Thursday, September 23, 2010

Adieu Arnold's

The bad economy has claimed another hapless victim. I’ve been plunged into a cranky funk this week with the news that our local diner, Arnold’s, is closing its doors this weekend after decades of serving the neighborhood.

What will happen to the long time servers, busboys, and line cooks? Where will I have my hangover breakfasts? Arnold’s is only a block away. Almost every day I will have to walk by the empty storefront they leave behind. That’s just cruel.

It may be a little hard to understand why this is such a gut-level blow to me. Arnold’s has been a constant and personal landmark since the last time I lived in this same neighborhood 28 years ago. They are an old-fashioned gem; a greasy spoon where you can get inexpensive, tasty comfort food. Their waitresses recognize us and know our ordering quirks (my sliced tomatoes in place of hash browns and Ron’s extra-hot chorizo and green salsa omelet). I have grudgingly accepted that they don’t have Splenda for my coffee (too expensive for them), so I bring my own. Arnold’s is like grimy old sneakers that really should be tossed out – but they are just too darn comfortable to give up. Now they’re being forcibly taken away from me, and I’m pissed off.

I’ll miss their spinach & feta omelet, corned beef hash with poached eggs, and their simply excellent egg salad sandwich. I’ll miss the smiling and efficient Hispanic waitresses. I’ll miss seeing our bill rung up on a giant old mechanical cash register. I’ll miss overhearing the morning-after conversations of the delightfully diverse clientele. I’ll miss hustling quickly over to Arnold’s on a cold winter day for a stomach-warming breakfast and pot of coffee. Dammit, I'll even miss the cracked green vinyl bench seats repaired with duct tape.  Man, oh man.

The demise of our neighborhood’s favorite diner seems like our first step toward preparing to leave Chicago. Take away the things we enjoy and add new disappointments, and little by little we will begin preparing ourselves to say goodbye to the city we love.

I’m sad. :’(

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