Every City Has One


Uncle had a minor procedure fer his ailin' back yesterdy, y'all. An' they give him a wee bit of twilight juice. Whole thang wuz over in 20 minutes, but they doan let ya drive fer a spell, meanin' that Aunty played chauffeur.

Soon as the nurse helped Uncle into the buggy--he insistin' he din't need no help a'tall--Uncle said. "Let's go up to O'Malley's . Think the special today be French Dip. We'll git us some in honor of yore comin' journey."

I doan like French dip. I ain't sure it is akshully French. But the man wuz ailin' so I indulged him. An' oddly, I like O'Malley's. They make a respectable hamburger. The soup is homemade. An' folks who patronize the place is a cross-section of our city.

Y'all know the sort of place I mean--ever city has one. It's barely a notch above a dive. Cleaner, no obvious substance impaired folks, khaki shorts on the teen waitresses swingin' their ponytails, an--the key- a home cooked menu. Fried Catfish an' grits. Turkey an dressin'. Meatloaf an' mashed potatoes. Baked chicken an' creamed corn. Ya' wish yore wife would make it. Ya wish yore wife would let ya'
eat it. AN' doan fergit the homemade pies, cakes an' muffins.

The regulars is so regular that when the odd newcomer wanders in, wif'out a regular to introduce 'em around, it's like the EF Hutton commercial: Silence falls on the whole place. Thar's a heap o' single diners --mostly fellas--who come in, grab one of the periodicals on the window ledge, place their order then make their way to "their" spot, noddin' an' smilin' to the other folks.

The "decor" is whatever people done brought to slap on the walls--some of it is fall-down-funny.

Most is one-up-fansmanship.

It's the sort of spot whar' the hats an' the caps congregate wif'' no one much carin' about peckin' order. The UPS fella grabin' a bite afore the long afternoon push, standin' in line behind him is two dental techs worriet over the cost of chile 'care. Middle America. The votes the pols will need next year.

But thar's a discreet chunk of the top hats who show up early mornin' or near the end of the lunch crush. Somehow, them tasseled Italian loafers ain't out of place amid the boots an' rubber soles. They is part of, not a disturbance of, the camaraderie among the regular O'Malley customers. The hats bus they own tables if it be busy time, an' hep theyselves to the cawfee. They congregate in twos or fours, quiet an' not lookin' to be seen by nobody. Soon enough their haids is all peerin' at some plan scratched on paper place mat.

"Ain't that Ole Man Willis?" I as't Uncle
"Yep" Uncle said between bites of his burger.

"Well why on earth is
he in heah when his own office has lunches catered by Chez Gourmet?" I whispered.

Uncle looked up wif'a frown. "Doan be thick, Belle. Chez Frisee is fer junior execs that think they's runnin' thangs. Willis, now? He knows the value of a dollar an' the value of hearin' what Officer Hal thar' has to say about what's out on our streets. Them hats is in heah to make shure thangs stay oiled."

We munched in silence fer a spell, "Ain't it odd, Aloysius, that if all these top hats is in heah quietly seein' to thangs' that they's hardly any of the Young Turks in heah? Ya know, to curry favor an' all? "

Uncle squirted a line of mustard along the length of a french fry, "Nope. It ain't odd. Them Turks pay wif' plastic. O'Malley's is cheap an' good 'cause they doan take no plastic. To pay in cash, youse watchin' pennies an' stretched or youse flush 'cause ya' onc't watched yore pennies. An' still do."

Does yore city have an O'Malley's?


moi said...

Flying Star, although there are nine locations, and Duran's Central Pharmacy.

BTW, Uncle must have a tough stomach. After being twilighted for my toe, I was starving. Went to have breakfast at Flying Star. And tossed it back up in their bathroom. Didn't eat for another 24 hours.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if I get what O'Malley's is. If it means a cheap place where Big Wheels hang out, then Yes. Couple of places like that in Troll County. Including a park, "power park" where the powers-that-be quietly observe the hoi-polloi whilst brown-bagging it.

darkfoam said...

I live between 2 small towns that are only seperated by a river. (combined populations ca. 7000 people)
We have places like this although we don't seem to have a lot of Eyetalian Loafer kind of men. Johnston and Murphy kind of guys are a different story though.

fishy said...

Oh yes we does!
Pete's on the Street.
Owned by a fine Greek fellow.
At one end are all the Greeks, their gyros and lamb everythings. At the other end, folks in workers uniforms hunched over their meat and three with tea. It's so busy, the parking lot looks like a used truck farm.

Bout 3 in the afternoons, in the lull between dinner and supper, the tassel loafers start showing up in their sleek silver rides... They leave their jackets and ties in the car, and roll up their sleeves on the way to the door. I am certain sure most of the important behind the scenes business in this town is conducted on those aging mustard yellow laminate tables.

My best to Uncle. Sounds to me like that is a man who knows how to celebrate a win. Hope the back thingy was as sccessful as the lunch. MUSTARD?!?!?! on his fries?
Here I was thinking he was a gent.

Sharon Rudd said...

A fine tale, Aunty. And an interesting question, you pose. Considering the size of my city, I'm thinking the closest approximation would be some of the neighborhood joints that sell Cincinnati-style chili. And pie!

Jenny said...

First, I hope Uncle is mending well. Second, I'm like Moi - anything closely looking like a narcotic makes me less than hungry. Third.... there's an O'Malley's two minutes from my office; full of police officers for breakfast. I was just there yesterday with my little brother. I love it, but I have a hard time convincing friends it's worth the visit.

BTW... because of your book post last week, I now have "The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake" on audio book and I'm listening while working in the shop... ready by the author... and I like it, so thanks!!

Aunty Belle said...

Flyin' Star huh? A Moi hang out--I love these places--very intriguing people watchin' at these spots. Sorry ya lost yore cookies--but assume the toe is mended?

ya got it--cheap eats, big wheels. A power park? I like that! Growin' up in Hawg Town Creek, thar' used to be a fella wif' a dry cleanin' plant whar' the city slickers ain't likely to stop in--so the real power worked behind scenes wif' out pryin' eyes.

J&M shoes git the same job done. what's on the menu in yore local power diner?

Greeks? in SC? Well now, I is charmed. I'll have the Moussaka please. On Uncle's mustard fires--I did mention he was under influence of twilight sleep? Looky...he got in the car protetin' he wuz fine to drive an' what a silly rule, then said "Looks like it might rain today"

I laughed out loud! The windshield wipers wuz already slappin'

ha! Now now, thar' MUST be some food truck whar the behind the scenes crowd gathers.

Aunty Belle said...

oh I knew youse gonna have a favorite dive. What is yore favorite menu item? Howdy to kid brother.

Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake? Magical realism--very interesting framework, ain't it? But the premise--that some folks can "taste" (or feel or intuit) hidden emotions of others, an how that is such a burden, I'se sympathetic to that idea. You?

Jenny said...

Very sympathetic. Interesting, interesting character. I'm only at chapter 10, but she breaks my heart.

Anonymous said...

Okay. Then I did get the gist of the post. I think Uncle will agree with me on why the "power park" and the dry cleaning plant are actually better than O'Malley's.

The "young turks" and other unsavory elements can invade O'Malley's and maybe pick up a snippet of conversation they shouldn't hear. And alibi their presence by saying they heard the food was good.

They can't get within 300 yards of a conversation at the Park without being seen. And none of them have brown-bagged it in their entire lives so they have no reason to be there.

And while the hoi-polloi sense something about the powers and leave them alone, they might toss "young turks" and reporters over the rail to the hungry gators.
Or worse.

sparringK9 said...

not a power joint, but a regular food shop: sues. best burger in town. still make em one at a time on a big oll timey grill. theres lots of canned preserves on the counter, fudge, old school games like pac man and donkey kong, homemade cakes, ice cream cones, candy in jars. a big white board where you can ask for some one to be prayed for. bible verses everywhere. fairy crosses (sterite), arrowheads on the wall with deer heads too. bad art. tacky booths. the burgers ARE good. so are the shakes. V and I split the burgers they are so big. and when they call your number its more syllables than you can imagine.

sparringK9 said...

oh. whos in there? ex-pats, locals, tourists and always sue and her family. The cops all hang out at the apple house.

Aunty Belle said...


I can imagine the emotion of it if she's readin' it herself. Thas' a good way to know the story.

Uncle WOULD agree wif' ya--the dry cleanin' plant? Owned by a fella that also owned 2,000 acres but ya'd never know it if ya din't know it. Our town is in midst of a a quiet power struggle--we's simply grown too big. The $$ chase is changin' the landscape. We should moved 10 years ago. But, it's complicated for a whole host of reasons.

Sue's huh? DO she git up to DRBP? Now I has two places to check out come fall. I like her whiteboard idea. Ex-pats. Ex-pats is what we's all gonna be soon enough iffin' we doan git thangs turned around. Ex-pats in our own land/ town.

recently I seen two ole school democrats say they's afraid now --they sees it now.

darkfoam said...

That depends on which diner you eat at. My dad-in-law is a business man. Many of his cohorts meet early, early at an establishment that serves huge from scratch biscuits .... with gravy too if so desired.
Actually our diner in the next wee community over serves biscuits, apple fritters, bbq, etc, etc ...

Anyway, I was thinking about uncle's surgery yesterday and wondering if it went well and provided the relieve he needed.
How's your back, btw?

Aunty Belle said...

mornin' to ya!

Uncle had an epidual--takes a little while to know if it helps. But the doc said the MRI of the lumbar area din't look too bad so we has high hopes.

Mah back is OK as long as I baby it plenty. (Had an epidural already some years ago) Ain't ya a dear to recall an' ask about it? Thanky.

czar said...

Bonnie's looks just like it.

When the deadlines aren't too rough, I meet up there every Thursday with some guys 25-30 years older than me -- no small feat. Two in particular are wonderfully articulate, aging socialists with PhDs in engineering -- one a diehard atheist, the other very much a man of the church. (Lot of religious arguments take place, too.) The former worked in the EPA long ago enough to say that, "All that stuff you're doing in Oak Ridge and around it . . . it's sooner or later gonna start killing the Smokies." Of course, he was right.

[I remember sitting in the YMCA steamroom onetime with a guy who drove big rigs out of Oak Ridge. He said, "If the American people knew what kind of stuff was next to them on their highways, they'd revolt."]

It's fun to watch the looks from the tables around us -- generally people at least as old as my friends. They seem quite puzzled that old white guys from the South can possibly be anything but Limbaugh worshippers, and that "socialist" might not be a euphemism for something else, or a catch-all for some Other that people can't quite name.

Worked for many years for an Atlanta columnist and editor who was a Second Amendment-supporting white Baptist -- and a liberal. Folks don't know that such things exist.

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming . . .

Aunty Belle said...

ya met yore deadline? Good goin'.

Oh I luv this vignette. Exactly. Ya ain't a good Southerner iffin' ya cain't a have good jaw wif' all types. Seems to me the key is sincerity.

Aunty is one of them obnoxious Conservatives on morals an manners an ' such-like, 'cause it seems to me that in the long run, that foundation serves individuals an' communities the best. But the "manners" part do mean listenin' to others, an' takin' due respect fer whar' folks is comin' from.

Oddly, some of mah own best jawin' friends is atheist/ socialists--but I know they ain't meanin' Stalin. They mean personal liberty an' a chicken in every pot. At heart they want all to be provided fer. The INTENT is carin' even though I has enormous issues wif' the methods. But the basis of our conversations is the full participation of citizens in the common good.

I like that ya appreciate Southerners ain't a monolithic segment of the country in terms of pollyticks.

As fer the EPA--heh. I wish folks DID know--I wish we'd yell it from the mountain tops in the Smokies an Rockies--I'd pray that folks would revolt about the destruction goin' on.

Soon I'se gonna git up mah post on food--folks has NO CLUE the horrors ahead. The politicization of yore food--mercy on us all.

Pam said...

We have "The Lunch Box" in downtown OKC, been around for years and years and years. When I was working downtown, we called it the "Linoleum Club." Home-made pies and decor that was modern in 1954. Great post Auntie, I love your stories. I hope Uncle is doing well after his procedure. And you didn't have to do too much nurse-maiding!!!

Karl said...

Good morning Aunty Belle,

Sadly all the places around here have gone the way of the national chains. One place I can think of is the Hawk n' Dove on Capitol Hill. I haven't been there in a long time, but the food was good as was the bar. You could have lunch and at the table to one side, a group of construction wokers and on the other side members of congress.

Hope Uncle mends well. He has refined tastes, I find whole seed mustard best on fries.

Anonymous said...

Now that all the comments have been read, it seems clear to me the new gathering place of diversity is here on the blogs. And I think a lot happens behind the scenes because of what is written on them.