Jesse Lee Kercheval
After the porno theater became a revival house, the neighborhood began to change. The Blue Plate, a designer diner, opened, all aluminum and curves. Inside, the menu featured revived comfort foods-- meat loaf, mashed potatoes, a glass case full of pies. Young families moved in, the drawn shades of the elderly replaced by window boxes and Big Wheels in the yards. Another revival. Then a Mexican restaurant opened-- though not one run by Mexicans. A pizza place whose specialty is a pie made with Greek, not Italian, cheese called The Feta-licious. But what is real? In time, everyone came to depend upon the diner. Packed for breakfast, lunch, pie, and coffee. If you need a good plumber, go to the Blue Plate and ask for Carl who's there talking politics with the other long-suffering followers of Trotsky. If you want a sitter, ask the waitstaff, Who has a younger sister? If you're invited to a potluck, stop and buy a whole pie. In the town where I grew up, there was a diner too, Bev's, named after the cook and owner who, my mother whispered the first time we went there, was a Holocaust survivor. When we went for breakfast or a hamburger, Bev would wait on us, her tattoo shining on her thick, damp wrist. She was not Jewish, but Czech and Catholic. She kept an Infant of Prague by the cash register and changed his tiny satin outfits to match the seasons. But she didn't make pie and her mashed potatoes came from the same box as my mother's. Bev's food wasn't good, only better than nothing. Just like being a death camp survivor, Bev told my mother, wasn't a good thing to be, only better than not being. My mother is dead now. Bev too. My mother wasn't a good cook either, rarely made pies. I can, but I like the ones at the Blue Plate better. Dutch Apple, Three Berry, Lemon with Mile- High Meringue. The trouble with meringue, my mother said once, is that it weeps. Amazing, I thought, sad pie.