Americana Diner

Jersey diners and conversation

Saddle Brook DinerWhat is it about Jersey diners that make them such perfect spots to meet up with friends and family?  Yesterday, Andy and I caught up with my parents at Saddle Brook Diner in Saddle Brook, NJ.  Now, neither my parents nor we live near Saddle Brook, but it is about an hour drive for both of us.  Jersey diners, well diners in any state, are happy places to get together, eat and chat.

Red Line DinerWe frequent Red Line Diner in Fishkill, NY, that opened about a year ago.  I find that it is always a bubbly place with lots of positive energy due to the good food, friendly staff, but mostly because of the people who dine there.  I have noticed that many people who dine there show up in small groups but meet up with others.  I love watching as the first group of people are seated and then the rounds of hugs and kisses that begin when the rest of their party arrive.  Often there are parents meeting with their children and their grandchildren.  I can tell that in many cases they have not seen each other for a while.

For the last year, there have many been times when I unexpectedly begin to cry thinking how I want to meet my family here; but alas no one lives near.  I would love to casually get together with Andy’s sisters and their families, or his brother or Mom, but they are in California.  I fantasize that I could meet up with my brother and his wife and son, but they are in the DC area.

Americana DinerThen an idea popped into my head about a month ago when I realized that I wanted to see my parents more regularly but the 2+ hour drive each way made it a bit long for a day-visit.  We did try the day-trip idea on my dad’s birthday on April 3.  Andy and I shared the driving and we celebrated Dad’s birthday at the Americana Diner in Hightstown, NJ.  After a wonderful late morning breakfast, we went back to my parent’s house and spent a few hours talking and looking at very early works of my dad’s.  It was a wonderful day – and we were pretty tired from the activity and driving 4 hours.

Park West DinerMy idea to solve this problem was to find a Jersey diner that was halfway between my parents and us.  That would make the drive do-able for both of us and give us a chance to see each other with ease.  Plus we get the added enjoyment of trying out any number of good Jersey diners.  We began with a visit to Park West Diner in Little Falls, NJ.  Because this was our first test of the idea, our excuse (as if we needed one) was that we had to make some returns to Ikea (and we actually did have some items to return).  We had such a wonderful time with my parents, and they looked so happy to see us that we determined that this would become a regular outing.

Jersey Girls Diana and RachelMy mom has decided she will try a mushroom omelet at each diner for comparison.  My dad always has “two over light”.  Andy and I are more variable, but usually French fries are involved.  I am putting together a list of mid-point Jersey diners and the fun and food comparisons will continue.  This Jersey girl is very happy to set foot in Jersey regularly and at diners to boot!  Of course the best part is seeing my dad and my favorite Jersey girl, Mom.


I Improv my way through life

I improv my way through life.  What I mean is that when I speak aloud I am usually thinking aloud and making it up as I go along.  I secretly go into almost every conversation hoping that everyone else does that too and will want to play with words along with me.  I assume that others think as they speak even though I know very well that not everyone thinks that way – or do they and just not realize it?

I took an improv class at Upright Citizens Brigade a few years ago because I love the concept that in speaking to others, either formally as a speech or lecture, or informally in conversation, what you are really doing is making it up in the moment and playing with the other person real-time.  I love the dance of letting words spill out really quickly as I speak to another person and see what spills from their lips in turn.  The faster the interaction the more fun it is and the more that I get fed with ideas from the other person that I can build upon to create more interesting thoughts and enjoy the play with language.  It is improv but it is also just talking in everyday life.

I am easily cheered by plays on words, puns, idioms, double entendres, anything that uses language in playful ways but that ultimately is used to communicate.  This is so second nature to me that it should not be a surprise that I studied linguistics and psycholinguistics and philosophy of language even though I haven’t formally been in the field for some time. Language is a fascinating external manifestation of our human capacity to improvise how we communicate with others.  We are so amazingly apt at being flexible and pliable with words; we really do improvise our way through life.

Jersey girls and boys – what is it about sharing context?

I have a funny experience of connecting with others who grew up in New Jersey.  My husband has watched and commented on it and I didn’t even realize what was happening.  In one case I met a guy who ran a small winery in New Jersey who was about my age and grew up in the town where I went to high school.  We were standing around chatting and apparently without either of us noticing, we were so engaged in conversation that occasionally we would raise one elbow, like you do if you were doing the chicken dance, and gently nudge the other person with the elbow.  Yes, that does sound kind of strange, but then I had another experience.  I was in a yoga class in New York and I felt a connection with a woman about my age who was new to the class.  After a few sessions, we started to speak and before I knew it, we were doing the elbow nudge thing.  I became conscious of the physical contact, and I turned to her and said, “Are you from New Jersey?”  She got a bit defensive because she had not lived in New Jersey for some time and now lives in New York and hoped her accent was not so noticeable.  I assured her it was not the accent that gave her away, but rather how she elbowed me.  New Jerseyans can get teased about their accent, but probably what is funnier is the elbow nudging.  So what is the elbow nudging?  I think it is a natural occurrence of connection between two people who have so much shared history that is specific to growing up in a certain neighborhood.  We like to touch and the elbow nudge is a safe way to connect.