Coffee: Organic Dark Roast, Don Pablo’s; my last batch of the bag; it’s been with me since Christmas and gave me a good excuse to start using my coffee grinder again; my morning rituals have turned to nighttime and I’m grinding the beans before work; like the coffee, the experience is dark, quiet, and a little lonely, but in that good way that makes you glad to bump into someone the next time you’re out
I went back to Burlington to see some friends. We ate dinner at a new Tex-Mex restaurant that took over an old, abandoned steakhouse. The steakhouse was closed most of my life, shutting it’s doors somewhere around twenty years ago, and it took all those twenty years for someone else to come in and buy it. Inside, the walls were different colors and the stereo played a bit of Latin guitar, but the place was still so much the same as to drag out my old memories. It was the kind of place that gave you bowls of peanuts, and the kind of place that didn’t care if you threw the used shells on the ground.
The one swinging door that’s kept swinging in my old hometown is restaurants. The mall dried up, so did the new shops around Alamance Crossing. Years ago it was a train town and then it was textiles but those are long gone. One sad sock factory keeps running out by Mebane. That hasn’t stopped people from moving in. New apartments go up all the time, only they aren’t for real residents, the kind you can create a community from, but bedroom divers making the day’s commute to Greensboro, a bigger city that houses their 9-to-5’s and social lives, so Burlington is just a cheaper place to sleep.
But we’ve all got to eat so the restaurants keep coming. In my lifetime, I’ve seen so many diners come and ago. Different cuisines, same locations. They just put a Cajun place where the Five Guys used to be. I’d bet a dollar it’ll be gone by next year.
It’s ghostly, maybe, a haunting, that hope keeps coming back to us, like ‘this is somewhere I can be something, start a business, catch some sales,’ only it’s too comfortable on the west-side to want to leave the plush carpets and thick doors, and too poor on the east to have the time to do anything but work at those restaurants, never eat there. Like the messy prelude to a chicken dinner, my town keeps running around with it’s head chopped off.
I ordered like I usually do at Tex-Mex: a bean burrito, a cheese enchilada, some salad and rice. I mixed it all together, topped off with the table’s salsa. It smacked of old hands working knives and spatulas, trying out another new recipe, but with the back door open, so you can see the stars, the only constant, waiting for the next twenty years of letting this lost building rest.
Currently Reading: Giovanni’s Room, James Baldwin
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To want to own a restaurant can be a strange and terrible affliction. What causes such a destructive urge in so many otherwise sensible people?Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential