Here’s a little insight into me, for those of you who are new, or, well, frankly just because: I like to write at a diner. I like a place where I can sit and eat really unhealthy stuff (or sometimes a salad) and write until I’m done. It needs to be a place where they aren’t going to bother me and ask me to leave, but also a place that keeps my tea filled.
I actually really like that type of place where it’s 24 hours and I don’t have to worry about how late I’m there, and if it has a smoking section, even better. Not that I smoke (anymore), but there’s a laid back feeling to a smoking section that other sections don’t have. It’s understood that smokers will sit around longer, because they need a cigarette to finish their meal… Obviously.
I’ve made a handful of friends while sitting late at night in the smoking section of an IHOP or other similar establishment, while working on school work (while in college), or (after I became a teacher) working on lesson plans, or just writing.
While in college, we’d sit and eat just cheese fries (only $3 at the time) and drink our coffee while we played the question game until the sun came up. It was just me and a handful of people, almost none of which were college students, though they were the right age, and we asked anything and everything of each other. It was a very colorful period in my life. I learned many very risque things during this game…
But more than just good clean (well, mostly clean) fun, it helped to establish a code for myself, of how I interacted with people, and what I was willing to share and discuss. And what I expected out of people in return.
My code isn’t as intense, but there’s some overlap. In the beginning, the code was simply Be Honest, Be Open-minded, Be Loving. Abilene gave me a very high expectation of what the world was. I expected that I could be that open and free and it was just the way of things. I have since learned that’s not the way of the world. So, I’ve had to adopt the “Blend In” of the code of Harry (that’s a Dexter reference for those of you who don’t know). I think I’ve always instinctively done the Blend In thing, but I had thought I could let it go because of my experiences in Abilene. I was wrong.
That first attempt at college was a time for me to try out my various faces until I found one that was the real me. During my time in Abilene, TX, I learned that it was okay to question the status quo, and that you should be willing to discuss anything with anyone, so long as the conversation was handled in a mature, respectful, productive way.
Given that Abilene was once in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the most churches per capita in, well, the WORLD, it might surprise people to know it also has a ridiculously high pagan population as well. With three Christian universities, it might also surprise people that you can still find people of other faiths in the city at all, but they’re there. Don’t forget, there’s also an Air Force Base there as well, so a wide variety of people can be found there.
With that level of diversity, it wouldn’t be strange to walk into an IHOP and find a Baptist, a Catholic, a Pagan, an agnostic, a Buddhist, and any variety of other people all together having an in depth, totally respectful discussion of the differences between their faiths. One of the first guys I actually dated there was a young Mexican Jew (self-called, I’m not being racist) with Buddhist leanings.
And where do you think I met him? IHOP. Smoking section. He introduced me to the question game, and we had many really fascinating discussions until the sun came up with oh so many really fascinating people. Even after we quit dating.
It was a short lived romance. Turned out he was only 17, and even though I was only 18, that seemed just wrong to me. It hasn’t been until recently that I’ve been willing to date guys younger than me… And I think I’m going to stop. It has not served me very well. I’m not looking to raise my partner.
So there we were, enjoying our cheap food and talking until the wee hours of the morning about everything and anything. People would join our group for the duration of their meal, and then leave, and the group would rearrange to accommodate new people, or to release a table when things got busy. And we tipped well, hence they never kicked us out, no matter how busy they got.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I was never kicked out because I tipped well. There was a time or three that some of the other people (the ones not in college that were generally just there to keep themselves off the streets) were kicked out, and Mama Bev would tell me I didn’t have to go.
But seriously, nothing was off limits. The rules of the game are thus:
- You can ask any question.
- You must answer truthfully.
- The only question you cannot ask is what’s your favorite color because it’s much too personal.
Obviously, that last is a joke, but it’s fun to say. Those have been the rules since we came up with the official rules in 1999, and they stand to this day.
So, here we were, this group of misfits taking up space in an IHOP, discussing all manner of things. We discussed the intricacies of our beliefs, or our favorite television shows, or what character from said TV show we’d want to ravish in a sexual way. My personal favorite question: “Button, button, who’s got the button?” No right answer, and usually saved for when there was a lull in the questions, or to break the tension if the previous question had caused some sort of emotional turmoil.
Such as when the oh so hot red-headed, pierced and tatted guy next to me was answering the question of what his favorite position was and he picked me up and plopped me down on his lap, pulled my hair to bare my throat and than growled like a dragon with his face buried deep in my cleavage.
He had been fun. Never dated him, though, much to my chagrin. He had long red hair, and he looked a bit like a Viking as well. Fair skin, deep blue eyes, goatee, and a ring in his nose. He was muscular and would have fit in amongst the cast of Sons of Anarchy.
He had a handful of colorful phrases that would cause my young, innocent self to blush from the belly up. He was fond of saying he was “hung like a hamster, but [had] a ten inch tongue and could breathe through [his] ears.” And it was fun when he’d surprise me by doing that dragon-like growl at the base of my neck while standing behind me. It was his version of hello.
I have a thing about men standing behind me. It’s a particularly intimate thing because I can not see behind me and generally I walk at the back of a group because I don’t trust people when I can’t see them. So when a guy comes up behind me and wraps his arms around me (the Boy did that a time or two), or comes up beside me from behind and places his hand on my lower back, it will instantaneously cause my breathing to quicken.
Had he not started dating my friend, I’d have had a really great time with that guy, I think.
Now that I’m in Houston, I’ve learned that real IHOPs aren’t like that. In Abilene, or in little bitty Greenville, TX, the IHOP was laid back and they just were glad to have people in them. I was friends with the manager of the one in Greenville, and one time, between paychecks before I was a teacher, I stopped by to see a friend of mine to see if I could borrow $10 because I was going to run out of gas. Instead, the manager pulled a twenty right out of the register for me. When I tried to pay him back, he told me it wasn’t necessary.
Meanwhile, in the big metropolis of Houston, IHOP is a chain just like any other, and they don’t want you sticking around for longer than necessary. The servers don’t talk to you, and there are no smoking sections. Nor is there the laid back, take your time feel of a smoking section. I’ve tried several IHOPs here, and none of them have made me feel at home.
59 Diner, on the other hand, has done just that. I can come in with my laptop and write until I’m done, no questions asked. Several of the waitstaff know me, and they know that as long as my tea never runs out, I’ll tip them well. Not Rockefeller well, but I always leave more than the suggested 20%. Sadly enough, though, the patrons who come in aren’t as friendly, or as willing to engage in conversation.
For instance, I haven’t found a replacement for Mr. Johnny, the elderly gentleman who would sit in the smoking section and tell stories of his time as a club owner in the 70s, when he was doing tons of blow and getting blown by tons of women. He also happens to give great dating advice, and was fond of telling that if he’d been 20 years younger, he’d have ravished me already because I was such a beautiful woman.
And he loved living vicariously through me. Like when at the end of my four year dry spell, I was juggling 4 different potential lovers, Mr. Johnny would give me pointers on how to keep them separate, and on which ones he thought had potential.
I need a friend like that, preferably male and older who is safe to tell all those dirty little tidbits and ask for their opinion about how to handle certain situations. At the moment, the Boy is filling that void for me. This is somewhat problematic as I’d like to think that he’s one of the people I need advice about, or that I might need advice about in the future.
I know, it’s ridiculous.
So, I keep going to the 59 Diner to write. Hoping someone will stand out to me as someone who can be my new older gentleman confidant. I’m afraid, though, that my diner isn’t going to be around much longer. This type of establishment isn’t valued so much anymore. Not when places like IHOP get you in and out and for cheap.
When did speed and convenience start to outweigh genuine service and interaction?
Help save my 59 Diner, Houston people! I need a place to write!