Space Burger

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Greetings from Space Burger, a red and white striped shrine to fifties kitsch. Official people would call this the 2200 block of Telegraph. Space Burger’s set between two gas stations and sits next to the kind of street sweeping machine a person can sit inside. There’s a church across the street and, from the hours of 11 am to noon on October 22, 2015, none of its bells rang.

A few things did happen. A potential customer biked up to the service window and griped to the waiter. “Milkshakes don’t pay bills, brother, I got grown kids,” he said. Talk is free anyway, so they did that. He biked off; he’d be back to chat more later, and that was a promise.

A man sitting inside was willing to have his photo taken, but first pulled his jeweled necklace out from under his shirt for full effect. “Don’t put that on a wanted poster,” he said afterwards, smiling broadly and holding a strawberry milkshake.

11:15 am could be considered early for the Space Combo ($8)—a space burger, space fries, a cosmic cola—but that day it was just the right time in my world. In a few other worlds too. One man pulled up in a rusted-roof BMW and tried to negotiate a milkshake instead of a space cola, no added fee. He was unsuccessful that particular time, but what the hell, sometimes you just try.

Another man drove up in a gray and black Jeep Liberty and, after ordering, shined its already-gleaming body top to bottom with a buffing cloth. He also shined the wheels, which was a thing I learned was possible that day. He wore a gray shirt, black jeans and gray sneakers that perfectly matched his car. I had quite a few questions I didn’t ask, because I felt he was entitled to the moment; it was so sunny, after all, and so quiet.

Except for the constant sound of trucks backing up into the road as they pulled out from the closer gas station across the street, but even that you could forgive after a while.

You could see what it would take to keep a place like this clean, and it wasn’t really, though signs of effort were scattered about. A broom and dustbin leaned against the garbage can, a spray and wipe sat atop one of the metal tables. A car in the lot was stuffed with a hoarder’s gems, including a jacketless copy of the book “Advanced Tennis,” which lay upside down in a pile of wrappers on the dashboard.

I didn’t get the story of that either, though I would have liked to. But the car’s owner was gone and, I can only surmise, may have been for some time.

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