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Writing a Diner Menu – DELETED SCENE #12

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This passage was originally the ending to HOW TO FAIL's Footchapter 2:  "How to Go Insane and Garner Voices in Your Head."  It would have picked up on page 41 of the paperback edition.

I was starving.  I kinda wished my girlfriend was here so we could be starving.

I turned around having not noticed what had been behind me the whole time on the other side of the road.  A little quaint restaurant.  The View Diner.

I entered.

Seemingly no one in the place.  No diners, no cooks, no maitre d's (ha!), no hosts, no nothing.

By the end of 2009 the International Labour Organization had estimated that there had been twenty million lost jobs due to the global economic crisis.  Over 10% of the western world was unemployed.  Probably more in places like this.

Was that why no one was in this diner?

No expendable income for flapjacks?

What time was it?

I wouldn't have looked at getting laid off as a crisis.  I would look at it as...awesome!  I wanted to get laid off from my crummy job.

But I didn't have anyone or thing to support.

Simple people that lived out here surely did.

I felt sorry for them.  I never felt sorry for any one but myself.

"Someone'll be with ya' in a sec, fella."

I turned to notice a man I hadn't noticed before.  Well-dressed and well-kempt in what we in the big city would call "business casual," he sat in the large corner booth in the back drinking a cup of coffee and staring at his laptop screen.  I assumed he was the owner of this joint.  He smiled at me.

"Beautiful sunrise this morning, huh?"

"Yes.  The best I've ever seen."

"Certainly made my top 365 for the year."

I nodded.  Clever fella.

A waitress came and sat me in a small booth, a few down from the owner.

She slapped a menu in front of me.  No-frills.  Just crinkled laminated paper with a brief tale about how the diner came into existence ("One man had a dream...good food at a reasonable price...EST. 1964), food listings, no descriptions.  I studied it.

What was the difference between a Denver omelet and a Western?  They were the same, right?  I liked foods with fun names.  Clams Casino.  What was that?  I was just supposed to know?

"Originally from Narragansett, Rhode Island, the succulent cherrystone crabs are breaded and served on the..."

The old man owner was punching something into his computer as he talked aloud to no one in particular.

"...halfshell with a generous heaping of delectable smoked bacon and a brackish melody of seasonings and flavors including but not limited to:  butter, pepper, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, white wine, and shallots.  A magisterial tub of Tabasco, trademark, served on the side."

The old man look up and smiled at me.  "Perfect."

He went back to typing.  "Grandmama's Meatloaf.  Hmmmm..."

I persued my menu.

"A dish dating back to ancient Roman origins, we use a tantalizing combination of ground beef mixed with lamb and pork, bound with eggs and red-wine-soaked bread before being cooked in a loaf pan and topped with our ineffably tangy homemade tomato sauce."

He looked at his computer screen.  "Not bad.  Could use an edit or two and I don't like that  ambiguous use of 'ineffably.'  But not bad."

It had never occurred to me that effort was actually put into composing restaurant menus.  I mean, yeah, I suppose at fine French restaurants or something.  But here, at a podunk diner in the Poconos?

And Chaucer continued.

"Country fried steak.  Similar to the toothsome Viennese schnitzel, we start with tenderized cube steak coated with a breaded shell before being pan-fried to create a sublime taste sensation.  Slathered in an ambrosial peppered milk gravy."

Are the hicks that live around here really going to be impressed with his florid food language?  Will they really want to have to employ a condensed OED to know whether they want the ambrosial gravy or the brackish seasoning melody or not?

And this went on and on as I drank my coffee, tried to enjoy my Belgian waffles.

"Yeast-levened batter ironed into the..."

It was annoying me.

"Creamy ricotta and ragu spread between sheets..."

Why did he have to talk so loud to himself?

"You know what the B stands for.  And the L and T and we slap that between..."

Fucking old people.

"Cubed chunks of fresh white meat mixed with curry mayo..."

Then the craziest thing happened and I began to admire a guy for taking his job and his life so seriously.  So concerned with self-improvement.  Why couldn't I be like that?!  So focused, so motivated, so hard-working?  I sat back and watched him with great admiration, like a one-man stage show, as he off the top of his head composed each new menu item.

By the time he got to desserts...

"...and coated with a cumulo-nimbusly fluffy meringue"

...I had been in the diner for over an hour, had had nearly a whole pot of "artisanal" Fair Trade freshly-ground Jamaican coffee.  I needed to go.  Get on with life.  Back to the cabin, back to New York, I wasn't sure.  But back somewhere.

I was happy, content.

I was inspired!

I walked to the register to pay the meager bill.

"$5.29, honey."

"Wow.  Great deal."

"You're obviously not from around here, are ya'?"

"No, just passing through and enjoying the view and the View."

The waitress noticed me looking over toward the owner.

"Oh don't mind him honey.  He comes in every single day and we can't get him to leave. He's crazy.  Touched.  Got voices in his head."


Check out these other Director's Commentary and Deleted Scenes:

#1 -- "FUCK YOUS" (dedication page)
#2 -- "QUOTING BIGGIE SMALLS" (including famous quotes)
#3 -- "BLURBS" (cover blurbs)
#4 -- "CHAPTER ONE" (genesis of HTF idea)
#5 -- "THE FAILURE INTERVENTION" (deleted scene)
#6 -- "I'VE NEVER BEEN HAPPIER" (deleted scene)
#7 -- "HOW TO FAIL ON A DATE" (deleted chapter)
#8 -- "HOW TO MAKE GOD HATE YOU" (deleted chapter)
#9 -- "BENDERS" -- (deleted scene)
#10 -- "HATING NORA EPHRON" (deleted scene)
#11 -- "HOW TO PICK A BAD COLLEGE MAJOR" (deleted chapter)

If you’ve read "How to Fail" and haven’t yet left an Amazon review, please take 30 seconds to do so here and keep spreading the good word, even to your friends that can't read.

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