Glass Bottle Cafe or Desert Mirage?

Glass Bottle Cafe or Desert Mirage?

I started walking with my nap-sack hanging off one shoulder. I knew I would most likely be walking the whole way from Clairmont to 2nd street, in El Cajon, where 2nd street crosses interstate 8 in San Diego, where I also knew I would be standing for the day. Sometimes I would be camping out till morning and hoping to catch a ride while I hitchhiked my way back to the "Space-coast of Florida.

A year plus of hitchhiking around the US, I met so many friends.  Most I would only have the experience to be invited into their world once and I discovered they had questions of my world.

As it turned out I did walk all day to 2nd street and interstate 8 in El Cajon and yes I did spend the night in my sleeping bag waiting for early morning to catch some east bound people. It was a good ramp to catch some military guys going to just beyond Yuma Arizona. I knew the area well as I was born a desert military brat/rat and knew my way around the 120 degree summer heat and small towns like El Centro.

The ride that morning would take me to the top of the ridge before heading down into the El Centro desert below, where I would be dropped off at one lonely exit to catch another ride.
Across the interstate was an old gas station looking to the right and on the left was what looked like an old cafe. I decided I would go in and have some breakfast before returning to my hitchhiking post near the end of the ramp so someone could see me as they were driving down the interstate. The highway patrol was pretty cool as they knew I was fudging the line past the "do not hitchhike on the interstate" sign but they let me live on to another day.

I walked across the highway and as I came closer to the cafe I noticed that the place was made with bottles turned on the sides and mostly the bottoms where facing out but a few with the tops were facing out too. I might have stuck my fingers in a few holes and looked into a few others just to see if I could see inside. I could see but everything was distorted but colorful from the color of the bottles. I opened the screen door then the main door and entered.

I felt like everyone might have known each other somehow and then there was me, so I made my way to the counter and sat on the stool. I liked the waitress right away and I think she took a liking to me because she served me up some extra eggs and hash browns and asked questions. You know, I seem to have this thing for crispy hash browns. There are just some people in the world that you really like talking with and this lady behind the counter was one and the other was the guy sitting next to me. A farmer I suppose with a cool cowboy hat next to his breakfast plate and what I would call a cowboy shirt with this blue piping sewn in and white pearl buttons. He had rough hands, which he would take his right hand and comb his hair back each time it fell forward. He was nice to me.

Seems like I was there more visiting than eating but I can tell you this many years later and I can still see and hear them talking.

Mid morning and finished eating I took my place back across the highway exit with my thumb out and up, I was back to making my way to Florida. Well, this is where you and I skip over a bunch of stuff like... I made it to Florida in about three days and stayed for a month and was now hitchhiking back to San Diego. Okay we're up to speed. I just traveled across the desert and hitched a ride from El Centro to San Diego, but as we were climbing out of the desert and reaching the top of the mountain I asked the driver to drop me off at that exit where I had breakfast one month earlier because I wanted to say hello and have another breakfast at that glass dinner.

This is where my life took one of those left turns because that dinner was now closed. I mean it's not really strange that the dinner had closed for good. Okay, let me walk back a few steps. The driver pulled over and let me out and I walked the curved exit towards the cafe. The old gas station was on my right down a bit on the frontage road and the cafe was to my left down a bit on the same frontage road.

I headed left and in a few minutes I was standing in front of the cafe looking all dry and dusty with dusty spider webs on the windows and partly boarded up. The screen door that I had passed through a month before was gone and the front door looked like it hadn't been opened for years. I climbed up looking through the dirty windows and the inside dinner looked like something from an old movie set.

Everything had a layer of dust, the counter was a mess with old cups and plates on the tables with dirt layer silverware. I stepped back down from the window backed up and placed my nap-sack on the ground and just stared at the font of the cafe wondering what had happen.

There was only that old gas station down the road and nothing else just dirt, rocks and tumble weeds. I continued to stare at the cafe where I had just enjoyed conversation and breakfast just at a month ago.

The man in the tow truck from the gas station down the road pulled up and rolled down his window and asked if I was okay. I started the conversation off asking "what happened?" He said the cafe had closed a while back. "I know" I said I was here when it was open "but how did it get so dusty looking so fast" I asked. "Ten years ago" is what he said. Both our looks on our faces changed when I told him that I was here just a month ago having breakfast. The man asked if I had been in the sun to long that day. I continued to tell him about my experience and what the woman looked like and even about the farmer.

It took a few minutes before he said anything besides looking at me like I had lost my mind, but then I could see his eyes soften and he got out of his truck and opened the door to the cafe. He showed me the photo by the old register and that is when I pointed and said that woman was her.

When the old woman died there was know one to take over the cafe and so it was closed and boarded up. As I walked around looking at the pictures on the cafe walls I saw that farmer standing next to a tractor and an old style big rig and that was just about ten years before I had that morning breakfast a month ago.

Every once in awhile when I'm traveling I take that exit, even though the building is long gone and the gas station is partly there.  I park the car and can still hear the conversation, see that woman and farmer and remember how great tasting those hash browns were.

It is now your turn. You have to decide for yourself how did this happen. Do you follow the thought of the tow truck driver and that this cafe had closed ten years earlier, remembering that I pointed out the people in the wall photos and told him her name and what she was wearing down to even the fry cook. Or was the tow truck driver even real himself and just sharing a message.

I can share this with you. I drove out to the place where the cafe was another time about six months later and the building was still empty. I drove out again one year later with a friend and the building was gone. Care to share your thoughts?


The Wolf

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