Wednesday, December 23, 2009

No Longer Pink

There is a gathering place in the small town my Dad lives in that is always packed with people and almost never closed. Its the place I go to have a bite to eat with my Dad after the long flight from California to New York, the only place around that is open until 10 pm. Its packed with families on Saturday and Sunday mornings for breakfast, with commuters stopping for breakfast during the week, with locals for lunch and dinner, and teenagers in the evenings. My parents used to meet friends and the local pastor there for breakfast after church. If you are a local, its the place you almost expect to run into someone that you know. "It" is a typical chrome exterior diner on Route 7 in Wilton CT and it was always popular, but not always this busy.

This diner used to be pink, a pastel shade of pink, but definitely pink, with an old fashioned sign on top that reminded me of western saloon towns, that simply said "Orem's". Back then, when I was in high school, to give directions to Orem's was easy; go up Route 7 and look for the bright pink square building on your left. But back then, Orem's was fairly small, and the parking lot, if you can even call it a "lot" (more like a car's length around the front and sides of the building) was small and the building itself sat only a car's length from busy Route 7 with no sidewalk between your car and other cars zooming by at 40 miles an hour.

Fast forward to the end of the 20th century. Plans on the books for twenty or thirty years to widen Route 7 from one lane in either direction to two lanes finally materialize. Orem's, being so close to the road, is taken by emminent domain. But the state gives Orem's a choice piece of property in return - still on Route 7, but a little further south, where there is room for a bigger building and an actual parking LOT.

When my sister called on Sunday morning to ask if I wanted to join her for brunch at Orem's with her 15 year old daughter and the daughter's boyfriend, I immediately said "yes". It was breakfast for the younger generation, but lunch for me and my sis. Six inches of snow had fallen the night before, but this didn't stop Orem's from being open. We could always count on it being open. Rain, shine, snow or sleet, Orem's always seems to be open. They have a 10 page menu, that includes chocolate chip pancakes, tuna sandwiches, Greek salad, clam chowder and fish dinners. I know not to expect fresh veggies, but the tuna sandwich was great. The place was very busy, but somehow they always find you a table or booth.

The same family runs the place that has run it for years. The pink painted place of my high school years is now a grey-painted-wood-with-chrome-around-large-plate-glass-windows building that looks like any other diner on the inside. It is still located on Route 7, the food is still reliable and it is still always open (6 am to midnight per their website). It is still the town gathering spot, the place to run into old friends, the place that always feels like home. I guess it doesn't matter that the outside is no longer painted pink.

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