Monday, February 05, 2007
Scenes from a diner
Time sits still
Pompano Beach, Florida, December 2006 [Click all images to enlarge]
The diner is as classic a component of American culture as you're ever likely to find. Even though these places pay homage to a time that existed long before my wife and I were born, our kids somehow connect with the diner experience. They come by it honestly: When we first moved to London, we found a place called the Five and Diner on a cold and lonely night in a lonely new town. Our then-two-year-old son made himself at home that night and never quite let go of the place.
After a few years, the restaurant closed and eventually reopened as a high-end Italian eatery. Our burg no longer has anything like it, and our now-12-year-old son still looks back at the vanished diner with fondness. Some things you just never forget.
So when we had an opportunity to go to a diner, Ronnie B's Taste of the 50s, with my in-laws, we jumped at the chance. We knew the kids would love being there, and it would be one of those simple experiences that they'd be able to hold onto long after the warmth of their time in Florida had faded.
I quietly took pictures as we waited for our meals to arrive. Joy was our server, and I'll remember her for her near-militant insistence that adding fluoride to municipal water systems is the work of the devil. I forget how we ended up on the topic, but before long she was bringing a binder full of research to the table for us to read. Weird, I know, but in an endearing way. Would you ever have such an experience at a Burger King? Didn't think so.
As I snapped away, I tried to capture the feel, the soul of the place. Diners are all about colors and textures that are no longer part of the modern palette, and I often wonder what it is about this particular era that drives these powerful and long-lived images. Between the pastel-colored vinyl seats, brushed chrome chairs and formica-topped tables, curved and frosted glasses, ubiquitous neon and endless posters on the walls, it was difficult to tear my eyes away from this unique place. I guess I've got a nostalgic soul, because it seemed comforting - this despite the fact that I never experienced the era in the first place.
Maybe we all wish we could go back to a seemingly simpler time. Maybe we view places like this as oases from a world that seems to become more frenetic with each passing day. Where we can return for a simple meal in a homey place, and friendly service from folks we won't soon forget.
Whatever the draw is, I can't wait to go back. Neither can our little folks.
Your turn: '50s nostalgia. Please discuss.