L.A. is a very big place, but nestled throughout the big city are little “towns” that make up the big city. Ours was Eagle Rock. We had our favorite places in Eagle Rock, most of them were places to eat. One of them was Cindy’s.
Cindy’s was and still is a diner. In fact, sometimes when there is a diner in a commercial or even a TV show or movie it is Cindy’s. No joke! It is such a stereotypical diner that it is used as such on the big screen. It may have been the way that they could keep their great low prices, and every once in a while get new blinds or pie cabinet.
Back then, in the morning you could find Helen and Laurie cheerfully waiting on tables. James was there too. He owned the place. He mostly sat and talked with the customers, every once in a while going out to the parking lot to admire someone’s new pickup or motorcycle. James rode a Harley. We went there almost every Friday (our day off) for breakfast, after we got the kids off to school. My whole family went to Cindy’s and so often I would find out what was going on with my sister or my mom from Helen or Laurie. There were the regulars, people who ate there every day, some twice a day. In fact, there was a group of guys that wanted to meet at 5 in the morning. The restaurant wasn’t open until 6:30 so James just gave them a key. They would start the coffee in the morning and would leave about the time that the restaurant would officially open. They liked to pull pranks, so the trick was to find out what they had done. One day the “specials” sign said, “Helen 50 cents.” Helen and Laurie would always treat me like I was family but they would give Rod a hard time (I guess that is like family,too). Laurie, especially, would smile and take my order. Then she would just glare at Rod and when he ordered his usual biscuits and gravy, she would answer with, “hmmph,” and walk away. One day we drove into the parking lot after being on vacation for a couple of weeks. Before we got out of the car we could see through the big windows that Helen and Laurie had scrambled to the door. Helen turned the sign around to say, “Closed” while Laurie opened the door and yelled, “And we’re out of biscuits and gravy, to boot! “
One of the “regulars” was a guy who used a hand held electronic device to his throat to speak. We could always hear what he was saying because it seemed that with the monotone mechanical voice there was only one volume. It was not annoying, though, it was just part of being at Cindy’s. It was fun to hear the banter between customers and the staff. One day another of the “regulars” came in. Micky looked a bit frazzled. He picked up the restroom key that was attached to the long stick that customers would need in order to use the restrooms out the front door and around to the side of the building. He said, “I forgot my keys to the house.” Laurie said to him that those were the restroom keys, not his house keys. Micky continued to insist that they were his house keys, not in angry way, more in a frantic way. His friends among the regulars were all around him, mostly at the counter. After a while they were able to get him to understand that these were not his house keys. Meanwhile, Helen came to our table to refill my coffee. She explained to us that Micky had recently had a stroke and since then he would occasionally be confused. As things settled down we heard Micky say to the small group of guys around him, “I’m sorry. I don’t know what is going on.” And then as if confessing to something he had been trying to deny, “I guess there’s just something wrong with me.”
The next thing we heard was that familiar electronic monotone, “Don’t worry about it Micky. Don’t you know? There’s something wrong with all of us.” All we needed was a closing hymn and a benediction. We’d had church… at Cindy’s.