The Gross National Debt

Friday, May 18, 2012

Mo gets class

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“It’s missing something.”

So pronounced Larry “Hawgin’” Fishbreath while sitting at Mo’s Country Diner, Used Cars, Stump Removal, Friday Night Sushi Bar, Saturday Morning Fresh Cut Bait and Tanning.

The object of Hawgin’s observation was the sign out front of Mo’s, which he so indicated by pointing at the sign with a well-greased fork holding a fried chicken liver. Instantly wondering what a chicken had done to deserve the fate of having its innards used to point out a sign, I leaned over the table and looked out. The only thing the sign was missing, as best I could tell, was a condemnation order from local, state, federal and international authorities for being a hazard to the planet at large.

“What?” grunted Mo from behind the counter where he was rassling with a large bag of frozen fries which eventually would be dumped in nearly boiling peanut oil and from there going to grace a MoBurger platter which would eventually contribute to the hardening of the arteries of many of Ellenton’s residents.

“Yer missing the kind of business this place is,” Hawgin’ said. “The sign don’t explain it.”

Like you are now, I was stunned, shocked, perplexed and a whole bunch of other adjectives which mean my jaw dropped and was presently sliding around the barbecue sauce in my plate.

How could a sign of 18 words and miscellaneous punctuation fail to identify the business to which it was attached?

Understand this is also no ordinary sign. Over the years as Mo has added and removed various sidelines to his business, the sign has changed. Mostly gotten longer.

It is now so long it reaches well past the actual building. It is also a very cosmopolitan, democratic and integrated sign. The original sign “Mo’s Diner” was a tasteful done hand painted job on plywood. Additions were done, by Hawgin’, with whatever materials were at hand.

The extension is made from roofing tin, vinyl siding, the hood of a 1973 Chevy 3/4 ton pickup (that being the Used Cars part), more plywood, some nailed together 2x4s, a picnic table and what looks like parts form a UFO but Hawgin’ swears it is stuff he salvaged from the Tar Pit and painted with whatever paint the hardware store had on sale because it was incorrectly mixed. The whole thing sags more than an air conditioner in a second-story window.

On really windy days when the sign is moving good you can see part of former businesses Mo had. The “Video Rental” is one which the City Council really wishes would go away.

Before online rentals killed local video shops, Mo rented movies, including the kinds of movies he had to keep behind the counter and you had to ask for when no one else was in the store.

The City Council got wind of Mo’s under the counter rentals and threatened to pass an ordinance making those movies illegal. Mo went to the City Council’s next meeting.

“Y’all go ahead and make it illegal and I will publish the names of everyone who has rented one of these movies in the newspaper next week,” he said.

The movie ordinance was dropped so fast it cracked the floor at City Hall.

But none of this explains what Hawgin’ felt was missing from the sign.

“Emporium,” Hawgin’ said. “Them French words like that give it a touch of class. Yeah. Classy.”

That afternoon Hawgin’ attached “EMPORIUM” in bright green neon letters.

Class. Mo’s has it. A pre-kindergarten kind of class, but he’s got it.

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