From the Archives: 24 Hours at the White Diamond
A look back at one of my favorite stories.
Last year over Halloween weekend, in an attempt to launch Clark-Garwood Patch with a stunt, I decided against all reason to spend 24 straight hours at the Clark White Diamond.
What a night.
There were burgers, there were drunk folks in costume, there were visitors of all stripes – and I even learned how to make a Taylor-ham-and-cheese.
So back from the archives, one of my very first and very favorite stories here at Patch.
It seemed like a good idea at the time: a 24-hour stint at a 24-hour institution to take in the scenes, talk to customers about Patch, and get an under-the-hood look at the legendary, circa-1946 Clark White Diamond. It was about 5 a.m., 17 hours into my self-imposed all-nighter, my clothes giving off that distinct onion-and-beef scent, the costumed partiers gone, when my pep started to wane. But an apple turnover and a hot tea cured my sleepiness, and as the sun rose, the White Diamond came to life again.
So hello again if I took your picture over Halloween weekend. Thanks for playing along. Watching "the Diamond" morph from busy lunchtime pit-stop to cacophonous after-party hangout to mellow breakfast nook, was a special treat—as was sharing burgers and stories with all of you.
Read this story by clicking through the slideshow, above.
The timeline without photos, below.
SATURDAY, 12:00 p.m. - Here goes nothing. I say hello to co-owner Kevin Collins, son of Ray Collins who owned the biz for most of its years. Ray died three years ago and the line at the funeral home was full of White Diamond customers. Working with Collins are Billy and Chrissy. I tell them I'm the girl who's staying for 24 hours, and they shake their heads at me.
12:14 p.m. - I sit at the counter and start chatting with Sonny, 69, who introduces himself as "Sonny With No Money," because he has a fondness for Atlantic City, boats, motorcycles, and other big-kid toys. Sonny drives 30 minutes to the White Diamond all the way from Keyport every day. And every day he orders Taylor ham and eggs, which "proves pork roll won't kill you!" Sonny has a great, loud laugh. He jokes, "When you're a regular, they give you the good rolls. Not the crushed ones from the bottom of the bag. And they might sneak you an extra slice of pork roll."
Sitting on the other side of the counter is Joe, 77, from Colonia, who is also a regular. I ask the guys about famous customers, and Joe tells me that Gerry Cooney (the boxer Don King dubbed "the Great White Hope") comes here every Wednesday. He mentions restaurateur and NFL reporter Tony Siragusa, too. Joe has been retired for 10 years and was the head of the carpeting department for Sears. I ask if his whole house is carpeted. "Everything but the kitchen and bathrooms," he replies. One time, he went on a carpeting job after leaving the White Diamond and the homeowners, smelling that burger and onion smell, asked if he had just been here.
Joe and Sonny start listing other nicknamed regulars—Little Joe, Little Andy, Hammer (who, ironically, is a plumber, not a contractor). They can tell which regulars are here just by the cars in the parking lot. If regulars don't all show up, well, regularly, the other regulars and the staff get worried about them. They've been coming as long as the Diamond's been open. They only know each other from this place. I never knew the White Diamond had "regulars" except for the regularly buzzed and hungry 2 a.m. crowd.
Across the counter from us is Hank, who has worked here as a cook for 21 years. He's about to start his shift. Hank is big guy, a man of few words. I ask if he has to take use brawn to take control if things get wild at night. Before he can reply, Sonny says, "He's the bouncer and he doesn't even know it!"
Sonny tells me he sells hot dogs in Keyport and with the season ending, he's got lots of leftovers. Someone says he should give them out for Halloween.
LUNCH WITH THE KIDS
1:30 p.m. – I meet Marcee Rogers, from Westfield, with her two kids, Suzanna, 3, and Patrick, 14. Marcee says they like the White Diamond because "it's good food, simple food, fast." When I ask Suzanna her name she spells "S-U-Z-A-N-N-A." Pretty impressive for a three-year-old!
1:37 p.m. – I order the standard: a large cheeseburger with fried onions. I can't believe I made it a whole hour and a half without having one yet. The White Diamond burger is incredibly flat, greasy, and on a poppy-seed bun the exact size of the paper plate it's served on. It comes with crinkle cut pickle chips and the cheese melted underneath the patty. I've had them before, but this one tastes extra good.
2:00 p.m. – Shift change. Megan, John and Hank take over for Kevin, Billy and Chrissy.
2:13 p.m. – I spy yellow cans of Yoo-hoo in the glass case behind the counter. I haven't had a Yoo-hoo in years. I can't resist and order one from Megan. Yum. Megan Latawiec, 20, lives in Rahway. She and I discuss what her clothes must smell like after working here all day. She tells me she actually has a separate hamper for work clothes.
2:27 p.m. - I meet Melissa Rassitano, 39, from Westfield, and her three kids—Gabby, 9, Brooke, 8, and Max, 5. They are going to be a mummy, Taylor Swift, and Spongebob for Halloween tomorrow. Melissa tells Gabby, "Take a picture of you here now, because you'll come here when you're older." Gabby says, "But mom, will it still be here then?" "You bet it will," she answers.
2:40 p.m. – Megan fills the ketchups from a big can. She tells me this is the shift when things slow down a little, and they get things prepped for tomorrow morning. This I the first time it's just me and the staff here. It only lasts for five minutes.
3:15 p.m. – Megan gives me a tour of the basement and we talk about some of the operational stuff. The shred 150 pounds of onions a week. Rolls come everyday at 4 a.m. from Vaccaro's Bakery. They have to be sliced before 6 a.m. hits. There are boxes and boxes of fries in the freezer.
3:35 p.m. - Hank cooks bacon. Lots of bacon. It takes too long to cook it in the morning, so they precook it on the grill today and then crisp it up in the deep fryer as it's ordered tomorrow.
4:07 p.m. – Megan stacks cheese. Yes, you read that right. Apparently, it takes too long to peel the slices off the giant block they come in, so she separates them and puts them in a big plastic container. To answer the rest of your cheese-stacking questions, watch our "Cooking With the Experts" video.
4:30 p.m. – John's mom, Patrice, 42, and two sisters, Marrissa, 14, and Lauren, 12, come by to eat. I learn that John is part of the Collins family. Patrice is Ray Collins's daughter. She tells me her dad's whole car smelled like the cheeseburgers. Ray was one of 18 kids in the Collins family, who are originally from North Carolina. Patrice says most of them are in the restaurant business. I ask Patrice if she could hang out here as a teenager like all the other kids did, and she says no way. But all her friends knew her dad. She says when she was younger you couldn't even get a parking spot in the lot, and the line of customers would wrap around the building.
DINNER AT THE DIAMOND
5:02 p.m. – Westfield Patch editor John Celock comes to visit. A few minutes later so does my high-school buddy, Margot Bordas, 26, from Clark. John takes a video of Hank showing me how to cook a White Diamond burger. John just ate a burger, but is easily convinced to taste-test another for the camera. See our "Cooking With the Experts" video for John's critique.
6:07 p.m. – I meet father and son, John and Justin Ricardo, from Westfield. John grew up in Garwood and in the early '70s would ride his bike to the White Diamond all the way from Garwood. John Celock, ever on duty, interviews them about budget cuts at Westfield High.
6:20 p.m. – I meet Janet and Cosimo. Janet grew up in Clark and now they live in Scotch Plains. Janet says when her mom didn't feel like cooking, she would send her with money to the White Diamond.
6:34 p.m. – I meet Al Carl, 72, a regular, and his step-daughter Susan, 48. They are obviously some of Megan's favorite customers and she chats with them. Al used to come here with his wife, Carole, and tells me it's hard coming now since she passed away this August. The White Diamond staff went to her services. Al and Susan just moved to Cranford from Westfield. Al's been coming to the White Diamond longer than he can remember, and when I ask him what's changed since over the years he says, "Just the faces."
Megan tells me she's getting her RN license at Trinitas Hospital. "So I can take care of you," she tells Al and Susan. Susan is a cancer survivor and patient. She beat ovarian and colon cancer, and now has cancer in her liver. Susan is incredibly, almost unbelievably, positive. "If I find myself going to that [depressed] place, I stay there for just a minute and then I leave it behind," she says. She has a prayer line of people praying for her. "My mom used to take me for my chemo treatments," says Susan. "My sister-in-law goes with me now, but it's not the same as having your mom." I ask her if it's okay to write about her cancer and she tells me to use whatever I want because she wants to help other people.
6:59 p.m. – I meet Danielle, 21, from Woodbridge and Joanie, 51, from Matawan. This is their first time at the White Diamond. They're dress shopping for a wedding and have been to three different Lord & Taylor stores today. They are with Danielle's boyfriend, Mark, 24, who made the decision to come here. Danielle says he's a food connoisseur. "Don't ever doubt my food skills," says Mark. "It's White Diamond. It's like a national landmark or at least a Union County landmark." Joanie steals a piece of bacon off Mark's BLT and he warns her, "People have lost fingers for less than that!"
7:28 p.m. – I learn that Megan owns two bearded dragons and two lizards, and she scoops crickets out of a tank at the pet store to feed them. I never would have guessed.
8:01 p.m. – I meet Bill Bermel, 40, who moved to Clark five years ago from Bloomfield. He has three sons and a daughter, and they go to Hehnly and Kumpf and Johnson. His youngest son plays Pop Warner Flag Football, and his oldest is on the freshman football team at Johnson. He runs a custom furniture company, Bespoke7. Check them out at bespoke7.com.
8:18 p.m. – RyAnn Reynolds, a contributor for Clark-Garwood Patch, stops to visit and brings provisions. Candy and Red Bull. I am eternally grateful.
8:23 p.m. – I meet Mario and CJ. Their shy friends on the other side of the booth didn't want to have their picture taken. But Mario is not shy. He likes the White Diamond because, he says, "The cheese fries are good, and you see people you know here every day almost."
8:30 p.m. – I meet Mikael, 21, who works night shifts here, but is just visiting tonight. His bacon cheeseburger looks so good, I have to take a photo of it. I take a few, and feel bad for making Mikael wait. Then, he takes an action shot devouring it. When I ask what to expect tonight, a Saturday, the night before Halloween no less, he says, "Lots of drunk people." Figured. He tells me there's a regular here that looks like the stapler guy from Office Space, and one day they convinced him to say, "I believe you have my stapler." I ask Mikael and Megan about how far people have come from to the White Diamond. They tell me there are Australian businessmen who stop here once a year, when they come to the States for work. Megan also got a call from someone in Alaska, asking if he could send a check and have burgers shipped over in bulk.
9:10 p.m. – A welcome surprise: My parents, Terry and Charlie, stop by with their friends, Helen and Matty.
9:29 p.m. – I meet Barbara Jean, Ray Collins's sister, coming in to work the night shift. When I ask about Ray she gets teary. "This was his life," she says. When I ask what he was like, she says, "Kevin. You saw Kevin? That's Ray." She warns me about the crazy folks who come in during the night shift. It seems like it requires a special personality to handle it night after night, and it only takes a few minutes of meeting Barbara Jean to know she is one tough cookie.
9:40 p.m. – More familiar faces. Garwood councilman Anthony Sytko, 28, visits with his sister Angela, 25, and Stephanie Zultanky Pavlou, 29, another Clark-Garwood Patch contributor. They are equally jazzed about the Yoo-hoo.
10:00 p.m. – Shift change. Megan leaves and I'm sad to see her go. I force her to take a parting picture to get me by. James, who is even more silent than Hank, takes over as cook. Letha, a cheerful woman dressed in a Halloween shirt that says "If the broom fits, ride it," takes over the register. She is mild-mannered and sweet.
10:35 p.m. – I knew these names sounded familiar—Johnson football is here. PJ Franciotti, 18, Nick Campione, 16, and Nick Mullery, 17, come to the Diamond regularly. They eat like football players: Franciotti always gets two Taylor-ham-and-cheeses and a Pepsi, and Mullery gets two large cheeseburgers and a Pepsi. Campione takes it easy with just a Taylor-ham-and-cheese and a Pepsi.
10:50 p.m. – Annette, 50, from Jackson and Carol, 50, from Toms River, have come here "hundreds of times." They work at the Bellville Tavern in Bellville together, and the Diamond's convenient location off the Parkway makes it an easy stop on the way home. Annette was too shy for a photo.
11:12 p.m. – More familiar faces. My friends Drew, Deanna, Gracey, Jay and Jen stop in. Deanna, a self-professed "fry fanatic" says she's had a lot of fries and the fries here are definitely among her top three favorites. "They are perfect crinkle, crispy fries," she says. Jay poses for a picture with his vanilla shake. His expression in the shot is so joyful. He explains, "Ice cream makes me genuinely happy."
11:44 p.m. – Clark PD walks in, but for grub not business. Officer Daniel Joy, 29, says when Clark cops come here for break they use police lingo. Instead of the White Diamond, it's the "Whisky Delta."
THE WITCHING HOURS
SUNDAY, 12:15 a.m. – I yawn for the first time and start the second half of my 24 hours.
12:20 a.m. – Mike Ford, 32, and Ken O'Connor, 36, are here after a wedding in Little Egg Harbor. Mike comes for Sunday breakfast every week and always gets a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich with ketchup.
12:26 a.m. – Rob Cunliffe, 28, and Jen and Steve Cuzimano, both 29, stop in. Rob and Steve have been coming here since high school, and are initiating Jen. Rob says this is "the best drunk food in the state," and that there's something about the Taylor ham here that makes it better than any other place he's been. "No diner can compare," Rob says. They tell me that the real witching hour isn't until later, around 2 a.m., but they're older now, so they make it in by 12:30.
12:38 a.m. – Gordon, 23, and Leyla, 39, work at Barnes & Noble across the street. When I ask them what they like about the White Diamond, Leyla says, "To me, this is Jersey. This is just Jersey." Leyla declined a photo.
12:45 a.m. – Al Patel, 37, is here with his whole family. He grew up in Elizabeth and went to Roselle Catholic, then Seton Hall and Rutgers. Now he lives in Scranton, Pennsylvania, but is in town visiting friends. "I told them 'We've got to go to White Diamond tonight,'" he says. "I couldn't come all the way back here and not go." He tells me he loves the authenticity of this place, the no nonsense. "It's the equivalent of getting cheesesteaks in Philadelphia," Patel says.
12:58 a.m. – Justin White, 26, is from Long Branch but his girlfriend is from Clark. He came from the Halloween party down the road at Senorita's. He says, "I'm supposed to be King Leonidas, but I'm pretty sure I'm just wearing spandex and a dress." White couldn't carry his wallet in that outfit, so I spotted him a cheeseburger and fries. Check him out in our "Late Night Scenes" video.
1:10 a.m. – Poor Thomas Murch, 30. He's here to grab food before his two-month-old wakes up. If Taylor-ham-and-cheese and a Mountain Dew can't get a man through those nights, what will?
1:25 a.m. – I meet costumed Kelly, 23, and Amanda, 23. They are both Johnson alums, and used to come to the Diamond in high school.
1:35 a.m. – The costumes are coming in earnest now. Valerie Pitchford, 30, is dressed as a '50s housewife; Joe Guarino, 30, is a zombie; and Bonnie Pitchford, 27, is a pirate wench. They came from a party at the Colonia Elks.
1:40 a.m. – I see a lady pilot, Kimberly, 23, from Garwood, kissing a grandma, Chris, 25, from Clark.
1:55 a.m. – Michael, 26, Chrissy, 47, and Allison, 50, are a riot. This crew kept me laughing for a long time. Chrissy and Allison came from Molly Maguire's, just next door. Chrissy tells me the White Diamond is where "old chicks can talk to young guys!" Check out this threesome in our "Late Night Scenes" video.
2 a.m. – 3 a.m. – Things are so packed that I can't even keep up. Letha is no longer mild-mannered and subdued. She's taking orders as fast as she can and shouting them out when they come off the grill. The volume has gone up tenfold. It's hard to hear anything except for Letha's "CHEESEBURGER AND FRIES!" bursts above the cacophony. More customers are in costume than not. There is Popeye (who most definitely didn't eat spinach tonight), a gangster, a pirate and a hippie, the Hulk, Tiger Woods, a wild west outlaw with Megan Fox from Jonah Hex, a female "Jason," Rainbow Brite, Pebbles, a Snookie, and—count em—three Top Gun "Gooses." Or, is it Geese? The Geese all showed up at the same time. Then two of the Geese realized they had worked together once. Incredible. This could only happen here. See our video, "Late Night Scenes," for more.
3:12 a.m. – Things finally start to settle down when I meet Tyler, 17, from Cranford. He comes here every weekend and the staff know his order before he can say it: bacon cheeseburger, onion rings and a drink. I notice he's putting hot sauce on his onion rings. "He puts hot sauce on everything!" yells Letha from across the restaurant.
3:20 a.m. – With curly, mop top locks, Michael, 20, from Roselle, and Matt, 19, from Cranford really look like twins. They like the colorful staff here and the fact that the Diamond is open all night.
3:24 a.m. – A friend from elementary school, Adam Colicchio, 26, comes in for food dressed as Zach Morris from Saved By The Bell.
3:35 a.m. – Tom, a truck driver, helps the staff refill ketchup bottles. He always comes around this time and gets just coffee—four cups that he drinks here, and three for the road.
3:40 a.m. – In walks Matt Smith, 26, who graduated from Union Catholic with me. He's here with his buddies, all in costume. Matt's dressed as Waldo, but he's only got the Waldo shirt and lost the accessories. There's Chris, 22, dressed as a jester. John Potts, 21, is dressed as a Hasidic Jew or rapper Matisyahu, he's not sure. Gus, 21, is dressed as Popeye—that's two Popeyes tonight, for those of you counting. And Joseph, 31, isn't in costume, save for a t-shirt that says "Let's get smashed!" with a pumpkin on it.
What to say about these guys. They entertained me for hours. Barbara Jean must have scolded them for cursing 20 times. Joseph worked here for seven years and tells me this is the best time of the night to come because the grill is perfectly seasoned. Joe starts asking questions of Barbara Jean, who is rolling her eyes at him. But when he asks if she's a Collins, she answers with an instant "you bet." Joseph just got engaged to Popeye's sister, and Matt is getting ordained so he can marry them. Joseph asks John if he's sure the mozzarella sticks he's eating are kosher. Check these guys out in our video, "Late Night Scenes."
4:00 a.m. – John from Vaccaro's Bakery delivers 45 dozen rolls and some pastries.
4:12 a.m. - Barbara Jean leaves. Matt tries to make her pose for a picture, unsuccessfully.
4:30 a.m. – When the cowboy walked in, the guys and I had trouble deciding whether or not he was in costume. Chad, 24, from Toms River laughed when we asked, and said "Of course!" His cousin, who was in the car, is from Clark.
4:42 a.m. – I meet Tony, 20, and Kelly, 20, who make a really cute couple. Tony was dressed as a scarecrow, but has lost his stuffings. Kelly is dressed as a nerd. Tony says, "There were zero crows at the party we were at, and I want to take full responsibility for that."
4:50 a.m. – Nick, 17, and Adam, 17, are from Westfield and are trying to pass off lacrosse and basketball jerseys for costumes. They read Westfield Patch and are fans of John Celock. I tell them that he was here exactly 12 hours ago. Juuuuust missed him.
4:53 a.m. – I sit with Tom, the truck driver, at the counter. Waldo and co. are still here, yucking it up. I ask Tom if he's at least being entertained. He says, "Those guys? I've seen a lot worse than them. Usually you can't even hear yourself think."
5:00 a.m. – Andrea, 26, is a mummy and David, 23, is sans costume. Apparently, they know Joseph. I never knew 5 a.m. at the White Diamond was the best place to find old friends.
5:05 a.m. – Waldo and co. call for a station cab. Letha starts joking with them. "Waldo, where's your hat with the ball on the top?" she asks. "And you," she says, turning to John, "You're not supposed to be out after dark. It's the Sabbath." My cheeks hurt from laughing at them. Joe brings home a Taylor-ham-and-cheese for his fiancée.
5:13 a.m. – They leave and things are so quiet suddenly. The place is empty for only the second time in my 24 hours. I feel sleepy and have an apple turnover and a cup of tea to wake up.
5:20 a.m. – Jeff, 23, from Westfield comes in. He's been up since 6:15 a.m. and feels my pain. He works as a mechanic for STS. I ask him if he went out tonight and if he wore a costume. He says he wore an afro. After I'm done asking my questions, he interviews me.
5:27 a.m. – Letha's sweeping. James is mopping. All is quiet except for a small radio playing "If You Really Love Me" by Stevie Wonder. ….and if you really love me, won't you tell me… What a great song.
TAYLOR-HAM-AND-CHEESE FOR ALL
5:40 a.m. – Dave, 54, from Clark, comes in for breakfast. He lets me take a picture of it: eggs, home fries, sausage, toast and coffee. He likes that he can be in and out of here in 15 minutes.
6:03 a.m. – Another familiar face strolls in. Matt Allouf, who ran for a Garwood council seat. This is the Sunday before the election, and we talk about his campaign. I'm trying to remember how far back politicians have to stay from the polls on Election Day, and he says he thinks it's 200 feet. We joke that that'll be hard in Garwood. "Yeah, I guess we'll be at the Cranford border!" Matt laughs.
6:15 a.m. – Hammer is here, just like Sonny and Joe told me he would be. He's been here since 5:45. With his sarcastic wit, Hammer is like the Scrooge of the regulars. He rests his head on his elbow and busts Letha's chops.
Junior, 56, co-owner and nephew of Ray Collins, is here now, too. Junior also made an appearance in our "Welcome to Clark-Garwood Patch" video. We talk about whether any of 2 a.m. crowd ever starts a fight. "Sometimes they do get those beer muscles," says Junior. "We really should be called the comedy club."
I ask Junior why he likes this business, and he says he loves to socialize with the customers. He once went on a cruise and ran into people who recognized him but couldn't place him. When he said the White Diamond, they knew right away. He lives in Brick and has three children, ages 30, 26, and 23. Today he came to work with candy for any trick-or-treaters. It's too hard to pass out Taylor-ham-and-cheeses.
6:24 a.m. - Billy tells me that Thanksgiving Eve is the busiest night of the year at the White Diamond. We talk about how people like the fries here because they make them extra crispy.
7:15 a.m. – It's starting to get light out. I take some outside photos.
7:50 a.m. – The mood is so calm and mellow. You would never know what this place was like just a few hours ago. Annemarie, 42, and her son Eddie, 19, are from Sussex County. Annemarie grew up in Elizabeth, though. They were car shopping in the area and Annemarie decided she had to have a White Diamond cheeseburger while they were down here. She asks Brittany if it's too early for one, and Brittany says, "Never!" "She's been bothering me for a month about this place," says Eddie.
8:02 a.m. – The counter seats are filling up and Junior chats breezily with customers. He tells me that in 1996, when the old White Diamond building came down so they could put this one up, customers came and took pieces of it. "They were pulling the roof off," he says. Junior jokes with someone taking a seat at the counter, "You got reservations or what?" Billy talks baseball with a customer on the far stool.
8:31 a.m. – I meet Joe, 46, from Rahway and Adam, 45, from Clark. They've been coming to the Diamond for 30 years. Joe likes the atmosphere here and says it feels "small townish." Adam says his Uncle Bob claims he was the first one to ever eat here. "He was a mason working across the street," Adam says, "and the place wasn't even open yet, but someone working here shared a sandwich with him."
9 a.m. – I'm losing my voice. I've talked to too many people. I also don't blend in as well with this crowd. The regulars look at me suspiciously. Folks are a little livelier now, a little more awake.
9:10 a.m. – Billy makes me a Taylor-ham-egg-and-cheese. It hits the spot. I've been thinking about this sandwich since yesterday. It definitely lives up to the hype. See our video, "Cooking With the Experts," to watch Billy show us how T.H.E&C is made.
9:44 a.m. – Glenn, 40, and Tanaya, 37, from Rahway come for breakfast. They haven't been here in seven or so years. Glenn says, "My parents brought me as a kid, and you know you can trust that White Diamond name."
10:02 a.m. – I'm going to just have to admit that Isabella, 6, from Clark, was my favorite customer in 24 hours. She's here with her dad, Marcello, 43, who grew up in Roselle and went to Roselle Catholic. She is the friendliest six-year-old I've ever met and keeps tapping my leg and showing me things on her video game. I can barely get a word in. She's being Mariposa for Halloween. Somehow we get talking about bats and she tells me "bats use echolocation." What a smart cookie! She can also speak a little Italian, too, and we go over ciao, mangia, arrivederci and more.
10:50 a.m. – Al Carl is back. He's officially the first customer that I've seen twice in 24 hours.
11 a.m. – And here come some more second-rounders—Sonny and Joe, who are glad to see I've survived. Hank is back, too.
11:11 a.m. – Across the counter are John, 85, from Sterling; Jack, 59, from Cranford; and Bill, 51, from Rahway. Jack tells me he always hollers "Big Hank!" when he walks in, regardless of whether or not Hank is here.
11:15 a.m. – Jack and John steal my camera and decide it's my turn to have my picture taken after taking photos of everyone else for 24 hours. After a long day and night, this is not my best look! 45 minutes to go.
11:40 a.m. – I suddenly realize the seats at this counter are unofficially designated seats among the regulars. I ask whose seat I'm in. Joes. Joe is sweet enough not to mind.
11:43 a.m. – Another Yoo-hoo before I go. Why not. Then I make Junior, Billy and Brittany pose for a portrait.
11:50 a.m. – Sonny rode his Harley here and we go outside to look at the bike. The sunshine feels nice, but bright.
12:01 a.m. – I make my last new friends, Estelle Goodman, 81, and her daughter Vicki Harris, 55. Vicki lives in Sarasota, Florida now, but grew up in Union. She says she can't get Taylor-ham-egg-and-cheese on a hard roll in Florida like you get it here.
I came, I saw, I Taylor-hammed. I met some of the finest folks around. Let's do this again sometime—burgers on me.
On my way out, I read a poem about the White Diamond that's hanging by the door. This line seemed appropriate: "There's excellent service that comes with a smile, and they don't even mind if you stay for awhile."