Harley Hay: I can’t wait to go out to eat again

So, our much-appreciated Social Distancing Decision Makers have opened the door a crack, thank goodness.

We all needed to glimpse at least a 20 watt bulb at the end of a very long tunnel.

This got me to wondering. When the door is finally shoved open enough, where is the very first social, people-infested place I’m going to happily inhabit?

Now, most of us have already suited up and drenched ourselves in hand sanitizer and grabbed our six-foot pole and meekly ventured into necessary grocery stores, gas stations, drug stores and maybe a hardware store or two, but sooner or later, it will be time to plunk ourselves in the middle of society and enjoy just hanging out with other homo sapiens for a change.

So, where will you go?

For me, it’s either a movie theatre or a restaurant. Or preferably, both at the same time.

But the way things are unfolding, I’m sure it’s going to be a restaurant. And I’m really looking forward to that, on account of I’ve had a long history of restaurant training and research, consisting of going to them.

I remembered very fondly back in my cherished childhood in The Deer. There were a couple of iconic restaurants that were special indeed, setting a happy precedent in my growing-up years that carries on to restaurants in general to this day, because, of course, I’m still growing up and I still get hungry.

The Peacock Inn on Ross Street not only had a groovy giant neon peacock sign out front, it also had something else that was very special.

At least it was special to me, because it was the first one I ever saw and the first of many that I coveted. I think it was called the Burger Basket, because a nice big cheese burger and fries came in a little plastic basket. (At least I think plastic had been invented by then…)

The Burger Basket was a treat reserved for family visits on special occasions, like celebrating a good report card. So, we went there with my sister a lot.

The famous counter at Kreske’s, with its long row of red vinyl stools, and milkshakes poured from tall, cold metal mugs, often made a perfect Saturday afternoon with my ruffian buddies even perfect-er.

And for many years, The Club Cafe (across the street from The Peacock) was a memorable family destination – especially on New Year’s Day.

It became a tradition for our whole fam-damily to invade the special private room at the back of the cafe for a New Year’s Day Chinese food supper that was the perfect way to celebrate. Celebrate family, celebrate another year, celebrate the invention of Soo Gai Lemon Chicken.

That special time at the club was my Dad’s idea and it was always Dad’s treat for the family. He was a quiet and reserved man, not given to attending large events or social gatherings.

But at the Club Cafe, he felt at home, and to this day, I can clearly see him discreetly take out a rare $50 bill at the end of the long and happy meal.

Of course, these days, Dad’s $50 bill would barely cover appetizers at any restaurant anywhere, but for us, it became part of our treasured family lore.

So a restaurant it is. And when the time comes, down a long and winding road when things are back to a new normal, I’m going to gather all the family I can and invade my favourite restaurant, and we’ll take our sweet time and enjoy each other’s company and delicious food.

And I’ll bring a $50 bill for the appetizers. It just might be the start of a new family tradition.

Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker.

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