I used to want to check out every diner up and down NY-22 and I-90. I remember one that rose up off an embankment as you came around a bend, a curve of silver windows like the hull of a spaceship, behind five foot-high neon letters: DINER. It was somewhere between Williamstown and New York.
I wanted to go so badly.
“Why would you want to drive half an hour for another diner?” I remember D. asking me.
I didn’t know. I couldn’t articulate it. I was so young and so afraid of wanting things. Still am.
These days, I would know how to collect Americana with the proper distance and self-deprecation. These days, I would know how to go visit all the diners and then blog about the fine distinctions among their fries. But it wasn’t the food I wanted. I wanted the late hours, the slightly burnt endless cups of coffee, a transient population. Even the regulars are on their way somewhere else. I was not being ironic. I really thought that that other diner, just one more exit down, might save me.
The promise fell, for me, somewhere between David Bowie, Not a myth left from the ghetto, all night, she wants the young American and Bruce Springsteen, Baby, I’d drive all night again, just to buy you some shoes.
I’m sure the diner would have been a disappointment. Just another set of squeaky vinyl booths. Just another streak of grease on a plastic menu. I would have eaten bright orange grilled cheese and forgotten about the whole thing, come daylight. But let me know if you were there, late at night, years ago. Did you feel like something, or someone, was missing?