Coffee in Worcester: Boulevard Diner

posted by Mike on March 12th, 2007

In this coffee review about the Boulevard Diner, Bruce and I are joined by Michael, the “publisher” of Pie and Coffee, who rarely appears on this blog. He speaks Hungarian, is a fan of classic diners, and lives near Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Pie and Coffee: So how do you say her name?

Michael: Báthory Erzsébet.

P: And what were you telling me about her?

M: Well, she liked to bathe in the blood of young girls. She thought it kept her young. And that’s not really cool, but the family couldn’t kill her, because she had a title and all that, and you don’t kill a family member. So they walled her up in her room, because they weren’t really killing her then.

P: So they just let her die.

M: Roughly speaking, yeah.

Bruce: Of a slow death.

M: Yeah. But they didn’t kill her!

B: Of a bloody death.

P: Did you hear Bruce’s song about her?

M: Yes I did, I liked that very much.

P: It got a good review on Volcano Boy.

B: I got a great review on Volcano Boy.

M: I saw that too.

B: You know what they say about Volcano Boy.

M: What do they say about Volcano Boy?

P: It’s a volcano—watch out for the ashes! They get hot!

P: So the Boulevard Diner.

M: The Boulevard Diner rocks!

P: What did you like about it?

M: A lot of wood.

P: You know, I don’t see a lot of wood inside diners. Maybe I don’t go to old enough diners.

M: The best diner I’ve been in was out in Western Mass, and it was all wood.

P: Western Mass like Springfield?

M: I have no idea. Some town with a girls’ college in it. It was a great diner. We were coming back from the Mass MoCA. All the coolers were made out of wood. Wood doors with the chrome.

B: I got one word for that.

M: What?

B: Cool.

P: You know, the coffee wasn’t very good today.

B: No.

P: The service was sprightly.

M: Yeah, she didn’t mind that we didn’t order anything. We ordered fries and coffee, and that was it. She seemed delighted.

P: She did seem delighted.

M: What did you think of the fries?

P: The fries were okay.

M: Were they cut there?

P: Oh, I think they were. They didn’t seem they were from frozen. If they were frozen, they were very good frozen fries.

M: They weren’t crisp fries, like at McDonald’s, they were soggy, but they were great. And they were dark, because they hadn’t changed the oil. So they were really–not textured, but . . .

P: They had a depth of color.

B: They were kind of like oil-burned.

M: The gravy was good. It had big ol’ chunks of pepper in it.

P: That’s true, because you got the “brown gravy” on your fries.

M: They had “red gravy.” I never heard of “red gravy.”

P: Yeah, that’s an Italian-American saying.

B: I know how you make red gravy.

M: How do you make red gravy?

B: You just kill somebody and drink their blood and stick it in the sauce.

M: Like Red Skelton?

B: Yeah. You gonna ask me any questions?

P: Yeah—what did you think of it? You don’t have to wait for me to ask you a question. You can just talk.

B: It was alright. Some of my things were still cold in the middle.

P: The fries?

B: Yeah. And the coffee wasn’t that good. It wasn’t one of the best places I went to.

P: I never go down there, it’s out of my way.

B: Me too. I don’t have any reason to go there. There’s nobody there I know.

M: The sandwiches look good.

B: I’m a regular kind of guy. I like to go where the regulars go.

M: Well there seemed to be some regulars at the counter. That old guy with the hat.

P: One of these weeks we’re going to go to the Gold Star Diner. That’s a diner that’s out of my way, but that I’m willing to go out to.

B: Yes, and go to the Courtyard.

M: I didn’t have a black coffee, but I liked my coffee.

P: That’s another thing. This is a place that, they use the term “regular coffee” as a term of art. It’s the sort of regionalism that I don’t find charming. I just want my damn coffee.

B: The regular coffee was with milk in it, and sugar.

M: You shoulda said, “Straight up.”

P: I know, I know. That’s the thing, they should basically say, “Cream and sugar?” That, to me, is what they should say. “Cream and sugar?” “Regular coffee” means different things in different areas.

B: “Regular” could mean different things for different people, too. I mean, “regular” for me is milk with no sugar. And with coffee too.

M: Maybe they mistook us for somebody else.

P: What did you think of the One Love Cafe? [We ate lunch at two places this day.]

M: That’s a good place. I liked that. I know my mom would like it a lot.

P: I’d heard about the “vegan brunch,” but I didn’t realize that every Sunday wasn’t the vegan brunch, that this was the meat brunch.

M: She said it was the “meat lovers’.”

P: And the thing is, I’ve only ever been in there one time, but I think she recognized Bruce, because she looked at me and said, “You’re a vegan, right?” And I wasn’t there on the right day but, “I can hook you up.”

M: I liked the soup. I should have asked her how she made the soup.

B: I though the soup was kind of spicy. Everything there was really spicy. I gotta watch out, I have acid reflux.

M: Ah, that’s why you were asking me how spiced it was. Well it wasn’t hot spice–do only hot spicy things give you acid reflux, or . . .

B: Spicy-spicy.

P: Did you ever go to the Boulevard before when you were here?

M: [shakes head]

P: You have to talk, because it’s a recording.

M: No, we’ve never been to the Boulevard before when I was here.

P: I thought you’d been to everything in Scranton, though. Because your grandfather was the “Mayor of Grafton Street.”

M: Yes, he was called the “Mayor of Grafton Street,” but I haven’t been to everything in Worcester.

P: Oh, I’m sorry, I’m getting Scranton and Worcester mixed up. Scranton’s like Worcester. It’s an excessively cold, fading, industrial town.

M: Trying to make a comeback. I think its economy’s on the rebound.

P: Scranton.

M: Scranton. Well, yeah, and I hear Worcester is too, but I’m kind of unclear on that.

P: I don’t know what the right economic indicators are for the city. If I knew what they were, I’d probably pay attention to them.

M: Well it’s got some nice diners. That’s a good indicator of something.

P: They respect the diners in Worcester. They do respect the diners. I have to give it that. So what was this Matthew Barney thing?

M: Well, his most recent movie “Drawing Restraint,” or “Drawing Restraint Nine”—

P: Wait a second, is that a threat on his part? That he’s going to make eight more?

M: No, because he’s been calling performances and things “Drawing Restraint” since like 1989, when he was in college or grad school or something. So this is the ninth—well, he’s already up to like twelve. The movie’s been released, but he’s done a bunch of other performances, and I saw some of them–I saw the movie “No Restraint,” which is a documentary about the making of “Drawing Restraint Nine,” with his wife/girlfriend/whatever Bjork.

P: Did you see “Drawing Restraint Nine”?

M: No, I did not.

P: But you liked “No Restraint.”

M: I liked “No Restraint,” and I think I liked “No Restraint” better than I would like “Drawing Restraint.” Because, I read a lot of articles about Matthew Barney, and I was really excited about him, and I’d never seen any of his work in person, and then I saw the retrospective at the Guggenheim about three, four years ago, and I just was like, “Wow. You can make a lot of things with five million dollars.”

P: I’m a philistine, because I don’t like Matthew Barney.

M: Am I old now? Because I no longer like it just because it’s avant garde. And it really irritated me.

P: The other night I was out drinking with a couple of my friends, and one of them was the one who likes the Cat and Girl web comic. We were talking about the comics in Worcester Magazine and alt-weeklies. And I said, “Yeah, it’s too bad Worcester Magazine doesn’t have Lynda Barry.” And they were both like, “What are you talking about?” And I’m like, “What kind of alt-girls are you supposed to be if you don’t know Lynda Barry, if you don’t know Ernie Pook’s Comeek?” But now I’m thinking like, not only was this probably a more appropriate comic for alt-girls like, decades ago, back when I was a young man, but also I’m probably not a good arbiter of what alt-girls should be reading.

M: Well, I dunno.

P: I’m probably the worst.

M: You could set yourself up as the arbiter. Mike Benedetti’s Alt-Girl Concordance.

P: I don’t even know what the right term is these days. I know it’s not riot grrrl.

M: You could be the Alt-Girl Pope. People won’t pay any attention to you, they’ll be like Protestants, but . . . .

P: I would love to be the godfather of a whole generation of radical Catholic young punk women. I don’t exactly know how I would pull that together.

M: Everybody’s gotta have a goal.

P: What was this thing about the Zombie Joseph Beuys?

M: The zombie Joseph Beuys is a character that shows up in “Cat and Girl.”

P: But you were telling me that you used to have a zombie Joseph Beuys in your own work?

M: When I was in Budapest I bought this graphic novel adaptation of “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” It was all in black and white. And staring at the panels, in a language I didn’t speak, although I knew the movie, I realized that this guy in a vest and a fedora looked just like Joseph Beuys. So I started coloring him in, and painting the skin green.

P: Wait a minute, do you mean Toht?

M: No, the Indiana Jones character himself, in black and white, looks like Joseph Beuys in black and white. Except that there’s no fat lying around. But who can tell. So I was coloring him in. I think he’d just died.

P: I think that’s an amazing thing, that more than one artist would say, “This is a dead artist who there should be a zombie of.”

M: There’s probably even more out there.

P: See, that’s the thing, I don’t know enough about his work to know–is he someone who it’s just obvious? For example, there’s no zombie Jackson Pollock. There is that one of Jackson Pollock as Jesus.

M: Jackson Pollock as Jesus?

P: “The Illusion of Depth,” I think? Do you know that? I’ll link to it. [I can’t find any links.] It’s the one of Pollock walking on water, and Clement Greenberg and some other guys are in the boat, as the Apostles, scared to go out there. And it’s because of the idea of the “illusion of depth,” and Pollock, being a painter of abstract stuff, it’s all surface anyway, there’s no depth, so he can walk on water.

M: I don’t think you should make a St. Pollock. Because everybody working at that time was doing a lot of good work. But the boat was full of critics, which is—

P: No, there’s also, I think Arshille Gorky was in the boat.

M: There was a good quote, I just read this, from Picasso: When art critics get together, they talk about form and meaning. When artists get together, they talk about the cheapest place to buy turpentine.

P: Well, I’m trying to think of what else we should talk about before I turn off the recorder. One thing: Doc Searls’s essay about the soul of Starbucks. I’ll just link it and you can tell me what you think.

M: I have something that I’ve been meaning to send you for about a month and a half now. It was a YouTube meme that went around for about a week. It was video responses to video responses to video responses to video responses.

P: I’ve heard about these, but I’m not on YouTube enough to have seen them.

M: It went down about twenty layers deep. It kept branching off. Some people did flowcharts trying to track them all down.

P: I love the Internet. That’s all I want to say. That’s my only statement. Bruce, what’s your only statement?

B: What’s my only statement?

M: What do you do when you go to a state?

B: Make a statement. I am here to make a statement. Yeah, cause the Black Death, we rule, we are the best metal band out there. And if people don’t see that then forget them.

P: I like when Michael asked you if you play the glockenspiel, and I said you play the rockenspiel, and you said no, you play the rock’n’steel.

B: Or the rocky spear!

P: You know what you should do, speaking of many levels. You should do a Snow Ghost joke based on a Snow Ghost joke based on a Snow Ghost joke based on a Snow Ghost joke.

B: Yeah, and I got the first joke. You know what the only death that’s black? The Black Death!

P: What’s the second joke?

M: You know what they say about black?

B: It’s death.

M: You know what they say about death?

B: It’s black.

M: You know what they say about black?

B: It’s death.

M: You know what they say about death?

B: It’s black.

P: You know what’s black and sticky?

M: Tar.

P: The Black Death. I feel like we’ve achieved some coffee critical mass, that we’re babbling like this.

M: I had too much coffee today.

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8 Comments Leave a comment.

  1. On March 12, 2007 at 12:57 Ann Marie Borek said:

    I knew what a “regular” coffee referred to–cream & sugar. Its a MA thing, I guess….sometimes at some places if you order a coffee w/cream & sugar, they´ll correct you and say “You mean Regular?” That´s happened to me before.

  2. On March 12, 2007 at 14:39 Tracy Novick said:

    That Western MA diner would be the Miss Florence in Florence, MA. Unless he’s talking aboutthe Bluebell on Route 5. Both are in Northampton.

    And it’s a WOMEN’S COLLEGE. Not a girls’ school.

  3. On March 12, 2007 at 18:14 Mike said:

    I’m sort of stunned that you both read more than 1/4 of this article!

    Here are some pix of the Miss Florence. I didn’t find any of the Bluebell.

  4. On March 13, 2007 at 07:07 OtherMichael said:

    Womyn’s College. Excuse me.

    But not Miss Florence — too glitzy. I’mfairly certain it had less signage than that.

  5. On March 14, 2007 at 12:50 Adam (Southern California) said:

    Man, that was quite the transcript. A few points:

    1. It always bothered me that at Tommy’s, they just called their chiliburgers “hamburgers.” Like, as in, one of the standard toppings for a hamburger there is chili. In my book, that makes it a chiliburger.

    2. I wish I could get brown gravy on fries. When I visited Canada I got poutine — good stuff.

    3. I never got Ernie Pook’s Comeek. I don’t think “Life in Hell” has been funny in about 20 years, either. Come to think of it, there were a lot of “alternative” comics that I thought just sucked. Well, a lot of non-alternative comics suck, too. But not as many as people think. No comics on the comics page are good 100% of the time; the very best are maybe good 75% of the time. Marmaduke is good approximately 0% of the time. People will dismiss things like Blondie because it seems like such a throwback, but there are some good gags in there. There are a lot of comics that people like because they like the characters but aren’t really all that funny. I guess For Better or For Worse is the canonical example there, but even Get Fuzzy skates by on its characters being likable more than they do on good jokes.

    4. “The Soul of Starbucks.” Hah! I don’t drink coffee, so I scoff whenever I see people debating the social significance of Starbucks and the associated addiction. I got a $4.00 Starbucks gift card for filling out a parking survey at work, and it took me something like 5 months to use it, and even then it was for pastries when I was on the road and needed breakfast.

  6. On March 16, 2007 at 15:20 Mike said:

    In re #1: Tommy’s is the sort of joint where the insider lingo works–it’s this weird, local thing. Same with the Boulevard Diner. I don’t like that they use coffee regionalisms, but it fits in with their whole vibe.

    In re #3: I really like Lynda Barry’s stuff. Back when I had a cubicle, I decorated it with her strip titled “Lord Love A Lungfish,” in which (as I recall) the boy vampire Skreddy-57 documents the lifecycle of that odd animal. “For Better or For Worse” is obviously much more than a gag strip, and the ongoing story has been strong for years, whether or not its hilarious on a given day.

  7. On March 18, 2007 at 16:49 Adam (Southern California) said:

    Yeah, it’s not necessarily bad that some comic strips aren’t funny; I think FBOFW is great, too. My first response probably wasn’t clear like that. Although maybe it’d be better if it didn’t even put the little minor gags at the end of each day’s strip and went full forward with the drama. But I think something like Get Fuzzy, as much as I like it, gets too much credit for being funny. It’s likable, and is often funny, but I think when people say it’s their favorite strip they get that confused with thinking it’s the funniest strip.

    I may be sort of talking out of my hat there, lemme move on to another subject, movies. I remember when the AFI produced their list of the 100 greatest comedies, a lot of people, when talking about it, used the terms “greatest comedies” and “funniest movies” interchangeably, and that’s just wrong. I remember The Graduate was on the list at #8, and I read a report saying that The Graduate had been declared 8th-funniest movie of all time. Now, that’s just absurd. 8th-greatest movie that is a comedy, sure, I could see that. But it probably wouldn’t make my list of the top 200 funniest movies. Funniest movie would be, maybe, I dunno, Airplane! or Freddy Got Fingered. But I wouldn’t put them at the top of a general list of greatest comedies.

  8. On July 8, 2007 at 11:09 Mike said:

    In re “black coffee.”

    From William Safire’s wonderful 1980 book On Language:

    “In the United States,” reports Phil Shea, public relations director of Sheraton hotels, “with only one exception, an order for ‘regular coffee’ would produce plain coffee with sugar and cream on the side.

    “The exception is Boston. An order for ‘regular coffee’ in the coffee shop would produce coffee with cream already added, and sugar on the side. In the hotel restaurant, the waiter would question the guest to clarify the order.”

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