Denny’s in Vestal, NY

Frank's seat at Denny's in Vestal, New York

Frank's seat at Denny's in Vestal, New York

Today is the first anniversary of my father’s death, thus, the theme of this entry is coffee.  I’ll take this opportunity to write something about the Denny’s in Vestal, New York, he went to for coffee every morning  for years and years, as well as The Lost Dog in Binghamton, New York, the cafe/restaurant he frequented nightly for coffee until he felt like he looked so bad he shouldn’t go anymore, which, of course, was ridiculous, but such is the burden of vanity.  I can’t fathom the amount of coffee he drank in a day during the time he went to both places and also brewed pots at home, but his blood must have been 100% French roast.  Denny’s (4024 Vestal Parkway East, Vestal) is across the street from Binghamton University and usually crammed with people, but the staff always made a fuss over my dad, since he had forged relationships with these people via daily contact over time.  Whenever I was in town the fuss was extended to me, which was great.  This meant lots of good conversation, great buffalo chicken strips and about 5 times the Denny’s-approved amount of hot fudge on the sundae I would sometimes have as my meal.  Many of the servers were studying this or that or were artists needing to make some actual money.  Several were part-timers caring for families.  Pretty quickly I knew all their stories and they knew mine, though they had a head’s up since my dad filled them in over the years.  Toward the end the old man was not looking or sounding too good, having trouble simply sitting up for periods of time or going into coughing jags, but there was never a problem.  This group of employees was the tops, managers included, and I’ll always have a place in my heart for Denny’s, though the one here in El Cerrito, CA cannot hold a candle to the Vestal location in terms of, well, anything.  I include here a photo of my dad’s regular counter spot, which now has a laminated tribute to him taped to the counter, and one of two fabulous people who work there.  Next, The Dog.  He went to The Lost Dog (222 Water Street, Binghamton), which is hip and young, because he, himself, was hip, a former musician, and attracted to innovation – particularly in technology.  While he enjoyed his workaday coffees during the day, he moonlighted with baristas.  He liked especially to argue politics and social issues, and it seems the staff of The Lost Dog was happy to engage in this, though it occasionally turned ugly.  He would often say things just to rile a person up, often taking the opposite position just to see what came of it.  I knew this so I wouldn’t take the bait, but not everyone did.  When the people working at “The Dog,” as my dad called it, found out he was ill, they all sprang into action and took a Saturday to physically move him from his old apartment to his new one, the chef getting her truck in gear and the cooks and others, including one of the owners and the catering manager, hauling stuff down three flights of stairs, across town, and into his new elevated studio.  All this while being subjected to various instructions and comments from my father, who made even the simplest task next to impossible by virtue of his personality and apparent desire to be the biggest pain in the ass in town.  I suppose he had earned enough credit with these folks – and they must have seen who he really was underneath all that drama.  And that damned printer!  Before and during the move he fixated on his older Epson inkjet printer for fear someone would tilt and damage it.  He had some sort of system going where he filled up the cartridges himself, and if the thing wasn’t held level something would come undone in there.  I had to hear this every time I even went near it.  I offered to buy a new printer, but he wanted THAT printer, since he enjoyed the whole upkeep routine.  OK, whatever.  I started going to The Dog when I arrived in town to care for him, and was shown great sympathy and concern by all.  They told me my dad would spend hours in there writing in his journal – and always left a $2.00 tip when all he had was coffee.  He liked interesting young women, this much I knew, and The Dog has plenty of them.  And fun.  I could see why he whiled away time at his regular counter spot.  It is a fact that I would not be able to enumerate the things The Lost Dog’s Marie and Nicole did during the last few months of my father’s life – essentially acting as surrogate daughters and putting up with the full force of that big personality, which did not wane as his body weakened.  And as his body weakened there was no weakening in his desire for coffee.  Coffee was a key theme in his life from beginning to end, and is often the first thing that comes to mind when I remember him.

Staff at Denny's in Vestal, New York

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