Thursday, May 7, 2009


I’m sitting here in the Horseless Carriage diner in Van Nuys waiting for my car to get serviced and I’m transported back to all the diners I’ve frequented over the years.

The diner in Norwalk, Connecticut was used as a dry shelter from torrential rain while I waited for a tow truck after my muffler fell off my Datsun B210 on the highway on my way to Bridgeport University to take a test. Don’t cars always break down when there’s someplace important you have to get to?

The Century diner in Stamford, Connecticut was a constant in my variety of phases in life. It was a meeting place with friends both for a casual dinner or a late night respite from some bar adventure. Other times, I’d masquerade with the business lunch crowd when I’d meet my dad for lunch. And, I hate to admit, but once I dined and dashed – which was NOT my idea, it was Diane’s.

Back when I was writing scripts – diner’s were the place to pick up natural dialogue and study characters. As I sit here this morning, this diner proves to be pretty universal in the theme of character and dialogue. Because I’m at the diner owned by Galpin motors, there’s a lot of car talk going on. One guy just said he would never own a Ford in his life, but his father owned a 58 something or other.

There’s always the ‘regulars’ in any diner and those like me who are passers-by, transients who are always greeted with a welcome smile from waitresses with blue aprons and un-erasable lines on their faces from living.

You'll find the same soundtrack in most diners; dishes clattering in  bus trays, ‘more coffee’ wafting through the air like the aroma of home-fries or a hot off the grill burger with onions. The music, like this Whitney Houston song ‘I want to dance with somebody’; hasn’t that song played in every diner in America at some point in history, well, since 1987 at least.

Sizzles and chopping, laughter and coughing – all part of the cacophony you’ll find in a diner. I believe that life can become a musical at any moment and currently, I picture all of us breaking into song to back up Whitney. The car guys sitting at the counter would spin on their stools in unison while singing like Robert Preston sang 76 Trombones in Music Man. Maybe they’d do something with their forks held high, I don’t know, I haven’t worked it out yet.

This just in; the waitress just announced that Manny Ramirez tested positive for steroids and had just signed a 42 million dollar contract. One of the car guys stated his wife used to be a baseball fan, but not any more. Wow. I thought baseball was the quintessential American staple – along with diners and apple pie. That wife may have lost faith in the athletes of her favorite sport, but she certainly can’t loose faith in the magic of the diner.

Years ago I’d had an idea for a short film called, ‘The Table’. It was going to profile different people who have occupied the same table at a diner, the table being the constant. From one guest to the next you can have people sipping coffee and mourning or gulping milkshakes while celebrating.

The car guys are leaving, damn, there goes my musical. People have come and gone since I’ve been sitting here leisurely eating my huevos rancheros, which were quite good. If there isn’t a wait for tables like on a Saturday or Sunday for breakfast, or now approaching lunch time, you can never really stay too long in a diner. It’s like a little safe haven where they’ll keep filling your cup and check in to see if everything is alright. Diners are a true melting pot where the rich and poor sit at the same counter enjoying the same chicken fried steak or open faced turkey sandwich with gravy.

I’m baffled by a diner’s humungous menu selection. I always picture  one deeply frozen dish of liver and onions way, way back in the walk-in freezer ‘just in case’ someone orders it. Having said that, I actually have ordered chicken livers with rice at the Century Diner back in Stamford. They were delicious! Not as good as my dad used to make, but a decent second.

Lunch crowd starting to filter in now. Gonna give up my booth.

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