For thirty-…well, many years, I’ve travelled state route 22 between Pittsburgh and State College, beginning in college to see one boyfriend, and then another. Years later, I now pick up 22 in State College again, on my way from my home in northern PA to visit family in Pittsburgh and thereabouts.
There are two places I pass that I’ve always said “I want to stop here some day.” One is Dean’s Diner in Blairsville, and the other is Gene and Boots Candies, in the vicinity of Murrysville. In more recent years, a huge indoor flea market has opened near the diner, and every time we pass it, both to and from Pittsburgh, my husband or I will say, “Some time, we have to stop there.”
That day came yesterday. We stopped at all three places.
We started with Gene and Boots Candies. Scads of favorites from the “do you remember these” days were set out on shelves around the store. But the biggest treasures were the individual pieces of chocolates in little paper cups behind glass cases. Row after row of truffles filled with raspberry, or peanut butter, or butter cream… The young lady behind the counter cheerfully followed me down the length of the glass as I picked one of these, two of those, this one in milk chocolate, a few in dark chocolate. Clutching a white paper bag with the goodies, I climbed back into the car to head out for more adventures.
After several miles, we saw the flea market up ahead. The building was huge, and the parking lot was packed; that combination boded well for a good selection of old stuff to sort through.
We were not disappointed. There was one enormous main room, and a maze of smaller rooms all around it. We set off to see what treasures we could find.
We saw an accent table that made us both stop. It was a drum table—a round table with a three-legged pedestal base. My husband went right over to it, inspecting the table and the price tag. It was a definite maybe. We decided to explore the rest of the flea market while we thought about buying buying it, after, of course, we figured out where we would put it in the house!
I get all gaga over old dishes. So much so that over the years, I’ve probably had to give away most of what I’ve bought to make room for the latest things I drag home. At one time, I was collecting six or seven patterns. I’ve given away about half of them, and I’m only actively collecting one pattern. I’ve promised my husband that I won’t buy anything else unless I really, really, really just have to have it.
As we wandered through the displays, I kept my eye out for the one pattern I do still collect. We passed table after table filled with dishes and glassware, but no blue Currier and Ives.
After what must have been an hour, we found ourselves in one of the small rooms in the back. There filling two shelves on the wall were stacks of my blue dishes. Although not actually rare, the Currier and Ives are somewhat popular collectors’ items and can carry a relatively hefty price tag. Most of what I own I’ve found in places where the sellers didn’t know the value of what they had, and I’ve gotten some nice bargains.
One look at the prices on these dishes, however, made me whisper in my husband’s ear, “This lady knows exactly what she has.” The prices, although reasonable to serious collectors, were way beyond my budget. We had already spent most of our weekend travel money during our visit with family the past two days. It would come down to a choice between buying the several serving pieces I was practically drooling over, or the table.
As much as I wanted those dishes, my husband cared nothing about them, and it would be a splurge just for me. The same amount of money could buy the table, which we would both enjoy. He’s been so patient with me and my dishes over the years; he deserved the table.
He bargained down the price of the table, and I went to move the car closer for him to pack it gently in the back of our station wagon. Next stop, Dean’s Diner.
My husband and I love diners and diner food about as much as we love flea markets. Our third stop was shaping up to be the highlight of the day.
Dean’s is the kind of diner that automatically comes to your mind’s eye when you think of a diner, with a counter and stools on one side and rows of booths on the other.
We each ordered a diner classic—hamburger and fries for my husband, and hot meatloaf sandwich smothered in gravy for me. I hadn’t had such tasty meatloaf since the last time I made it myself.
The pies looked to-die-for, but we were both so stuffed from lunch that we reluctantly took a pass. Maybe next time we’ll just stop in for pie and coffee.
I had wanted to stop at these places in much the same way as I had wanted to visit London and Paris and Greece for years. And you know, I enjoyed Gene and Boots Candies and the flea market and Dean’s Diner just as much as I had enjoyed my travels to those exotic, faraway places.
Dreams don’t know physical size. They know only the allure and desire of our hearts. Satisfaction feels the same whether you’ve fulfilled your desire for a trip inside the Eiffel Tower or a delicious diner meatloaf sandwich.
Chocolates from Gene and Boots tasted just as good as the pork souvlaki and tsatsiki in Greece.
The drum table that now sits in our dining room is as pretty as the framed picture of me and my daughter in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.
And to tell you the truth, it was more special to me to stop on this day than all those other times I’ve passed these places. I don’t know anyone else who would have enjoyed them as much as my husband did. I was so happy to experience these places for the first time with him. He won’t travel to abroad with me, but he’s happy to explore close to home. I’ve always missed him on my faraway travels; my heart was happy to share these local adventures with him.
I think I’ll go see if he wants another chocolate truffle…
All photos from iStockphoto.com