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 I just got back from my talk at Molloy College — standing room only! Until they made me set up more than five chairs!

But I jest. What a nice gathering, sponsored by the Molloy College Poet in Residence Barbara Novack, who because she’s a poet and invited me to her turf validates all my ambitions to be taken seriously as a writer. Now, if only the MacArthur Genius Awards people would also wise up.

And — this is so exciting — an actual, real live reader of this blog came too!! Thank you Pat (and Shirley) for making me think very highly of myself as the kind of blogger who people will come out to see on a chilly November afternoon when they could just have easily stayed home in their jammies drinking tea and writing sonnets.

Speaking of poets and poetic experiences: So I gave my talk about the Six Tips for living a creative life in the suburbs and I want to elaborate today on Tip No. 5. Or maybe it’s No. 4 — I don’t really pay attention to myself when I’m talking — the one about going out for a midnight snack.

It was important to me, when I was writing my book about Staying Put and concentrating on staying close to home and observing the small pleasures of life , that I get out and walk on the wild side from time to time in my little village on the Long Island Sound. And by that I mean that once in a while I would traipse out to the local 24-hour diner and get a grilled cheese sandwich at 2AM. I like hanging out with the night owls of my neighborhood, and I really like grilled cheese sandwiches.

More to the point, it got me out of my comfort zone and exposed me to moods and thought patterns and reveries that would not occur to me unless I was sitting under bad  florescent lighting in the middle of the night with a display of various cream pies revolving in a nearby vitrine. Ideas: if you want to get ideas, sometimes you have to go find them at the 24-hour diner.

Now, usually when I am speaking to a roomful of fellow art journalists and writers and I am telling them about my Tip No. 5 (or 4), I am thinking of the Columbus Diner in Mount Vernon, New York, where I used to get my 2AM grilled cheese sandwiches from 1994 – 2004. But not any more, not since my trip through the Gracious South two weeks ago. No sir; for verily I say unto you that I have found my new favorite 24-hour diner, and this is the diner to which all other diners must bow.

And here’s why:

It’s got pancake syrup (not in those plastic cartridges with peel-off aluminum tabs) as part of the table-top furnishings.

There’s a Gravy of the Day.

With Biscuits.

The menu includes food for the soul.

Overheard conversation contains complaints about what was and was not “available when I got out“. Of prison, or the army, the priesthood,  the Young Republicans of 1968…one can only imagine.

And where is this Shangri-La of 24-hour diners?

It’s on Broadview Avenue in Warrenton, Virginia.

And what is it called?

Good diners make good neighbors. Stop by here on a snowy evening. Take the Breakfast Special No. 3 Less Traveled By.

Frost Diner. For the poetic experience.

Sadly, Top Cat and I were passing through Warrenton, Virginia in the middle of the morning so I have not yet had the pleasure of testing their grilled cheese sandwiches at 2AM.

But their Deconstructed French Toast is excellent.

(This is how I deconstruct French Toast: 2 pancakes, topped with a plain omelet, drenched in syrup. And the tea wasn’t bad, either.)

You know; I’m in the mood right now for some new ideas not to mention a 2AM Long Island grilled cheese sandwich. See you on Friday, when I take you to my local 24-hour diner here on the Isle of Long in the middle of the night and show you all the ideas I find there!

8 comments to Tip of the day

  • Deborah

    Is that a JUKE BOX?!

  • Sigh – I miss diners. I love all the condiments standing to attention in front of the jukebox and the little wave from the serviette on top.

  • Can’t wait – I’m curious as to what village you live in. (I lived in Northport for 8 yrs.) I’ll have to show this to my husband, who loves diners, and we have been to many!! nothing like them for everyday comfort and the best food!
    My daughter used to live next door to a great diner in RedHook, NY and did the 2 am visit many times!!

  • Susan

    I miss diners too! Having lived in the Northeast for a time, and enjoyed the local diners and their 2am Greek omelets, I am sad to say that the only 24-hour option here is a Walmart 17 miles away. Enjoy your grilled-cheese-late-night-florescent-light experience for all of us, Vivian! : )

  • Joan/Jesse

    I’ve loved diners since childhood. Not that we had that many on the west coast, but the one I recall as being the best of all was on Rte. 66 (another favorite)in Albuquerque, NM…and one in Flint, MI where I had the extreme displeasure of living for 4 lost years of my life.

    I can’t help but think of Edward Hopper’s “Night Hawks” when diner is mentioned…the epitome of 24 hr, ghastly flourescent lighting experience.

  • Deborah

    I lived in Flint for 13 years

  • Nadine

    I live in the land of diner — New Jersey! They’re everywhere. It’s the only thing in NJ that I’ll miss when we inevitably move when we retire, but that’s several years off.

  • Jacquelyn

    My first born heard it as “girl-cheese” sandwiches
    and those that followed learned that too…
    Funny thing how they hear and learn….our shepherd malemute was a “chevy malibu” and Jefferson Starship’s Miracles to my raised in the garden daughter was “Marigolds”.
    You know I think diners are an East Coast thing…I sure don’t think such as the chain “Shari’s or Sambo’s, fit.
    For the life of me I sure can’t do syrup with eggs….ewwwww. But I know they do make jam/jelly omelets in France. One of these days I will get the list of diners from that guy on the food channel and cross the country for biscuits and gravy. Something I would never make.

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