Both Hackney’s in Glenview, IL evoke ghosts of my past in memories of family, friends, and, of course, the menu: Not just because of the burgers from a nearly 100-year-old recipe, and the Onion Loaf, not quite as old, but terribly addictive. So few surviving places offer Green River Phosphates, Green Cows, or simply the original, mildly bubbly lime Green River soda pop.
The other morning at a retreat in the Hackney’s on Lake in Glenview, IL, I experienced a ghost of a different sort. Perhaps it was a function of incipient cataracts, but I thought I was alone at the sink. As I was leaving the restroom behind the host desk by the stairs, the door began to close on me. Automatically reaching for it, it was jerked out of my grasp for a moment – was it an unseen human or Baby Face Nelson? On the other hand, would he have been as courtly in life? Having died in a safe house in Wilmette, the next village east, Baby Face Nelson may have been one of most brutal of the organized criminals who hung out at Hackney’s for the beer, burgers, and slots.
On the other hand, it might have a spirit of a family member from Hackney’s when it was a simple mom and pop outfit. Perhaps it’s someone who appreciates my efforts to bring in new and lost diners into the fold. To whomever it was, celestial or human, I said “Thanks.”
Not my first experience touching the spirit spiritual plane: Setting aside for a moment the multiple shades at Mom’s life celebrations, finding my paternal grandfather waiting for me outside the restroom in my first apartment, and my enate grandmother visiting me at a writers retreat, I shiver a bit remembering my high school term paper on Hephaistos, God of Fire and Forge.
About five whole pages, it sported myriad footnotes, often multiple instances in one sentence – which inspired the teacher to comment “research challenges us all!” Soon after finishing it, I was in the kitchen with Mom engaged in a vociferous adolescent encounter. Upon exerting the obligatory Maternal “Last Word on the Subject,” she switched on the gas stove. Rather than following it’s usual path around the burner head, the blue and orange flame reached for her hand, as if Hephaistos himself was taking my side.
When I told my teacher, a very practical, matter of fact woman with a halo of shocking white hair, what had happened, she paled. She warned me that the gods are not separate from nature, but, in fact, are the elements themselves. She said I needed to be careful: spending that much time writing about one of The Immortals was a form of worship. In a similar experience, she told me she’d had a close encounter with Apollo riding a dawn mail train up Mt. Olympus. Incandescent in his chariot speeding toward her, he had swaddled her in his glory.
Ghosts come in many prosaic forms: memories, guilt, nostalgia, look-a-likes, act-a-like, children’s eyes, and family histories, to name a few. Why not more romantic shapes: shades of watchful grandparents, grateful specters resurrected by the interest of descendants, or mournful or blissful previous residents. I’ve mostly been fortunate with those that have touched my life – possible, but unrealized danger to my mother notwithstanding, prosaic and romantic alike – and I’m thankful for those past and future.
1 Hackney’s in the 1920s served hamburgers and beer from their back porch.
2 Baby Face Nelson aka Lester Gillis from http://www.answers.com/main/source_info_frames.jsp?sourceURL=http://www.fbi.gov/libref/historic/famcases/babyface/babyface.htm&imageURL=http://content.answcdn.com/main/content/img/webpics/Baby_Face_Nelson.jpg&imgSrcURL=http://www.fbi.gov/libref/historic/famcases/babyface/nelson.jpg&flavor=AC
3 From the Door Idea Gallery at http://www.simpsondoor.com/idea-gallery/
4 Temple of Hephaistos in Athens from Buzzle http://www.buzzle.com/articles/temple-of-hephaestus.html
5 Tetradrachm from the Illyro-Paeonian region, representing Apollo from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo
6 Parents with Father’s Sibs, in-laws, and aunt circa 1960.