It’s Memorial Day. Many, including myself, rejoice and give gratitude for this day away from the office, subconsciously recognizing it as the kick off to a summer, hopefully greater than the last. San Diego is warming up despite the sing-song “May gray; June gloom” pessimism. Stretched-out beach cruisers bump along the boardwalk and sun-kissed bodies tote boards of all varieties and sizes toward the shoreline. Yet all these simple pleasures of dog walking, volleyball, cold beers, ripening fruit, and earning a new freckle or two are done knowing that not all of our loved ones and family members are able to do so with us. There is a carpe diem aroma in the air this time of year and we are reminded to live life to the fullest for as long as we have left to live. So darn a red poppy and enjoy the day and a little refreshment in the name of a fallen soldier.
It’s certainly warm out and this excites me. I’ve tried the past three weekends to catch the sun rays hanging out at the beach, but it seems once Friday rolls around the sun ducks out and I’m left wondering whether I live in San Diego or Portland (it’s not quite as bad as Seattle). But before I toss off my sandals and sprawl out on the sand, I’m desperate for a little food (or a lot) and something cool to drink. There’s a line down the block for Hodad’s, but I really want a burger and the more I think about it, a malt would be kind of nice too. Not to far away there’s a little spot in an otherwise unexciting shopping center, surrounded by a Von’s, a fabric store, a Blockbuster video, and some other random storefronts. I nearly kick myself for not deciding to go there first when I walk in and am welcomed immediately by two smiles behind the counter of Classics Malt Shop.
I don’t come enough to know their names, whether they are brothers or best friends, or whether they flip a quarter every morning to determine who is at the register and who is at the grill. What I do know is the burgers taste homemade, they come with a pickle and fries, and whatever ice cream they have can be turned into a shake, malt, float, or the best of both worlds–ice cream freeze. There is no rush here. No rush to order, no rush to eat, and no rush even to pay your check at the counter. If you sit there long enough for lunch, you just might find yourself ordering dinner too. I can tell that there are a lot of neighboring locals that come here because the customers are talking to each other and arguing over the colors of high school football teams. But I don’t feel left out. Once you give your name over with your order, it’s committed to memory and you’re called by name and not your burger size. The fries are deliciously seasoned and still have their skins on them. The booths are upholstered in red and you’re welcomed to sit as if you’ve come to visit a friend.
I watched the gentleman who took my order grab the silver mixing cup typical to 50s-style diners and level it with Mocha Almond Fudge ice cream. He swings by the soda fountain and hits Coke as the ice cream foams and froths rabidly. He’s not making a float. This is an ice cream freeze. The menu describes it as a shake with soda instead of milk. The ice cream and soda are blended, topped with a cloud of whip cream and the bright red orb of a maraschino cherry. Spoon or a straw; it’s your choice, but this delightful drink has the sin of a shake and the satisfaction of an ice-cold Coke. I enjoy the lovely transition of whip-cream and soda induced froth. I indulge in between chews of juicy burger and salty fries. By the time I reach the end, there is a cache of almond pieces that hadn’t made it up the straw. They’re a sweet ending.
My belly is full and I know I’m going to have to fight for a parking spot at the beach at this hour, but it doesn’t bother me a bit because I could certainly use the walk.
To every soldier’s, sailor’s widow, widower and orphan–Thank you for the ultimate sacrifice that enabled us all to enjoy the simplest of life’s necessities and pleasures.