Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Angel, aware and entertaining

The bashfully named 3 Star Diner graces my neighborhood, welcoming all at any hour of day or night.  The coffee is excellent, as is its freshly squeezed orange juice.  The food is sometimes 3 star, sometimes more.  The drawer beneath the cash register holds candy for the neighborhood's children.

It's comforting to know that there is a warm place I can go if I need company in the middle of the night.  I once asked myself where I would go if I were locked out of my apartment and had also lost my cell phone, and I decided it would be here, at least at first.  

It is easy to be alone in New York, too easy, and I think diners play an important role in maintaining the thread of humanity among its citizens.

Most mornings an elderly gentleman eats his breakfast at the counter, with the waiter or the hostess leaning in to talk with him.  The scene reminds me of a children's book I was given as a gift several years ago, An Angel for Solomon Singer.  It's a story about a lonely old man who lives in a men's hotel on the west side.  He wanders the neighborhoods of Manhattan, longing for the wide open spaces of his boyhood Indiana, and a porch, and a fireplace, and a cat.  One evening he finds his way to Westway Cafe.  The waiter, Angel, with a voice "quiet like Indiana pines in November", welcomes him and also asks him to come again.  He does, every night, and finally finds a place where he doesn't feel lonely anymore.

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