Monday, January 3, 2011

Where everybody knows your name

The 401 Diner, our favorite breakfast spot, closed its doors yesterday for the last time after being a fixture in our local neighborhood for the past 10 years.

It’s not like you could argue that it was the best breakfast place around.

But it was OUR place and it’s sad just the same.

With its old style ice cream bar counter with the swivel stools, usually with one that displayed a sign “Broken”.

With its homey blue leather booths and tables that occasionally were propped stable by customers with multiple folded paper napkins.

And a jukebox that would magically begin playing pop tunes from the 60’s including the Temptations, The Shondells, Sinatra and a little mix of Jimmy Buffett.  It was always a mystery as to when it would start up, but we would find ourselves inconspicuously lip syncing to the tunes.

The Professor and I were regulars every Saturday and Sunday mornings for the past five years.  No sooner would we seat ourselves at our regular table in the back, that Gina would greet us with our coffee and ask “The usual?”  I suppose if you’re Jerry Seinfeld, that must happen to you all the time.  But for us, this was OUR Cheers.  The place “where everybody knows your name.” 

The “usual” consisted of the same thing.  Me, always the Blueberry Pancake short stack.  The Professor ... Eggs Benedict WITHOUT the sauce. (I KNOW!  But he does try to watch his girlish figure which is unlike my ballooning menopausal waistline.)  We would leisurely read our Philly and NY Times newspapers long after our breakfast was over, only conscious to the crowd should our table be needed.  We had many long conversations over writing, politics, football, movies, books, actors, friends, possible new business ideas drawn on napkins.  It was a time to connect, to be present with each other before the day’s distractions were upon us.

I mourn the closing of the 401 Diner.  Not only for the friends who have lost their jobs, but also the ending of a special time for The Professor and myself. 

It is a reminder to me how we too often take for granted those around us.  How we expect they will be here today and the day after that, without much thought that they could suddenly be gone.

Time marching on.

I think I’ll give The Professor an extra hug this morning and tell him how much I appreciate him.

I hope not too far into the future we can find another “401 Diner” ... where everybody knows our name and asks “The usual?”

So long Evan, Chris, Gina, Julie, Sheila and Cathy,
Goodbye 401 Diner,

we will miss you,

missing the mom gene