Old Geezers Out to Lunch

Old Geezers Out to Lunch
The Geezers Emeritus through history: The Mathematician™, Dr. Golf™, The Professor™, and Mercurious™

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Geezer at a Clean, Well-lighted Diner

I've recently become a little unnerved by the recognition that I favor favor restaurants, bars, movie theaters and other service establishments that are popular with the grey-haired demographic segment. In other words, I like to go to the same places that senior citizens like to go.

I resist the obvious implications of this.  I like to think of myself preferring quiet, sparsely populated establishments because deep down I'm have an Ernest Hemingway/Edward Hopper aesthetic—that I'm a kind of Nighthawks at a Clean, Well-Lighted Diner sort of person.

Yeah, that's it.

My kind of place. Except for me it would be "Pre-dawn Hawks at the Diner."
When it comes to the dark hours of the night, it means those just before dawn. 
Take restaurants and bars, for example. Over recent years, I've completely lost interest in the trendy places that come alive after 11:00 pm at night. They're now largely populated with silly children, and are so noisy that I can't even hear myself think.  And they are so dimly lit that you can't identify the food on your plate, or what kind of bug is floating in your Scotch. We went to one recently that was highly recommended (it had one of those ridiculous name like "The Sardine Tin" or "Becky's Dilemma")  and were surprised to find it virtually deserted at 9:00. Then at 10:30 as we we finishing dessert, the place exploded with music from a punk band and entry of a herd of manic young adults making so much noise I literally could not hear myself think. (This is why, I think, you see the kids all texting on their phones in these bars—they can't hear one another talk, anyway.)  As we left, the place had a waiting line 40 yards long waiting in subzero temps.  Two weeks later I drove by this restaurant to find it closed and out of business. Such is the nature of trendiness.

Yep. This is indeed the "Happy Perkins." 
One of my favorite casual eateries is s simple Perkins chain restaurant which a close friend has labeled "Happy Perkins". It's been at the corner of France Avenue and highway 494 for thirty years. We call it "happy" out of deference to the rather goofy Scandinavian theme of its furnishings and decorations, and the bobble-headed cheerfulness of its staff. The place is clean, well-lit, with carpeting and window drapes that absorb sound and make it possible to converse quietly. And it's not so busy that you feel the pressure of waiting customers eying you with hostility for your table. Who cares that the average client at Happy Perkins has personal memories of D-day. My family is appalled by the fact that this is where I often choose to go on celebratory days like birthdays and Father's Day, but hey, I like salmon with double sides of broccoli. And I like being able to hear everybody at the table.

For pure drinking, give me a quiet neighborhood pub with a few single-malts for sale, a bar-tender who knows how to shut up, and one television (not two dozen big-screens) playing the local sports team. My ideal bar always has an empty table or two and is filled with small groups quietly enjoying themselves. I was at a recommended downtown bar the other day where there was  not one but two bachelorette parties going on, and where a simple 12-year-old McCallan went for $16 a shot. Spare me.

What brought all this home was stopping by a simple Micky D's this morning for a cup of really hot coffee. When running errands on a Sunday morning, I sometimes stop there on the way home to read the sports page and read about the Minnesota Vikings latest coaching mistake. McDonalds is so brightly lit that it's easy for me to see the fine print in the Star Tribune. And it's clean. And I like paying a $.99  for essentially the same coffee that Starbuck calls "Blonde Roast" and charges $4.50.

 It didn't register at first, but then I realized that three customers before me in line all ordered "senior coffee." "Is this what I've come to?" I wondered to myself. "Hanging at at McDonalds with old coots on Sunday mornings?" I reassured myself, though, that I was considerably younger that these old-timers. They looked like they might have personally known Mark Twain.

"Senior discount?" said the snide McDonald's minion to me when I reached the front of line. "You get the senior citizen discount if you're over 55 years old, you know."

Someday, perhaps, the kid will learn about Edward Hopper and Ernest Hemingway.


  1. When my twelve year old grand daughter and I are "home alone" I always ask, "Where do you want to go for supper, Laura" and she always answers "Is Denny's OK, Gramma?"
    You bet it is. She can have her supreme favorite, turkey dinner, and I can have egg Benedict (perfect for a senior appetite). But, the coffee is better at McDonald's.

  2. Every time I read this post it chimes more musically with my own views. Living in rural France, however, frees me from much of the younger generations' passing fads and fancies. And there is the occasional restaurant worth a visit. But neighbourhood pubs, those we do miss.

  3. I like your idea of a good bar. And they may even know your name!

  4. I have a Hopper oil recreation (I know, I know) over my living room couch...

    This is why I favor a little local hang-out, a positively dingy little place called Jimmy's. I commandeer the corner booth and watch folks drift in and out. I get most of my ideas that way!


  5. Great post and I feel the same way. I'm not paying for noise, trends and here today, gone tomorrow restaurants. Believe me, I've spent a small fortune (or a large one) in bars, lounges and high end restaurants. That is not the case in the second half of my life. I don't eat out often and never go to bars anymore. So speaking only for myself, I frequent those "service establishments that are popular with the grey-haired demographic segment" because they usually give senior discounts. There, I've finally admitted that I'm old...

    I keep forgetting to tell you that, you have the greatest headers! One after another.