Feature photo by theeerin
The night is quiet once again as I sit at my computer. The clock on the table says it’s 3:15 a.m. Jesus, is it really that late? Perhaps I should be in bed but the stale coffee from the Diner Grill has made it impossible for me to get any sleep tonight.
The other day, my friend Chino got in from New York where he’s been living for the last year. One of the first things he demanded as I spoke to him on the phone was, “We have to get a late night Slinger at the Diner Grill.”
For those of you who don’t know the Diner Grill, some may think upon first glance that it’s just some burnt-out hole in the wall where you can’t smoke and consists of one counter with about fifteen seats. To be honest, you’re almost reminded of the painting “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.” The one of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis and James Dean, sitting around a counter top at a small diner. The diner truthfully has seen better days since Marilyn and good ol’ James fondled each other at the end of the counter and Elvis shot Heroin while eating fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Which probably wasn’t all that much in the first place, but if you’ve had a Slinger you know it has its place and always will. So I guess it’s just desperately trying to hold its memories and place in time while we devour its nostalgia only to replace it with another Starbucks or some such thing.
We drove west on Irving Park Rd. until we reached The Diner and parked across the street. We did this in silence. There is no reason to talk. We both know we’re going to order a Slinger and a cup of coffee while we read the paper and just sort of blend in for a while. As we crossed the street, I noticed a crazy looking pervert standing on the sidewalk. As we passed, he grabbed my arm proclaiming he was Jesus, and I could be saved. That was good news. I know not to “fuck with da Jesus”. I saw The Big Lebowski, so I understand these things. I just tried to pay as little attention as possible and flicked my cigarette as we walked through the door.
Chino and I haven’t been to the Diner in over a year and nothing has changed. Kenny the cook still holds the line. In fact we still didn’t even have to order, Kenny merely looked at us and said “Two pepperoni pizzas?” We nodded knowing that they don’t serve pizza at the Diner Grill as Kenny threw the hash browns down drenching them with butter. Chino passed the ever important deuce of Red Stripe over the counter to him. We always bring him a beer because being cooks we know anyone who works fifteen hour shifts at a 24-hour grill deserves one… maybe even two.
We took our seats about midway down the long, white counter top and each opened a copy of the Red Eye as our coffee came across. We sat in silence with only the chatter of the television news in the background.
And that’s when Jesus walked through the door.
Our silence was interrupted by a few quarters falling with a click into the slot.
Actually that wasn’t nearly as bad as the country western music that followed. “I had too much to dream last night.” Dear god, why did it have to be country western music?
I could smell Jesus as he sat down next to me mumbling and jabbering to himself. To be honest it looked like he was having a good time.
“Bloggo went bye bye…(mumbling)…Rudolf the red nosed reindeer…. I had too much to dream last night…”
It only took about ten minutes before Kenny had had enough. “Get the fuck out Phil!” Kenny reached over the counter top. “If you ain’t going to buy noth’in then you can’t listen to the box.”
And with that Jesus walked out, passed by the glass and disappeared into the night.
Chino looked up from his paper breaking his own serene meditation in the lines of the Red Eye.
“Do you think he really was Jesus?” Chino asked.
Was it possible? Jesus, a stark-raving, mad bum at the local grill, gargling gibberish just a nuisance to everyone around him?
“I had too much to dream last night.”
“Sure” , I said after a few minutes of contemplation, finishing my Slinger.
For him in his own space in time, he believes he is and that’s all that really matters to him. Just as the Diner Grill can believe that Elvis will come in with James and Marilyn and order his fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches. They will both exist believing that until they are paved over leaving their memory just a far away ripple in the ocean of time.
“I had too much to dream last night.”