The original diner
On the way upstate, we passed a railcar diner that made great pies. It was right before the twisty, treacherous stretch in the highway. The pie was fortification or reward, depending on which way you were going.
The diner had an old-new thing going on. It was scrubbed up and polished, serving up nostalgia of a time of big cars, sock hops, varsity sweaters, blowzy blondes and tragic guys. It was a railcar with no railroad anywhere around that we knew of.
The thing was, the diner had always been serving up nostalgia. When it got retired from the railroad, bypassed by the highway, it was a pre-modern artifact that evoked romance and mystery, excitement and exploration.
To get a peek into the real past, you needed to track down old gypsy caravans or food wagons, small and practical structures that weren’t machined to last. Their offspring can be found all around us: the hot dog van parked in the dusty turn-off by the highway, the kebab vendor jammed into a corner on 6th Avenue, all offering temporary food of uncertain provenance