Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I love a good diner!

It’s hard to find friends who really appreciate being called at 3 a.m. to go to the Full Moon Café on 41 North. I have no idea what compels me to eat steak and eggs that late at night, or early in the morning for most humans. There is something about a nine page menu with twenty specials that really gets me going. I like the ones where the smoking sections, now extinct, are larger than the non-smoking area. That’s how I fell in love with The Full Moon. It’s a true shithole.

If you take a look around you, these places aren’t hard to find; however if you want to find a real hovel these days, you’re going to have to cross the border into Wisconsin. Nothing’s the same anymore. It’s strange going into a diner that only smells like food, and you don’t have to walk through a funnel cloud of Camel Extra Wides to get to your table.

There are so many things to love about the diner experience. It gives new meaning to the term “recycled paper.” You don’t have to purchase a newspaper full of things you don’t want anymore. Just piece together the sections you really want to read from the huge pile of scraps by the door and BAM you have yourself the perfect paper. My ideal Sunday newspaper includes The Front Page, Qualities of Life, Arts & Entertainment, Travel, Business (just for a headline breeze), Chicago Tribune Magazine, Parade, Perspective, and the following ads: Best Buy, Target, and Kohls. I don’t shop at these stores because there are too many moms in there; however, it is the quickest way to find out what new appliances are available. It’s not that I like the Trib, but that’s what you get for newspaper leftovers in these places. You won’t find a New York Times in a diner. You have to go to the Original Pancake House for that, and just like the Times, you will end up paying double.

My favorite thing about “the diner” is the extensive menu. I am in awe of how they can chuck out hundreds of different combinations of mediocre food for under $5.99. Where else can you go where the surf-n-turf consists of a strip steak, a chicken leg and fried catfish for a subtle splurge of $8.99? If you’re from a small town in southern Michigan and sometimes enjoy a crisp iceberg salad piled high with carrots, shredded cheddar, cucumbers, ranch dressing, and the occasional hair, this is your place. Don’t forget the croutons made from last week’s white bread dipped into a vat of oil, with just a hint of salt. NOTE: If you like your steaks rare, this is NOT the place. I prefer mine cut right off the cow and flipped on the grille for 30 seconds, but not here…not ever. You want to order it medium at minimum, and dip it in a swamp of A-1. The trick is, add salt and pepper directly to the sauce and dunk.

The Full Moon has an old pull-style cigarette machine between the restrooms. It’s stocked with fading packs of Kools, Marlboros, and probably some Chesterfields if you look close enough. That’s what Reagan smoked. This machine is a grim reminder of the loss of the freedoms I shared with our toked up founding fathers. It costs like $8/pack, and I imagine people bringing in the roll of quarters they were planning on using for laundry to get that desperate pack while sobering up from the strip club/truck stop across the street. Honestly, now that you can’t do it inside, smoking just isn’t that exciting anymore.

If you seek interesting characters, the diner is where they hang. It was more interesting when people smoked. Smoking generated a real late night crew of AA inmates and women who had been kicked out of their trailers. I’m not sure about the rest of the planet, but at the Full Moon you still get a combination of thugs, Navy Seals, salesmen and the occasional hooker. You also find “other people who work in restaurants,” a swarm of North Shore kids whose parents are in Miami, and cops. I love these people, every one of them. It takes a certain kind of person to say, “Yes, this is what I want, and I want it NOW.”

Unlike Sunset Foods, I do not have to apply make-up or comb my hair to participate. My perfect uniform is a “Life is Good” t-shirt, rubber flip flops and whatever pair of jeans I just found on the floor of my bedroom, underwear optional. Getting totally blazed is a good idea about 30 minutes before arrival because the food just keeps coming. It’s mind-boggling. I’ve never made it to the dessert round, but if I ever do, there is a giant glassed turnstile loaded with eight inch high cakes and strawberry stuffed something-or-others that are mouthwatering. You could make a meal out of one or just duct tape it directly to your butt. The following quote comes to mind, “Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam, circumspice,” but I’m not in Michigan anymore. This is as close as it gets.

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