The International Writers Magazine: USA REVISITED - John waxes with nostalgia on a trip down memory lane in search of a greasy fryup
The Excellent Diner's Excellent Adventure
John M Edwards
Everyone knows that the iconic boxy metallic diners of 1950s Americana, straight out of “American Graffiti,” are all owned by the ancient fraternal order of the Greeks. Thus for lunch on the illimitable laminated menus you can get hamburgers or gyros, meatloaf or moussaka.
But this does not mean it is all Greek to me. The classic English “fryup” (scrambled eggs, greasy bacon, hash browns, white toast, cherry jam, and oily joe) is what all of this is about.
I returned recently to Westfield, New Jersey, where I lived for three years in the past, accompanied by my Columbian friend with the flash surname "Johanna London." Here in this (yes: "quaint") colonial town, I used to commute every day on the Raritan Valley Line to “Newark Penn Station” and “New York Penn Station”—often confused by new immigrants as being the same place--from my groovy apartment above Tullio’s Hair Salon on North Avenue to my office at Pocket Books in Rockefeller Center. So I was surprised to notice on my revisit that Tullio’s was out of business.
Too, I noticed something else was missing, one block away on the same street.
But what exactly?
Wait, “The Excellent Diner” was gone!
I remembered back to the time I brought my foreign friends to experience a real American breakfast, involving grabbing an old copy of National Geographic stacked by the door. And the nice waitress asking, “THE USUAL?!” While looking merely mum’s-the-word about my recent acquisition for reasons of memorabilia of a genuine “Louis’s Excellent Diner” souvenir ashtray. (I still have it stashed away, somewhere, along with a stolen Hoffbrau Haus mug.)
Years ago, the Germans, in an absurdist move, bought The Excellent Diner right out from under the friendly owners, whom were named “Louis and Vicky,” I think, obviously dumbfounded by Deutschmarks. The gung-ho gregarious Germans busily moved the landmark diner amid much fanfare, one of the last in a dying breed which could still be found on old Route 22, the road leading from Pennsylvania to New York, and which is still ranked the second most dangerous highway in the US after the LA Freeway.
The successful transfer of the diner from the USA to Germany was covered both by The Westfield Leader and The Schwabische Post—but not by any other news organization that I know of, alas. Now the Excellent Diner was to be found 200 klicks north of Munich in the town of Aalen, not far from Bremen and the Pied Piper of Hamelin.
Instead of luring away rats, however, the local populace of “Krauts” (but not including "USA Revisited" editor Gary Lee Kraut) instead set traps for tourists, whom, if they could prove they had eaten in the lovely diner in Westfield, New Jersey (which recently won a “Main Street USA” Award), received a free meal. In my nostalgic dreams, at least, I completed the pilgrimage to the land of The Pied Piper as a Paid Diner eating Eggs Benedict and drinking Fountain Floats amid unerringly balmy Baltic breezes.
The Excellent Diner’s “Excellent Adventure” continues onward.
||According to a fairly recent rumor on the online site “Chowhound,” a clued in blogger informed a disbelieving audience that the famous diner had once again made another move. This time: from Germany to France. Indeed, no less an org than EuroDisney has apparently found a final resting place for this wacky piece of downhome cultural kitsch: Disneyland Paris!
© John M. Edwards, March 2013
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BIO: John M. Edwards is an NATJA award-winning travel writer
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