Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Diner

Today I had a few hours to kill so I decided to go sit in the diner, which turned out to be a very good decision, because while I was at the diner I realized that I am a diner kind of person. Since I was a teenager, possibly before that even, I have always loved to sit in diners. I am far more a diner girl than a coffee shop girl. I think I like coffee rings and thick mugs and sugar that pours from a big glass container. I like old waitresses who've worked there for the past 27 years and how all the people who go there know each other and have nicknames. I watched them all come in and greet each other and they all surveyed me with suspicion because I haven't been there in a few years so they didn't recognize me. I could see all the old people there for the early bird special whispering and wondering who the girl with the red lipstick was. I wanted a nickname too. Will someone who knows me give me one? Can it not be Hackie?

I won't just go to any diner. I'm very particular, so I just go to this one diner because it is the best diner in the entire world. Seriously, if you are local, email me and I will tell you exactly where it is so you can partake in its wonderfulness.

Some diners are disgusting. I can't even set foot in a Waffle House without wanting to immediately throw up. I'll digress a little bit to tell you that one time I was at the Awful House in Atlanta and my waitress decided that it was completely appropriate to tell me that she had a wicked stomach virus and had been crapping and puking all morning but she had to come to work anyway because she had to feed her kids and she was living in a hotel, so she needed the cash.

"I might be in the bathroom gettin' sick so if you need me you'll know that's where I am and one of the other girls can help you out," she said.

Because that's what every customer wants to hear. But that's not all. When my pecan waffle arrived a big old slice of half melted, processed, orange American cheese was hanging off the bottom of my plate. You have never seen anything more gross in your life. I got up and left and went home and took a shower and spent the next week wondering if I had contracted the virus. I have never been to another Awful House again.

A lot of diners I've been to are just as bad. They're oily and sticky, have big rips in the booths and stink so bad like fried flounder that you come out of them smelling like you yourself have been sizzled in hot lard. Back when I first moved to Atlanta in 1992 everyone thought it was cool and retro to hang out at the Majestic Diner, but it wasn't even good and it looked like it hadn't been cleaned since its inception, which I think was in 1929. Hipsters thought it was ironic and kitschy to go there, and they probably still do, but I wouldn't set foot in the place. It may be cool looking in pictures but the reality has dried grits and decades of toast crumbs in its cracks.

My diner isn't like that. It also, as you can see, has a stainless steel counter, which I like sitting at. My diner also has really good homemade soups. It's owned by Greek people and apparently Greek people can make some fine ass chicken soup.

I sat at the counter with about six 70 year old men from New York and one really young Greek guy, and we all watched Ahmadinejad's speech at the United Nations, and you know what - I'm sure I didn't spell that asshole's name correctly and I give so little of a shit about him that I'm not even going to bother looking it up. Because Ahmadinejad's speech was so moronic and said so very little, my mind began to wander and I started thinking about all of my exciting diner experiences.

There's a diner in Millpond that's in an old train car and they serve scrapple sandwiches with strong coffee, and my grandparents all go there to have pancakes with their friends. It used to be on the outskirts of town, but now the town's grown and the diner overlooks the Super-Walmart. That gives my grandparents and their friends something to complain about though.

I spent many of my teen years moping around in diners in the various cities where we lived. I liked the New York diners off of highways exits. They were always very red and gold, gaudy and overdone with a rotating glass display case filled with seven layer cakes which were described as "mile high." I always wondered who ordered slices of those cakes. They were the kinds of desserts that turned me off. They looked good but tasted like cardboard. There was nothing homemade about them. I mostly just got grilled cheese sandwiches. I think if it were possible to count, that I have eaten literally thousands of grilled cheese sandwiches in my life. I think I've eaten more grilled cheeses than anything else, come to think of it.

I once had a date in a diner, and as I sat alone in my favorite diner this evening, I recalled that very date, which I had forgotten (or perhaps repressed due to the trauma) until today.

Back when I was on Jdate I took the mindset that I was online dating to practice my social skills. I didn't take it all that seriously. I didn't exactly expect to meet anyone, but I wanted to give it a fair try and I wanted to get used to going out on dates. I had been with Evil-Ex from the time was 19, so I missed out on all that dating experience that most people get in their early 20s. Unless someone sounded like they were an escaped mental patient, I'd pretty much be willing to go out with them at least once. This is how I ended up going out with so many freaks. I probably should have come up with a better screening process, but then I wouldn't have all these strange stories.

This guy named Mayer emailed me and he had a fairly innocuous sounding profile. I talked to him on the phone and he told me he was a Rabbi. I figured, ok. I could handle that. He looked normal in his picture. I figured he was a Reformed Rabbi. They're very liberal and progressive. They don't have the beards and all that. I agreed to a date. In some twisted vision I came up with this bizarre idea that I would actually make a fantastic Rabbi's wife. I have no idea what I was thinking, because I would be a terrible Rabbi's wife. I hate Yom Kippur, despise gefilte fish and have a very gentile, WASPy even, pointy nose. Jews are always accusing me of having had a nose job, but this is my real nose. I'm only Jewish by guilt. My biology is pure bred white trash.

Mayer called me on Friday afternoon and said he'd like to meet me after services. Jews go to Temple Friday night and Saturday morning. He said there was just one catch. He couldn't drive a car, so we would have to walk. Since his Temple was far from his house he got a room at the Holiday Inn which he told me was near his Temple. I would have to meet him at the Holiday Inn and then we would have to walk wherever we were going to go. Then he said his services would run late, so the only place open and in walking distance would be the diner by the train tracks that was open 24 hours. This was not my favorite diner. Perhaps if it had been the diner I visited today, things would have gone a little more smoothly. Actually, no they wouldn't have, but at least I would have had a better grilled cheese.

Mayer was good looking. He fell into this category I've devised of people who should just have their pictures taken. Some people are really at their best in a still photograph where they can be frozen into a smile or a pose. This is because you don't have to listen to a snapshot. In real life people often ruin their good looks by talking. Often, the more people talk the less attractive they become. By the end of the evening Mayer was hideous. He looked great on his Jdate profile though.

I arrived at the Holiday Inn parking lot where Mayer waited for me. He still looked pretty good at this point. I didn't see any temples around, although we were right next door to the Bubblegum Kittikat and since I no longer worked there I pretended like I had no clue what on earth that place was with all the spotlights and mirrored walls. I was with a Rabbi afterall.

We walked to the diner by the train station and this fell into the oily, sticky, crummy category. This diner had wood paneling and an 11 page menu of things like Lobster Thermidor and Coquilles St. Jacques that I hope no one has ordered since 1965, because who in their right mind would go into a 24 hour diner by the train tracks and order Lobster Thermidor? The fact that it comes with an iceberg salad and your choice of french or thousand island dressing, and a free side of apple sauce, should not be extra incentive either. And while I'm on the topic, what exactly IS Lobster Thermidor anyway?

"So where is your Temple?" I asked, because I didn't know of one in the area and I didn't see one.

"Oh," said the Rabbi, "We're a newer, more experimental kind of congregation."

He seemed to be avoiding the question.

"What does that mean?"

"We're a combination of Orthodox Judaism and Scientology, although neither religion recognizes us."

"I see, and who came up with this hybrid?"


"And who is your congregation?"

"Me and some of my mom's friends. My mom is a rabbi too."

"Orthodox women can't be rabbis," I argued.

"I decided she could. She's very spiritual."

Mayer went on to explain that the miracles described in the Book of Exodus (burning bush, Red Sea, etc.) were all the acts of space aliens who were now living inside of our bodies causing all sorts of havoc. Apparently we can blame these aliens for anything we want. For instance, it was not me who ate the last of the Mayan Chocolate Haagen Dazs. It was Xenu. Xenu also took my check card and went shopping for new clothes for me when he was supposed to put the money in the savings account. Space Aliens do not like savings accounts. They like ice cream and new clothes.

Luckily Mayer knew how to get the aliens out. It was a combination of davening and e-meter auditing. Mayer didn't have an actual e-meter, which I think is nothing more than some old vacuum cleaner parts and one of those circuits that kids make for their 7th grade science projects, anyway. Mayer had an "internal e-meter." Of course there was a charge which one could pay directly to Mayer. He was an expert at Thetan-cleansing, but sadly the mainstream Scientologists were a little disturbed and he mentioned something about copyright infringement. He was confident that Hashem would guide him through all of this, which was why he kept the sabbath by not driving or using electricity.

"Where is your Temple exactly?" I asked.

"In my room in the Holiday Inn," Mayer explained, "But since we can't use the electricity on Shabat when the sun sets we have to sit in the dark."

He stayed in his dark hotel room from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, stepping out to visit the Kittikat, because apparently God frowns upon driving and turning on lights on the sabbath, but He is totally OK with lap dances. Mayer asked me if I would like to go with him once we finished our grilled cheeses. Maybe it wasn't Mayer who asked. It could have been Xenu. I'm not sure.

"What I'm looking for," Mayer said, "isn't a girlfriend. Because of the intensity of my spiritual calling, I must devote myself to God and don't have time for a relationship. But a man has needs. You know what I mean. I'm looking for the right woman to fulfill these needs."

"I can assure you that I am not that woman. The space aliens inside of me are advising me against this, and well, my space aliens are actually Jews for Jesus, so I just don't think we're going to be compatible. Sorry."

So that was the last time I went to THAT diner. I kind of wonder whatever happened to the pervy, flaky weirdo. I wonder how people like that manage to function.


Green said...

If you give me your diner in FL, I will tell you of the bestest diner on Long Island.

Talula0658 said...

The sentence 'My space aliens are actually Jews for Jesus' may have been the best thing I've read on the internet. Ever.

Pumpkin said...

Okay, I may be a bit obsessed by eating, but now I want a grilled cheese sandwich (if you're ever in Scotland, we call our version a cheese toastie).
Y'know, if I ever get the chance to visit up your way, I'm going to be asking for a list of all the places to visit, I mean city guides are good and all, but you know the BEST places to visit!

Ms Bart said...

I have a blind date on Sunday and I was actually thinking of meeting him at a diner. Great food, inexpensive prices and normaly enough people around to keep you feeling safe. After that story, though, I may be requesting a Bux.

just kristen said...

I live in NJ- more diners than anywhere else. And I won't eat more than grilled cheese or french fries in any of them! Unless its breakfast after the bar... which always seems like a good idea at the time.

i love love love your stories. They almost make my family seem normal- convicted murderers and all! :O)

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you went on that date so you could share it with us!!!

Love your stories!!!

Mim said...

OMG, I would have run screaming from the building. That is insane!

RKC said...

Seriously, you have some of the worst/best bad date stories. Horrible at the time, I'm sure, but hilarious to read!

Claire said...

how funny; i have been on a quest for about a year now to find a place that will cook me Lobster Newburg... here's a recipe i found just for you:


K said...

My family calls Waffle House the Awful House, too! We went to one in Kissimmee while on vacation, and couldn't get a quarter of our strawberry waffles because the syrup was SO. FREAKING. TERRIBLE. Yuck... My favorite diner is the Anytime, in Lewiston, ID. It's open 24/7 (or it used to be, anyway), and they serve hamburgers as big as your head. I should go there next time I go home...

Subservient No More said...

EWWW!It's lobster in cream sauce with cheese!!! YUCK!

First Nations said...

I mean, wow.

oh wow.

is is even remotely possible that we are related? do you think? because


Leonesse said...

Grilled Cheese Sandwich and Tomato Soup is our family fav. Mmmmmm. Homestyle food.

Our local diner waitress, Lisa, asks me if I am having my usual and is always surprised when it isn't Grilled Cheese and Fries. There's is better than anyone elses!

Subservient No More said...

First Nations, why? Are your space aliens Jews for Jesus too? Do you too share the love for grilled cheeses?

Sauntering Soul said...

I've lived in Atlanta my entire life and you could not pay me to walk in the Majestic. I feel sick just driving past it. I have never been. My younger brother used to go there quite a bit and has told many stories of sitting there drinking coffee out of dirty cups and seeing cockroaches crawl across his table. I can only guess he must have been really, really drunk every time he stepped in the place to keep going back.

My dad's favorite place to eat is Awful Waffle (that's what we call it in our family). I truly don't understand it. I have an Awful Waffle about 2 blocks from my house. I've only been there twice in the 3 years I've lived in this house. Both times with my dad.

I'm proud to say my sense of taste is a bit more advanced than the males in my family. I can't wait until the Flying Biscuit opens up a mere one-quarter mile from my house. Now that's my kind of breakfast!

Anonymous said...

LUV, luv those New Jersey diners that thank G-d still exist...wonderful chopped liver, whitefish salad, egg salad, etc. And some of them even serve wine (albeit not the best quality).

But I agree; those cakes in the revolving display that are as tall as the Empire State Building never looked appealing to me...I bet they taste like flavored cotton.

TwistedNoodle said...

This brought back memories of my very first visit to a Waffle House. My ex and I came up with a nick-name for the waitresses. Summer Teeth, because Summer Yellow, Summer Green, Summer Crooked and Summer Missing. And those nasty-ass kerchiefs they wear on their heads doesn't help matters.
Disclaimer: I have nothing against waitresses at all. It's just that every Waffle House I have encountered had woman like I described working there.

Anonymous said...

My god woman, you've had some of the worst encounters with the other sex that I've ever heard of. How you've kept your sanity is beyond me. Your story was very lovely, however...those diner waitresses are some of the best people in the whole world. Keep up the great stories girl.

MP said...

Well the aliens did creat the pyrimids...maybe he has something :0)

I had a $40 grilled cheese, pickle and iced tea in Chicago. It was really good..but the diner atmosphere would have been better.

Whiskeymarie said...

Funny, I was waxing nostalgic about bad dates this week too. Your story beats mine by a mile. I don't recall that I ever went on any dates with Orthodox Jewish Scientologists.
Except maybe that one time... nope.
Silly me- that was a Mormon Hindi Methodist Monkey Wrangler.

ADW said...

OK, so this may be my favorite post. Really.

Architect Critic said...

That's nuts. I guess I have lead a sheltered life. I grew up with cowboys and Mexicans - if anyone like that dared venture into the area they wouldn't last long. Makes for a great story, though.

There is a small mom-and-pop waffle house in my town that has some of the best Belgian waffles. All the food there is great. The waitresses are often the mom and teenage daughters on the weekends. Never been on a weekday.

Mmmm. Caramel-apple whole-wheat pancakes. . .

Pumpkin said...

I know I've already commented, but I'm doing the rounds of all the blogs that I read religiously and bringing them a (virtual) cocktail!

Why you might ask, is that of any use? Well, it's not, however it's my 30th and I'm supping on cocktails big time, and I want to share the joy....lol...so here lass, have a 'blue champagne' on me to say thanks for all the fabulous posts you've written and that I've enjoyed!!!!

Have a great weekend!

Anonymous said...

Great story!!

BTW..I know exactly what diner that picture was taken at. They are the best. :)

Dave said...

I am the ultimate diner junkie. The best I ever went to was an unamed diner on Route 209 in Sussex County New Jersey. I just got back from a 5 state college tour with my daughter and ate in about 10 diners. The best was a greek one off I-91 in Massacheussetts. The greeks are the kings of diners, always clean and half the stuff is homemade like the pies, bread and the soups. The only decent diner I ever ate in in So. Fla. is the old S&S Diner in downtown Miami. Please email me the name of your discovery, it looks exactly like one of my favorites up north in the photo!

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