Friday, September 21, 2012

The Donut Bear

I found this guy outside the Black Bear Café in Ossipee, NH, right along Rte. 16. As I stood in the parking lot taking the picture, a man walked out, looked at me, looked at the bear, and struck a pose. “Sorry,” says me, “you’re not as cute as the bear.”

And, this is not just any bear—this is The Donut Bear. Or rather, like an icon in a Russian Orthodox Church, a crafted representation of an important figure of faith.

To begin, you might find it useful to know that my family, like all others, has a particular language to which logic need not apply. In fact, it often seems that if Logic were to apply to many aspects of the laws and language by which my relations and I govern ourselves, said application would be summarily rejected out of paw.

Growing up, we read the Berenstein Bear books, which would occasionally feature the whole Bear family heading off for burgers and milkshakes at the local Burger Bear. So, being a witty bunch (to ourselves, if not one else) this title for all fast food establishments wormed its way into family jargon. Ergo, we did not eat at McDonalds or Burger Kings, but we very infrequently frequented Burger Bear.

About twenty years later and this spring, I was on the phone with my sister who lives far away from my rabbitty warren. It was going to be a long day with a tight schedule and I didn’t see how, when, or where I was going to feed myself. Because it is New England, I could count on at least one Dunkin Donut store existing between the road I had to travel. “I’ll just get a donut,” I said, in high pitched desperation.

“A donut is not dinner,” says Smarter Bunny. “I’m sure that Dunkin Donut Bear has smoothies or something.” The Donut Bear?!

How delightful.

That day, I did manage to find myself an amazing strawberry smoothie from a nice local coffee shop and continued my evening feeling refreshed, nourished and all other things that a good visit from The Donut Bear ought engender.

I have since decided that The Donut Bear is a force in the world who provides perfect refreshing snacks. Several friends now understand the concept of The Donut Bear, who despite his name seems to have a penchant for smoothies and mocha lattes. The Donut Bear, is, of course, larger than anything as petty as labels. The Donut Bear is also good at baking cookies for friends, and now that it is fall, I believe that The Donut Bear is squarely behind apple pie for breakfast, as well as, obviously, cider donuts.

Physically, I believe that The Donut Bear looks a little like Homer Simpson crossed with a Carebear. Vocally, he sounds like Tom Waits with a lisp. “Here, kid, you look tired. I made you this hot cocoa—did you want whipped cream on that? Of course you did. Hold on.” Try it.

Recently, I was in a totally hip café. As someone who loves Donut Bears and blogs under a picture of an adorable baby bunny, you may be surprised to learn that I am not the most hipster bunny around. Skinny jeans are not my thing, and I like gears on my bike. I found this particular place intimidating, as it seemed to be run by kids who looked like they would hang out in the art and music room of high school, occasionally making a run to the parking lot to smoke cigarettes. Smoking is bad, but the artistic-goth-punk, “this is bad and we’re too cool to care about your rules” attitude is still a potent combination to make one feel about three inches tall. Only, I’m guessing these kids didn’t smoke—there was way too much focus in the café on internationally certified organic teas and artisan-brewed coffee hand milled by free-range improv artists from a local collective.

As I just need to check my email, I bought a muffin and a cup of tea, which I had the honor of selecting from a double-sided menu of tea, replete with overflowing descriptions of each blend. “Mint, please,” I said, ignoring the other eight words in the title describing mint tea. I pay for my snacks and Skinny McGee trots off, clinks around with a bunch of different vessels of hot water and scoops of leaves and then returns to the counter. My muffin is sitting, all Donut Bear-delicious looking, on a plate on the counter. Skinny plops down a mug, which I assume is for tea. Then she presents me with a tiny teapot, and pours scalding water onto the leaves. And then she leaves.

How, you might ask, do I know that the water is scalding? Because in trying to carry a small muffin plate, a mug, and a teensy teapot to a table, I slosh scalding water onto my paws. I set it all down and regrip, and was rewarded by a 1.5 degree burn on my finger from holding the teapot. More scalding water spills onto my muffin. As I needed both hands to maneuver to a table, I decided to forgo the whimsy of the teapot. I poured the tea into the mug, and took my soggy muffin and unsteeped minty hot water to a table. Where the internet did not work. When questioned, the super hip little dude with skinny jeans, cool tattoos and a chunky wool hat at the counter told me, while smiling, “Yeah, we’re part of a subscriber-based network, sort of a community thing.”

This café was not the territory of The Donut Bear. I think that is obvious.

Which is why I was so happy to see this carving of The Donut Bear a few hours later, proof that, despite unpleasantly hip cafes, the Donut Bear can still be found when one least expects and most needs a snack.

Here, in its questionable glory, is the legend of the Donut Bear:

Once upon a time, there was a small bear. He was invisible to most people and his name was the Donut Bear. The Donut Bear appointed himself as a non-denominational patron saint to those who were weary from traveling, from long days moving stacks of paper in offices, or staring at endlessly shimmering screens, or who were otherwise tired and having a bad day. The Donut Bear would find these people, tired and cranky in their cars or offices and silently guide them towards the nearest bakery or café. In their angst, these grumpy people only knew that they were propelled by a force larger than themselves towards a good cup of coffee and a delicious muffin, or a cold smoothie and a frosted donut. As if by magic, the bear knew what each person’s comfort snack would be and gently pushed them in that direction with his soft fuzzy paws. Being no bigger than a teddy bear, our hero moves invisibly through hustling crowds tapping a leg here and turning an elbow there, and, through his small actions, improves a thousand people’s mood. Next time you find yourself soothed by a fresh baked cookie or glass of iced tea, perhaps acquired when you least expected and most needed such refreshment, look down and you may see the Donut Bear, quietly making the world a better place, one un-crankied person at a time.

Granite Bunny

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