Sunday at the Diner

In the blue, silver chromium diner
On the green, purple, yellow, red stools
Sit the fools
Who should eat at home
Instead, they pay on

For a cool orange juice or a bagel
On the soft, green cylindrical stools

Jonathan Larson,   “Sunday”, from tick, tick…BOOM!

I was going to go for a short hike this on Sunday morning, but when it started drizzling onto my windshield I decided to just skip it and go out for breakfast at the local diner. That song from tick, tick…BOOM! started running through my head as I pulled into the parking lot, but I got there before the rush, so they gave me a small booth instead of a stool at the counter.

Sunday at our diner is a lot less hectic than that Larson song, at least when you go early before the college students get up and flood the place. The parking lot wasn’t that full, and there was a preponderance of working pickup and trade trucks. I overheard some of the locals talking about getting the crops in as I noticed a bunch of college kids at another booth, a reminder of the nice mix we have here of agriculture and academia. That’s one of the many things I will miss when I leave this area.

As I got my coffee and placed my order I realized that I have gotten used to the idea of eating out alone, something that I used to only do when I was on the road. I always felt a bit out of place doing that before, but now it has become part of the new normal. I noticed a middle aged guy a few booths down with a laptop and a stack of papers and wished I had brought my tablet with me as ideas for writing started coming to me. During the mid-morning rush they never would have put up with that, but early on there is plenty of space.

My thoughts drifted back to another Sunday breakfast, eight or nine years ago, at Gaby in the New York Sofitel. We stumbled onto the place through a web reservation screw-up that forced them to upgrade us from the budget Novotel several blocks away to a suite with a terrific view of the Chrysler building, one of her favorite pieces of architecture. Best. Screw-up. Ever. Sofitel is a French chain, and we both noticed the staff’s increased attention when they saw our oh-so French last name. After that, the Sofitel became our favorite place to stay, although we couldn’t afford to do it often.

Gaby was our place when we were in town. Even when we didn’t stay at the hotel we would often stop in the bar for a drink after a show. It’s where she fell in love with chocolate martinis. But the thing I remember most is breakfast with a basket of croissants, a coffee press, and her, with the early morning light managing to make its way in the windows from 43rd street. It was simply lovely.

That memory came to me without tears, it just felt good to remember.  More and more often, that is how they come, bringing just smiles. I read the blogs and postings of other widows and widowers, often much younger than I am, and so often I am taken by the pain they feel for having been denied their time together. We were lucky in that regard. We had just barely enough time. We had enough time to cram in all the big things on our list, every last one.

We never made it to Europe. It was on the “get to it someday” list, but all those theater weekends in New York were more important to both of us. We didn’t have Paris, but we had Gaby, and that was close enough.

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