Friday, February 23, 2007

Can't sleep and I'm thinking of you...


Well, "you" isn't really a person... This past Christmas, I went home to visit my family on Long Island for the weekend. My mom (and family) love Mitchell's, a coffee shop on Rockaway Avenue. Although the place has been renovated several times, all these feelings came back to me. It was so weird. I don't know why my mind went into reverie mode, but it did.

I remembered sitting there as a small child, feet dangling off the sticky booth and ordering meals off the kids menu. They had silly names. My favorite was "The Little Steer" (I think it was a burger) and there was something called the "Funky Monkey," but I don't remember what it was. My mom would tell us stories about how she would go there for a milk shake after school and how the place would be packed with school kids. When I was in high school, nobody went there unless they were with their parents and it was after our seasonal school musical or some sort of production. It wasn't the type of place where high school students of the late '80s would go to hang out. They were filling the diners on Merrick Road and Sunrise Highway because they are open later and sorta have better parking.

Sitting in the pastel pink booth, I remembered how I would walk over a mile to meet Scott there, because neither of us drove in 11th grade. I remembered how we'd go to Slipped Disc records and then hit Mitchell's for lunch. It was right across the street.

Rockaway Avenue in my hometown (Steve Buschemi grew up there and so did Ed Burns) was like the classic "Main Street, USA". We'd go to this tiny hole-in-the wall store called "Elegant Junk" which was the very first dollar type store in existence I think. They had cool, offbeat cheap tchotchkes. One could spend an hour in there just looking.

Anyone from Long Island knows, Slipped Disc was theeee record store in Nassau County. People came from all over, just like how we'd go to Hicksville to buy our hard-to-find tees and posters at Utopia. In the mid '80s, metal bands would sign albums or CDs at Slipped Disc. Kids would line up to meet them. I was never into metal, but I shopped there for my Depeche Mode VHS tapes, T-shirts and pins. I'd cover my Trapper Keeper with Smiths and Cure stickers. I thought I was so cool. I'd blow my babysitting and allowance cash in a matter of minutes there on any given weekend.

My favorite thing to order at Mitchell's was a ham and Swiss melt on whole wheat. Buttery, yet salty, oozing with cheese. It was a heart attack right off the grill, served with a free pickle which would give it just the right hint of sour. Scott and I would sit there in our Docs, baggy sweaters and DIY punky hair cuts. We'd talk for hours about our teachers, music, movies, our thoughts, our dreams for the future, college, how much we hated our town and couldn't wait to leave, you know, the typical high school weirdo convo.

The saddest memory I have of Mitchell's is my first weekend after a devastating break up with my college boyfriend. It was my first weekend without him and my parents were still together then. They usually went to Mitchell's on Saturday for dinner or just coffee and ice cream. They invited me, because it was early and my plans weren't until later that evening... It was months before cell phones were as popular and easy to get, March, 1997. I wanted to go to the pay phone and call him so badly. I even got up and walked to the bathroom where the phone was. I think I even dropped 50 cents (he lived in NYC) and let it ring once, then hung up... It's a bit fuzzy now.

I remember sitting in the same pastel pink booth, in a haze. Thinking about how easy life was in high school with Scott and our syrupy sodas and grilled cheese sandwiches. I was out of college now and not sure what direction I was headed, though I had a great job that paid very little...

So fast-forward to December, 2006, back at Mitchell's. Still not sure what direction my life is headed. My parents have been split up for a long time now. My brother, who once sat next to me in that booth spilling his ice cream cone all over the place, is months away from become a father. Scott is months away from becoming someone's husband. I still wear the same style sweaters and Docs and although things have changed so very much, Mitchell's will always be there back home waiting for me...

3 comments:

Jay Amabile said...

damn this was really good Ally. I enjoyed reading it. No matter how many things change, certain things stay the same!

jasonvorhees said...

This is a great piece. It conveyed emotion and feeling. Made me think a little too.

Sabrina said...

What a terrifically written post! I felt like I was right there in that booth at Mitchell's.

Not to mention that I'm reading this post at midnight and you've given me a craving for a ham and swiss melt now... !! :)

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