I come from a long line of spies. Quite naturally, I married a spy, and after a few years, when we decided we needed a dog, we flew out to the iSpy Canine Academy™ in Dudles, Wyoming where they breed mind-bendingly brilliant cockapoo spy dogs. We have not been disappointed.
The only thing is, lately, and I suppose due to the economy, Lady Phebes, as the spy-poo is called, has been getting better paying work than either myself or my husband, Special Agent Wiggins.
Recently, Lady Phebes was assigned an O.D.T. (olfactory data transfer) in Easton. She was to contact Officer Russellian, a Scentence Operator and fellow spy-poo, at five different locations over a period of 24 hours. Why our boss up at Central has to make everything so complicated, I don’t know, but as a result, Wiggins and I found ourselves scrambling to find a canine-friendly hotel in downtown Easton that would satisfy Lady Phebes’ increasingly sophisticated tastes.
To the rescue, we found the gorgeously renovated Tidewater Inn, at 101 East Dover Street. Centrally located in Easton’s downtown historic district, the inn makes a perfect home base for those traveling with (or without) canine companionship.
When the management says dog friendly, they mean it. The man on duty behind the desk couldn’t stand high enough on his tippy toes for a look over the counter at Phebes. But she was having none of his adoration, having already spotted Russellian across the lobby, warming his fluffy black hocks by the fire. So, as Wiggins was being dragged over to the fireplace, I checked us in.
Besides a $30 dog fee, all they ask is that you provide a number where you can be summoned in case your dog howls in the room. I, myself, almost howled in our room when I fell atop the supremely fabulous king-size bed dressed in crisp Frette linens.
“Why must life always be work, work and more work?” I cried, hugging a cloud-sized pillow to my chest.
But my complaint fell on deaf ears. Our room had two large windows, both with charming views of the street, all decorated with Christmas lights and garlands. Phebes was standing on her hind legs looking out; she had spotted Russellian sauntering down Dover Street en route to data transfer numero uno. Seconds later Wiggins and I were on the other end of her red leather leash, being pulled down the elegant curved staircase, past the aromatic fire and out onto the blistery street.
“Have fun,” cheered the man at the desk, who was by now starting to remind me of Fred Astaire.
Location One was Harrison Street Books, 27 S. Harrison Street, a cozy and delightful bookshop in which I could have lingered for hours. Each room has a comfy chair or two, a table strewn with books, and the lighting is perfect. While the spy-poos conducted their business outside behind some bushes, Wiggins and I dashed through all the rooms, ogling the impressive selection. We had collected an armful each when we heard Phebes whistling for us, and we had to leave them all so as not to be late for the next info exchange just around the corner at Location Two, Academy Art Museum, 106 South Street.
As Russellian and Phebes headed for the backside of a large steel sculpture on the side lawn, where I noticed a rangy bassett hound lying in wait, Wiggins and I ducked inside for a quick look-see. Since it was Wednesday, admission was free, always a help when your dog earns more money than you.
You might expect an art museum in Easton to be dinky; at least I did, so my jaw dropped an inch when in the first gallery I found myself standing before two huge color field paintings by Anne Truitt. Turns out the artist lived in Easton until high school and grew up just a block down the street from the museum. In her paintings and sculpture, it’s easy to see how the austere beauty of the eastern shore vernacular influenced her. The show is called Washington Color Painters and includes Gene Davis, Kenneth Noland, and Morris Louis among others.
Not exactly dinky. No, there is much here to see, and even in a blur it all looks good. I say a blur because a horrible howling sound sent us running outside. Hard to say what might have transgressed. Russellian, barking like a junk yard dog was chasing the bassett hound down South Street. And that short-legged beast could run!
Phebes looked shaken. She snaps back quickly, but I was thinking, perhaps this is enough for one day; then, Oh, what I wouldn’t give for a cup of tea and a pastry, when the three of us paused in front of Masons, 22. S. Harrison Street. The scene inside looked so inviting I supposed I could have cried.
Through the picture window we watched two couples sipping coffee and eating wickedly good-looking pastries. Peeking in I saw a long case of chocolates, a coffee bar, wine bar, and a restaurant section. The interior was cozy, colorful, and European, the sort of irresistible place no one in their right mind could pass by, unless—yes, your working dog has an itinerary.
Onward to Location Three, the historic Avalon Theater, 40 E. Dover Street. In the lobby, the spy-poos conducted their olfactory information transfer under a long table laden with information about upcoming events. Wiggins and I gasped simultaneously.
“The Temptations on January 14th,” I practically screamed!
Wiggins rolled his eyes, but I could tell he was already figuring out a way to pay for the tickets ($60 each.) I pocketed the 2010 program line-up (very impressive) and we ambled through the lobby eyeing the enormous collection of performer’s photographs lining walls. Great stuff. The art deco theater has been handsomely restored. Check online for upcoming performances, films and community events.
Location Four turned out to be, thankfully, our room at the Tidewater Inn. So while Phebes and Russellian sorted through their afternoon’s labor, sending messages to Central by iSpy™ phone and packaging evidence for the courier—general administrative stuff—Wiggins and I slipped downstairs for dinner in the hotel’s restaurant, the woodsy Hunter’s Tavern. Woodford Reserve on the rocks, award-winning cream of crab soup, and couple of hefty crab cakes each took the edge of the day. The warm freshly baked bread was comforting too, and when we each piled our bread plates with a few lumps of crab cakes (for you-know-who upstairs) our waitress nodded knowingly and fetched us some tin foil. After dinner we relaxed in the lobby before the glowing fire, until I remembered the luscious bed that awaited.
“I hope to find Phebes, and only Phebes, in our room, “ I said to Wiggins as we stepped into the elevator. And there she was, behind the door waiting for us, all alone, and she hadn’t even howled.
Next morning with Russellian nowhere in sight, we three checked out. We waved goodbye to Fred Astaire’s twin at the front desk, and to downtown Easton, and then we drove about a mile out of town to Location Five, Evergreen Cove Holistic Learning Center, 770 Port Street.
Set amongst lots of tall trees on a wide creek, the whole place feels like a sophisticated summer camp for grown-ups. And whom did we spot sitting patiently on the parking pad but Russellian. His guardian was taking a yoga class. In addition to yoga, Evergreen offers instruction in T’ai Chi and meditation, as well as a variety of health and well-being classes. Plus, there are numerous practitioners available for acupuncture, massage, Reiki, herbal medicine, and lots more. Check them out on the web or call for the 2010 class schedule.
After Phebes and Russellian had crept off in typical clandestine fashion to bury evidence, or something, I dashed inside and signed up for Western Herbalism class. What the heck, I thought, with the money Lady Phebes earned on this assignment, we can afford it.