The red vinyl covering the seat of the booth groaned as I reached for my yellow mug of diner coffee. Suddenly, my weekend morning (OK, early afternoon) was interrupted by a wave of recollection: driving in a white Jeep on a road that hugged the ocean, windows down and music up.
Much to the dismay of my mother, I have now lived in both of the outlying states in the U.S.: Hawaii and Alaska. As a senior in high school, my rural upbringing and craving for adventure spurred my decision to apply to a university on the island of Oahu.
A few months later, I learned that I got in. With some finagling, faith, and financial aid, I boarded a plane alone and left everything I knew behind. When I landed, I had to figure out how to catch a city bus.
In Honolulu, a city of a million souls, I saw for the first time what it looked like for people to live on top of one another — on the ranch our nearest neighbor was a mile away. I became aware of new cultures each accompanied by their own sights, smells and tastes.
Our sense of smell is intricately linked to our sense of taste — and to memory. So as I reached for that Fiestaware mug, it was the smell of the Kava’s Pancake House breakfast fried rice that transported me to that day years ago when my friends and I were driving to the North Shore of Oahu.
A three-part harmony, a good burger and a cold milkshake are part of what made America great. Not so common anymore, diners call us back to a time of bobby socks, a good jukebox and leather-topped stools where one could belly up for some grub.
My grandfather used to tell me that as a bachelor, he would go to a diner every Thanksgiving to get a turkey dinner. The image has had a Norman Rockwell-esque staying power in my mind since I was small.
That, along with a hangover, drew me to City Diner in Anchorage.