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Mark LaFlamme: Obscura Cafe and other alternate dimensional entities

So, I was down the street in Lisbon the other day, doing some stuff down the street in Lisbon, when I encountered a strange sight.

I was at a place where I should have faced the old and familiar sign announcing the place as Lamey-Wellehan. I had never known a real Lamey-Wellehan store to live in this place, but the sign had always been there and I had gotten used to it.

But now that faded, familiar sign was no longer there at all. In its place, the dark, nifty little joint is proclaimed to be Obscura Cafe and Drinkery.

“What is tarnation?” I said out loud, because that’s how I talk when I’m faced with the unknown. “When did they put such a nice drinking establishment here and why wasn’t I told?”

Disoriented and confused, I raced to find answers. I didn’t have to look any further than recent Sun Journal headlines.

“Obscura Cafe and Drinkery is almost ready to roll in Lewiston,” said a post from our business pages dated April 28, 2022.

Which is just like rain, I think. I prowl this end of town half a dozen times a day and never noticed the Lamey-Wellehan changeling, but hey. A guy misses things once in a while when he’s downtown doing things in Lisbon’s lower street.

Later that afternoon it occurred to me that I could definitely use a new HDMI cable since my HDMI cable at home had collapsed the same way HDMI cables do. Right away, I drove to Staples over there at the Promenade Mall.*

“What in the flames!” I declared when I arrived, because not only was Staples missing, but also the dollar store that occupied the same mall. There wasn’t much to find there, actually, other than a rather nondescript place called Paychex – which wouldn’t make me a salary, by the way, even though that’s the name of their company .

This, I was sure, was a great mystery, one that would shock the locals to their feet for days to come. To prepare for this, I went back to the Sun Journal archives to begin my exhaustive investigation and… Well, are you going to watch this? Staples had actually disappeared from the mall several months ago in the fall, and the dollar store opened around the same time. Paychex, as it happens, has been in this location since at least 2018.

The day was turning into a dizzying day, and things didn’t get much better when I went across the parking lot and found, not the Pepper & Spice Thai food joint that my wife loved. so much, but a dark (and rather inviting, frankly) little social club called The Midtown.

“What jumped on Josephine going on here?” I asked at the parking lot.

I called my wife in a mad panic.

“It’s like one of those episodes of Twilight Zone!” I stammered the second she picked up the phone. “Everything familiar has been changed and I’m the only one who can see it! Throw the bug out bags in the truck! Get as much water as you can from the tap and toilet and head for the hills! Get moving! You, woman, we’re talking about parallel universes here!

Wouldn’t you know? Once I mentioned Pepper & Spice as one of the sources of my recent discomfort, the woman laughed at me and told me that the Thai restaurant had left that place, not weeks or months, but years. Up to five years, even.

I thought she was pretty dismissive of my survival plans, frankly, but I moved on. What I needed was an ice cold drink and maybe some lottery scratchers to soothe my raw nerves. I drove to the corner of Lisbon and Sainte-Croix streets for a stop at this little dirty market that I have always loved so much. You know the one I mean. I never remember its name, but might as well call it Vice Mart because the only things worth going there are cigarettes, booze, rolling papers and lottery tickets.

Of course, when I arrived at the place in question, the store was not there. Domino’s was there instead, haughtily displaying its red, white, and blue decor as if it had been around since Hector was a puppy.

“What’s a pizzeria doing here in the Haystack Calhoun!” I demanded, and I knew for certain that I would finally be right on the parallel universe theory because I was sure – absolutely, positively, 100% to mark my words – that my little store of vices was there for a few days since.

But no. According to these Sun Journal hate business pages, Domino’s took over the corner of Lisbon and Sainte-Croix waaaaay in 2019 which meant that even though I felt like yesterday I had been to this store, it been at least three years old. .

That’s when the sobs started.

I tell you, good people, there was a time when I knew every square inch of downtown Lewiston. I made it a point to know what was where and who was doing what with whom at any given time. When old businesses were closed or new ones were started, it interested me because you never knew how the changing dynamics of the city might impact the crime and mayhem I was pursuing so ardently.

I don’t know exactly when my eye for these details started to drift away from me. Maybe I stopped paying attention because of heartache alone after losing beloved landmarks like Victor News, Chopsticks, and Speaker’s Variety. Maybe it goes back even further than that – I remember having quite intense grief when the dark, seedy bar called The Ritz collapsed there on Maple Street, and that was a while ago about five years.

Maybe I’m stuck in a constant state of denial, still wishing Lewiston was exactly as I found it when I came here in 1994. That would explain why on occasion I still park in this lot empty next to Burger King on Lisbon Street, expecting to find a Mobil gas station there.

Or why I’m constantly heading to the Goodwill location a little higher up only to find some vague kind of place there called Fedcap Opportunity Center, instead, and they won’t take my bags of old clothes and broken electronics , no matter how eloquent my speech .

Old businesses are being mowed down like weeds every other day, it seems. New ones sprout like bright, hopeful flowers, and somehow you weirdos manage to keep up with the whiplash changes happening day by day around you.

For me, at least there is Auburn. I’m pretty comfortable and familiar there, per gum. As long as I know Laverdiere’s Super Drug Store is tucked away right there in Great Falls Plaza, I’ll be fine.

*What in Sam Hill? I was just told that The Promenade Mall is no longer called The Promenade Mall either! It’s crackers, I tell you! Crackrs!

When Mark LaFlamme isn’t getting lost in Lewiston, he’s the crime reporter for the Sun Journal.


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Richard Dement

The author Richard Dement