A few weeks ago, I decided to write a story on 24-hour diners in Vancouver. Then I discovered there were none left. Not here anyways. That made me sad. And it made me wonder why.
So I spent a number of late nights at diners. Chatting with staff and customers until 2 in the morning, learning about what forces drew them through the dark streets and towards the neon “OPEN” signs that beckoned us.
As each night came to a close and the open signs flickered off and the people filtered through locked doors onto empty streets, I felt a familiar sad pang.
By the time I published my article, “An Ode to Vancouver’s Vanishing Late Night Diners,” I’d figured out where the pang came from.
To me, diners are the stage upon which I play out the best and the worst of times. They are where I go after drinking, dancing and breakups, when the sweat and/or tears have evaporated and left tiny salt crystals on my skin. They were where I went to feel comfortable. An unpretentious home away from home complete with vinyl booths, soft lights and simple food.
I need to know that these spaces still exist for the nights ahead of me and in memory of the nights behind me. But I also need to know that these spaces survive for others.
So I’m asking readers to imagine their favourite diners.
Maybe it’s one in Vancouver — Calhouns? Mary’s? Knight and Day?
Picture the lights, the seating and the smells. Evoke the food and conjure the spirits of the regulars and the staff.
I want to hear about the nights you spent hunched in diner booths, dipping fries into milkshakes, biding time before the hangover came knocking. I want to hear about the strangers you met, the friendships you found and the lovers you lost. The quarrels, the conversations and the sweet-nothings whispered over sticky, plastic tables with wobbly legs. And I want to hear about the food, be it stacked pancakes drizzled in golden syrup or beef torta glistening in grease.
We’ll include a selection of stories in an upcoming piece about why diners hold such a special place for so many of us.
Please send your entry to me by email with the subject line “Late-Night Diner Story” by end-of-day Wednesday, Sept. 28.
Keep it concise, 300 words max. Entries will be subject to an editing process.
I can’t wait to read your stories.