Sunday, August 26, 2012

Joseph Smith in Pennsylvania

When people think of Joseph Smith and the Mormon church they're often closely associated with the state of Utah. Strangely enough the beginning stages of this religion were formed in the mountains of northern Pennsylvania.

 Founder Joseph Smith and his wife retreated to the hills of Harmony, Pennsylvania in December 1827. It was here, at his father-in-laws home that he began to translate the gold plates he received from the angel Moroni. During April 1828 and the spring of 1829 most of the plates had been translated and recorded, thanks in large part to his wife Emma, as well as several friends and family members. Together they helped record the transcripts, as well as maintain the farmland.

During his stay in this remote county, Joseph and his scribe Oliver commenced to the nearby woods to seek guidance. While praying for guidance a resurrected John the Baptist paid a visit to the men and instructed them to baptise each other in the Susquehanna river.

 Shortly after the two men relocated to Fayette, New York where the remaining manuscript for the book of Mormon was finished, and publication arrangements began. Joseph's wife Emma continued to stay in Harmony, Pennsylvania. Joseph returned back in June 1830, but his stay was short lived. After the Book of Mormon was released the family was threatened with violence and legal issues. In late August 1830 the family left permanently.

In 1919 the former home of Joseph and Emma burned down. The buried foundation is near a commerorative memorial remebering the works of Mr. Smith and his importance to the mormon religion. Today the Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter Day Saints owns approximately 288 acres surrounding the former homestead.

Traveling the byways of Susquehanna county it's not hard to see why Joseph chose this place to do his most rewarding work. The area has a peace and calmness not often found in other places. Even in 2012 the county seems to be trapped in a lost time, and that's a charming attribute you just can't create, it's gotta be natural.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Denny's Beer Barrel Pub

Hidden away in the middle of nowhere... more specifically the mountains of central Pennsylvania, lies a burger joint unlike many others. Since 1977 Denny's Beer Barrel Pub has been a local favorite spot for burgers and brews. But this place isn't just your average burger and beer joint.  To generate attention to their restaurant and their extensive menu, the pub began to introduce giant burgers to the public. It all started with a 2 pound cheeseburger challenge, including all the fixins and a homemade bun.

 In 1998 Denny's really upped the ante and introduced their "Ye Olde 96er." A 6 pound burger full of all the toppings, including ketchup, mustard, relish, banana peppers, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, and pickles. A young petite college student from New Jersy was the first to complete this massive burger. Since that time many more have tried and very few have succeded.

Denny's has been consistently raising the bar on massive burger making. Shortly after introducing the "Ye Olde 96er" they began work on their next masterpiece, the "Beer Barrel Belly Buster", a full 15 pounds of hamburger meant to consumed by 1 or 2 people, that is if you choose to accept this daunting challenge. They have also tried to claim the illustrious Guiness World record for largest burger. Unfortunately lots of other establishments have the same hopes, in order to put their place on the map.

Today you could waltz right into Denny's Beer Barrel Pub and attempt their many challenges. The 2 pound "Pub Challenger" and the 3 pound "Pub Super Challenger" are on the regular menu and are usually prepared within 30 minutes. To complete the challenge you are given a time restraint, 1 - 1 1/2 hours depending which challenge you choose, and you may only have one topping removed from the burger. Oh yeah! They also don't give you any utensils to help you tackle this monster. I have attempted the "Pub Challenger" on two seperate occasions and have failed miserably, which is cool with me, I just like to see the looks on the other patrons face when they haul that big burger out to my table.

The walls of the entry way into the pub are lined with polaroids of more succesful patrons from the past. Included are their respective times for finishing their challenge. Outstandingly their is a photo of a gentleman who attacked their 15 pound challenge, and devoured it in less than 10 minutes. Others on the wall include some celebrities who have visited and various Penn State football alumni who attempted to tackle the challenge, most were unsuccessful.

Denny's Beer Barrel Pub has been featured on numerous food and travel programs, and have been featured on Rachel Ray, as well as "The Colbert Report." Their menu includes an extensive amount of delicious food, including a variety of delicious chicken wings and they also have 21 beers on tap to help wash it all down.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Bethel, New York Home of Woodstock '69

In the middle of August 1969 the rural community of Bethel, New York received several unexpected guests. Several hundred thousand if you wish to be accurate. Between August 15 through the 18th this small farming community became one of the largest cities in New York state. The Woodstock Music and Arts festival attracted over half a million attendees. Something the young unexperienced promoters weren't prepared for. Instead of violence, melee, and mayhem. The crowd showed the world how peace, love, and harmony could still exist in a cruel world. Woodstock proved to be a celebration this generation desperately needed, and created a feeling of hope, at least for a few days.

The town of Bethel where Woodstock was held is a very small farming community located in the Catskill mountains. Think of the smallest town you can. That place is a metropolis compared to Bethel, New York. The town mainly consists of farms, the exact place where Woodstock was held. Local farmer Max Yasgur gave promoters permission to use his 600 acre farm as a hosting grounds for the festival. The unprepared town eventually got swarmed with massive traffic jams, backing up automobiles  through upstate New York for hours.

The concert promoters made Woodstock such a huge event, by there who's who list of musicians who appeared. As word spread about the size and the population of the concert, other artists were quickly trying to visit the tiny hamlet of Bethel. Contrary to the masses Woodstock went off without too many problems, there were very few acts of violence, but many random acts of love helped to define Woodstock as one of the top 50 moments that changed the history of rock-n-roll.

In 1997 the site of the concert and a subsequent 1,400 acres were purchased to celebrate the 3 days of peace and music. Eventually in 2008 the Bethel center for Arts opened. The facility hosts a number of concerts throughout the year and also houses a 1960's museum. The museum focuses more on the events that took place during the 1960's, and how Woodstock was the culminating event of a generation attempting to promote love and harmony throughout the world.

Meandering through the fields surrounding the arts center provides a very surreal feeling. I couldn't help but feel a sense of pride and emotion as I strolled the grounds, making me feel hopeful for the world. And as I trounced across the land where the stage had stood I couldn't help but imagine a sea of like minded people all sharing in the music and love that was provided. Than I imagined my fantasies of being a rock star, and strutting across stage with a guitar slung around my neck. As I climbed back into my vehicle and headed back down highway 17 I couldn't help but think what a special moment it must've been to have been there. And how subsequent attempts to repeat this peaceful music event have been mired by large corporate entities only concerned with profits and not with love.