. Five round toes … a pad on the sole … no claw impressions …

Oh no.

15 November: 2 pm – 3 pm (First Day)

Post 11


Hermione sat in her office wondering how to replace the statue of the Lady of Justice. What would it cost? Although Hooverville was an increasingly important town, the budget for the Mayor's office hadn't increased in line. The statue needed replacing. It now looked like a fat woman who'd spent too much time in the sun. That wasn't the image she wanted for the town. So what she wanted was a way of replacing the statue on the cheap. A bright idea struck her: she would invite the townspeople to come up with a design. Then she wouldn't have to pay some fancy artist.
She was writing a proposal to put before the council when there was a knock on the door. It was Anna coming for her belated interview. As soon as Anna entered her office, Hermione's views of Fred Ireland changed. Anna was tall, with dark brown hair and big eyes. She must be a girlfriend. To Hermione's surprise, she felt a twinge of jealousy. Did she really care enough about Fred to be jealous? Nevertheless, she politely invited Anna to sit down.
As Anna spread out drawings of the attractions she wanted built, Hermione's heart sank. There was a big pool full of pink balls, and a Strollercoaster, which made her feel sick just looking at it. As for the Librarian Condor flight indoor attraction, it would stick out like a sore thumb in the forest.
“Do you really want Hooverville to look like Blackpool?” she asked.
“Where's Blackpool?” asked Anna.
Hermione silently cursed herself for forgetting that things were different in the US. “Sorry, I should have said Las Vegas.”
Anna's eyes widened even further. “Gee, if we could have Las Vegas style attractions here, that would be wonderful.”
Hermione sighed and set out to describe the Hooverville town plan, and the importance it attached to maintaining the rural environment around the town. She knew it would bore Anna rigid, but perhaps it would persuade her to go away and think again.

15 November: 2 pm – 3 pm (First Day)

Post 12

paulh. the world is a circus, but why d I have to work without a net?

[I think this is the best day yet. The panorama of the area around Hooverville and the Misty Mountains is laid out so clearly that I almost feel as if I've been there. We may have a few differences about how many trees still have leaves on them smiley - winkeye, but I've noticed that some trees have lost all their leaves while some others still have most of them. Vive la difference~! The leaves of the Red Maple tree are absolutely glorious. I'm praying that some of these trees will keep their leaves for some time to come)]

15 November: 2 pm – 3 pm (First Day)

Post 13


At 2 sharp, Lola flips the sign on the door.
"Sorry, we're closed!"
She heads upstairs to get her coat, handbag and to-do list.
Then remembers her list was all in her mind.

Coat on her back, handbag at her shoulder (tote bag folded up inside it), list in her head. Ready.
She leaves the shop, locking the door behind her.

She heads to the drugstore.

- Hello, thank you for shoppping at the Best Value For Money Drugstore, how can I help you today?
(That's the Ferguson girl. What's her first name again? Susan?).
- Oh, hello Sue, three questions for you. Number one: do you know where I could find double-A batteries?

- Hi, Ms Latour, it's Suzie, but never mind. The batteries are all on shelves just before checkout. That way, people can chuck them into their carts even if they didn't think about buying them at first.
- Oh, Suzie, sorry. You know, you always have such interesting tidbits of information, I didn't know that was the reason!
- It is, it really is! Not like the sweets. They're stocked at the exact same place, but their reason is that kids will badger their parents for them.
- Really? Yes, that does seem like a reasonable assumption on the part of a shop owner. Maybe I should put sweets at the Emporium chekout too...

- Did you need anything else, Ms Latour?
- Ah yes, number two: do you happen to carry any Thanksgiving-themed fairy light types of decorations? And if so, where? (that's not number three, it's two and a half).
- Lights are on aisle 3, but decoration and holiday items are on aisle 2. So, I should look somewhere in between, probably. No wait, silly me, we have a special Thanksgiving operation on aisle 6, at the far end of the store. This is where you need to go. We received lovely little garlands with turkey and cranberry lights. Cute colors and everything. You absolutely need those.
- Yes, colors is what I'm looking for. Thank you, Suzie, that's most helpful. Now, number three...

- Number three, yes, tell me?
- Have you heard anything about the Lady Justice business? You're always so well-informed...
- Well, I don't think I should talk about it, you know, but seeing as it's you asking... I know I can trust you with sensitive information...
- Of course, I wouldn't ever spread gossip!

- Well, here's what I heard... My cousin's boyfriend, who is a gardener for the town... He has a sister-in-law who works at the University.
- Oh does he, now? Interesting.
- Well, his sister-in-law told him... I really shouldn't tell you...

- You know me, Suzie, I'm not going to start a rumour, sweetheart.
- Yes, I know that, Ms Latour, but still. Anyway, his sister-in-law said that the Sheriff has been around, and... Asking... Questions.
- What kind of questions, now?

- Oh I don't know, really. But still. Isn't it strange? The Sheriff asking questions around the University the day after a solid gold statue has been set fire to?
- Gold? I thought the Lady was made of bronze?
- Bronze? Pah! That's what they want you to believe! It's made of gold that was taken from the Templars' treasure. Everybody knows that. The Templars sent an emissary to the US before they were all arrest by King Louis the Fourteenth. The emissary made friends with Benjamin Lincoln, who was a Pennsylvania Senator at the time (that was before he joined the Supreme Court), and Lincoln sold him a wagon and oxen for a part of the treasure. Did you really not know?

- Errrr, no, actually, I didn't. I didn't even know the Templars were from the same period as Louis the Fourteenth, or even that Lincoln's first name was Benjamin... Thank you so much for enlightening me!
- You're welcome! After all, it's only natural that you shouldn't know all that, not being from here originally.
- Well, thank you very much indeed, and I shall now have to get on with my shopping, if I want a chance to grab some lunch before afternoon opening time.

It's almost 3 when Lola finally makes it out of the store, but she has gained two colourful light-up garlands, a pack of batteries, and a sense that Suzie might just be The Worst Tourist Information Officer in the world...
She lets her feet take her to where the fun is, the River Pirates' Inn. She will have missed the Polka session, but she'll be in time for the early bird special (which in her case is more of a late bird thing, but noone needs to know that).

15 November: 2 pm – 3 pm (First Day)

Post 14

Dmitri Gheorgheni - Not Banned in China

Freewayriding wins the Improbable Commonsense Award for actually coming up with the perfectly reasonable notion that kidnapping and unlawful imprisonment might not be good for a bike club's reputation. (In addition to being illegal, at least in the US.)

Tavaron gets the Sensible Dress Award for wearing appropriate clothing in the autumn woods, as well as a special mention for inventing an architect named Violin.

Superfrenchie gets the Best Historical Titbits Award for spicing up a visit to a boring chain drugstore.

And MVP narrowly beats out Caiman Raptor Elk for the Incipient Megalomania Award for their duelling plans to put Hooverville on the map. Blackpool and Las Vegas, indeed...

Once again: gossip about one another to your heart's content, but do not RC (=Remote Control) any characters other than your own. Wave and smile.

smiley - dragon

15 November: 2 pm – 3 pm (First Day)

Post 15

Caiman raptor elk - Yes, but what if the box is REALLY big?

Do I get points for incorporating a true story? (The anarchist/hitchhiker story really happened to me)

15 November: 2 pm – 3 pm (First Day)

Post 16


Cuddles ain't the brightest spanner in the toolbox!

Do I get extra points for pretending this actually happened to me? (I'll throw in a literally if it helps!)

Amazing what goes on in a small town, great first half folks!smiley - applause

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