Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wilbo Has Lunch at the Loveless Cafe and Contemplates Southern Manhood & Love.

Blackberry, Strawberry and Peach preserves have arrived with my hot biscuits, made by a biscuit making baby who probably doesn't come from Bristol, Tennessee. When my fried pork chops, eggs over easy and hash brown casserole arrived, waitress gave me an extra plate so, as she said, "You can spread out".

Ashley, my waitress, is a Southern woman, friendly and yet capable of moving this putzy diner along. I wasn't born a Southern Man, although my brother-in-law who married my younger sister was born Southern. I've gleaned a fact or two what it means to be a Southern man. My sister and he are good at taking care of my mom, who lives in an assisted living apartment near their house in Hazeltuckey, a native nickname for Hazel Park, where the South is always present, thanks to Interstate 75.  I am having a moment of regret, but it's not yet Flannery O' Conner level regret. That's the deepest level of regret in literature. I wonder if I took up driving truck and bought me a Tennessee farm, I could catch up. If I start rising now, I could hope to converge.

I was unsure of the etiquette of using a second plate, and I'm afraid it went back to the dishwasher unused. I helped myself to peppers from the Bruce's Tabasco Peppers in Vinegar bottle, using a butter knife to awkwardly pull several up from the narrow necked bottle. A hole under the flip lid suggests that one should just douse ones food with the vinegar, so maybe I have perpetrated a gaff. I have saved my second fried pork chop for later, putting the leftover white gravy in a lidded cup, all nice and neat in a carry out container. I'm pretty sure leftovers are laughable, but I'm not spending the afternoon cutting hickory wood to season for next year's BBQ pit. So I'm going to have to stretch out all those country calories over two meals. These are probably all signs that I am a Yankee.

Ashley has come back for my check in its black portfolio, asking, "Is it okay that I pick this up now"? I know that is code, the same as a cleric saying to you, "Let's have Persian bread and Persian cheese". I read that in a short story set in Iran by V. S. Naipaul. I always vacated the Persian restaurants in L.A. soon after the check was presented. I have moved to an oak bench in the lobby, needing a coat of varnish it should never get, next to a framed collection of Oak Ridge Boys promotional photographs, signed, covering four decades of touring.

Wade Rouse, an author who lives in Saugatuck, a town no one calls Saugatucky, wrote a story called "Happy Swedish Day", a successful story based on a mistake. In the story, his boyfriend and partner invites Wade to celebrate Sweetest Day, and Wade hears "Happy Swedish Day". It's a far fetched conceit and yet Rouse makes it work. I've heard him read the story at the Loutit Public Library, Rouse exclaiming "Happy Swedish Day!" with glee that is fresh even now in my imagination. Now I know that a Lon and Annie Loveless owned this cafe in the Harpeth Valley, hence the name. As I am a Wade Rouse reader, I've played with the idea that this cafe awaits the lovelorn and heartbroken, the Love Less Cafe. Garrison Keillor's Chatterbox cafe awaits guests who like to talk, capisce? So, most if all of the guests are unqualified to eat at this cafe, being loved and loving. So, theoretically, one could say to ones waitress, "Surely, you are too wonderful to work at the Love-Less Cafe"! But not within earshot of anyone who tries to love you and then you better tip well.

Will Juntunen

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