September 14, 2020
By Arthur H. Gunther III
Some seasons ago, quite a few really, the no. 6 red naugahyde-covered twirling diner stool at Tiny’s Spring Valley, N.Y., place offered a fine view of the glass donut and sliced cake case, which, of course, was a most tempting time, even for a 19 year old usually seated for a grilled cheese right off the facing flat-top grill with fries cooked then and there, not an hour before and then kept under a heat lamp.
“Tiny” Lazaroff was a big man, and as they say, with a large heart to match. He was jovial, and his diner was at the comfort-level standard expected of highway stops before fast food sped up the gearing to assembly line quick-a-motion. My grandfather moseyed on west to Tiny’s for java on a Saturday morning, nursing it for a longish time with a donut “sinker” from the glass case.
What was in the case was not impressive by today’s expectations. There were no layer cakes piled high with two inches of genetically modified “whip cream” nor no “N.Y. cheese cakes” made in Sheboygan. No, just a few plain donuts, some chocolate, and wonderful slices of vanilla-iced lemon pound cake.
I usually sat on red naugahyde stool no. 3, right opposite the grill cook, but one day Tiny’s was too busy for the regulars — a tourist bus had actually stopped in little Spring Valley — and I ended up at no. 6.
Planted there, I was about to order the usual grilled cheese, but before the overly busy counter waitress got to me, the cake case’s magnetism kicked in, its fluorescent light behind the gleaming chrome and tempered sliding glass doors shining just right on a piece of that pound cake, freshly cut from a true, 16-ounce loaf, unlike today’s 12.5-ounce fakers. Like a stricken young pup in a school days’ crush, I mumbled in shyness that I just had to have that slice.
Tiny’s coffee, in a green cup on a green saucer, came along for the ride, and my time with that wonderful iced-top lemon cake was rather long and as sensuous as could be. I used a fork to parcel out 1-inch by 1-inch squares, starting at the bottom and moving ever so slowly toward the icing, which ended the night. The “kiss” as it were.
The writer is a retired newspaperman. firstname.lastname@example.org