Sunday, January 6, 2013
Danny's "Town Hall" Diner
It was cold enough this morning to make my hands, wrapped around a china mug full of coffee, feel pretty good so I dropped into Danny's Town Hall Diner this morning. Don't know why the guy who owns and runs the place calls it Danny's. His name is Jose Lopez and his family hails from Laredo, Texas. Jose's lived in this county for 50 years; he came here with his family as a little kid and picked cotton in fields where Surprise now sits.
Up until 2008 Danny called his place Danny's Diner but the last few years the place has attracted a bunch of old retired guys from around here, guys who liked to chew on politics over their bacon and eggs so Jose added "Town Hall" to the name. Says those two extra words on his new sign cost him an extra grand, but wouldn't have it any other way.
I walked in this morning, took a seat at the counter and ordered a cup of coffee. Agnes works the counter and handles the register and Darlene waits the tables. Both of them look like they're in their forties and life has been such that they don't look a day younger than that. Agnes wears a starched white waitress smock, wears her hair in soft auburn curls has such an abundance of chest that she looks like she could balance a tray of coffee mugs on them and never spill a drop. Darlene dresses younger; quite a bit younger. The regulars drift from calling her "Darlin Darlene" to "Bo", short for rainbow, that being due to the streaks of purple and orange and blonde streaks gracing her beehive of hair. She wears a lavender blouse, tucked into a black skirt probably two or three inches shorter than appropriate for her age...but the old regulars admire her legs so what the hell.
Since I'm not just a "newbie" Agnes gently placed a china mug on the counter and poured me coffee but wouldn't yet offer me a smart ass greeting she extends to the other guys at the counter or lounging around the long row of tables parallel to the counter.
I took a sip of the strong black coffee and peered through the serving window at Jose who serves as owner and cook. Jose was busy at the grill, his broad brown face awash with steam from pots of chili being readied for lunch. Jose likes to listen to the loud political banter and shout out his own political wisdom to some random "bon mot" from a regular.
This morning a fella tagged as "loose Larry" is holding court about gutless Republicans who caved in on Obama's tax hikes. I haven't been here often enough to know if "loose Larry" has bowel problems or loose lips, but he's speaking to half a dozen oldsters who are nodding their heads in agreement.
"That damned Obama's gonna ruin this country", LL lamented. "He ain't seen a program yet that he wasn't willing to drop a few billion dollars on...."didn't they learn him any math up there in Harvard?..."somebody needs to teach that guy just how much a trillion is!".
Darlene hurried over to Larry's table and poured him a refill and offered "Darlin, it don't do any good to get so worked up about it...the American people voted him back in for another run up the hill and we got to live with it until enough people take a good hard look at the bill".
Larry poured a little cream in his cup and stirred, his lips set in sour resignation. Hal, his table mate, who wears ancient and scuffed brown boots and looks like an aging Marlboro man gone bad, spoke next. Between bites of scrambled eggs he said "won't be long". "How you figure?" queried Larry.
Hal, a strip of bacon pinched between two greasy fingers, stabbed his bacon strip at Loose Larry and said "Lincoln".
Loose Larry countered "now what the hell is that spose to mean?". Hal shoved half a bacon strip into his mouth, took a sip of coffee, and pronounced "Old Abe was right..you can fool some of the people all the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all the people all the time". Satisfied with his wise pronouncement Hal used a convenient sleeve to wipe a bit of grease off his bushy old mustache and began to butter up a triangle of toast.
Just then Jose stuck his head through the serving window and shouted "Hal, we live in a crazy world nowadays...don't be quoting old Abe Lincoln"..."this ain't the same America as back then..we got lotsa crazy people running around here now".
"Well it ain't helping to have a million illegal Mexicans parading across the border every year, Jose!", a rant from an old guy wearing medical smocks sitting at the counter to my right. "You trying to rouse me Davie?", shouted Jose. "I'm fifth generation American and I'll eat a bushel basket of Jalapenos if we haven't been here longer than you!", Jose countered..."I don't cozy up to the idea of illegals coming here any more than you do!"
Like an old turtle, Jose pulled his head back into the kitchen and began flipping hotcakes. Agnes frowned at the fella named Davie and said "Davie, you're an ass....Jose could have made you look worse...he didn't even remind you that he lost his son, Augie, in Iraq, fought and died for this country".
Davie, looking sheepish, said "hell, Agnes, you know I ain't talking about Jose...it's them gang bangers over in Maryvale I'm talking about". "Hey Jose!", shouted Davie, ya got a short stack back there for me buddy?".
Jose flashed a smile and said "coming up, Davie!"...friends once again.
Agnes lifted the coffee pot from the brewer and offered me a refill. I set my hand over the top of my cup and said "no thanks". As I stood to pay for my coffee, a fella named Howard began moaning about his Medicare premiums going up higher than his Social Security increase. All heads turned his way and began nodding in sympathetic agreement.
A busy morning at Danny's Town Hall Diner.