Zelda At The Sterling Family Restaurant

I found this piece about Bush deciding to “drop in” at a small diner in Peoria, IL. I got such a kick out of the piece because the dear folks of Peoria who didn’t seem to give a rip one way or the other. The humor came out of the fact that he flew in on his Air Force One plane, complete with limousine service and cavier, and he decides to amuse himself with his station-in-life, his arrogance, and self-indulgence and “mingle with the peasant folk.” He orders the driver to pull over and gets out and walks into the diner hoping to find some “celebrity sized” butt-kissing from the good folks in Peoria. Instead, he found this:

Jan. 31, 2007 – On Tuesday, President Bush popped in for a surprise visit to the Sterling Family Restaurant, a homey diner in Peoria, Ill. It’s a scene that has been played out many times before by this White House and others: a president mingling among regular Americans, who, no matter what they might think of his policies, are usually humbled and shocked to see the leader of the free world standing 10 feet in front of them. But on Tuesday, the surprise was on Bush. In town to deliver remarks on the economy, the president walked into the diner, where he was greeted with what can only be described as a sedate reception. No one rushed to shake his hand. There were no audible gasps or yelps of excitement that usually accompany visits like this…

…In Peoria this week, many patrons found their pancakes more interesting. Except for the click of news cameras and the clang of a dish from the kitchen, the quiet was deafening.

Flo CastleberryI’ve had so much fun thinking about this story, my mind wandered towards that old 1970’s show “Alice” with “Flo Castleberry” and Mel’s diner and I ended up laughing even more. I alsoSupertramp  - Breakfast in America couldn’t help but think of “Libby” who was the sexy pudgy waitress who graced the cover of Supertramp’s fantastic album; “Breafast in America”.

So, what was it like to be a small mouse in the corner watching this train-wreck of a Bush visit?! Here’s my idea on how “it went down”.

“Two chicks on a raft – wreck ’em, shingle with a shimmy and a shake in the alley, Zeppelins in a fog, city juice 86 the hail, drag one through Georgia and sweep the kitchen floor!” Zelda shouted through the large window while stuffing the order ticket into the clip on the hanging sterling-silver wheel. She turns around and grabbs the coffee-pot with the orange-handle and walked up to her customer sitting at the counter on stool #6. “More decaf, Sugar?”

Counter Customer“A-yup!” the customer muttered not even looking up from his newspaper. Zelda refills the cup eyeing the other cups of coffee for the other counter-customers.
“Hey Dad! When we get to Chicago, can we get to have pizza at Malnati’s?!” Timmy said excited in the booth behind the customer.

“No promises Timmy. Now take your White Sox cap off while you’re at the table” his mother said with a very faint grin in the corner of her mouth.

Zelda had found her way to table #14 where two ladies sheZelda1 recognized from the Peoria Art Guild were just putting their menus down. Zelda scooped up the menus using them as a support for her order pad; “You two ladies decide on what you’ll have?”

“I’ll have the cheese burger and fries, and can I have the fries without the salt?!”

“Sure…” Zelda said, writing in her shorthand on the green and white pad. “And for you, Honey?!”

“I…will…have…..I will have the liver and onions.”

“m’Kay, and for your side?”

“Ummmm..umumum… I’ll have the baked beans.”

“Comin’ up!” Zelda said. “You both havin’ coffee?”

DinerThe two ladies nodded and one asked for tea. Zelda turn around and said to a young couple who’d just finished their lunch. “You two decide on desert?”

The young man asked for a slice of apple pie with two forks.

“You want cheese or ice cream on it, Sugar?”

He looked at his girlfriend and they agreed on a single scoop of ice scream. Zelda picks up the plates and shoves her fingers into the empty glasses and heads back to the counter.

“Woah! Check that out!” she heard Timmy say. The frontbell door of the diner opened and the bell above the door began to tinkle. Almost to the counter, Zelda senses a large crowd of people coming into her domain, turns a sees a half dozen men wearing sunglasses and ear-buds. She feels one of the glasses slipping and she’s less than three feet from the safety of the counter and she hears President Bush from the door; “HI Y’ALL!! Y’ALL HAVIN’ A GOOD DAY?!”

The diner goes silent. And at the perfect second, Zelda’s glass leaves her fingers and crashes onto the floor.

The crash breaks the tension and Zelda can feel a splash of water hit her ankles. Everybody who was staring at the President and his Secret Service and the media’s camera flashing turned back to their meals. The lovers back to holding hands, the customer on counter-stool #6 turns back to his Fruit Fly newspaper and grabs his coffee cup for another sip.

Only Timmy is impressed. One Secret Service agent standing only inches from his table, Timmy tugs at the man’s overcoat sleeve and says; “Hey Mister!! Are you carrying a real gun?!”

“HEY MEL! Burn a moldy one, drag it through the garden and pin a rose on it with some frog sticks, hold the sea dust! Put out the lights and cry, with whistleberries in the allie and I need an Eve with a lid on it and some ice!” Zelda bellowed.

Zelda stuffs the ticket into the clip on the hanging wheel and heads into the kitchen to grab the broom and dust pan wondering why in the hell that somebitch President Bush would be doing in her diner? She worries that she’ll be pulling double-duty now thinking there will be hoards of people trying to get in to get near that Texas-sized idiot.

Bush in DinerMeanwhile, Bush walks over to booth #5 where one of Zelda’s beloved patrons were finishing their coffee’s and said; “Hi! How y’all doin’?! You doin’ fine?!” The man muttered in a constrained tone and Bush said; “How’s the food here?!” The muttered again, so Bush looks on to his next table to visit.

Another woman, eyeing Bush and his entourage, sighed heavily and went back to her paper. She was reading the obituaries. “Sorry to interrupt your breakfast,” a White House aide told her. “No problem,” she huffed, in a not-so-friendly way. “Life goes on, I guess.”

The diner is muted. Only a few whispers and people obviously not giving him the “celebrity ass-kissing” he always loves. “Sorry to interrupt you,” Bush said to a group of women, who were sitting in a booth with their young kids. “How’s the service?”

The customer at the counter on stool #6, put his paper down, grabbed his cigarettes and took a long look at Bush while he’s offering to sign one customers paper placemat. While he lights his cigarette, he notices that the placemat Bush is signing has food particles and water-spots all over it. Bush turns to the customer on the other side of the table and offeres to autograph her placemat too, but she kindly refuses.

Mel, who’s begun working on Zelda’s burger and liver, placesdiner food Timmy and his parents’ meals, slams the bell and shouts; “Zelda! One Bow-Wow, Bossy in a bowl, a Blue Plate and your counter needs cups of mud! Zelda?!! ZELDA!!”

“I heard ya Mel! I’m comin’!! I’m comin!” She said.

Bush meanwhile, realizes that if he stays any longer, it’ll only look worse and far more embarrassing. He signals his personal secretary that he wants to leave. A Secret Service agent puts his hand to his ear and mutters; “The Eagle is departing the premises.” The entourage begins to back out of the restaurant. Bush disappears out the door with Secret Agents following, all with fingers to their ears.

The bell above the diner’s door tinkles loudly and the customers turn their backs to the front door and return to their meals, their coffees and their newspapers. One man and his wife whisper to each other how much they hate Bush and shake their heads in disgust.

Zelda delivers Timmy’s family their meals and is happy she won’t have to serve all of those people. Mel’s happy too, no longer worried he’ll run out of Blue Plate specials and liver. Timmy’s the only one disappointed that he didn’t get to see the inside of those limousines. Standing on his kneeds and his face plastered to the window, Timmy watches Bush disappear into the limousine and listens to the muffled thumps of the doors of Bush’s caravan shut and lock. Timmy realizes he didn’t even get to see the man’s gun and mutters under his breath: “What a bunch of jerks.”

In working up this stupid little story, I found a blog site from Peoria, IL where a few people commented on Bush’s visit to the diner. I found the differing views pretty interesting in how unimpressed the people of Peoria were about the incident.

Zelda and Mel’s language translation can be found here. I laughed till tears came out of my eyes reading all of the jargon and felt a bit remorse over the dwindling number of family diners in America. And, yes – I shamelessly plagiarized the website’s first paragraph of “diner jargon”. (I especially loved that paragraph.)

An Antennea Flick to Shakespears Sister for covering the story and laughing along with all of us. < XOXOXO >