Oh Diner, My Diner

The old-fashioned diner remains one of the quintessential symbols of America.
The old-fashioned diner remains one of the quintessential symbols of America.
Diners don't change much, and that is perfectly alright with most people.
Diners don’t change much, and that is perfectly alright with most people.
It may not be high-end cappuccinos like in Rome, but diner coffee always hits the spot.
It may not be high-end cappuccinos like in Rome, but diner coffee always hits the spot.

When it comes to restaurants, it doesn’t get much simpler than the great American diner. And while restaurants come and go, all those magnificent diners that dot our great land are nothing but the rough diamonds of our culinary landscape. Too greasy? Yes. Too many calories? Sure. Cholesterol bombs? Definitely. Delicious? Absolutely. This culinary dichotomy (eyes raised to the heavens while placing one foot on the grave) is what makes these places a must while we spend time on this earth. Gravy on the biscuits? Must you ask.

But what is it that attracts so many people to the simple American diner? To a large extent, it is a large degree of nostalgia. Diners remind us of simple days, of small town America, of long-gone family time when you could dress casually while enjoying food that at some level helped to bind us as a people. What’s more, when go to a diner, we really don’t care much about how the food tastes. We already know how it’s going to taste. After all, how may permutations of eggs and hash browns can there be. No, going to a diner will always be about feeling differently when we’re there; about unpretentious servers who greet you as if they’ve known you forever. It is about the sweet “seat yourself” melody resonating in our ears, and about not being able to decide what to order because everything looks too good to pass. Heaven on earth, if you ask me. A place to be who you truly are and not the promotional version of yourself. I only wish I could turn back the clock a few decades or so, to a time when I could have added a couple of pancakes to my order. Next time, my friend, next time.

 

4th Of July Through The Lens

Street vendors do a hefty amount of business on July 4th.  Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G.
Street vendors do a hefty amount of business on July 4th. Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G.
Our nation's military is well represented at the National Parade in Washington, DC.  Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G.
Our nation’s military is well represented at the National Parade in Washington, DC. Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G.
More than any previous year, the Vietamese-American community made its presence felt during the 4th of July festivities.  Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G.
More than any previous year, the Vietamese-American community made its presence felt during the 4th of July festivities. Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G.
A Nation's quiet symbol of strength.  Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G.
A Nation’s quiet symbol of strength. Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G.
A trumpet waits to be heard by a patriotic crowd.  Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G.
A trumpet waits to be heard by a patriotic crowd. Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G.

Every year I tell myself that I have seen enough 4th of July celebrations to last a lifetime, but every year I keep returning as if in a pilgrimage to enjoy just one more.  I can’t help it.  Sure, it would be a lot more comfortable to stay home and watch these celebrations on TV, but no matter how much I sometimes get tempted to do just that, I just can’t seem to fathom being idle on a day like this.  Too much happening out there.  Marching bands, dancing groups of all kinds, ceremonial guards, and even pimped automobiles.  It’s all out there amongst the thousands of people who show up in Washington, DC to celebrate our Nation’s independence.  Frankly, our Nation’s capital is one of the best places to be at during this long weekend, if anything to actually witness locals acknowledging other human beings.  That’s right, even the most hardened local bureaucrats seem to show a softer, human side during this time of the year.  But more than that, if you drop by you’ll be amongst some of the proudest Americans you’ll encounter anywhere.  The kind of American President Ronald Reagan had in mind when he uttered some of his most famous lines: “Our country is a special place, because we Americans have always been sustained, through good times and bad, by a noble vision — a vision not only of what the world around us is today, but what we as a free people can make it be tomorrow.”  Well said, Mr. President.