It’s a poet’s Friday night out.
I’m cruising the three city blocks around my house.
Driving five miles under the posted speed, just to take it all in
and get under the hateful, drag racers’ skin.
I make a pilgrimage to the vacant, burrito palace. Not a customer in the place. I set up shop in a favorite, honey-oak framed window seat that would have looked real classy in the seventies, when it was a new national burger chain, but nowadays it just looks lame.
I pull out my moleskin with its sketches and lists. Call and leave messages for few old friends. It’s Friday night and the three employees are shuffling around in the back making my lone, 24 hour, chorizo burrito and I do my filial duty and call Mom, buoyant as only a son’s could be, my voice booming to the empty seats.
Later on, I’m on the prowl again. I’m determined to track down this vision, I can see it so clear in my mind… the Waffle House, like some urban, full moon hovering over a Friday night. I u-turn down University, past the neon script of a florist’s storefront sign and a few no-tell motels. I can see it — a brighter, democratic, Edward Hopper’s Nighthawk — where two waitresses, on break, are standing in the parking lot smoking cigarettes.
I take out my camera to snap a photo, and the batteries have run down. I know this photo exists on the Flickr file sharing service somewhere, so I stuff the camera in my coat pocket and walk in, full knowing what I want to do — drink a decaffeinated coffee with a few packets of Splenda and write.
I slide into the booth behind a handful of gabbing fraternity pledgers. They appear amused about the seemingly fey poet, and about everything else, for that matter. One gal with a buttoned visor is entertaining six old crows sitting at the counter. She says, “you would have thought this place was a one-star last night. There was a fight right outside the door. They didn’t care that there were two cops and an ambulance parked out there. Crazy.” The waitress takes my order, then returns with a bun-o-matic carafe in the right hand, and a branded ceramic cup, three thimbles of cream and three pink sweetener packets in the left. I know that I’ve found what I was after she fills my cup and asks, before heading back to the kitchen, “you all right hun?”