The Diner, America’s Ultimate Symbol, Is Vanishing [PHIL-OSOPHY]
If you had to put America on a plate, it would be the story of the diner. Blue-rimmed thick china and cups that had seen the inside of the dishwasher all too often in the same day. If the stools could speak, each one would have incredible tales to share about who sat there and scoffed a stack of drenched pancakes with sausages and a cup of joe or a meatloaf dinner with gravy, mashed, and veggie.
That's the Disney version of America's ultimate symbol, the likes of Edward Hopper's Nighthawks painting and Suzanne Vega's song, "Tom's Diner." They are slowly disappearing, like Al Mac's Diner, that sadly closed a couple of days ago.
Our family knows and feels the pain of what caused this beautiful, art deco diner, made by the famed DeRaffele Company in New Rochelle, New York in 1910, to close its doors; too many expenses and not enough money to cover them.
I remember like it was yesterday, back in 2013, when Sue Dunse and her family re-opened Al Mac's Diner to 45-minute waits just to get in; now, she has turned the key for the last time, hoping another family will step forward and buy the business. She lamented that between minimum wages going up and up, coupled with all costs also escalating, business suffers when at the end of the week there isn't enough money to pay for all the bills. Once you get behind, it's like slowly drowning in the weeds, and it's nearly impossible to make up for the losses and surface.
In the movies, the classic diner is a mythic place and a zone of escape. Barry Levinson's Oscar-nominated film Diner was based on his own growing up in the 1950s. The photography was richly beautiful. From Pulp Fiction and When Harry Met Sally to books by John Updike and Jack Kerouac, the diner has played such an important part of American culture. My heart breaks every time I see another neighborhood diner, like Al Mac's—justly famous since 1910—close its doors.
Phil Paleologos is the host of the Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter@PhilPaleoloos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.