Mack Williams: Erma’s Restaurant
I almost misspelled this as “Irma,” as in 1963’s “Irma La Douce” (and in a similar vein, thought of Guy Le Douche from Spike TV’s “Most Extreme Elimination Challenge,” who seemed to give the impression that he might not be opposed to self-prostitution).
Erma’s looked even older than the Wink’s of my youth (believe, me, anything remembered from my youth is fairly old). I use the past tense, “looked,” since Erma’s has been closed by the Danville fire chief, any cooking there being deemed unsafe.
Erma’s building isn’t much larger than a double-wide trailer, but the many Facebook-articulated memories on its website make it seem like a sky-scraper. That same site shows people about my age (68) partying there on its last day-into its last night (knowing that it would be so).
It doesn’t take a huge building to hold a multitude of memories, since memories don’t take up much space (unless written down, and my limit here is around 650 words).
Erma’s once had the words “Air Conditioned” cursively painted, hearkening back to the 1950s when air conditioning was a “new thing;” (sadly, cursive now looks as intelligible as cuneiform to some, to whom it wasn’t taught).
There was also a similarly cursively-painted sign reading, “Fine food!” (including a great hot dog).
Erma’s was primarily known as a biker-and-veteran-hang-out, people much tougher than I, although I’m “sort of tough,” having “survived” two hip replacement surgeries. But instead of titanium, some of these veterans may be carrying around a much cruder metal, not surgically, but “rudely” implanted via bullet or shrapnel in Vietnam.
Anyone entering Erma’s was welcome, so long as his name wasn’t on the list of those no longer allowed, due to their having “acted up” (teenagers, however, “act out” — a change in preposition). Seeing that, I thought of movie-depicted, Old West,bar-room brawls.
Erma’s parking lot once reflected the glare of chrome, making me think of the Neil Young song line: “With your chrome heart shining in the sun, long may you run.”It is said if all of the world’s gold were gathered together, the pile would be something much less than “mountainous.” At certain times of the day, it once seemed that all of the world’s chrome was parked at
Erma’s, on the same ground where there’s now, only a dull, “asphaltic” gray.
I stopped in one time wearing a biker vest (vest minus bike). The man at the counter was very nice, but I did wonder if he saw through it (if I’d also been wearing my repro- WWII German helmet, the transparency of my sham would have been even greater than that governmental transparency so often dreamed of by the public, and talked about by politicians).
I’ve heard that Erma’s building will be torn down, perhaps to be replaced by a pharmacy (possibly because of the health needs of boomers?).
Some months ago, Erma’s was repainted in a most unique repertoire of colors: lapis lazuli and gold (replacing brown and beige), along with a new, shiny (not like chrome) corrugated tin roof.
Seeing it, I thought, “This reminds me of something!” And then it came to me: Ancient Egypt’s lapis lazuli, gold, and silver. The corrugated tin roof projects outward and down at the building’e eaves, reminding me of an Ancient Egyptian headdress.
I presume this renovation was done before the owner knew they would be shut down by the city. But then, the idea also occurs that perhaps they already knew, and just like the Ancient Egyptians, they were decorating Erma’s up for death, and so that it wouldn’t “Go gentle into that good night.”
And thinking back to Erma’s re-painting and re-roofing prior to its being closed, I remembered, “The flame burns brightest before the last.”
And thanks to the Danville fire chief, in this case, it didn’t.
By Susan Shinn Turner for The Salisbury Post St. Luke’s Episcopal Church is adjacent to the jail. Across the street... read more