A chapter in an occasional series of posts documenting an autumn 2021 road trip through the Midwest. A continuation of the post, “The Road to Lansing and the Divine Revelation”
“I just feel like the most important conversations I’ve had in my life have been at a diner counter.” ~ Ramy Youssef
October 23rd, Lansing, Iowa.
It was a sparse crowd in NutMegs when I walked in for breakfast and to figure out what to do with my day.
NutMegs. It’s a proper coffee shop. When you walk into a proper coffee shop you see stools in front of a counter; you hear chatter; you likely hear an argument or two, local gossip, local politics and naturally, sports; you hear the clink of a spoon on a sturdy white coffee mug; the sizzle of a flattop hard at work. And the smells; breakfast meats and strong coffee. On weekdays, old timers finish a light breakfast and then hang around chatting with other old timers seated nearby or, hell, even across the room. Weekends bring the families, before a sporting event or after church. The moment you walk into a proper coffee shop, even on a chilly Midwest morning, you feel its singular warmth.
Yeah, NutMegs is a proper coffee shop. At least it seemed so to this stranger from the Pacific Coast.
Plain, straightforward, knotty pine walls, maybe fake knotty pine walls. I can never tell the difference. Walk in, and to your right is a display case overloaded with empty but still delicious calories; donuts, fritters, bars and assorted pastries. To the left, a set of shelves holds some prepackaged cookies and porcelain likenesses of milk cows – Midwest kitsch.
I took a seat at a counter that was worn and shiny, the erosion of scores of satisfied elbows.
A few stools over a burly man, an empty plate before him, sat nursing a few final sips of coffee. He wore the vestments I’d become used to seeing in small town middle America; faded denim work pants (preferably overalls) a flannel or denim shirt and work boots.
This attire was always topped off with a faded, sweat stained well worn cap, sometimes pulled low, other times, like in a proper coffee shop, worn back on the head, the better to look people in the eye when chatting. Never though, is the cap worn backwards (a good friend of mine holds the firm belief that only baseball catchers and submarine commanders should wear a cap backwards. Being a photographer, admittedly one of no repute, I firmly disagree. Try aiming a camera with a brim fighting your hands for space).
Worn back or pulled low, these caps are usually emblazoned with some farm equipment logo; John Deere, Case, or Tractor Supply.
It’s a raiment I came to call, Midwest business casual. I’d yet to see a suit but I hadn’t yet visited a church and didn’t figure to. I imagined that even attorneys, accountants, bankers and the undertaker must wear some form of this Midwest business casual. Continue reading