The empty diner

Tonight we ordered dinner from the Harbor House.

It’s an old-school diner about 20 minutes down the road, and the spot where I’ve written much of my last two books.

The Harbor House is one of the few places out here that feels like New York. Red booths line the rectangular space, with all sorta of Hollywood photos and posters coating the walls. The burgers arrive with warm, crispy fries, piled sloppily toward the side. The shakes are cheesecake-thick. Waiters come and go, offering refills on soda and coffee. It’s open 24 hours, which is unique for Orange County, and they’re kind/cool enough to let a writer sit in a corner booth for hours.

It’s my type of spot.

So, when I entered the front door, and spotted the emptiness (as pictured above), my heart sank. It’s still the Harbor House, but what’s a late-night writing spot without hustle and bustle? Without a table overflowing with obnoxious college kids? Without an old woman sitting in the corner, sipping her lemon and tea? What is it without the waitress calling you “Honey”? Without the busboy whipping around a moist white rag? Without Elvis or Billy Joel or Whitney Houston crooning from a nearby radio?

What is a late-night writing spot without two heavily tatted bikers debating apple v. cherry pie? Without the manager saying, “Take your time. Enjoy”? Without a visit to the bathroom, where the toilet seat features three or four dabs of pee and this curiously placed poster hangs?

The Harbor House is still the Harbor House.

But will it ever again be the same?

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