Tag Archives: diner

The Best Burger

Photograph by Gina Esguerra. Click the photograph for her amazing blog.

He opened the car door as if to get out when she stopped him,

“We drove an extra hour for this?”

“Trust me…best burger and fries I have ever had.”

“Where are we, anyway?” she said as she gathered her giant sunglasses and wallet and placed them into her Coach purse.

“Rosie’s Den. Arizona. Look, it’s on the steps!”

“Grand,” she said as she got out of the car. “Wait, where are my sunglasses?”

“You just put them in your bag. Look at these windows! Can you believe this?”

“You can’t even see inside there’s so much shit hanging in them.”

“Hmm, I was actually going to say there’s less stuff than I remember.”

She walked to the door and waited for him to catch up and open the door for her.

“Since when do you wait for me to hold the door?”

“It’s filthy…I didn’t want to touch it.”

He placed his hand on the small of her back as she passed him, then followed her inside.

The fluorescent lights by the door flickered as they entered, buzzed a bit and she turned in an attempt to leave, but he stopped her. “Trust me,” he said to her as an old woman with an obvious mustache in a vintage waitress outfit which was too small for her age approached them, her short skirt revealing antique, wrinkly legs with more varicose veins than either had ever seen.

“Hi! Two, please,” he told her in a cheery voice as his girlfriend shuddered. She clutched her purse tight against her chest as they were led to a booth right next to a bright Arizona Lottery sign in the window.

“Ugh, these windows are filthy! Don’t they ever wash them?”

“How could they with all that stuff on them?” he asked.

She shrugged as the waitress brought them menus. “I’m Flo,” she said.

“Really?” he asked.

“Yes, really,” she said with a bitter tone. “Do you want to hear the specials? Because I’m not wasting my breath if you already know what you want.” She took a cigarette out and lit it.

“Um…you know that’s illegal these days, right?” she asked the waitress.

“Huh?”

“Never mind.”

“We already know what we want,” he said, picking up both menus and handing them back to Flo. “We’ll each have a burger and fries with a chocolate milkshake.”

Flo took both menus from his hand and practically stomped off as if this weren’t part of her job.

“There are things hanging from the ceiling back there covered in flies. This table looks as if it hasn’t been washed in ages. And did you see the cook back there?” She nodded toward the kitchen, which they could see through an order counter. Flo brought a burly balding man their order. He wore a filthy wifebeater covered in what could be years of spills, his hairy chest sticking out of it. “He is disgusting.”

“Just you wait. This burger is the best thing you’ve ever eaten. I guarantee it.”

A loud sizzling noise emitted from the kitchen as he said that as if to support his point.

She started rooting through her purse for something and started pulling out objects as she searched. Hair brush. Makeup. Birth control pills. Wallet. Finally she found what she was looking for, a wet-nap.

“There’s a bathroom.”

“I am not finding out what the bathrooms look like here. I’d rather use a port-a-potty.”

“You won’t use those when we go to football games.”

“Exactly.”

He started to look around at the many items hanging in the old diner. Random papers hung next to the register on the window; a few were bad checks while others seemed to be orders from companies they were awaiting. The open sign flickered a bit as Flo was suddenly next to them with their meals, which she slammed down in front of them a little too hard, throwing a few fries off each plate.

“Anything else?”

“No, I think we’re good,” he said with a huge smile.

He waited.

“What?”

“I want to see you try this.”

She sighed and picked up the burger. A quick turn showed the cheese sliding down the edges, a thick burger and a roll that had seen better days. As she sunk her teeth into it a pickle started to escape from the other side, but that didn’t matter. Her eyes widened as she savored the bite. She chewed with precision and finally swallowed the bite.

“Well?”

She smiled. “I hate when you’re right.” She sunk her teeth into another chunk of the burger as he picked his up.

“See? Told you.”

“Oh my God, it is SO good.”

He took a bite and did the same, except he frowned at the burger and looked at it as he chewed.

“What is it, hun?”

He put it down.

“Hmm. It’s not as good as I remembered.”

 

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A Great Road Trip

They put their vacation on hold for a few minutes when they saw the flea market sign. He slammed on the brakes, throwing a cloud of dust up from the dirt road their GPS lead them to, and made a quick turn.

“Is it okay?”

“Of course it is!” she said with an excited smile. “Although we really don’t need bait or ice.”

“Very funny,” he said as he pulled into the empty lot.

They got out of the car and couldn’t help but notice the building, a run-down diner on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere.

“Maybe the sign should say “Horror Movie” or something. Feel like we might be killed?”

“It’s entirely likely,” she said with a pretend-scared face. “Come on, the yard sale must be around back.”

They ignored the rusty screen door hanging from one hinge and passed the diner made of what looked like light blue, chipping paint. The windows were too dirty to see in clearly, but the lights appeared to be on inside and someone was standing at the counter, but not moving.

“This really is like a horror movie,” he said. She nodded as they turned the corner.

Behind the diner there were several little bungalows covering shelves that held countless objects. Thousands of old items were piled everywhere, yet appeared to be organized. One shelf in the far corner of the lot was piled with old glasses, jars and vases. Each bungalow seemed to be organized in some way, although neither of them could figure out the order.

Beyond the eternal yard sale were huge ditches, run-down vehicles, piles of chopped wood accompanied by a colorful beach umbrella and old farming equipment.

“I keep waiting for a creepy, dirty man in overalls and no shirt to come out with some kind of ax he’s just slaughtered today’s special with,” he said.

“I know, right? But I have to photograph this.”

“Obviously.”

As she walked around snapping shot after shot he searched through the piles of stuff. Old wanted posters. Roller skates. Broken typewriters. Vintage statues and figures of every animal that ever existed. He found an owl and held it up for her.

“Hey, check it out! An owl!”

Her head poked out from the next bungalow over, her camera strap around her neck. “Say cheese!” she said as she held it up and snapped a shot. She looked at the screen. “Too dark. Sorry,” she said as she deleted it.

He continued to root through the randomness of the collection, sure he would find something here that he wanted. He always did. A random old toy. A cartoon character drinking glass. Postcards. Photos. Something that would inspire a story. He kept looking as she took shot after shot.

“Make sure you get one of the roller skates,” he yelled.

“Done and done!” her voice called from a hidden part of a bungalow.

He smiled. Their thought patters were always so similar.

He went to the far corner of the lot and surveyed the land around it, the broken down vehicles, the rusty old unrecognizable objects. He wanted to shoot a horror film here. Or write one, at least. Do something. His skin tingled with ideas.

She finally emerged. “Damn, already took two hundred photos. Now I’ll have to upload them tonight when we get there to make some space on this thing!”

This was going to be an inspiring trip.

How to Show a Girlfriend You Love Her on Her Birthday

All photographs by the amazing Sandra Markovic.  See her website or her blog.

It was her birthday, and it had been a long time since she’d moved in with him from Ohio, and without her mom around he knew she’d likely be a little down. He had to come up with the plan of all plans. How could he make her feel as special as she made him feel? She reminded him on a regular basis, with her fake French accent that he adored, how she sometimes wore her hair in two perfect ponytails because he once told her it was so cute, how she always bought him kalamata olive hummus even though she was more of a fan of roasted red pepper…this list could go on and on. This had to be perfect.

He could go on a quest for the perfect gift. But she was better than that. A perfect night of romance? No, too simple.

This was going to be tough, and he knew it. He easily and nonchalantly reminded her he loved her on a daily basis, which now made a perfect birthday near impossible. He’d outdone himself on so many occasions so naturally, without even trying, that now when it really counted he was drawing a blank. Coming up empty. <insert another cheesy cliché here>.

✩✩✩✩✩

When she came home from the studio she had a feeling something big would happen. She opened the door slowly, expecting any number of possibilities but found nothing. She looked in the living room, dining room, he didn’t even seem to be home. Where was he?

She went to the kitchen, and there was a pot on the stove. She opened it, an automatic response since he often left her meals, and in it was a simple yellow post-it.

“Our first kiss.”

She put the post-it down and started to go upstairs, then suddenly stopped halfway up, ran back down, quickly grabbed her coat and rushed out the front door.

✩✩✩✩✩

She practically ran to the nearby park, past the children playing on the merry-go-round, past the slide, the sandbox, the see saws, to the swing set, to the second swing, and sat down. What next?

A little girl walked up to her. She was in the cutest little dress, pigtails, huge, innocent eyes, and asked, “Are you Alexandra?” She looked at the little girl and nodded, smiling, as the little girl search her pockets and pulled out a post-it. “He says this is for you.” At this the little girl ran back to her mother, embarrassed, and her mother gave her a hug, then looked at Alexandra and smiled.

Shaking, Alexandra unfolded the post-it and read. “The place where you wrote that song I love.”

And off Alexandra went.

✩✩✩✩✩

And so Alexandra found herself jumping into her car, the Volkswagon bus she’d bought right before they drove cross-country. She turned the ignition and it chugged, chugged, started, stalled. She tried again. And again. That’s when she noticed the post-it on the seat next to her.

“Put on your best.”

For once she appreciated the stalling car and ran inside. She quickly found an old fifties dress, her favorite, practically tore off her clothing, threw it on and ran out the door, hoping the old bus would be friendlier to her.

It was.

She tore out of the parking spot and headed in the direction of the diner where she wrote the song 1900 Miles and pulled into the parking lot. She took quick notice that his car wasn’t there so knew there would be another post-it.

Upon entering the diner, she looked towards their favorite booth, saw it was marked RESERVED and sat there, panting a bit. Their usual waitress walked up.

“Hey there. How’s it going so far?” she said with a knowing smirk.

“Fine.” She couldn’t contain her smile. “Do you have something for me?”

“Yup. Wait here.”

As Alexandra sat, impatiently, curious and overwhelmed with feelings, she was having the time of her life.

That’s when the waitress returned with a cup of hot Earl Grey tea with a little milk.

“He said you’d figure it out. He said there was no note this time.”

Alexandra looked at the tea she’d just set before her and really had to think. No note. That meant the clue had to be…

…THE TEA!

✩✩✩✩✩

Alexandra had the tea switched to a to go cup, tried to pay, found out he’d paid in advance, and ran out the door on yet another adventure.

She knew he loved a certain store, one of those barrel places that has bins and bins of food purchased by the pound, and there was a whole tea room. They’d spent hours of time together in there, searching for different teas they’d yet to try. That had to be it.

She raced into the parking lot, and as she ran in pulled the door too hard and let it slam against the wall.

“Hey!”

“Oops sorry Mister Hansel. But I’m in a hurry.”

He looked upset but when he realized it was Alexandra a warm smile came over his face.

“So you figured it out. I wasn’t sure you would, but he assured me you’d get it.”

She smiled. “Yup!” and she ran off to the tea room.

She ran in, startling the new girl who was in there, and frantically started searching the giant jars and containers of tea looking for the right one.

“Can I help you with something?”

“No. Yes! I am looking for the Earl Grey Crème. It’s our favorite.”

They both started looking, and the girl became as frantic as Alexandra, without really knowing why.

“Got it!” the girl yelled triumphantly, as Mister Hansel sauntered in, smiling. Alexandra grabbed it, turned it around, and sure enough there it was, a post-it.

She started to run out the door when Mister Hansel stopped her.

“Alexandra,” he said. “Take this.” He handed her an old thermos, red plaid, and she felt it was still warm. “Tell him this one’s on me.”

She sat in the car and looked at the post-it.

It was a drawing of a record.

✩✩✩✩✩

And so now she was headed to their record store. Alexandra pulled into the lot and was already heading to the record store, a place where they’d spent hours upon hours looking, listening, and experiencing all kinds of music.

Now the question Alexandra had to ask was, where, in the millions of records and cds did he hide the post-it? She had to think.

Bridgette Bardot. Nope. Belle and Sebastian. No. Maurice Chevalier, Shins, Decemberists, Frank Sinatra, still nothing. She really had to think. But while she was there, she should check for that one that she ALWAYS checked for, in every store, since she’d started collecting records. Claudine Longet. You never know, maybe it would be there.

And it was. With a post-it. She ran up to the counter, and the clerk gave a smile.

“I wasn’t sure you’d find it. He said you would. But I’ve never even seen that record in print before. He must have spent a pretty penny on it.”

“So wait, this isn’t yours?”

“No honey, it’s yours.” The elderly clerk smiled, and Alexandra walked towards the door, checking the post-it as she walked, wondering where else her birthday would take her.

She opened the next post-it.

“Our favorite meal.”

And so she was off again.

✩✩✩✩✩

Kenny was working, and she was glad because the last thing she needed was to ask a stranger for her note.

She ran up to the counter.

“Now I know you’re not here for food, are you.”

She was out of breath and panting. He laughed.

“It’s over there.”

She ran in the direction he was pointing but didn’t see a note. She kept looking around and lifted a blanket that was sitting on a chair. The post-it fell out.

She grabbed it and started walking when Kenny stopped her.

“Hey, don’t forget that. It’s yours.”

She looked back at the blanket, and realized that it was one she’d been wanting for a while from her favorite store, the one he called the hippie store because it always smelled like incense. Alexandra couldn’t help but love that place, it reminded her of her mom, and she missed her mom.

She ran back and grabbed it, took a big whiff, and ran off.

“Have fun!” Kenny yelled.

She waved and ran out, reading the next note.

“I love you.”

This one was easy. And it was one of her favorite places.

✩✩✩✩✩

She pulled into the state park, the place where they went anytime it was nice out. They’d played Frisbee, hiked, flown kites, taken nice strolls along the river, it was a beautiful place. She went right to their favorite path. The next note had to be there.

She grabbed her backpack in case it was a long walk, the thermos Mr. Hensley had given her, and the blanket because she loved the smell and was really missing her mom. She started walking along the river, thinking it was a beautiful day and the next note was probably near this tree where he’d started babbling incoherently, eventually leading up to the best “I love you” she’d ever heard.

She strolled down the path now, relaxed, taking in the beauty of the park, the woods, the trees, the sound of the nearby river so relaxing, and she found the tree with the note stuck to it. She opened it. It said, “I love you,” and she jumped a little, as if the note had spoken, and then realized he was behind her.

She spun around and he grabbed her, she grabbed him, and they held each other as if they’d been apart for years. She backed away and he pushed her hair behind her ear, looked at her, and covered her with small, romantic kisses.

Her knees gave out a little and he was forced to hold on a little tighter, and they both laughed. He took the blanket and started walking. She followed.

He walked up to the huge rock where they’d talked after he admitted his love, requited of course, and he laid out the blanket next to the rock and pulled a picnic basket from the cracks in the boulders. She smiled.

Then he cranked an antique record player they’d found at a yard sale and put out his hand. She reached into her bag and grabbed the record, handing it to him. He started the music and then reached his hand out again for her hand, knowing full well she didn’t need help, but hell, he was a gentleman.

And so they picnicked, sitting on a giant boulder alongside a picturesque river, warm tea from the thermos, and talked until sunset, when they just cuddled on the blanket, stargazed, and he couldn’t help but wonder what the hell he was going to do to top this next year.

Special thanks to Sandra, who took the essence of this story and depicted it with perfection and a professionalism that I find both impressive and admirable.  Please check out her blog and website which I posted links to at the beginning of the story.  Sandra will also be posting many related photographs that I was unable to work into the post, but are beautiful and should be viewed by all.