Colonial Days and Nights

Louise at the Colonial Diner in Middletown, N.Y., had a great expression for a takeout order: “Put wheels on it!” Ancient. But sharp enough to draw blood, she was. Louise had been at this a while. And she’d been on her feet all day. And she probably hadn’t had a cigarette break in a while. And you know what you want when she wants you to know what you want … or she moves on to the next table.

It was like one of the favorite stories Shop Boy tells on himself: the one about the bagel shop in Brooklyn. Having finally reached the front counter one morning and with half of New York City pushing from behind, Shop Boy got a little flummoxed — I mean, there were sesame, poppyseed, wheat, salt (Oh my gawd … with butter … could you die?!?!), pumpernickel, those brown-and-white ones, caraway seeds, sunflower, and of course six kinds of lox and 23 flavors of cream cheese … the possibilities were endless.

“You. What’ll it be?” barked the oldest of the eight guys working the deli counter this beautiful day.

“Uh…,” Shop Boy stammered.

The guy waved me away dismissively. “Eyyy, who knows what they want? Next!”

Ouch. Paved over like a pothole on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. But that’s another story.

By the time one of the younger deli guys took pity on me and agreed to take my order, I’d had another 10 minutes to practice it. And Mary asks why I order the same thing every time at restaurants.

For instance, let’s head back to the Colonial Diner. The menu had lots of great greasy spoon fare on there. And breakfast dishes all day. Salads and all kinds of fixins, too.

Or so I’m told.

The top item in the center panel of the menu: Colonial Beefburger.

Louise never let me get any farther. It got so that I’d blurt it out every time she even glanced our table’s way. Still, we kept going back.

Who doesn’t love a good burger, right? And the fries were dynamite. Besides, Shop Boy was convinced that the cheesecake would keep Mary alive. See, if you couldn’t tell, Mary loves antiques, houses of a certain vintage and, ahem, printing presses that have seen better days. Stuff that Shop Boy likes to describe as “old and wrecked.” Louise was her idol. And I swear … the chair fetish. Ooh. I’m afraid to sit down in my own home.

Anyway, there’s nothing more old and wrecked than Newburgh, N.Y. Mary fell for it at first sight, even though it was a full 30 minutes down the highway from Middletown. She didn’t have much use for me at first, though. She mistook my shyness for arrogance. Also, back then, Shop Boy was not quite so old and wrecked.

But she decided to give me a break, after more than a few nights at the diner. Shop Boy worked from 5 p.m. till 2 a.m. at the local newspaper. Mary worked there from roughly 10 a.m. till … Shop Boy pulled her by the arm toward the exit. (Shop Boy should have known then that he was in for some late nights with this one. But you know what they say about love … it can’t tell time or something.)

There was no way I was letting the girl drive home without a little coffee … and cherry cheesecake. And my charms, such as they were, wore down her defenses. We agreed to date. But only for a week, setting a deadline for the next Friday when we could either chuck it and walk away with no questions, or re-up for another week.

Then it was a month.

Then a year.

Then I asked her to marry me.

Which happened 20 years ago this week, October 1, 1989.

And Shop Boy has never looked at another item on the menu since.

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One Response to “Colonial Days and Nights”

  1. T Says:

    Oh Shopboy, is it wrong to fall in love with your friend’s sister’s husband? You had me at, “And you know what you want when she wants you to know what you want … or she moves on….”

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