On the warm, lush, first morning of autumn, I drove past many walkers and joggers–up and about for the health benefits, I suppose. I however, was up and about for the hash browns. Oh dear. Did I say that out loud? Really, it was the change of scenery I was after, I swear.
Prior to summer schedule interruptions, Thursday was Library Day and last week, I finally plugged it back on the agenda, though, not without the same issue as before; I’m ready to go by 8:00 a.m. and the library doesn’t open until 10:00. Can you imagine? Those of you who have been reading Middle Passages for a while know most Thursdays mornings I’d go to the French Café in town for a cup of coffee while waiting. Sometimes I’d write as I sipped my brew, other times I’d write later about what I observed while sipping, but for some reason, this past Thursday, I wanted to experience something different.
It is easier to observe things when they feel new and fresh, I guess, and as it happens, in the resort town next to us, there is a coffee shop that I don’t get to very often. The sign on the back wall there says: “If you are in a hurry, you are in the wrong place.” My husband and daughter don’t like to go there on weekends, because you can wait a long time but a wait was what I was after last week, as it would give me plenty of time to pen observations into my notebook. The delay can also be worth it if you order their killer hash browns—though of course, that had no impact on my decision to visit. It was all about the writing exercise. Honest.
So, I rather than traveling my regular Thursday route, I drove over the causeway past my favorite two boats plus two walkers who didn’t even glance at them, over the town line to a seaside settlement that was built on the long flat peninsula cutting between Massachusetts Bay and Boston Harbor. The second you are over the line, the light brightens from the ambient shadows and colors wrought by thick woods, hills and winding roads and becomes clear and luminous on the flat, treeless streets lined with shingled cottages built between the ocean and the bay.
Jiggling over the rutted bumps that dapple these weathered streets, I arrived my at destination which sits at the bottom corner of a brick condominium building, positioned on land formerly occupied by an old amusement park. Across the street, a seasonally empty parking lot stretches to where a cement sea wall stands at attention and eyes a high-tide beach.
Inside the eatery, ten or so tables are surrounded by walls decked with kitschy signs like: “What if the Hokey Pokey really is what it is all about?” and “Be nice or leave.” A three-quarter wall blocks the view of the kitchen from the rest of the place and is stacked with antique toasters, old fashioned soda fountain equipment, and even a tall, red and green tin labeled “Premium Saltines,” exactly like the one my mother used when we were growing up.
I jotted all these images down in my blue notebook after ordering, until the man at the table next to me leaned over and asked me if I was writing a restaurant review. Not once, in all the months that I’ve been going to the French Café in my town, has anyone ever asked me what I was doing while I scribbled away. Smiling, I told him that I was simply entertaining myself while waiting for my breakfast, adding that restaurant critics usually “perform” in secret.
At his thoughtful nod, my food was delivered and I dug in. Not that it matters a bit, but those hash browns were worth writing–well, I mean waiting for.