Sunday, May 10, 2020

Appendix 2: Apocalypse Diner

No one has ever Yelped about this place and it is almost invisible on the web. Indeed, if it weren't for a few inspection violations (none too serious-looking), I would think we had dreamed the whole thing: a little greek diner with psychological problems and decent food in Virginia Beach.

It was May 21, 2011, according to some the day the Rapture was to happen. We were wandering around Atlantic Avenue looking for some humble fare. My husband and I are not attracted by the usual touristy all-you-can-eat joints and somehow we stumbled into this tiny Greek diner with decor circa 1962 located off a parking lot pertaining to a 1 star motel on Atlantic Avenue. What possessed us?

We were seated by an anxious, eager to please waitress who seemed as self-conscious as we were that there was no one else there. Sometimes a kind of tractor beam keeps you in a place that you would otherwise just walk right out of, like empty restaurants and poorly-attended plays. Maybe we stayed out of pity. Or maybe we stayed because it was 5:30 and, according to the news and the signs on Rapture vans out on the avenue, we were scheduled for the end of the world at 6:00.

We asked for sweet tea and the waitress said they had none. And then almost as quickly she got a determined look on her face and said, "No, I'll FIND you some! Yes, I will!" We were afraid for her, running around town looking for sweet tea this close to the Rapture. But she said she'd get some. Somewhere. She promised.

I ordered a greek vegetable salad, no lettuce, no green peppers, and some tzatziki, The tzatziki was creamy and good, and it came with some lovely hot flatbreads like little fried pancakes. When I finished the bread, another plate was quickly brought without me having to ask. The salad was fantastic, featuring a lot of cubes of the most delicious tomato I have eaten since childhood and some really tasty feta cheese.

My husband received three, thin-cut pork chops, a piping hot side of french fries, and a pile of salad as fresh as mine.

The place was an amazing people-watching experience, kind of like being in the Diner at the End of the Universe. The decor was unconsciously retro. Various local characters starting walking in and out like actors in a play:  a skinny man sang a verse of a song I didn't recognize, laughed at himself, and left. An older woman customer sat sipping a mixed drink at the counter, and when another customer wandered in looking lost, she got up and seated him and gave him a menu because our waitress (the only waitress) happened to be busy. Perhaps she was still hunting around for some other hard-to-find beverages.

We ordered the pie.

I figured this was a place local weirdos went to hide from the tourists.  I was sure it would disappear the second we walked out of it. I think we were overcharged. But at 28 bucks for two we couldn't complain. After all, 6 o'clock passed and we were still alive.

Appendix 1: I Pledge Allegiance to the Power of Story (God Save America)

I wrote this post on January 20, 2017, the day Donald. J. Trump was sworn in as President of the United States.

I dread high noon today when the president-elect will be sworn in. I do not pledge allegiance to this flag waved by the cackling clowns of hate, and bought by the corporate, global monopoly. It is not the flag I took it to be. The Pledge of Allegiance is a rite forced on schoolchildren by fanatics in the 1950s, anyway. This is not one nation, nor do I believe in God. We are, it seems, not only divisible, but also divided, and now I see we always have been.

There has never been liberty or justice for all.

Instead, I pledge allegiance to the fresh, brine air off the Neuse River here at The Lighthouse in Milestone, NC. I pledge allegiance to my dogs because they pledge allegiance to me. I pledge allegiance to my husband, to my sister, to my mother, and to all those who are or might become, my friends. I pledge allegiance also to the oppressed, to the poor, to the tortured, and to the unjustly jailed. I pledge allegiance to the third of an acre that a lawyer said I own, and to the little, old, hand-built house that sits upon it. I pledge allegiance to the spirits of the now dead, black men and women who built my house, who lived, laughed, cried, endured, and died in it. I pledge allegiance to their descendants. To my neighbors. To my town. I pledge allegiance to this beautiful earth, and all its passengers: vegetable, mineral, insect, and animal.

If I am to pledge allegiance to anything abstract, it will be to love, compassion, and respect, not to the nationalism of a military-industrial complex that sucks its dark power from misogyny, racism, and the exploitation of the vulnerable, the immigrant, the groaning Earth, the corporate slave, the indebted, and the educationally-impoverished.

Further, I pledge allegiance to the resistance: I will resist against any person, idea, government, or act that is born out of greed, hate, deception, and the raw desire for economic and political power. Upon this inauguration day, I declare that "resist" is the first word I will say when I awake, and it is the last word I will say when I go to sleep at night.

Why have we Americans failed to learn the lessons of every childhood fairytale? With all the heroes and heroines displayed to us as examples, in story, why did we choose as president a Goofus and not a Gallant? Why Lex Luther,  and not Superman? Haven't legends, movies, comic books, fairy tales, King Arthur, and the Bible given us enough of an education about what the Bad Guy looks like for us to make a wiser choice?

The corporate electronic propaganda pulse, flying directly out of the omnipresent and omniscient screen they've trained us to transport everywhere with us in your pockets, has inundated our minds with the gross commercial messages that we take to be our own thoughts. We feel lost without the screen, don't we? It flashes into our eyes and works to undo the legacy of human truths that we received from thousands of years of story. For us, the cyclops, not Odysseus.  For us Voldemort, not Harry Potter. Not Red Riding Hood, but for us, the wolf this time.

As a reader, as a writer, as a scholar, and as a literary translator, I call upon the power of story to remind my nation of what is good, what is brave, and what it is that makes a real hero. We need heroes now. May America soon remember to tell itself good, true stories, and may we remember that the hero's journey is a perilous one, fraught with danger, obstacles, and despair. But along the way, if we look, there will be helpers. We must look for them.

May my fellow Americans, especially those who are committed to resist, dedicate themselves to use the power of words only for good. And may we all find our way back home.