"The Wondering Jew"
2001-01-20 - 20:31 MST
January 20, 2001
Every so often Heather and I go adventuring looking for a "Blast From The Past," tonight was one of them.
There once was a local chain of restaurants here, not snooty, uppercrust, wallet crunchers, just nice places with good ambience, decent food and professional service, all at an affordable price.
As near as we can find out the one we went to tonight is the last one still going. It is on a busy street near town at a busy intersection both thoroughfares heavily traveled. I think this is the last one rebuilt, the building furnishings are good, decor maybe in the 1950's but still pleasant, comfortable and cheery. There is room to seat maybe 70 people total, some large booths for family, some smaller for singles or couples and a long counter with seating. Booths have comfortable easy chair type cushioning, nice leatherette covering.
I was prepared to see the clientele of today there, Heather wasn't. In one back booth there were two people of the same sex, making out furiously. In another booth a group of men with coffee in front of them, money being passed back and forth, who knows why ? No merchandise visible but obviously some sort of business was being conducted. One man at the counter, a sandwich and coffee in front of him, sitting and staring at it as if puzzled as to what or why it was. Occasionally he would lift with trembling hands the coffee cup to his lips. One guy up front near the door, coffee in front of him but obviously looking for some one. Soon the someone came through the door and both disappeared into the men's room, both coming back out in just seconds of going in. Both left the building each going in a different direction. A drug deal ? Who knows ? Paying vig, who knows? This decrepit old Bastion getting the obvious eye from a couple of business women in spite of the fact that Heather was beside me. Fortunately she didn't see the attempted sale.
The staff (short staffed for the business in there) were surely the most individualistic people you could imagine. One apparently middle aged man, whether "skin head oriented," or just shaven bald, in black and a weird look on his face. A man dressed in western wear came in with his mustache, ear ring and briefcase -- apparently the manager. To complete the ensemble a waiter, telephone pole tall, slender as a cattail, hair below his shoulders who had perfected slo mo to a high degree.
While Heather and I were waiting for an extended, expected time, considering the help at hand, we "cased the joint" and saw the obvious signs of dilapidation there. Torn leatherette on a seat, light fixtures not lit, worn and scratched wood work and signs that the cleaning was not accomplished in the immaculate style of our earlier experiences there.
One sign to me of the eventual demise of the place was the prices, quite a bit higher than at equivalent establishments.
We managed to push the present in the background and talked about our old times there, the friends we ate with, the places we had been before stopping in, the appetizing food at a fair price we were served and happily ate. Then, the place usually at the point of having to have waiting for the booths, as soon as a booth emptied there would be people making their way to sit down there. The service was rapid and excellent. It was a place for us to go to eat that we could afford and enjoy our meal and the life around us. These places were not snooty, I have entered in grimy work clothes and was served with dignity and had no one sniffing at my class, yet have I entered there as dressed up as I ever get and got the same courteous treatment. The customers were laid back (even before the term was invented) and agreeable too.
As Heather and I talked, in the pauses, I tried to see why this is the last of the chain. I remember sometime ago seeing pictures of the first ones, small buildings, parking maybe not entirely white enamel insides but not fancy, fancy. Gradually over the years as they expanded their new buildings got more elaborate and expensively built, and it seemed to me that they were over extending even back then. Yet they still served a good meal at a good price, expertly and rapidly.
Over the years, those establishments disappeared or were taken over by someone else. What was left still did the same good old job. Tonight Heather and I went there and saw that rigor mortis had not set in yet but was not far off.
Not too long ago Heather and I went to the last place that still served Rockybilt hamburgers as they use to be back ages ago, but at a bar and grill. Rockybilts have been gone some time now.
I don't know just exactly how Heather felt other than sad to see a grand lady who had lived better times brought low. Me, I felt as if I was attending a surreal wake with Halloween characters, being served food at a high price slowly.
I have not the slightest intent of looking down on the people there - I have seen and worked with and eaten with, passed on the street many of these types of people who were doing the best they could to survive. What was hard for me was to see our place converted to a high priced low-rent ulcer gulch. Should I mourn, or just turn the page ?
Such is life for a person who has lived beyond their years.
The mix of old and new is not complete, it is not yet Blended . . . . . .0 comments so far