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Monday, October 3, 2022

It's Showtime!

There's nothing like planning a trip to Vegas to get your mind and imagination engaged.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

It's been over a year since I retired from Royal Canadian Veeblefetzer, where I eked out a living hand-holding the size 7 grommet line while it projectile expurgated as many as 30,000 round black rubbery grommet turds per day.

The other Saturday, a few of us from the plant met for lunch at the Flusherville Dairy.

The 'Dairy', as savvy locals call it, is perched in the shadow of the local railway spur line. Once, it was a working dairy with cows and milk and so on, located on the railroad track so product could be transported easily - things like dairy, dairy products, and dairy byproducts. A little store was added to sell milk and cheese directly to local customers, and a little snack bar was added to sell local snacks to local milk and cheese customers.

As the years wore on, corporate consolidation ate up small local businesses like the Dairy. The cows and milking machines went. Farmers sold their milk to bigger companies and the dairy processing went. The local products went and the store became a convenience outlet, selling smokes, newspapers, candy, Hot Cinnamon Fire-Pix toothpicks, frozen Lolas, firecrackers (around Victoria Day), ball point pens, combs, pints of Old Harper, flashlight batteries, beef jerky, and the coup-de-grass - corporate-produced milk brought in from Toronto.

The snack bar remains as well. It's got a counter with about eight round padded stools, the padding long desecrated into oblivion by thousands of customers' asses and their high-test counter food-fueled farts.

There are just six cramped booths, with Formica tables, the pattern worn away where your elbows go, their chrome edges trying valiantly in a last-ditch effort to shine like they did in the thirties, and failing.

The entire place seems sprayed with a few gallons of 'Movie Patina Spray', which removes any semblance of primary colors, and fills the air with an unexplainable gauzy haze. The walls are festooned with dusty framed prints of bygone days, fields, haystacks, farms, cows, horses... our favorite being one of a horse-drawn wagon entitled proudly "The Last Load".

Behind the counter reside fountain drink machines, Hamilton Beach milkshake makers and their stainless steel cannisters, stacked upside down and ready, various and sundry commercial advertising pieces for long gone local soft drinks.

When was the last time anyone enjoyed a Rejuvenating Brambleberry Whoopsy! for All Day Energy? Surely the faded poster featuring the recommendation of a winking, comely Whoopsy! flapper can't be ignored.

The menu is on the wall, too, in the form of helpful prints of various short-order selections. For example, a depiction of a hamburger is proudly festooned with the helpful label "HAMBURGER". A mosaic of these foot square works of caloric art tempt customers with the aforementioned HAMBURGER as well as HOT DOG, APPLE PIE, SUNDAE and of course GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH. Naturally, each selection is paired with glistening glass of ice cold Coke - obviously the provider of the engaging food paintings.

There's a flat top grill back there, and the star of the counter is the glass-enclosed hot dog display, which slow-roasts dodgy looking frankfurters on long, rotating, greasy steel rollers, just as has constantly since 1938. In fact, some of the foot longs being rotated also date from 1938.

If you know me at all, you know that I am happiest in such a counter joint, now few and far between. I love all of it and will risk ptomaine poisoning to eat at a greasy spoon like the Dairy. Serve it up with a side of botulism!

The counter is manned by the very portly Carl, and his Dad, fondly known as 'Dad' - the live-in occupants and owners of the Dairy.

Carl has two jobs. One is to take and make the food orders, and the other is to constantly shoo Dad away and suggest he go upstairs 'to rest'. It's the eternal struggle between aging father and sweetheart son. Senile and infirm, Dad wants to clean, help, undo things just done by Carl, and randomly move things around behind the counter. Carl wants Dad safely out of the way, resting, instead of exhausting himself with the cutlery.

So anyway, I got to the Dairy and pulled open the ancient wooden screen door, which features an enamel metal Drink Coca-Cola push bar, mounted at an angle across the oily, grimy door frame. In I went to the convenience store, its old hardwood boards creaking in complaint, the screen door slamming behind me, bouncing a few times for good annoying measure.

I think Carl doesn't fix the door so that people won't stay too long in the diner - it goes WHAM wham wham like a bomb anytime anyone comes in or out.

My buddy Dwiggie was already there, making himself comfortable in one of the booths, the cup of coffee in front of him signifying that Veeblefetzer alumni court was in session. He raised a hand and I waved, and walked to the booth.

"Hey Royal, how'r things, Dad, that's okay, put that down." said Carl.

"Hey Carl, hey Dad, hey Dwiggie," I said, sliding into the booth across from Dwiggie. 

Dwiggie is my closest friend in Flusherville. He's just a year older than I and he's got a few experience lines in his face, but he somehow sports a full mane of jet black hair, and a full mustache and short beard, and I happen to know he's never used a drop of Grecian Formula, or any other hair dye.

Dwiggie lives in the 2020s, but his hair has proudly stayed in the 70s. I think he modeled for one of those haircut cards the barber used to show you so you could say yes to a mullet, or shag, or whatever, and everyone knows those guys were ready to get down, as long as it didn't muss their hair or wrinkle their leisure suit.

"Dwiggie, is that a gray streak in your mullet?" I asked.

"Fuck off," answered Dwiggie. "I ordered you a foot long from the crypt."

"Fuck off, Dwiggie."

Nobody but nobody dared eat the glistening, slightly green ever-rotating long dogs.

We had just started to catch up when Jimmy Poon walked in. We didn't hear him coming, as Jimmy always carefully guides the screen door closed in a futile effort to promote serenity.

"Hey, Jimmy Poon," I said.

"Hey, Royal, hey Dwiggie," said Jimmy Poon, sliding in next to me.

"Hey, Jimmy Poon," said Dwiggie.

"Hey, Jimmy Poon," I said again, just for good measure.

We chatted about things at the Royal Canadian Veeblefetzer grommet plant, how Jimmy Poon's various and sundry kids were doing, the Jays, and the Leafs chances this year (none).

None of us noticed the WHAM wham wham of the screen door, particularly, but what we could not ignore was the bellowing voice that followed it, out in the store.

"It's.... SHOWTIME!"

All three of us looked up, big-eyed as deer that had picked up the sound of a breaking branch and menacing  footsteps.

"Who invited Showtime?" whispered Dwiggie.

"Not me!" I responded. I looked at Jimmy Poon, and he said nothing, but gave a rapid, tiny left-right shake of the head. Not Jimmy Poon.

"Maybe he's just buying smokes, Dwiggie?" I said, praying I was right. "Slide over to the aisle so he can't sit with us."

All of us, including Carl and Dad, looked to the diner entrance, watching, huddled like soldiers trying to become invisible.

And there he was, at the diner threshold. We waited for the inevitable crowing.

Arms spread as wide as the gaps between his teeth, hairy armpits on full display, he bellowed.

"It's... SHOWTIME!!!!!"


    1 comment:

    1. Those types of places to grab a bite are few and far between now.


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