24 March

Revisiting Jean’s Place, Missing Kelsey. Jean’s Is Precious, It Ought To Be In The Smithsonian

by Jon Katz

I see my life with Maria as a series of chapters. Our life is like a big, rich book, one chapter after another. Each one is a rebirth; every chapter is different from the others.

We never stay still, somehow and that is how we like it. Life obliges.

I’m lucky to have a blog to record these chapters; I always say the blog is my living memoir. And my life in the country is fertile ground.

I’m not into nostalgia, but I miss Jean’s Place, it was very special to me, and still is. But I don’t get there much now.

Right now is the Ukraine chapter and how it is shaping our feelings and lives. And the Mansion and Bishop Maginn and Leica and Health Chapter. My life is a wheel, it turns and turns.

A couple of years ago, when the Pandemic erupted, it was the Jean’s Diner chapter. Jean’s will always hold a special place in my heart. In a word or two, this is why I love living in the country.

I fell in love with this charismatic and iconic diner in the middle of the once proud town of Hoosick Falls, now making a slow, difficult comeback.

I fell in love with Jean’s; it was where I learned how to order an Egg N’Cheese sandwich, something I no longer ever order or eat.

I loved Kelsey, the difficult daughter, and Kevin and Kelly, who made their diner a loved and cherished institution in the town.

Keven and Kelly are brother and sister, they work like demons, make great food, and their hearts are huge and giving. They make the best muffins I have ever had (no, I can’t eat those anymore either.)

I tried to help out when the pandemic struck and the diner was in trouble. I started writing about their takeout service, their excellent food – breakfast, lunch, and dinners –  and we set up a regular catering arrangement with the Mansion, which stopped when Kelly and Kevin both had some health issues.

The townspeople rallied to their diner and hung in there with them.

The Pandemic eased, the restaurant survived, and I moved on. Someone once wrote that I am a person of many passions.

She meant it as an insult, but I took it as a great compliment. It is very accurate, and it’s one of the things I most love about my life.

Things have changed since we were last there. There are no more dinners (food and transport prices are too high for Hoosick Falls). Kelsey is gone; I don’t know where.

Kelly is still trying to get her hip replaced; Kevin recovered from a severe illness. The staff has changed.

There is a spanking new menu, and breakfast was great. Nobody is wearing masks anymore, which is a great relief to staff and customers. This is Trump country.

Inside, everything looks the same, from the menu board to the big “Support Our Troops” sign behind the counter.

Maria’s pancakes were excellent, although I don’t eat those anymore either. I had scrambled eggs on plain wheat toast.

Jean’s doesn’t change, not at the core.

The waitresses know everybody who comes in and have their coffee out before sitting down (they remembered how I took my decaf). The old farmers and their friends love to gather there for lunch and sit at the counter and gossip.

Everybody knows who is well and who is sick and who is cheating on their spouses.

I will talk to Kevin again about catering lunch at the Mansion once Kelly gets her hip straightened out.

But we are different than we were two years ago, and Jean’s is pretty much the same.  That’s the thing about chapters. They are constantly changing.

I am still in love with the place and feel at home there, even if I will always be an outsider there. The counter is primarily full of big, strong men who know one another. I’m not in the club.

One day I’ll figure out where Kelsey has gone, although as I think about it, I probably never will. I miss her, we had a true connection in spirit. She was my Jean’s Place Wonder Woman, the Queen Of Attitude.

There is no one like Kelsey. If she moved on, it was for a good reason.

She did message me once to say hello and told me leaving was for the best, she won’t be coming back.

I don’t think Maria ever loved Jean’s quite as much as I did, but the mention of their pancakes is always enough to get her to go. Even though I wasn’t one of them, I had the feeling everyone there is an outsider in one way or the other.

My diet has changed drastically, so has my relationship with food. I miss those buttery egg sandwiches and bacon; the Mayo Clinic wouldn’t be too happy with the menu options.

I don’t really like eating that very good food anymore.

But I always feel when I go there that I have stepped into the true heart of America, and even if I can’t join, and if this culture is fading away, it’s a special thing to see.

The place is iconic, precious. It ought to be shipped to the Smithsonian in one piece and preserved in the lobby.

I’m glad this chapter hasn’t closed completely.

 

9 Comments

  1. Jon…
    This post brought back memories. When I moved to Dallas in the 1960s, the city was full of places like Jean’s Diner. The greasy fried chicken was delicious.

    But in the big city now, places like this either die out or become gentrified. Here in Arizona, I know only one country diner nearby, but it is more western than southern. The latest “eating out” trend here is food trucks.

    The pandemic has converted our “eating out” to “take out.” But we still miss the familiar faces of “friends” working at our eating places. My wife having been a waitress, for her, every restaurant is a friendly place.

  2. Oh my goodness I luv Jean’s as well. Kelseyville was there Tuesday. I love those people. They let me try my eggs in new ways and I go back to my same order. And if I’m grumpy (so not a morning person) they cheer me up. That is not on the menu lol but they do it and when BB was living each morning waitress would give him the stuff and he generously provided his stuff WORDS were exchanged. It can be pure comedy and they do not charge for it. Only in Hoosick Falls, ha please don’t tell anyone more we need to keep this gem to ourselves ; – )

  3. I think most small towns have a Jean’s Place. Here in Fair Haven, it’s The Wooden Soldier. There is nothing like a local diner.

  4. Even in the suburbs of large cities you can find great diners. My daughter and son-in-law took us with their family to one of them for years. Eventually a granddaughter began working there part-time while attending school. Like the other employees she learned many of the customers by what they liked(extra butter, no syrup, etc). The owners want their employees to give good service—they pay minimum wage plus any tips (which are usually very good). When our granddaughter began her third year of college, she was given a bonus toward book money. People of levels go there—from high-powered executives to any kind of working person. Everyone is treated as being important. They had to close the dining room during the worst of the pandemic, but stayed busy with takeout orders from regular customers.

  5. Jon, it’s bacon, egg and cheese on an English muffin. Jeez, I thought I had you trained. Miss you! Good luck with the next chapter. Attack waitress, Mary

    1. You did, but the cardiologist put me on a different diet..no more egg n’cheese, no more english muffin..I just had scrambled eggs on dry wheat toast..but you did a great job…it’s oatmeal for me most of the time and there’s less of me, which is a blessing..I do miss you though, you, like my wife, keep me in line..

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