Friday, June 12, 2009

An Evening in Ellensburg: Dinner at the Valley Cafe

Sunday. I'm doing a Rex Parker, Dolly-girl is puttering in the kitchen. I hear cackleberries cracking on a Pyrex bowl. The blower sparks. I look. The Boss, my big client. I answer. "Sorry to bother you on Sunday, Jack. Thanks for answering. I know this is getting you a look through the wave and it ain't 'come hither'. Tell Dolly-girl I'll make it up to her." "Sure. What's it?"

"I need you to go talk with some people you've talked with before. I need you to go on the road Jack. Appleland. Tomorrow. Early." "On it. I'll call you Friday." I reached for the Luckies. Damn it, Dolly-girl, you turned my Luckies into Doublemint again. This woman is going to be the health of me. At least I could go to E-Z's in Appleland.

The sun sparked on the east side of Stumptown. I loaded the roadster, pulled Dolly-girl close, gave her a kiss she'd remember, and said, "See you Friday, Dolly-girl." "Stop and see Kay Anthony (she said Kay in a sorta long and drawn out way and assumed a theatrical pose) in E-burg if you have the chance, Jack." "On it." "You know, it's the timothy hay capital of the freakin' world." I didn't, but she knew that sorta fact got to me.

We knew Kay Anthony from way back, in time and space. She slid pizzas in and out of a brick oven in an upscale trattoria where Dolly-girl was moonlighting when I met her across the continent, an age ago. She did some music too. Sweet voice, but she couldn't carry a torch in the east. She could do the mellodrama thing, particularly when she introduced herself, turned half sideways and looking over her shoulder. "I'm Kaaayyyyy. I'm your siiiinnggggger tonight..."

Time and space lead people far and wide. Kay Anthony and her pipes were working a club in central Washington, and I'm not talking the District here. Turns out, her guy Anthony Kay, won a piece of the joint in a card game back east somewhere. They packed up the roadster and headed west to find the fortune. But fortune, fame, and trouble hide in funny spots. They hit the west coast and next thing you know, Kay's doing time with the state and Anthony's picking up a new career, waiting for her to serve. Word on the street is that she's working the farm labor scene while he's just gotten philosophical.

They'd been together for a while and were thinking about taking each others names, but then she'd be Kay Kay and he'd be Anthony Anthony, so they decided to leave sleeping dogs lie.

So Monday finds me most of the way to Appleland, pulled into a motor hotel, and talking to Kay Anthony on the blower. "Meet you downtown, let's get some food, catch up, Dolly-girl wants the lowdown, Kay Anthony." "I'm there. The Valley. Anthony Kay will meet us. He's working tonight, there's people that need eye-ballin' and some of them want to talk to him."

The Valley Cafe wasn't even part full on a Monday night at an hour that may have spelled "dinner" in Stumptown, but said more like "tomorrow morning" in E-burg. A couple were finishing up when Kay Anthony and I walked in. The sign said "Wait to Be Seated, but Kay Anthony strolled past. It's that stage presence, plus she knew Missy. See, she'd been through The Valley before and she feared no evil...Sorry, I couldn't pass that one up...

Missy came to the gallery and told us his name was Mickey. He had a sort of strange manner--talking and moving--about him. He brought everything in individual trips: whaddya-drinkings, whadday-a-wants, the local version of Bull Run, bread and some damned good oil to slide it through. He gave us the low-down on the whadda-ya-want which was "What you see is what we got. No blue plate today. One piece of the daily lasagna left. If you want it let me know. One piece." I looked around at the empty joint and knew I could hold my fire.

We ordered. Skidrow, rosso, for both of us. Cowfeed and some peelers, peeled, swimming in Bronx vanilla for Kay Anthony, and frutti di mare for me, but the hash slinger had them swimming in a Mumbai Milk Sauce. "Oh, and keep off the grass for me." "Correct." Strange...

I looked around the place. An old joint with original wood, a pieced floor, and tin ceiling. Nicely done. Missy was at the kitchen slot talking to the slinger. Must have been looking at that piece of lasagna. Something tells me he was going to be looking at it for his supper.

The bell on the door tinkled and in slid Anthony Kay, just in time for the food. We did the how-do-you-dos and Missy/Mickey brought him a whadda-ya-drinking, then a whadda-ya-want, then the local. "One piece of the daily lasagna left. If you want it let me know. One piece." "I'll just graze off hers, but bring me a cookie." Missy/Mickey's eyes got big and he said "Ohh, they are my favorites today..." walnut something or other. Anthony Kay made his day.

Missy/Mickey brought the eats, told us he sincerely hoped we would enjoy them--no cutting language short for him--and left to look at the one piece of lasagna.

By all accounts, the eats were as described and there's not much doubt in my mind that The Valley Cafe is the place to put on your bib in E-burg. But get there before 8:10 or there may only be a single piece of that daily lasagna...

We slipped out of the joint a little after another twosome, coming off the road from someplace else, no doubt, had slid into The Valley.

"One piece of the daily lasagna left. If you want it let me know. One piece."


Elisabeth said...

I am a fan of diners and LOVE that diner photo...nothing works like subtility.
And that Frute di Mare, Is that taste-O-vision? My mouth is watering!

JZ said...

Ya'll're wild over there in stumptown slingin works. Time with the state may be nearly finished for this horn tooter.