If the world marched in step with my mind, Patti would have served my husband his Patty Breakfast at Cheryl’s Diner this morning. Then he could have said something like, “Hi, Patti. I’d like the Patty Breakfast.”
“Always a good choice,” she would have said, laughing. “I haven’t seen you two in a while.”
“We’ve been around,” one of us would say, and then I’d ask her how the sit-on-top kayak she bought at the Sierra South end-of-season sale was treating her. Stories of Patti’s madcap adventures on the lake would ensue.
But the world doesn’t march along with the beat in my head. And this is often a good thing. Instead of Patti, Sandy served us breakfast this morning, which meant we got to check in with four generations of the Cheryl’s family, including Cheryl herself. Cheryl is not only the owner of the diner but a longtime neighbor of ours here in Kernville. She’s also Sandy’s mother. Meanwhile, Sandy’s daughter and two granddaughters came by the diner for a visit, thus supplying four generations, all while I snarfed a plate of pumpkin pancakes and Marc ate his hamburger patty with sliced tomatoes, poached egg, and wheat toast. We talked about a recent busy spell at the Kern Valley Hospital. “That’s not so good,” said Cheryl, but then, with her silver-lining attitude, added, “Well, I guess it’s good for business.” We also talked about people born at the hospital, which is unusual because it’s not a birthing hospital. Normally, mothers in labor are transferred to Bakersfield or Ridgecrest.
Conversation broke when Sandy’s 2-year-old granddaughter opted to perform an interpretive tap dance, showcasing her sparkly pink shoes. Cheryl and Sandy went about their diner and grandmotherly duties, and another one of our neighbors, Lyle, refilled Marc’s coffee cup. Lyle wore a radio scanner on his belt, no radio transmissions crackling from it at the moment. We sat inside at one of the booth tables next to the windows that look toward the fire station. All seemed Thursday-morning-early-autumn-calm there, too.
**In 1983, French artiste and provacateur Sophie Calle found an address book on the Rue des Martyrs in Paris. She decided to photocopy the contents before returning it anonymously to its owner, whose name was Pierre D. She then contacted the people whose names were noted in the book, telling them, “I found an address book on the street by chance. Your name was in it. I’d like to meet you.” Over the course of a summer month, she attempted to produce a portrait of Pierre D., through conversations with his friends and acquaintances, and on turns taken by events. The project was published daily in a French newspaper, and when Pierre D. got wind of it, he was pissed and threatened to sue Calle.
My project is nothing like Calle’s The Address Book. Not really. I have found no address book, and I am not stalking a poor shlub who had the misfortune of mislaying his address book in a place where an “arteest” might find it. I am, however, attempting to produce a portrait of a place, based on conversations with friends and acquaintances, and on turns taken by events. Welcome to Kernville. Bring your sunscreen.