ou might wonder about my reading room. Possibly you imagine a high-ceilinged, oaken place with towering bookshelves filled with leather-bound tomes. Well, using the magic of description, let me take you to the place I do much of my reading at.
It’s an old shopping center along Corrine Drive in part of Old Orlando – the area of Colonialtown was build in the late 40s and remains (with the exception of sprouting, insufferable McMansions) pretty much as it was then. Anyway, this shopping center has been there for over a half-century. The sidewalks are cracked, the storefronts old-fashioned, painted and patched into the present day. One can see faint outlines of optimistic 50’s art deco in the lines. And down on one end (where it has been for decades under one owner or another) is Juniors Restaurant.
Outside are a couple of metal tables, a newpaper box for the counter-cultural Weekly, a broad window with a glowing OPEN sign. As we pass through the doors, you’ll see a countertop cooking area to the left, tables before that front-looking window, and booths (with pandemic shielding) down the long right wall. Glimpsed down the hall beyond these is a combination of store room, bathroom, cardboard storage and broom-propped walls.
The booths show their age. But they are comfortable and well lit, perfect for lingering breakfasts and long lunches. Generations of butts have pressed into these seats. The walls backing the booths are institutional yellow. A couple of ceiling TVs are mercifully mute and easily ignored.
The waitress who serves us is a cute mop-headed Latino (with a purple streak in her hair) who does her best to look like she is perceptually cosplaying some anime character. But she’s quick with her menus and fun to chat with, a great waitress. Behind the counter, owner Stephanie (dark and mysteriously South American) works the grills and cooks up my usual without hardly needing to be told. She’s known us for years and always has a dusky smile and a sharp wink ready for us.
So you sit across from me (as you are my guest, I’ve given you the seat facing the front window so you can see the hectic frustration of Corrine as a backdrop, further reinforcing this quiet bubble of calm). And now we order and sit with our coffees steaming, daybreak shining along the lines of cars out front, our books propped open, covers pinned with sugar shakers and catsup bottles.
Yes, this is my reading room, this place I’ve been coming to for twenty years now. Of the customers, I know Jenna (the frowning woman with the convertible sports car who lives down the street, who might occasionally offer a smile). And Mike, the guy with the peacocks in the crazy-junky house on Bumby. And the tottering old lady, three and a half feet tall, by estimate, who always says hello with a cheery little smile. If we’re lucky, older Colonialtowners will fill the joint and the Baldwin Park pukes will favor trendier spots.
But yes, this is where I read for hours, enjoying my omelettes and tater tots and gallons of sharp black coffee. This is where the reading gets done. This is what heaven will look like.
Home away from home.
I hope you enjoyed the tour.