Nothing like falling into a place. And entire world whose comfort is undeniable. How long has it been since this has happened to me?
I credit today to the slow recovery from Covid. Both Julia and I tested negative this morning—she probably would have tested negative days ago. And me too, probably, but I waited. It didn’t matter to wait. We were being very careful—masks and going to very few places. And it was well past our quarantine time.
But anyway, this morning I woke up, still coughing but otherwise restless. It was and is a dreary almost-spring day. 45 degrees, rain with shades of gray above. My upstairs neighbor had planted daffodils around the house that are waving their yellow heads and the Covid fog, which I hadn’t realized I had, is beginning to clear. (I guess it could be late winter foggy head or old lady fogginess but I’m blaming Covid today.)
I needed to get out and yesterday, a church friend announced that she had dug up bunches of perennials that needed new homes. I texted that I’d love some of them and we were in front of her house before 9:30. I picked up two kinds of iris, hostas, and possibly day lilies, and then looked for the breakfast that I had promised to Julia if she got up and out quickly.
And around the block from my friend’s house was Wilson’s Diner. It is famous and on the National Register of Historic Place for more than 20 years, but I didn’t know that when we walked in.
It is a diner like I remember diners of my Jersey childhood. Blue and yellow from the tile floor to the bar stools in front of the counter to the impeccable paint outside. Two waitresses worked the ten or twelve booths, another two worked the 16 stools from behind the counter. There is a middle aged guy on the grill with two women feeding him orders, prepping and finishing dishes. Just before we left, I saw a teenager bringing in a box of spinach from the back. Even their ages was perfect—the booth waitresses were very young, the counter waitresses a bit seasoned, the sous chefs middled aged, and the boy, no more than 16.
The place is just wide enough. Standing between the counter and the booths to put on a coat will definitely impede breakfast plate delivery, and “excuse me” seems to be an unending mantra.
There were a lot of regulars, greetings with names attached and coffee brought to booths before the menus were delivered. When we went in a few booths were empty as were some stools, but clearly they were building up for a busy morning.
The atmosphere bustled, the place smelled of breakfast eggs and home fries with hints of greek spices peeking though. The staff wore blue teen shirts and I could not shake the feeling that I was on a 50’s movie set that would surely have a happy ending. Or at least, happy until the zombies attacked.
I wanted to take it all in. Become a part of it or at least, use it for the setting of a grand novel. Even the wood molding around the front and back door, as well of the wood of the refrigerators gleamed. Even the curtains at the many windows matched the blues and yellows. It was of a whole—they way that Will Leach taught us in Form in Theater. It was a full and satisfying world created and maintained. And I could feel that completeness the moment I walked in.
I took pictures. I rarely take pictures of restaurants or everyday places, but I didn’t want to forget any part of it. I allowed us to eat leisurely and I savored my second cup of coffee.
One concession to the times is an ATM, the smallest one I’ve ever seen, tucked behind the booth on the end. Only cash here, taken in using a cash register that still rang when it opened.
No one there seemed as delighted as I was; no one was taking pictures or looking lovingly at the curtains.
But I was.
Place is important. Place can change a mood or a month or a life. Maybe this place will shape no more than this new day for me. And for that, just that, Huzzah! And Bravo!
And when we very reluctantly left and got in the car and punched our home address into my Maps App, I realized that Wilson’s Diner was 12 minutes from my house.
I can come back.