Coffee in Worcester: Midtown Dinette

posted by Mike on January 21st, 2007

Four men. One dinette.

Bruce and Jacob

I visited the Midtown Mall’s Midtown Dinette with artist/entrepreneurs Jacob Berendes and Mike Leslie, who run Happy Birthday Mike Leslie, and Bruce, who now has a MySpace page.

Pie and Coffee: Lemme ask you a question, Bruce.

Bruce: What’s that?

P: Midtown Dinette—what do you think?

B: I have one thing to say. I think I’ll have to come agayne.

P: You think you’ll have to come agayne?

B: Yeah.

P: Alright. Did you have the coffee?

B: Yeah.

P: How was it?

B: Very good.

Jacob Berendes: How often is the coffee bad? In your experience.

B: Since I’ve only been here once . . . .

J: Not at this restaurant. But just in general. How many times have you had bad coffee in your life?

B: Ah, probably a few. I think the worst coffee I had was coming back from Minnesota.

P: At that Greyhound?

B: We stopped at the Greyhound. They had like little snack shops there. And they had a Starbucks and they had a McDonald’s. And the coffee had sat for so long it was like black to the pot, and Starbucks doesn’t need to sit too long anyway, it’s already strong anyway. It just made it that much stronger, I took two sips and it had that burned taste. That was the end of that.

P: I thought the coffee here was fine.

B: Yeah. I thought the coffee was fine too.

P: It was completely acceptable.

B: This is what you call the breakfast blend, because the White Tower over on Chandler Street at Main Street has the same kind of coffee.

P: White Tower has the same kind of coffee?

B: Yeah. All restaurants, you can be in Saskatchewan and it’s the same kind of coffee. They might make it a little stronger. It all depends.

P: What is you guys’s impression?

J: It’s okay, and the home fries are, like, deec.

Mike Leslie: Yeah.

P: The homefries are like what?

J: Deec. Decent. Unexceptional. You know. I can’t get those good homefries anymore, now that Miss Worcester changed hands.

P: What were the Miss Worcester homefries like?

J: There are sort of like two different styles for diner homefries. There’s the kind where you have a ton of onions, boil the potatoes first and fry ’em up. And this way, which has a ton of paprika, more baked.

B: You know that coffee I got last night?

P: Where did you get coffee last night?

B: At the Big Y?

P: Yeah?

B: I got that can.

P: That was like ten cans for $10.

B: Yeah, I got it for a dollar! You know something, I tried it this morning. It was so good. It’s like “Fine Harvest” or something. I guess they harvested it right! It’s like a havoc of harvest.

J: You’re talking about a choice blend.

B: Yeah. It was pretty harvest, too. Pretty harvested.

J: Very harvester.

P: Mike Leslie, what was your experience of the Midtown Diner?

B: Besides he spilt the tea on the table.

M: I did spill my tea on the table.

P: So you really didn’t have any tea.

M: I had a little bit of tea, which was nice. I like generic potato chips. Nice touch. Grilled cheese on rye bread. That’s the way it goes. There was ketchup available, which was nice.

J: Yeah, that’s a good plus.

M: Plus it’s clean, very clean.

[Pie and Coffee balances a digital camera on a cup to take a timed photo.]

J: What are you doing? Just hold it in your hand like a regular person.

B: He’s one of us, oughta be a regular.

DSCN8669P: It’s blurred.

J: That’s how I am, a blurry dude. A little soft.

P: What’s the decor here like?

M: It’s the Joker. Like Jake said, it’s the Joker.

P: Because of the purple?

M: Purple and green.


Midtown DinetteP: The sign is good. The inside just seems mellower.

M: It does seem a little too conscious.

P: You mean like, it’s trying to be a diner?

M: The pictures of diner cars. It seems too thought-out.

B: I haven’t seen a jukebox that played music in a long time.

J: That one’s not playing music. We’re just listening to the dumb radio. Actually, do you know what we’re listening to? What we’ve been listening to this whole time? We’re listening to weird soft-rock covers of classic rock hits. This really defines the New Diner experience. People are trying for authenticity rather than being authentic. If we were listening to—

M: Actual CCR.

J: If we were listening to actual CCR, it’d be cool. If instead of pictures of lunch cars . . . .

B: Or the malt shop favorites.

P: Are you saying this is an inauthenticity that extends to the rest of the Midtown Mall?

J: This is an inauthenticity that extends to all modern diners now. With the exception of a very rare few.

P: This is not even technically a diner.

J: I know, it’s a dinette.

B: You know what would be fun to do sometime? The four of us should go to the Miss Worcester diner.

P: I just want to ask, though, about the Midtown Mall. You have stated that you think it’s awesome.

J: Yeah, it rules.

P: But you don’t think this diner . . . .

J: This is a nice place.

P: Which venues would you say here rule?

J: It’s not a particular venue, it’s just the general layout I really like. I like all the stores.

Clint Eastwood at the Midtown MallP: I like the picture of Clint Eastwood playing pool.

J: It’s like a shadow economy. I feel like, there’s a big mall down the road, and this mall, I don’t know who would ever come in here. So when I see people in here, they have a reason for not being in the big mall. They have a reason for not being in the street.

P: I like the idea of small places that have a reasonable rent. You guys were saying you were considering putting Happy Birthday Mike Leslie in here.

J: The main reason I didn’t is because I thought I needed windows. That if I didn’t have natural light, I would go absolutely bonkers.

P: As it is, you have your windows almost entirely covered in crud.

DSCN7750

J: I know, but still we can look out into the street. We have people walking by.

M: Yeah, that was kind of important to us.

P: You have a bench.

M: We have a bench.

J: The other thing is, if we had it here, it would be more like a clubhouse than a store. We wouldn’t be getting a lot of walk-in traffic.

P: People would have to go into the Midtown Mall, and then they would have to go into your store. Whereas right now, people can get off the bus and say, “Oh, there’s a shop right here.”

J: People walk by it all the time. But generally my impression of the Midtown Mall is that—did you ever see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? You know the Foot Clan lair? It’s this big, weird warehouse. Like “Lost Boys.” There’s weird skateboard ramps everywhere.

M: People smoking cigars.

J: Yeah, like six-year-old kids smoking cigars. That’s what I think of when I think of the Midtown Mall. This weird lair. Also, the layout is so skinny. It goes three levels deep and you can see down to all the levels.

P: And it has no natural light.

J: I feel like I’m in a lair. Like I’m in a den. Not necessarily a den of iniquity.

P: Maybe if you were trying to start a radical political organization, or a militia, this could be a good place to get a storefront.

J: Well, that’s not even the thing. It’s not about a single entity. It’s ideal for what it is. It’s ideal for stores selling shampoo that fell off the truck.

M: And wig shops.

J: And wig shops. It’s more about the way the architecture dictates the feeling. Like, I’m really getting a deal here. I’m really somewhere noone else is.

P: Being in a cave.

J: I’m in a shadow economy. I’m under the radar of everyone.

P: So, the location you have now, your neighborhood is not upscale, but it has upscale shops, right?

J: Well, it’s not Highland Street. Aside from Ed Hyder’s . . . there’s a lot of great shops, really really great shops, on Pleasant Street, but apart from Ed Hyder’s I wouldn’t think of them as upscale. There’s a lot of really nice clothing stores, hip-hop fashion stuff, weird-type dress stores.

Shop Here

P: Tight dress stores?

J: Yeah, they have those mannequins that are just butts in the window. There’s a lot of African shops, which totally rule. Nice fabric.

P: So I guess by being on Pleasant Street you’re being more neighborhood-oriented, whereas if you were here you would be drawing a line in the sand and saying, “We’re a criminal organization.”

J: On Pleasant Street we’re in the world, you know? Here we would be hunkering down, working on our projects. I think it would result in a lot more kickin’ it, working on weird shit, more drawing.

M: I think it would be more of a “fun factory.” As opposed to us interacting as much with—

P: Neighborhood kids.

M: Neighborhood kids.

J: Bert comes in all the time, other kids come in, these high school girls come in and laugh at us.

I guess there’s no way of knowing. Or, there’s one way of knowing. Move, or set up a satellite store.

P: Franchise.

M: Franchise!

J: Dude, I would love that. Janine talked about, “I want to open one in Providence.”

P: Sell her a franchise. Write up a franchise agreement and tell her, for two thousand dollars—

B: I think they oughta have a Snow Ghost franchise.

J: Dude, I met another Snow Ghost! Or, I heard about another Snow Ghost! This guy Neil came in the store, this nice boy from Holden. There’s a million kids now that just moved out of Holden.

P: What happened in Holden?

M: Holden had some weird freaks, I think, in this one generation of really fun kids.

P: And then they were driven out of the city.

J: Well, from Holden they just moved out to the next biggest town. I feel like there might have been like one catalyst, like one weirdo, probably like our age, that lived in Holden, and these grew up and like, “We’re like this weirdo.” Or maybe that’s the way the world is going. Every week now I meet someone fun, new, from Holden.

Anyway, this guy Neil was in the store, and we were talking about Snow Ghost, [gestures to Bruce] this guy right here, and this girl he was with was like, “Oh dude, my brother calls himself Snow Ghost.” I was like, is your brother’s real name Bruce? Is your brother this cool dude with rose-colored glasses? She’s like, “Nonononono.” He’s like eight years old or something—

P: And he’s watched that episode of Scooby Doo.

J: I guess so. But she’s like telling me more about him, like, “Yeah, he’s really creeping everybody out, he’s really into horror stuff. He calls himself Snow Ghost, and signs his school papers that way.”

And there was some big kerfuffle over this Thanksgiving paper that he wrote, where they asked him, “What are you thankful for?”, and he wrote—I can’t remember exactly what it was. It was as good as this: “Blood, bats, and the light of the moon.”

I gotta get in touch with this guy. I gotta hook you guys up.

B: Sounds like something I would say. Because I like the smell of blood.

J: Yeah, you guys could do a split tape or something.

P: Did you give them a joke book or something to get back to this kid?

J: I was telling them, “Dude, we know the Snow Ghost! We gotta get these two kids together.” And she was like, [bored] “Oh, that’s neat.”

P: It’s like your reincarnation, except you’re not dead.

B: Oh, right.

J: Or . . . .

P: What? Or maybe he is dead! You don’t look dead.

B: But look at this. It’s like the Kiss Army. I’m starting the Snow Ghost Army. But instead of kissing my ass, everybody’s gotta kiss the Snow Ghost’s ass. So I might as well ass it up with the Snow Ghost!

J: This is the thing, though. This dude isn’t following you. You guys are both independently on the same track.

P: It’s like spontaneous generation.

B: See, I just spread the word of the Snow Ghost. And see what happened. I just created—

P: I’m going to turn off this recorder.

J: It’s like Hinckley. When Hinckley shot Reagan, there was this other guy that was like ghosting him.

P: Saying he was John Hinckley?

J: No no no, just doing the exact same thing. Neither of them knew each other. They were travelling the same weird path across the world. And when they picked up Hinckley, a couple days later, I think, they picked up this other dude, and “Oh he was in this place when Hinckley was here. He was in this other place when Hinckley was here.”

They were both sending letters to Jodie Foster, I think. They were both operating on the same exact wingnut wave.

B: I gotta say this. I was watching the Travel Channel Friday, a show about the haunted houses of America and things like that, and this one particular place in America, called Tombstone.

Radford & Villani in Tombstone

There’s a pub or something, it was haunted by some person from, I don’t know . . . .

J: The Wild West?

B: Yeah. And anyway, cause the old Tombstone has the history from the Old West, right? The manager of the building recorded this thing, he got messages in the voice of John Hinckley.

P: He got the voice of John Hinckley in a haunted bar in Tombstone?

B: Because what he recorded sounded exactly what he said.

J: But he’s still alive.

P: Maybe he’s . . . .

J: He’s on the astral plane.

B: But if you actually were to hear this thing—

P: This is a totally interesting paranormal theory though, that there could be multiple “essential Hinckleys.” Because you could say, Elvis died but some people see him alive, that there are actually multiple Elvises.

J: The thing about Hinckley is that this just points to some CIA brain control thing. Where he was like the backup Hinckley, if Hinckley like . . . whatever.

B: I was reading the paper one time that they sold Elvis Presley’s grave plot.

P: Where did you see this?

B: In the paper.

P: Which paper?

B: It was like when Morrison died. Morrison supposedly died in Paris. But when they buried the body there was no proof it was actually him.

P: You think Jim Morrison is still alive?

B: Oh yeah, I think he’s living in Paris.

P: Why would Jim Morrison fake his death?

J: We have a friend that faked his death. Mike T. Our friend Mike T., he writes an article for MRR—MAXIMUMROCKNROLL—and one day he just sent in his own obituary. To MRR. And all these people were calling his mom, like “I knew Mike, I’m so sorry.” She’s like, “When did you know him?” Like, “Uh, for the past five years.” She’s like, “So you know Mike.” “Yeah, but now . . . .” “Now what?” “Now he’s dead.” “No he’s not, I just talked to him!”

He was in hot water for that, but only with his mom. MRR could care less.

B: This is what they usually do with lobster.

J: They put ’em in hot water.

B: Yeah. And they all turn red. Just like politicians when you get them on a good subject.

P: It’s going to take me like four hours to transcribe this. [Optimistic—ed.]

DSCN8697

B: You know what else I say? It’s like a politician’s running for office. What is an attention-getter for a potential getter?

P: What’s an attention-getter for someone going after a potential getter?

B: Yeah.

P: I dunno. Tell me.

B: If somebody seems like a potential person, it’s like me, like I said this morning. I’m potential, like I’m supposed to be this model for how people act, so when they see this person who’s a potential getter it’s me. So they see someone who’s got a lot of potential and they go after him.

P: So you’re saying that the politicians would go after you.

B: Right.

P: Like go after you, try to take you down.

B: Right.

P: But they fail.

B: Right. Some people found that out the hard way.

P: I’m going to turn off the recorder.

B: And people in Worcester are finding that out too.

J: Just turn it off.

P: I’m just going to turn it off here.

B: Why don’t you just turn it off?

P: Lemme get the check first. [Checks are distributed.] So the coffee was a buck here. They don’t list it on the menu. Alright. Jacob Berendes, Mike Leslie, thanks for your time.

J: Yep.

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3 Comments Leave a comment.

  1. On January 21, 2007 at 21:29 Corneilius Patrick Despres said:

    This was a pleasure to read. A++, would probably read again!

  2. On January 21, 2007 at 21:51 Nick said:

    This was well worth the effort of transcribing :)

  3. On January 23, 2007 at 05:25 Kaihsu Tai (Oxford, England) said:

    I also have a MySpace page, for my sins.

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