I then recalled one of the famous local attractions: The Original Pancake House. Maybe it was Felix's recent rant at me about how ridiculously easy it would have been for me to hit this place from Morristown after the wedding two weeks ago. Perhaps it was India Amos's tempting pic of a Waffle House sign from her post on Michael Bierut's font-selection wisdom. Either way, I Googled the location, found it to be a spare mile or so from the conference location, and made a command decision. I would cap this week with a first-class breakfast.
These days, breakfast consists of some whole grain cereal with milk or long-cook oatmeal, with a Twinings chaser. Considerably more healthful and cheaper than the bagels with cream cheese and Diet Coke I was munching on the train rides into work until my layoff. Either way, I have a cellular affinity for the idea of a decadent, hours-long, multi-course breakfast.
Until I made my first trip to Sin City — where the Paris Las Vegas breakfast buffet approximates this concept most closely — I've had to live vicariously through late Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson's take on the issue:
Breakfast is the only meal of the day that I tend to view with the same kind of traditionalized reverence that most people associate with Lunch or Dinner.Subtract the blow, most of the booze, and the nudity, fine-tune the menu to my own tastes, and swap in a little wireless Internet access, and Hunter's vision is just about spot on. Still, not something I'd do on a daily or even weekly basis. That much bacon or hash four times a month would turn my heart into four-chambered knockwurst.
I like to eat breakfast alone, and almost never before noon; anybody with a terminally jangled lifestyle needs at least one psychic anchor every 24 hours, and mine is breakfast. In Hong Kong, Dallas, or at home — and regardless of whether or not I have been properly to bed — breakfast is a personal ritual that can only be properly observed alone, and in a spirit of genuine excess. The food factor should always be massive: four Bloody Marys, two grapefruits, a pot of coffee, Rangoon crepes, a half-pound of either sausage, bacon or corned beef hash with diced chilies, a Spanish omelette or eggs Benedict, a quart of milk, a chopped lemon for random seasoning, and something like a slice of key lime pie, two margaritas and six lines of the best cocaine for desert. . . . Right, and there should also be two or three newspapers, all mail and messages, a telephone, a notebook for planning the next 24 hours, and at least one source of good music. . . . All of which should be dealt with outside, in the warmth of a hot sun, and preferably stone naked.
The menu at the Original Pancake House lets a body come pretty damn close as one can to this ideal without access to the kitchen staff at Windsor Castle. If I had to dodge commuting traffic for this morning meeting, at the end of a long week and on the day another severance check is to arrive — "payday," if you will — I saw every reason to launch the day with a decadent run through their bill of fare. So I laid out my gear the night before to facilitate a swifter exodus, and hit the sack early.
THIS MORNING ROSE DARK with clouds swathing the area and a chill more fitting to early spring than mid-May. Were it a workday, I'd be tempted to prolong the bed time via the snooze-alarm tango. With an OPH visit in the offing, though, I was out the door in less than 30 minutes. Traffic blurred past me. If I can score a job this compelling, I'll have done well.
I arrived 10 minutes before it was scheduled to open, but the OPEN sign was lit. I have an odd quirk that makes me reluctant to be the first person to arrive anywhere (which meshes awkwardly with my other quirk of arriving early for events). I killed a couple of minutes buying a bottle of water at a bagel shop nearby. Finally I could delay starchy gratification no longer, and I barged in.
I was a bit stunned to see the joint empty, even though I had arrived at the open. It took a minute for anyone to realize someone was standing at the register. Spanish music echoed from the kitchen, but I couldn't see any waitstaff around. A woman finally rounded the corner into the dining room, spotted me, then asked how many in my party, checking her watch before doing so. Tough shit, lady, you don't want people coming in before the time on the front door, tell your boss not to turn on the OPEN sign. Instead of queering the deal by voicing this, I told her I was a solo act and followed her to a booth. I wondered how she handled the opposite extreme of activity, in the form of the starving tide of humanity that washes into this joint on weekend mornings.
I dropped my bag, raincoat, and umbrella in the other side of the booth and scrutinized the menu. Of the main course and meat I was certain — buckwheat pancakes with a large order of bacon, well done. Eggs were a tempting add-on too. By the time the waitress returned to ask if I wanted coffee (which I did), I decided to tack two scrambled eggs onto this blizzard of sugar and cholesterol.
This was my first large breakfast since the one I scored after Steve and Jen's wedding, and it was everything I had imagined, with the exception of the coffee, which was a tick weak. Five hearty brown buckwheats, five slabs of bacon longer than my hand, and a steaming pile of eggs soon appeared . . . one of the benefits of being the first order up. The dining orgy commenced. Memories are hazy. There was butter . . . lots of butter . . . and pepper falling on eggs like soot from a coal furnace . . . and bacon. . . .
I awoke some time later in my car, sated and sedated despite the caffeine infusing my synapses. No cooks were pounding on my hood with whisks, so I must have paid my bill. I assume I scaled down my tip by an appropriate amount for the watch-glance. I'll have to count my money at the end of the day. Regardless, I arrived at the conference glad at having dodged the brutality of Jersey highway rush-hour traffic and having broken my fast in belt-loosening, Thompsonesque style.