Along the way, a conversation about cool diners of the past led me to think about what I liked about them, and a quasi request for a story. Doctor, this is for you.
I have always loved a fine diner. We didn't eat in them often when I was a kid, so I mostly loved them from afar. When I was in college, diners became part of the web of life and I came to love their menus, their employees and their architecture.
When I moved to the college town where I lived for many years, there were two phenomenal diners nearby. An embarrassment of riches, really. The more famous diner was circular, had beautifully upholstered booths, and was frequented by an odd mixture of cops, hookers and families. If you wanted a classic Monte Cristo, deep fried and dusted with powdered sugar, this was your place. Its most memorable appearance in my life was as the place where I began a brief but notable relationship.
The other diner was far more humble. It had a cute sign and the requisite lava rock glommed onto the exterior. It was the menu that set this diner apart, however. As I mentioned to my doctor the other day, there are three things I look for on a diner menu: 1) buttermilk, 2) prune juice and 3) cherry jello. Not strawberry. Cherry, which is in the pantheon of man's finest artificial flavors (cherry, grape, orange). This place had it all. And like any good diner, it had amazing diner ladies.
When I was a veteran diner waitress myself and looking for a new gig, I went to place #2. I dressed up in one of my finer thrift store outfits, a blue and cream seersucker dress. I waited until after the lunch rush and asked for the head waitress. She was an amazing older woman. Kind, Southern accent, you could tell that she didn't do her own hair but went to the beauty parlor once a week. I told her that I was looking for a job. She looked at me earnestly and said "Just out of the service?" Turns out that my seersucker was the uniform worn by Navy nurses. She'd been a Wave. I felt not smart telling her that I wasn't aware of the importance of my outfit.
Never got that job, but diner #2 became the place I wanted to go to when given the choice of the two restaurants. Come on. It had the trifecta.
Mrguy, Middlesis Guy and I went there together one last time in the 90's. Sis and I had tickets to see the Blue Jays one day. She drove. Her car started making weird sounds 1/4 mile from the stadium.
Never made it to the stadium. Ended up at the diner after getting towed home. As an aside, I can tell you how sad it is to hear the Canadian national anthem coming over the walls of the stadium while waiting for a tow truck driver and knowing that you have Row 1 seats in your pocket.
Neither diner is still with us but they live deeply in our memories.
Next: stories of a diner waitress...