Friday, August 26, 2005

Drawn to Dives

I have an eye for the antique, the old fashioned. Furnishings, cars from yesteryear, just about any ol’ time honored thing. Fortunately, I have a small warehouse, so, over the years, I have had a place to store a lot of stuff. But as one of Marie’s old friends once said, "we are no longer in acquisition mode".

One thing that really gets me fired up, among all the great old things, are old restaurants, and the buildings that hold them. We might be driving along, down Main Street in some small town, and I will see the front of some restaurant, housed in an “art deco” styled building, and with it's great bold lines and slanted windows, it just calls me in. I might see an old lunch counter through the glass, maybe some cigarette smokin’ fedora wearin’ farm hand named Bernie at the counter, getting ready to slam his toasted cheese, and I gotta go in.

Unfortunately, many of these old restaurants and lunch counters have seen better days, as far as facilities are concerned. Very few have accessible bathrooms, for example, and almost all have some other sort of cleanliness issues, like old rotting carpet or linoleum tile, ripped and torn naugahyde booths, something. Still, I love'm. I get that same feeling that other antique and old things buffs describe, the feeling of “a simpler time”. Maybe that’s one reason we love our Airstream.

My perfect wife Marie allows me my need for occasional visits to these kinds of restaurants, and even enjoys the architecture, and sometimes over the top tacky decor. I can always tell, however, that she is a bit nervous about the generally sullied facilites, as she downs her patty melt with trepidation.

Marie teases me, occasionally, about how I took her, on our first date, to a Portland bar and grill named “Spot 69”, on 69th and Foster in Portland. To me, I was sharing one of my great loves with her, an older, kinda crummy but completely interesting old dining establishment, complete with gum chewing waitresses who call everyone honey, huge martinis for a couple of bucks, and a sort of psuedo Howard Johnsons decor, circa 1960, complete with turquoise and orange booths, and 50’s style swag lamps slung low over each table. Makes me wanna start smokin’ again just talkin’ about it. Marie loves to remind me, how, at the salad bar that night, there was a sign, printed by hand in crayon, that said, “ PLEASE USE TONGS”. Is that great or what?!!!!

Driving to the coast this week, we passed a few of these establishments, most notably in North Bend, Oregon, just before you get to Coos Bay. My heart fluttered as I stared, dangerously, since I was behind the wheel, into the windows of several very groovy establishments. “Keep your eyes on the road please”, Marie spoke as we passed. “We gotta go to those restaurants, Marie”, I replied, half serious. She chuckled. “I am in charge of the restaurants we are going to this week, Ric, because you, my sweet husband, are drawn to dives”.

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