Big Thick Shakes
When I was in high school there was a hang-out spot called "Lyons." A 24-hour coffee shop with waitresses in actual uniforms and 5-page laminated plastic menus. Everything on the menu had a description. It wasn't just a hamburger, it was a "Fresh-Grilled Hamburger Sandwich Deluxe." Or you could get "Hot Pancakes." Because who wants cold ones? My favorite menu description was the milkshake, listed as "Big Thick Shakes in Tall, Shiny Shakers." My best friend, Steve, would always order one exactly like that. "I'd like a big, thick shake in a tall, shiny shaker, please." It would come in a tall parfait glass with the remainder in a frosty cup that ran condensation down onto the formica tables.
We'd sit in orange plastic booths and, at seventeen, feel grown-up ordering coffee. (Remember, this was before there was a Starbucks on every corner and 6-year olds sucked down lattes on their way to French school.) True to stereotypes, the local cops would come in and sit at the counter, downing slices of cherry pie or eating club sandwiches with those colored toothpicks holding them together.
There were plastic flowers in plastic planters and a plastic smell to the no-doubt asbestos-filled carpet. The really only safe things there were hamburgers and fries. Anything else was highly suspect. The fried chicken should have come with its own defibrillator paddles. The mysterious chicken fried steak (is it steak? is it chicken?) came in a lake-full of gravy you could swim in. And every breakfast tasted like fish. Everything. Eggs. The aforementioned hot pancakes. Not sure how they managed to make bacon taste like fish, but they did.
There was a "banquet room" where the local Kiwanis would meet and where we the drama department of my high school had an end-of-year dinner complete with speeches and trophys. Lyons even had a bar attached which I never went in. First because I was too young. Then because the place stopped being anyplace I would go. We used to joke about sneaking in and ordering martinis. A bit of alcohol made have made the fake rock-paneled walls and mystery carpet look more appealing and less like a waiting room for purgatory. There was always something dingy and vaguely moldy about the spot that, at times, seemed intriguing. But that was only because we lived in suburbia and were too young to know better. Once we all got driver's licenses we branched out and found new and better places to get our 2 am breakfasts and salt-and-grease-with-a-side-order-of-fries.
Lyons sadly closed ages ago and was torn down circa 2003. A Walgreens now stands at the place where we went for breakfast after grad night, burgers after band practice, and big, thick shakes in tall, shiny shakers. I don't miss the place, but I will always miss the place.