Diner Diaries

Life and Times of a Patron of the King's Chef diner

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

House Poor

No one said that more than three years after buying the house we would still be living in chaos. We bought a thirty-year-old house that needed "cosmetic work." Well if replacing all the carpet and flooring ($4000+), replacing both bathrooms ($3000, with one to go), the screen door ($200), the garage door ($650), the hot water heater ($200), disposal($50), leaky windows ($2700 so far, with 4 more and a sliding glass door to go) qualify as "cosmetic work" okay, but I'm not done. I have invested $250 in interior paint, $660 in lighting, $250 in wallpaper and countless other "minor" items. The kicker, though, is the deck. Two inspectors said the deck was fine, but forced the seller to repaint it. Our insurance company came and inspected, telling us we must replace it within 30 days or they would cancel our coverage. Cost? $3600.

Did I mention the yard? Oh, do I have to? In three years we have been unable to run the sprinklers, though we've spent plenty of time and money fixing, repairing and adding to it. Just this summer, one of the inlaws helping us with the sidewalk poured the excess concrete into the control box. We spent a small fortune removing the juniper bushes which hid the house from sight, grew over the sidewalk and to which I am allergic. Dumping fees alone nearly bankrupted us. Removing the rock from the eyesore of a side yard cost over $400.

All of these items would have been far greater if we hadn't done some or all of the work ourselves. And we're not done. I still can't use the living room; the kitchen is a pit; the downstairs bathroom is closed off--unusable at the moment and we can't afford to replace it yet.

Still, I wouldn't go back to renting. No rental would have permitted me to have an "Opera House Red" living room or to wallpaper the dining room, or to paint the family room two different colors, just because I wanted to. The yard, such as it is, is mine. No one can tell me I can't run water through a rock in the side yard and create a fountain out of it.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

As I haven’t been to the diner in days L, I thought I would let you know what I’ve been up to. Tuesday I had an interview for a second job. After all day in front of a computer, I was pretty sure I didn’t want to do even more computer work after hours, so I applied for a job in retail.

I was totally floored that I was hired on the spot. This should be fun, although there was some testing that I still don’t have the results from which could stop the whole thing. I was told that they are considering putting me in fine jewelry. Cool!

Anyway, I should hear sometime today or tomorrow the results of the tests. I imagine bizarre happenings, like them switching my “test” with that of the rough-looking woman who tested right before me and her showing up clean, while my test looks like a DEA handbook. I imagine my asthma medicine setting off alerts all over the lab, mistaken for some illicit substance I’ve never heard of with only a series of initials for its name.

I can see an FBI alert coming over the wire during a background check, pointing me out as some bank robber or embezzler. Paranoia is an amazing thing.

That was Tuesday.

I’ve been working on my fruitcake. Not the hard bricks sold in King Soopers, dry and bitter, but a luscious recipe made with a variety of dried fruits and nuts soaked in rum. After baking, they sit for 4-6 weeks soaked in rum, they are dark aromatic loaves of heaven. It takes a couple of days to finish baking and costs a small fortune.

If you are a VERY good little girl or boy, perhaps you’ll get one from me.

Monday, November 18, 2002

Gary is awfully cheerful now that he has three days off in a row.

Shortly after I arrive, telling Dave to “surprise me” when he asks what I want to eat, It’s just me, a skinny, non-descript man finishing his meal and a lovely girl with brown upswept hair and beautiful, big, wide eyes and a flawless complexion.

“I got a DUI,” she tells Gary.
“Why’d ya do that?”
“It was stupid.”
We all agree.
“Do you have a lawyer?”
“Why not?”
“I was trying to decide if I should get one or not.”
So Gary hooks her up with the “best DUI lawyer in town.” Now why does it surprise me that he knows this?

Shortly after, the diner is filling rapidly when a tiny, little, true, natural blond comes in. “Hey, Gary.”
He seems please to see her. “What’s up?”
“Just got out of jail.”
“You did not.”
“Yes. I did.” She’s serious, although almost manically cheerful. She looks about fourteen.
“What for?”
“I beat up Pete.”
Gary changes the subject, he thinks.
“Did you ever make up with Gypsy?”
“Oh yeah. She took my kids for me.”
“Where’s Pete?”
“In prison.”
They go out and talk for a minute.
After they return he asks, “So you have court?”
“Yeah, 1 o’clock. They’re going to put me back in.”
“Where are the kids?”
“Rocky’s got ‘em.”
“Do I know him?”
“No. He’s a friend of Pete’s.”

Ohmigosh. Amazingly, this golden gloves champion and her sparring partner have spawned children but do not think it important to provide them with parents who will restrain themselves and actually be there for them. I think I’m going to be sick.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

A note to Mark: Journalism rule #1: Check your facts.

As a matter of fact, the exact quote was: “We think Mark may be gay” Not, “he is gay” or anything like it. I even had the little smiley face symbol there. Okay?

Here’s a hint, folks, a lot of what I say is tongue-in-cheek. Not. Completely. Serious.


My budget is putting a serious strain on my visits to the diner. I can excuse it when the kids eat all the sandwich fixin’s and when I just can’t bear the thought of microwave corn dogs (did I mention that before?) Anyway, today I wound up back at the diner. Things are changing there, so it’s a rare day that the three amigos are in residence. Today it was Gary manning the grill and counter and Mike(?) doing dishes and cold prep.

An older derelict fellow walked in, cigarette hanging from his mouth. “There’s no smoking in here.” So he ducked halfway out the door and the cigarette disappeared, although the stench didn’t. “Just a cup of coffee, no cream, just sugar. A level spoonful.” He repeated his instructions about the level spoonful, and sat at the “back counter”. The stench was 80 proof and old cigarettes. After a moment or two I felt dizzy, and a little guilty for not turning around and chatting with the old guy, but I couldn’t breathe.

What circumstances, what private hell, what character flaws, what emotional, mental and physical difficulties contribute to the making of a bum? I look at these guys and I see them as cute little two-year-olds, grinning up at their mom and dad, no one having any idea what lies ahead. What hopelessness allows a man to live like this, and what spark of humanity resists death when life is so grim?

Latecomers, an older couple, he as bald as a cue-ball, looked like a biker, she with a good half inch of gray growing out beneath her brown dye, ordered burgers and fries. “What’ll you have to drink?” He ordered a Pepsi and she asked, “Do you have raspberry iced tea?” “No raspberry tea, no lemon, no decaf.” Just regular tea. The real kind. Lipton, brewed and poured over ice. No sun tea, no herbal, no chai, no latte, cappuccino or espresso.

She is not dismayed. “My dogs have this theory—it’s always no until you ask.”

It’s a great line. My dogs are the same way, come to think of it, and no matter how many no’s they get, they still ask with the same hopeful expectation every time. They never get discouraged.

Boy, I should be more like that. Never let rejection daunt me or dim my hopeful expectations. Always ready to be excited by a ‘yes.’ I just love dogs.

And even though Gary is still on his “you have to go to a strip club” kick, I guess I’ll keep him as one of my favorite people. He has a nickname for me that might take him off the list, but we’ll see.

Well my break is over, so back to work. Diner’s closed.

Monday, November 11, 2002

Before I get to today’s post, I must issue an apology to Mark the Reporter. I’M SORRY I SAID YOU WERE GAY. YOU ARE A MAN OF DISCRIMINATION AND TASTE WHO IS NOT SO SHALLOW AS TO DATE A WOMAN MERELY FOR HER LOOKS. I do hope that suffices. I won’t go into the reasons why you turned down the girl, but . . . well, I’m sure you made your mother proud.

It’s Veteran’s Day, but while the government offices which surround my building are all closed for the day, I’m at work. The day is cold, and seems to be growing colder, with clouds slowly sinking down the mountains into town. The upside of working on a holiday is that I can legally park in front of the building without risking a ticket. The downside is the restlessness which keeps me from sticking to my plan to eat yogurt and microwave corn dogs for lunch and heading down to the diner.

It only takes a moment in the fresh air for my spirits to lift. A brisk walk is just what I need to chase away the blues which have been hovering all day.

Gary is manning the grill and the place is virtually empty when I arrive. He informs me that one of my co-workers had shown up moments before but he told him “we’re closed.” There is some real hostility between Gar and Pepe. (I actually like the guy, but I don’t think I want to know about his activities outside the office.) So I guess I won’t mention the fact that Gary cooked for me. French toast, which I’ve never eaten there, and in fact I rarely eat at all, cause it’s so greasy. A cold day calls for comfort food, don’t you think?

Anyway, he actually did close the grill after cooking my meal, turning away a few straggling customers, including Mark, who sat for a while and harassed me about my previous entries, my use of the word irony and my mistaken description of the girl as “tall”. Apparently she’s 5’2” or so, and I misjudged due to the stairs involved. So-o-o sorry. I hate being wrong.

Well, my little fun blog is being shared not just by Gary and a few select friends, but has been passed to a few diner customers. How am I supposed to make fun, be sarcastic and indulge in irony with the objects of my jests and jibes reading? I hate to hurt and offend people.

Ah, well, Gary has decided that I need to go to a strip club to further my education. He doesn’t believe that I have never been, nor have ever wanted to go. Well, I rarely lie, and I certainly would not lie about this. I even turn my head when strip clubs are shown in movies or TV shows. It just seems icky to me. Well, let me tell you, you would have to knock me unconscious to get me in one. Not my thing at all. It is so sleazy. Bump and grind for a bunch of slovenly drunks drooling in their beer. Gee, now why doesn’t that sound more appealing?

Whatever happened to sex and sexuality being a private thing? I have been married for more than 20 years, and I do not discuss this part of life with anyone but my husband. Why would I? Shouldn’t some things be just for the two of you? Does the entire world have to be in on the discussion? Does everything have to be so flagrantly displayed? Where is the love and romance?

It seems as if the entire world has decided that we are mere animals, slaves to our emotions and the chemical processes of our bodies--debasing who we are as the highest of earthly creation, created in the image of God.

Have a little dignity folks!

Another thought occurs to me. Sex is like the ultimate inside joke, no pun intended. It’s the wink between the two of you, the tender glance, the loving smile, the private hopes and dreams, the moments of indignity, the private sorrows and fears, the many conversations which no one else knows. It is the delicious box of chocolates hidden away in the back of a drawer to be savored in private. It is the unspoken conversation held in one glance, one lifted eyebrow. It is the trust and care of years. It is the desire born of lust, birthed in commitment and raised in trust, tenderness and trials. It is both portion and entirety, both symbolism and substance. Beautiful and funny. Lovely and undignified. Why would you want to share that with the world?

Thursday, November 07, 2002

And the saga continues . . .

Driving to work yesterday who did I see pulling out of the diner parking lot? Stalker3!! She is persistent. She has great hair. I think I’ve mentioned that before. (I’m kind of obsessed by great hair lately, as a medical condition is causing my hair to thin rather dramatically. I’m able to hide it pretty well at this point. I hope to stop and then reverse the trend. We’ll see.)

I’ve never understood pursuing the guy. (Okay, my friends will remember the whole Mark Tucker thing back in 4th grade, but that doesn’t count anymore, does it?) Few men really appreciate the whole Stalker thing, although I suppose some men and women are flattered by ANY attention. I’m turned off by anyone who is TOO interested. When you have self-respect, you don’t hang around offering what isn’t wanted. A little dignity please!

Monday, November 04, 2002

One of the bad things about blogging, is that I am tempted to forget that there is a potential audience out there of millions. So, unlike writing in a journal, I must censor myself, for some of the things I most want to comment on are personal and private to another. And so, if I want to be a decent person (shocking in this day and age, I know) I must forego mentioning some things that just beg to be written about.

Let me mention this one thing. Stalker3 came in the other day, flashing her bra, showing Gary a little of what he’s missing. If Gary can hold out under this kind of pressure—well, I may have to rethink my bet. Perhaps he will get beyond her after all.

It may be time to do a Dave piece.

Dave, the cook, is a shorter, lean man. Looks like he may be pretty fit under those loose-fitting patterned jeans and t-shirts he wears. He’s bald with the aid of Bic, and apparently used to have a braid to his waist. He’s pretty careful about what he eats, mixing up protein shakes for himself every day.

I’m not sure how old he is, though he’s likely in his late thirties or forties. (Men age so well, don’t you think?) He’s another tattoo-wearing guy, and I’ve never seen him without a backwards ball cap on his head. I’m guessing he’s older, not by his looks, but by his attitude with the others. He often has an indulgent kids-will-be-kids expression on his face, shaking his head at some of their foolishness, and tolerating the music rather than loving it like Dread-less or Gary.

I recognize that head shake. It’s the same one I do when the kids are being just a little too silly or a little too gross. It’s prior to the all-out “turn that crap off!” after too much time or too many decibels of crappy music.

Dave stays pretty much on an even keel, even when one of the “kids” keeps screwing up, he explains things patiently, or shows how something is done briskly, keeping his tone and volume fairly level, even when you can tell he’s frustrated. It’s a good thing, because these guys work in really tight quarters.

Well I’m off to go pick up a soda at my favorite spot. Talk at you later.