Time travel

Smartphone photo from the lobby facing the bar

It’s uncanny, this place I go. The stone exterior and the big, rustic beams inside. Real beams, not decorative. WPA-era stuff.

The burgundy carpet and the pine panel walls, the buffalo head above the fireplace. The soundtrack.

100% vintage jazz.

Deano and Mel, Julie and Peggy and Satch. I’d be satisfied to sit in the midst of that music with the buffalo and the fire and drink hard cider all night, but dinner calls.

The hostess knows me by name and the bartender reaches into his cooler. Angry Orchard, chilled glass. “Welcome back,” he says. “Good to be here,” I say. Truer words were never.

The server doesn’t give me a menu, because I always order the same thing. Queen cut, rare, sweet potato. I don’t even have to say it. “The usual?” she asks, already writing me up. It’s a rhetorical question. “Thank you,” I mumble. She smiles.

I’m here with a book, also as per usual, and I sit at one of two tables the owner refers to as mine. I soak it in, whatever it is, the spell, like time travel, like Rat Pack and Poconos circa 1965.

Once I texted a friend just as the atmosphere was kicking in,”God help me, I love this place entirely too much.”

So I eat and I read. I read and I eat. The prime rib on the white plate. The salad bar with the spinach and the mushrooms. Red tablecloth. The distinct impression that I’m in the mountains, which I really sort of almost am. And it’s autumn or it’s winter, even if it isn’t. And I’ve driven here in a convertible on my way to … where? Bar Harbor, maybe. Someplace like that.

She brings me a carryout container just as I reach the half-way point, because that’s all I ever eat. Leftovers for breakfast. “Thank you, Mr. Tim,” she says, handing me the check. I pay. I leave.

I walk the steep cobblestone path back down to my car and the parking lot is overflowing. Always emptyish when I arrive, always overlflowing when I leave. Not a single space left now. Timing is everything.