Thursday, August 6, 2009

I'd worried much about today's trip, with us needing to navigate the dense and complex geographies of Massachusetts streets even as we'd visit some of the most classic diners ever built. We plowed south along the interstate through the bottom of Maine and the tip of New Hampshire, heading first to Salem for quick snaps of the Salem Diner and a statue commemorating Samantha from the 60s sitcom Bewitched. Along the way, we laughed at (with, really) Jenny's explanation to Vienna that Salem was site of the "Blair Witch Trials." Photographing the diner I met a fellow named Jack who assured me that our destination for the day, Worcester, is indeed pronounced "WUSS-ter" (this from a guy who called the town of Peabody PEE-buh-dee).

Before long we found our way to Somerville and a highlight of the trip, the oft-photographed and praised Rosebud Diner. Jenny and I shared light and tender fish and chips while Vienna savored a zesty plate of ziti topped with broccoli and chicken. The best part of Rosebud was our chance to meet Gayle, a server who is so much sweeter than her no-nonsense photo would suggest (check out the cell phone policy in the pic, upper-left). She was delighted at our t-shirts that conveyed our mission to visit the best diners in New England, particularly since the Rosebud is one of them. As we departed, Gayle gave us some dated guest check tags to commemorate our visit.

Heading out of Boston, stopping briefly for Jenny to photograph the LDS temple, we set our sights on Concord. I'd heard that Walden Pond parking closes early sometimes to control the flow of visitors but we were fortunate to find space of our own. Having recently begun to read Thoreau's Walden and its narrative of quiet solitude and reflection I was surprisingly untroubled by the beach vibe of kids splashing in the water. The scene was simply too nice to spoil: an old man rowing a boat, a young guy laying on the grass while reading a book, sunlight dappling the shore. Vienna and I swam while Jenny took pictures, and later Jenny asked me to read aloud from Walden for a bit.

I swear, just as I read the following passage -- "Though it is now dark, the wind still blows and roars in the wood, the waves still dash, and some creatures lull the rest with their notes. The repose is never complete" -- a yellow leaf fell on my shoulder. The afternoon turned and we swam, relaxed, and hiked, even checking out the reproduction of Thoreau's cabin placed ironically near a congested parking lot and pricey gift shop. Leaving Walden, suddenly amid a crush of state road traffic, I understood intimately Thoreau's observation: "The air is full of invisible bolts. Every path but your own is the path of fate. Keep on your own track, then."

Twilight brought us to Worcester, the birthplace of so many diners throughout New England and reproductions across the country. At the Boulevard Diner Jenny and I shared a heaping Italian sausage grinder while Vienna opted for a tuna melt. Each plate was tossed on the counter, friendly but efficient, merely a stretch away from our booth. At the Edgemere (sadly hip-ified as "The Edge") I grabbed a hot dog smothered in homemade sweet cucumber relish while Jenny and Vienna split a bowl of ice cream. The Miss Worcester was closed by late afternoon and we committed to trying that spot tomorrow.

All text copyright Andrew Wood.
Photos copyright Andrew and Jenny Wood.