Transcript

172:

24 Hours at the Golden Apple
Transcript

Originally aired 11.17.2000

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Full audio: http://tal.fm/172

Act One. Day.

Ira Glass

There's certain things you should really only say to your best friend, and this is probably one of them.

Tom

You ever just shut up and just listen to somebody?

Scott

Go right ahead, here.

Tom

That's about-- spill it out there, brother.

Scott

I already did.

Ira Glass

Tom and Scott are in an all-night diner around midnight. Scott is dishevelled and tired. He's been working all night as a bartender at a Chinese restaurant, serving lots of free drinks on the sly to Tom. And Tom, in response, seems astonishingly ungrateful. Here is the kind of sass that Tom keeps throwing Scott's way.

Tom

You're the one who needed the food and the beers and all that stuff like that to calm down after your traumatic night stealing from your employer.

Diner Patron

Really?

Ira Glass

Just at that moment, a man in a Hawaiian print shirt and khaki pants walks by their table. He hears the word "employer," mistakes it for the word "lawyer," and then turns to Tom.

Diner Patron

Are you a lawyer?

Tom

Uh, no.

Diner Patron

No. Do you want to be?

Tom

Who brought up a lawyer to start with? You just came walking in--

Diner Patron

You did.

Tom

No, I didn't. Not at all.

Scott

He didn't say lawyer.

Tom

You thought that you heard something, and then you let your mind take over, and then it got you--

Diner Patron

Well, I am a lawyer, so that's probably why I might have thought that. But you know what? I'm trained in the art of listening, and I could have sworn you said you wanted to be a lawyer.

Tom

Well, I definitely wouldn't hire you because you heard completely wrong.

Diner Patron

Really?

Tom

Yeah.

Ira Glass

There are some conversations that you overhear and it's hard not to want to keep listening, or to butt in, even though everybody knows that it is not the right thing to do. A while back, I was sitting in one of the booths in this very diner, The Golden Apple in Chicago on Lincoln Avenue, on a Sunday morning, and I looked around the restaurant. At the table next to me, a family was taking their teenage daughter out to an awkward last breakfast before she shipped off with the military. There were dressed-up people who'd come in from the church across the street and young couples who had stumbled in with the paper and were working on the crossword together.

And I thought, if only somebody could interview every person at every table in this restaurant, that would be amazing. You'd get such a wide variety of different kinds of stories from different kinds of people. So we decided to try it. On Friday, July 14, a couple years back, a big group of us took shifts starting at 5:00 AM and going to 5:00 AM the next morning.

During quiet hours, it was just one us on duty, recording and interviewing people. During the busiest hours, which means late night, three or four of us worked the tables. Today's program, from WBEZ Chicago and Public Radio International, 24 Hours at The Golden Apple. It's This American Life. I'm Ira Glass. Stay tuned.

Act Two. Night.

Pete

It's 5:00 in the morning. My name is Pete. I work from 10:00 PM to 5:00 AM. And now we're going to have the taxi drivers and the cops come for a cup of coffee, until 6:00, when the morning crowd is going to be in.

Ira Glass

Pete's one of the three owners of this restaurant, along with Nick and Tom. All three are Greek, and one of them is always there, 24 hours a day. The restaurant sits at one of those intersections where three streets come together, not two. So every one of the corners in the intersection is wedge-shaped, which means that the restaurant itself is wedge-shaped, with booths along the windows on two sides of the wedge.

There's a counter with stools and a larger room with tables in the back. There are those oversized, laminated menus that go on for pages-- pages-- with pictures of the food. By the door is one of those revolving dessert cases, an octagon made of glass-- three shelves of cream pies and melon slices and cakes that lately have been nothing but trouble. Here's Nick, another one of the owners.

Nick

It's supposed to be turning. It's not turning because the motor broke. Jimmy's supposed to come out, like, three days ago. He's still coming. Now, if you can figure this one out. The pie case is not turning, and believe it or not, it's not selling as good. That's the truth.

Ira Glass

Dessert sales are down, he says, by half ever since it broke. People just like desserts more when they're in motion.

Nick

It catches the eye. When it's turning, it catches the eye and it sells.

Ira Glass

Over the course of 24 hours, the staff at The Golden Apple changes, the regulars who come in change, and the atmosphere changes from quiet in the early morning, to crazy hectic late at night when the bars in the neighborhood let out. Nancy Updike took the first shift of our 24-hour surveillance, mic in hand, from 5:00 AM until 10:00 AM.

[HARMONICA PLAYING]

Nancy Updike

This is Eddie. He comes to The Golden Apple a few times a week in the mornings and plays the harmonica in the middle of the restaurant for a few minutes. He's in a pale blue shirt and hopping lightly from foot to foot.

Eddie

I might fall down.

Nancy Updike

Eddie heads to the back of the restaurant to play there. No one is complaining. No one is rolling their eyes. In fact, a few people are smiling and saying hi. Eddie is not an outsider here, he's a regular.

Early morning at The Golden Apple is like that, a profoundly democratic place. Early morning welcomes the night shift workers, the unemployed, the retired, the confused, the disappointed, the slightly off, the people who work for themselves, and the people who don't work at all anymore but crave a little morning routine.

Joe Molica

Every morning I'm here are between 4:30 and 5:00. I love The Golden Apple. They're wonderful people and they got good food. And, uh, that's it.

Nancy Updike

This is how Joe Molica ends every sentence--

Joe Molica

And uh, that's it.

Nancy Updike

Or sometimes--

Joe Molica

That's all I could tell you, honey.

Nancy Updike

Joe's not used to talking about himself. His story comes out bit by bit. Our entire conversation takes place in a different era. He's completely unselfconscious about calling me honey. He bangs on his coffee cup with his spoon to get the waitress's attention for a refill. Please don't try this at home, but he gets away with it.

Joe Molica

I do construction-- remodeling, rehab. And that's what I do. I retired. I'm 78 years old. And I gave the business to my two sons. And that's it.

Nancy Updike

How did you start that business?

Joe Molica

Through my dad. My dad done the same thing when I was, I don't know, maybe 10, 11 years old. I started working for him. He was paying me a dime an hour. And that was it. Clean up, sweep up the floors that he's working on. What else do you want to know, honey?

Nancy Updike

At 5:30 in the morning, almost everyone is sitting alone, by choice, it seems. Joe's friend Bob is sitting in his own booth behind Joe. No one's talking much, but it's a comfortable silence. When you're up this early, it's hard not to feel some sense of community with everyone else who's awake. But you don't necessarily want to talk to them.

As it gets lighter and lighter outside, more people trickle in. A guy with thick, dark, blond hair and a face that looks like it could use another six hours' sleep sits down at the counter. His name is Scott Johnson, and he says he usually comes in around 3:30 AM, but today's different.

Scott Johnson

It's about 20 after 7:00.

Nancy Updike

How did you start coming to The Golden Apple?

Scott Johnson

I own a bar right down the street. It's called Witts. And I own another one on Clark and Oakdale called Jake's.

Nancy Updike

How did you get into the bar business?

Scott Johnson

Oh, boy. Well, about eight years ago, I turned 30, quit my career, got a divorce, and bought a bar in the same month.

Nancy Updike

Oh my God.

Scott Johnson

Took the Etch-a-Sketch and shook it, stood it upside down and shook it it real hard and changed my life forever.

Nancy Updike

It's completely light outside now. Commuter traffic is picking up. The Golden Apple isn't crowded, but all the front booths are taken and most of the counter. Nick keeps getting deliveries-- orange juice, potatoes-- and his butcher comes by, John Zervas. John is a big man in that way that's the norm in Chicago-- not fat, just big. John has been eating at The Golden Apple and supplying its meats for 10 years. When he was eight years old, he became famous for being the youngest butcher in Illinois.

John Zervas

Back in 1979, I was interviewed by Fahey Flynn. I don't know if you remember, back in 1979, Fahey Flynn was a well-known newsman right here at Channel 7 News before he died in '81. I was the youngest butcher in Illinois in 1979.

And-- yeah, I know-- I've met Governor Thompson down Randolph Street. My father was in the retail business, too, on Randolph Street. And that's how I started learning how to cut. So I've been doing this for-- I'm 33 now, and since I was eight years old.

Nancy Updike

You were a butcher when you were eight?

John Zervas

Well, yeah, I've been involved, cleaning tables. And about 12 years old, I started cutting meat on a band saw.

Nancy Updike

Wow. Do you remember the first piece of meat you cut?

John Zervas

Pork chops. Piece of pork loin and I sliced it. I remember very well, like it was yesterday. Yeah, real slow on the band saw. Pork chops. Pork loins, like 18 pounds. The first thing I did is cut it down the middle, and I started from the middle.

The trick is at the end not to cut your hands when it becomes really small. And you've got to use a special kind of thing that's underneath the band saw, not to put your hand in it. Because a band saw doesn't have any friends. I mean, if it's going to grab your hand, it's going to cut it.

Nancy Updike

The front of The Golden Apple is the smoking section. Sitting there is a grayish woman with a fleshy face and wavy hair in one of the small two-person booths. Her name is Alice Deluca.

Alice Deluca

I work at a purification center. It's a sauna, running vitamins and minerals. It's a program to rid your body of toxins and radiation.

Nancy Updike

Wow. Have you done the program yourself?

Alice Deluca

Yes I have.

Nancy Updike

Now, to the naked eye, it looks like you're smoking and drinking coffee and about to have some sausage. So how does that square with the whole toxins thing?

Alice Deluca

Well, I'm trying to wake up. [LAUGHTER]

Nancy Updike

You need some toxins to wake up?

Alice Deluca

I guess so.

Nancy Updike

The restaurant never gets crowded this morning. Turnover is slow. People linger over their coffee or their conversation. It's a weekday, so there's no impatient lunch crowd waiting for tables to open up. And if you don't have an office you need to get to, why rush?

Donna, the waitress, is finishing up the night shift and getting ready to go home. She's been on since 11:00 PM, but you would never know it to look at her. She's six feet tall and looks like Catherine Deneuve. She's one of the most beautiful people I've ever seen in person.

Nancy Updike

How long have you been working here?

Donna

Oh, 26 years.

Nancy Updike

Wow. How old were you when you started?

Donna

Well, you think I'm going to tell you that? Are you kidding? My kids don't even know how old I am.

Nancy Updike

Donna says she's actually not a night person, but she's worked the night shift the entire time, all 26 years. She came to Chicago from Oklahoma City in her early 20s with three kids.

Donna

I was divorced when I came here. And I had married so young, had my children young, no education. And I had a little baby. That's why I started working nights. But this is a great job for that-- I mean, working nights. That way you're with them during the day. You don't sleep much, but when they're sleeping, you're working. And I'm still working the night shift. I don't know why, but I still am.

Nancy Updike

Every Christmas Eve, Donna brings in a big tray of homemade cookies for the homeless guys and the old men and the taxi drivers, anyone who shows up that night. Every once in a while, on her afternoon off, she'll go see a play starring one of the actors who come in every night after their own shifts waiting tables. Her customers give her tapes of the bands they're in, bring in their artwork for her to see, tell her about their successes and failures. These are people she's known for years.

Donna

It's It's like home here to me. And when I think about going on a day job, I just can't. It's almost like it'd be another separation because it's like home when you've been here this long.

Nancy Updike

Donna runs her shift at The Golden Apple with a lot of compassion and generosity. But like any good waitress, she's also ruthlessly practical. She can be direct when she needs to. Early morning is no time to stand on ceremony.

Donna

Aw, honey, I've got to get finished with the rest of my work.

Nancy Updike

All right. Are you doing anything to set up or clean up?

Donna

I'm going to check and see what I've got to do.

Nancy Updike

Can I just follow you around and you tell me what you're doing? I'll just be your shadow.

Donna

But I don't even know if I have anything more to do. I just didn't want to talk anymore.

Nancy Updike

Oh, OK.

Donna

I didn't want to be rude.

Nancy Updike

No, no, no.

Donna

I just thought, I'm tired of talking.

Ira Glass

In the middle of the day, a muted light streams through the windows through a pale haze of cigarette smoke. At certain hours, it feels like everybody is smoking at The Golden Apple, three industrial smoke eaters on nonstop. At lunch, some customers come in, eat quickly, and head back to work after just a half hour, but they're in the minority. Probably 3/4 of the customers are regulars. Many of them stay for hours. Nick the owner says, some come two or three times a day.

Nick

I mean, they go home and sleep, of course. But this is their base. We've got Charlie right now in the restaurant that comes twice, three times a day. Floyd, which is right next to him. Mitch, Mitch with his son on the counter. He's a counter man. Mr. Harlen there with Steven, they come twice a day. Ross comes about three, four times a day. Al, two, three times a day.

Ira Glass

At the counter, a man who looks a little bit like the actor Harry Dean Stanton, scruffy and lean, is here for the second time in 24 hours. He gives me what he says is his nickname, Robert. He says he usually just comes for coffee. He can't afford much else.

Ira Glass

So why do you come here?

Robert

Because it's something to do. Coffee. I come here because I'm single, no wife, no girlfriend, no kids, either.

Ira Glass

Robert is one of three different men who tell me that they come here in the afternoon to drink coffee and talk to the waitresses. All three actually seem a little shy and intimidated by the waitresses. Robert is so bashful, he has a hard time saying much of anything to them.

Robert

I've never said more than hello or goodbye.

Ira Glass

Really?

Robert

That's all I ever said. I don't know what to do with a pretty girl like that. What to say, I don't know what to say.

Ira Glass

At a table in the back, Manuel Hernandez is here for the second time today. He's a retired carpenter. He came to Chicago from Mexico in 1965 as one of the workers who built the Sears Tower downtown, one of the tallest buildings in the world. He quit, he says, when they got to the 105th floor.

Manuel Hernandez

It was too windy up there. After two guys fell down, then I quit. Because I don't want to be next.

Ira Glass

As the afternoon passes, he calls over one of the waitresses, Sherry, and asks her for help reading a document that he got in the mail from an insurance company. He's worried it's some kind of scam. She reads it, tells him no. They've sent him a check. It's real. Sherry says this kind of thing happens all the time. Some of these guys, who else do they have to turn to?

Out on the sidewalk, when the weather's good, the restaurant sets up tables. At 1:00, Allison Musgrave and her two kids are eating. Ian is four, Madeline is two. Both are wearing their bicycle helmets at the table and eating the Mickey Mouse pancakes-- three pancakes, arranged in violation of US copyright law. Two ears and a head, maraschino cherries, canned pineapple, and whipped cream as the eyes and mouth. Cover it with maple syrup and you have a sugar concoction so powerful that four-year-old Ian literally cannot sit in his chair.

Allison Musgrave

Ian? Ian! Around here, please. Thank you.

Ian

[BABY TALK]

Ira Glass

I don't live far from here, and I do not think there is a four-year-old in a 10-block radius who does not know the Mickey Mouse pancakes.

Allison Musgrave

Turn around now, Ian. Turn around, please.

Ira Glass

The restaurant has toys for kids in a corner inside. One couple named Mike and Liz tell us that they come here so often with their four- and seven-year-old and feel so at home here, that they've instructed their kids that if they're ever lost, they're supposed to find a policeman and tell them not to bring them home, bring them to The Golden Apple.

As evening falls, it takes a while for the dinner crowd to show up in any kind of force. It's a slow day, everybody says. But it is Friday, and couples start to arrive. Some on dates, some just friends, some of that vague territory in between. And the topics of conversation in the room start to make an orbital shift toward couple sorts of topics. One of our producers, Susan Burton, notices one couple in particular.

Susan Burton

A man and a woman in their 30s sit down in a booth by a window. The man's long hair is tied back with a bandanna.

Daniel Romero

I'm Daniel Romero. Sylvia and I just got through playing a few sets of tennis in Grant Park, and stopped at Healing Earth for a little incense and some good karma, and we decided to stop and grab a bite. Sylvia and I have this weird history. She actually dumped me not too long ago. And that's right.

Sylvia

It wasn't a long time ago, Romero.

Daniel Romero

A long time ago-- it wasn't that long ago. So she's now happily in a relationship. And I was telling her as I was driving here about how lonely I am.

Susan Burton

Actually, it's been three years since Daniel and Sylvia broke up. They met when they worked together at the same nonprofit organization.

Daniel Romero

So you're ready to settle down now.

Sylvia

I am.

Daniel Romero

Well, I'm proud of you. I'm proud of you. When you first told me that, I actually wasn't sure.

Sylvia

Right. But you will not be coming to the wedding. You already told me that.

Daniel Romero

I did. I did tell you that. I won't be participating there. You'll have my best wishes.

Sylvia

Why? We're friends. I still love you and care about you. Why can't you be there?

Daniel Romero

Well, well, why can't-- it would just be weird. I mean, you and I have a pretty significant history together. But I would still be happy for you, and you would have my best wishes, and I'll still buy you a toaster.

Sylvia

A toaster. OK. See, I think that that's unusual. I think I would be very happy for you. Would I have some feelings there? Yeah, maybe there would be a little twinge thinking, why wasn't it me?

Daniel Romero

That's actually a Sex and the City topic a lot. Absolutely.

Susan Burton

In case you've missed it, Sex and the City is a TV show on HBO. It's about the romantic lives of four Manhattan women, one of whom is a writer. Each episode circles around some central question she poses, like "Can you be friends with your ex?" or "Can you change a man?" Could I have the Sex and the City music, please?

[MUSIC - "SEX AND THE CITY" THEME] Thank you.

If Daniel and Sylvia and I were suddenly cast in our own episode of the show, this would be the moment where I would light a cigarette and flip open my Powerbook and ponder what I'd seen. Daniel and Sylvia began by talking about Sylvia's new boyfriend but wound up discussing each other. And I started to wonder, when you talk about your ex's new relationships, are you really just talking about the two of you?

Daniel Romero

I didn't tell you this. You asked me how my love life was a little bit earlier. I did meet somebody about a week ago. Her name is Amy, and she works at-- where does she work at-- she works at Supercuts. And she was with her boyfriend, actually.

Sylvia

And she was hitting on you.

Daniel Romero

And she was hitting on me. She said to me, I want to go out with you. And I said, fine, let's go out. And she says, well, you have to wait a month because I'm still going out with this idiot over here. And she's talking about-- Nothing happened, though.

Sylvia

You would go out with a woman who would degrade her boyfriend that way, who would treat the guy that she's supposedly dating that way?

Daniel Romero

Yeah, but I'm not going to marry--

Sylvia

Right, you'll just [UNINTELLIGIBLE].

Daniel Romero

I'm not going to marry this girl. I wasn't interested in a lifetime commitment at that moment. I was much more looking for the immediate gratification.

Sylvia

That's what you're always looking for.

Daniel Romero

That's not entirely true. That's not entirely true.

Susan Burton

Each time Daniel brings up someone he's interested in, Sylvia gets exasperated with him for refusing to make a commitment. It happens when he mentions the woman he saw in a lounge chair by a pool in Las Vegas and the girl he's taken on a dozen dates but is pretty sure he wants to break up with. It turns out that this is a conversation they've had before-- at the end of their own relationship.

Sylvia

I was ready for the next step, and he was ready to back out. Any time I pressed forward, he went backwards a couple steps.

Daniel Romero

You're right. You and I were in a place where you were frustrated because I couldn't move forward. I was frustrated because you were pressing so hard.

Sylvia

And then you found the next girl and moved in with her after three weeks. I think it's a hard topic for us both.

Daniel Romero

Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah, just the thought of-- it's like--

Susan Burton

He trails off, staring out the window.

Daniel Romero

I don't know. It's kind of hard to-- it's kind of hard to--

Sylvia

It is kind of hard to talk when two babes go by.

Susan Burton

Outside on the sidewalk, two girls with blond hair and short skirts approach. They catch Daniel's eye. He mumbles. As the girls stride by the window, he turns his head and follows them from one end of the glass to the other. The gesture seems to happen in slow motion.

Sylvia

He does that all the time.

Daniel Romero

Yeah, but I'm not--

Sylvia

I know. I know. I'm not saying that. I'm just saying that when we were together and you did that, that really hurts.

Daniel Romero

Even though it's just looking?

Sylvia

It says you're not interested in what's going on right here.

Daniel Romero

No!

Sylvia

And that's exactly what you did by doing that.

Daniel Romero

See that's--

Sylvia

You couldn't even formulate the sentence because your eyeballs were glued to that window.

Daniel Romero

Look, this has been another topic on Sex and the City.

Susan Burton

Oh, bring back the music.

[MUSIC - "SEX AND THE CITY" THEME]

Just for the record, what actually happened in that episode-- the woman got so mad at her boyfriend that she punched him in the face. And then she realized she couldn't change him.

Ira Glass

Over by the restaurant's front windows, which look out on St. Alphonsus Catholic Church, a huge building, sits Kay Frank, known to her friends as Katie Keane, 75 years old, dressed in a nice outfit and matching scarf. She's here because one of her long time neighbors, another Golden Apple customer, is laid out dead in the funeral home right across the street. She'll eat, then pay her respects. She tells me that she's lived her whole life within walking distance of this very spot.

Kay Frank

I was born and raised on Lakewood 75 years ago, went to St. Alphonsus School. So this is my neighborhood for a long time. And it gives me a lot of pleasure to walk the neighborhood and say, Margaret Kuntz lived in that house, Lucille Sutchell lived in that house. I can still see all the things in my mind as I did in the '30s and '40s.

Ira Glass

Back then, for instance, a pharmacy was on this spot. Kay and her friends would come here after 11:00 mass.

Kay Frank

I'm talking about first year, second year high school, when you didn't go to the kiddie mass anymore at 9:00 in the morning. This was like a hang out here after mass. In this whole section here, they had a wonderful soda fountain, right here where this would be. See what I'm saying?

Ira Glass

She points at a section of booths. For years, this neighborhood was all about which parish you belonged to-- St. Alphonsus for the Germans, St. Andrews for the Irish and Italian, St. Josaphat for the Polish. Until finally in the 1960s, that ended. Kay's five sisters and her parents all moved away from the neighborhood.

Kay Frank

I'm the only one that stayed in the neighborhood because we couldn't afford to move out of here. We bought our house in the mid '60s, '64. And everybody thought the neighborhood was going to change. So of course, they're moving to the suburbs, or farther north, or farther west.

Ira Glass

Change-- you mean people thought it wasn't going to be white anymore?

Kay Frank

Yes. They thought it was going to go down. That's why people were scared and moved out. So we couldn't afford to move. So we bought a house there for $27,000. I've had offers of $500,000, $550,000 for my house.

Ira Glass

Meanwhile, one of her sisters who moved away to avoid the blight of this area, who moved to an area too expensive for Kay or her husband to afford, just sold her house for only $200,000. Gentrification, which spread through this neighborhood in the last 15 years, hasn't made it out to where her sisters live. But around here, on Southport and on Clark and all over, there are little boutiques and several Starbucks and expensive restaurants with fake European names.

Kay Frank

The neighborhood has changed a lot, a whole lot. Some for the better, some for the worse. Close by we have our gay people, which we never had as a kid. They were around, maybe, but we didn't know who they were. Today, you know who they are. My husband, coming from the old school-- we have the nicest neighbors we've ever had, two gay men. They can't do enough for you, they cut your grass for you, they water it, now that I'm older. And when they moved in, my husband, coming from way back, oh my God, you know. He didn't want, really, too much to do with them.

Within a year, I'd say, we saw that they were nice people, very clean. And when we had our 50th wedding anniversary party, had some [UNINTELLIGIBLE] here, it was our neighbors that went to the hall, they wouldn't take a penny, they decorated that place like you wouldn't believe. Now, how many neighbors would do that for you? So gay or not gay, they're really nice people. So I think that the gays can be credited for being such a nice people. They swayed a lot of the old-time people into different thinking.

There's still a lot of racial stuff, maybe. If you had a black neighbor here, or one of the people would rent to a black person. I think that would be frowned upon a little bit. But if you rent to a gay person today, it's OK.

Maybe a lot of things that we think should be this way and that way as you grow up, it's really not that way, or shouldn't be that way. So I don't feel that we should really judge them. Let the Lord judge them.

Ira Glass

Coming up, drunks, partiers, people on the make. And lots of other people to try not to judge. I mean, we have not even gotten to the cops. In a minute, from Public Radio International-- warm up that coffee for you-- when our program continues.

Act 2.

Ira Glass

It's This American Life. I'm Ira Glass. Today on our program, 24 Hours at The Golden Apple. If you're just tuning in, we tried to interview every person at every table of a 24-hour restaurant here in Chicago, starting at 5:00 AM in the morning on Friday, July 14, going until 5:00 AM the next morning. Not everybody said yes, not everybody could fit into a one-hour radio show, and the day is just heating up.

Let's jump ahead to midnight. One of the owners, Pete, is explaining something sort of surprising about a restaurant like this to our reporter Wendy Dorr.

Pete

We never close. We have no keys. We have no keys. If you see the doors, we have no locks. Always open. We never, never lock the doors.

Ira Glass

Just at that moment, a young woman bursts through the door. Laughing, she swivels around and drunkenly tries to lock it to keep her two friends out. It takes a second before she realizes there are no locks. The three stumble to a table.

Kim

This is Kim. I'm at The Golden Apple. I know I am. And I'm with Oscar and Beth. Oscar. Oscar, who I have no idea where he is. Beth and I are riding in the cab, and he like hops in. I've never even met this guy. I need to order food. I'm a journalism major, by the way. Yeah. So I understand what you're doing right now.

Beth

I work with Kim. I don't live downtown. I live in the suburbs. And Kim was like, OK--

Kim

I live downtown, though.

Beth

Right.

Kim

I do.

Beth

That's right. She lives in Sheffield. It doesn't matter. Anyway, so we go to this premiere party of the Star Wars exhibit at the Field Museum.

Kim

Yes! It was so awesome, by the way.

Beth

Kim, this is my story.

Kim

Look at my stars! Look. Do you see it?

Beth

Yeah, she sees it.

Kim

Star Wars.

Beth

I'm the most sober one here, as you can probably tell. So anyway--

Kim

I'm sorry I'm drunk.

Beth

It's fine. I meet Oscar. We just meet him standing at the bar. And he offers, he buys us a couple of shots. So we're like, fine. We started drinking with him, we start talking to him. Oh, so I'm sitting there, talking to Kim. All of a sudden, I feel two hands on my back, two hands I do not recognize, two hands that I do not want on my body. And I look, and who do I see?

Oscar

[UNINTELLIGIBLE]

Beth

It is Oscar. And I don't even know your last name, do I?

Oscar

Which I'm not going to say on the radio.

Beth

I'll be honest. I will be honest with you. He paid for a lot of tonight. Like, he paid for my drinks. OK, great. You know what? Don't touch me, but you can buy my drinks for me. If you're going to hop into the cab and pay for it, then you know what? You're getting in the cab with me. That's fine. And he's probably going to buy our food here tonight. So that's fine with me.

Kim

The brutal truth.

Beth

What?

Kim

Brutal truth. It's the brutal truth.

Beth

I'm just honest. I'm not going to go home with you.

Oscar

My name's Oscar. I bought them a drink or two.

Beth

Or a bottle of $300 champagne. OK.

Oscar

I'm successful. What can I say?

Beth

[UNINTELLIGIBLE]

Kim

We didn't even have to--

Beth

Oscar, let's be honest here.

Kim

--pay when we walked in.

Oscar

I'll be completely honest with you. My goal is to share a bed tonight. Yeah, I'm going to end up with both of them.

Beth

See, it doesn't matter which one. It's just to share a bed. He just wants to get some play, basically. Is that what you're saying, Oscar?

Oscar

And I'll bet you if you followed us home, one of them two will be in bed with me tonight. Would I be sitting here talking to you in front of a microphone, eating breakfast with them, if I was not going to go home with them tonight? Either I'm a complete moron or I know something that you don't.

Beth

You're just a sleaze ball.

Kim

I really hate him, Beth.

Beth

Oscar, you're a good guy. I understand you have a lot of hormones, and that's fine with me. You're just not going to be able to act on them tonight-- with me, I don't know about you.

Kim

Not me either. Unless it's paying by food. Where the hell is the waitress?

Beth

I don't know.

Kim

I just want to know where the waitress is.

Ira Glass

By 1:00, the diner is at capacity, and it feels like one big party. A woman sits in a booth in the back with a friend. She's in her early 40s, grew up in the neighborhood.

Nancy

My name is Nancy. Where am I, and what time is it? Well, I don't think I'm really here. I think that I'm doing a two-dimensional kind of thing. So there's part of me that's here, and then there's part of me that's somewhere else, the future me. So what time is it? Earthly time, it's 1:15 AM. And there is no time where my future self is.

You know how when you go to sleep and you dream how you can bend and shape the events that take place in that dream? Well, what if that were your reality, and what if this were the dream? You can actually paint your future and you can make everything that's ever happened, is happening, and will happen, has already happened. It's shape shifting time and events so that you know why your soul is here. And that's the purpose, to know why you're here, to know why you came back.

I know one past life, I was a cowboy. And I was shot by accident. And I've met two of my four buddies that I was with together here. We agreed to come back on some kind of subliminal basis. So yeah, I was a cowboy in one lifetime, probably right before the turn of the century. And my other lifetime, I really don't know, but I know I was crushed. And I don't know by what, but probably a large building. I haven't identified the time yet. I'm still working on that.

Can I have a short stack, please? That's all. Thank you.

Ira Glass

Not far away in another booth sit Danielle, who's 17, and Allison, 18. They're best friends. A month ago, because of problems at home, Danielle moved in with Allison's family. They both live in the basement there now. They've been driving in from the suburbs to The Golden Apple to hang out, meet friends. Guys, mostly.

Danielle

We're sitting here waiting for this guy, Jeff, who's hopefully going to come.

Allison

We've just been coming here for the last three nights at about midnight, 1:00.

Danielle

Because we're bored.

Allison

Just sitting here waiting for random people to show up.

Danielle

She kind of has a crush on this guy. And so we kind of come here in hopes to find him. It hasn't worked yet.

Allison

You paged him and told him to come here.

Danielle

Yeah, I paged him and told him to come here.

Allison

Paged him. No answer. Paged him again. No answer. Paged him again. No answer.

Danielle

So basically, we have no life. So we come down here and wait for people. All right. Phone call time.

Allison

Do you have the number?

Danielle

Yeah, I have the number. All right, give me money. All right, I am calling this guy, Jeff. And I'm going to make him come here, because my best friend wants him to. All right. And it's still ringing.

Hi Jeff. We are at The Golden Apple. And I am wondering if you're at all coming because Allison kind of wants to see you, and I'm not going to stick around here all night because I have to sleep. So hopefully you'll be here by, like, 2:00. If not, call Allison tomorrow. All right. Bye. And he'll be here. He'll be here. Six messages on his machine at home.

I just called Jeff and told him that he's not here and he should be. And I still think he will come, I just don't know when.

Allison

See, the thing that makes this a big deal is the fact that I think he actually might like me back, which doesn't happen ever, so that's why I want to see him again.

Danielle

Hey, you want to know the really weird thing about us is she hates herself. She never likes anyone ever. And whenever anything goes right, she freaks out.

Allison

Seriously, you say that there's so many people that like me, but how many times has it actually ever worked out? It's not hard for you because you're just like this massive guy magnet. And you act sometimes like you don't see it. You see it. You've got to see it. Because we go somewhere and it's like, whoosh, and everyone's there by you. And not even just guys. Just people like you, you know? It takes no effort.

Danielle

But it's not-- no, you're wrong, though.

Allison

No, I'm not!

Danielle

Because it's not like I just get them like that. It's-- darr! OK, I'll give you sometimes. I don't know why, but sometimes it happens like that. And it's the fact that I talk and I'm not boring and I don't just sit there. No, I'm not saying you're boring. I'm just saying that that's what I'm not. People, like I said before, are robots. And they're going to want to follow the life of the party. That's how people are. If you put an idea in their head, like if one person says you're a good kisser, you are deemed a good kisser forever and ever and ever.

Allison

That's the point. You have this thing where you just radiate positive vibes, you know? And you're always upbeat. When I've been really outgoing, or trying to be, I'm almost imitating you to see if it works. It doesn't work for me. And we're best friends, especially now that you live with me. It's like you're just always there, so the issue is always there. When you didn't live with me, sometimes I'm not even thinking about it, I don't care. But now you're there all the time. And we've been going out more. And it's always there.

Danielle

It is 1:25 almost. OK. I am calling my friend Marion in hopes that he is up. OK. Marion? Are you sleeping? You are? We're just at the restaurant and waiting for people and no one's coming. So we were wondering do you want us to come pick up? Say yes. To come back here. Just say yes. No, say yes. So don't go to sleep. Oh, come on. You know you love me. Thank you. I will be there to pick you up in two minutes. Bye.

So we're here. Hi Marion.

Marion

Hi. I can't go anywhere.

Danielle

Ha! You can't go anywhere? Get in the car.

Marion

I cannot.

Danielle

Marion!

Marion

My mom has convinced me to stay.

Danielle

Marion, go tell her that you have to come back to the restaurant.

Marion

I can't. I have to wake up at 8:00 tomorrow morning.

Danielle

Marion? I'm going to go beat you up.

Ira Glass

Danielle, however, does not do such a good job convincing him with her fists. Actually, she doesn't try. He won't come. So she climbs back into the car to head back to meet Allison, who's waiting back at The Golden Apple.

Danielle

OK, me and Allison. I think that she feels like we're growing apart, because I've kind of been mean lately. Not like too mean, but-- she's my best friend, she will always be my best friend. It's just like now that we live together, we have constant each other. And it's just like we realize the things that we could overlook before are actual issues now.

Like, we're complete opposites. She doesn't like people, I love people. She likes staying home and reading. I can't stand staying home, and I can't stand reading. And I mean, I don't like thinking. It's like thinking is something you do in school and then when you need to. And she's not like that. And that's very cool. I mean, it shows that she's not a robot, or whatever.

But she's 17. She's only 17. And she acts like she's 23. She's, I guess, above the normal teenager. She thinks of things. She cares. And that's what people in college do. And that's what older people do. But me and most of all my friends, we're not ready. We don't want to do that. We want to just sit back and have fun. I mean, she just needs to find the right people to hang out with.

And for right now, it's not my thing. This is. This is my thing. I like this scene, where it's just like, we're going to sit back, we're going to have fun, we're going to laugh, we're just going to let everything go. Just like, all right. The Golden Apple scene. Yeah.

Ira Glass

Once she's back in the restaurant, after all this thinking about how she and Allison are so different, she heads over to her best friend. They've started a band together called Mixed Emotions. It's just the two of them. Allison plays guitar, they both sing. And they do one of their songs together, now, for the microphone.

Danielle

Ready? OK.

Both

So much for faith, so much for loving you. So much for everything you told me you would do. So much for love, you won't believe in me. So much for all the times you say you'd never leave.

Danielle

I needed you and thought you'd be there but now I see the change in you. And now you just don't seems to care.

Both

So much for faith. So much for loving you. So much--

Ira Glass

They skooch in tight to each other near the mic as they sing, Allison sitting, Danielle standing, and leaning in close. And then the thing that they have been waiting for all night finally happened. Sort of.

[INTERPOSING VOICES]

Danielle

So this is Jeff. That's Juan.

Billy

He's got a face for radio.

Danielle

That's Billy. This is [UNINTELLIGIBLE].

Allison

Oh, Billy's here!

Danielle

And it's 2:15 and they have finally arrived. Yeah.

Allison

When we'd given up all hope, poof, they're here. It's the great--

Danielle

I told you. I knew it. I never gave up faith.

Ira Glass

They all sit down together. The guy who they've been waiting for, who they called six times, Jeff, he never arrived. But there is another Jeff with this group. And Allison transfers her crush to Jeff number two.

At some point, Danielle drags her outside the diner to confer. They stand on the sidewalk just on the other side of the plate glass window from Jeff number two and everybody else. Allison reviews the facts of the case.

Allison

Well, it's just like OK. He's into some of the supernatural stuff too. And we have a lot of things in common. We're both big Tim Burton fans. And so-- I don't know. I actually had something to talk to him about for hours now. But then again, what's the point of liking him if he doesn't like me?

Danielle

Do I ask him?

Allison

No!

Danielle

I'm just going to go and be like, OK, here, look. I'm trying to hook her up and--

Allison

Don't.

Danielle

--hey, I was wondering. I'm trying to set Allison-- I'll be slick. It'll be fun.

Allison

For you, yeah.

Danielle

I'll give him a flower. Come on, it'll be fun. If he says no, we just won't come out here ever again. Please?

Allison

No!

Ira Glass

Whatever else it might do for Alison if she were hooked up with somebody, it might just reduce the general level of tension between her and Danielle. And Danielle does not take no for an answer. She gives the flower to Jeff number two, saying it's from Allison, he smiles a big number two smile, then he and Allison sit alone at a table and talk for a while until Danielle comes over.

Danielle

Are we leaving now? Yes, we paid. And we left the tip. And I put the rest of the change in this little box here. And now we're leaving.

Allison

Creating a research foundation.

Danielle

It was fun. We got here at 11:30, and it is now 3:15, and it is time to leave. So we'll be back tomorrow. Bye!

Allison

Goodbye.

Ira Glass

By 4:00 AM Saturday morning, things have finally started to die down. Once again, like when we arrived the day before, it's mostly cab drivers and cops.

Clark Eichman

What was that show Florence was on? With Mel's Diner? What the hell's the name of that show? Alice? No.

Ira Glass

These two police officers are sitting in a booth in front. Even on a break, they are required to wear 18-pound bulletproof vests. They call over their waitress, Donna, to help settle this question.

Clark Eichman

Let me ask Donna. Maybe she knows.

Donna

Do you want another [UNINTELLIGIBLE]?

Clark Eichman

Oh, no thank you. What's the TV show where they were in the diner with--

Norman Knudsen

Mel's Diner, where they--

Donna

Flo. Flo. Flo was the redhead.

Clark Eichman

Yeah, Flo was the one waitress.

Donna

It was Alice and Flo and Vera.

Clark Eichman

Yeah, it was Mel's Diner.

Norman Knudsen

Vera was the dark hair, Flo was the Western, and then Alice was the one from New York.

Donna

But it was called Flo's, I think.

Clark Eichman

No, it wasn't called Flo's.

Donna

No?

Clark Eichman

It was-- I think it was Alice.

Norman Knudsen

Me, I'm stumped. Now, I won't be able to sleep today, until I find out what the name of that show was.

I'm Officer Norman Knudsen, and this is my partner.

Clark Eichman

Officer Clark Eichman.

Norman Knudsen

And we work beat 1922 tonight in the 19th district.

We're on a personal. We're allowed as many personals as we want for coffee breaks, use the washroom, whatever. And it's almost 5:00 in the morning, AM-- OK, 0500 hours.

Clark Eichman

This district normally is slow. But on the weekends, it's like any other district. Gun calls, fights--

Norman Knudsen

Narcotics.

Clark Eichman

Narcotics. It's real busy for two days a week and real slow for five.

Norman Knudsen

With all the bars on Lincoln and Clark, and even further up north on Lincoln, you can go from one jap to another. One fight after fight after fight after fight. Well, we had a bar fight over at Irish Eyes.

Clark Eichman

Poor guy's going to need plastic surgery because he got hit with a beer stein in the face.

Norman Knudsen

Sox fan versus Cubs fan. The Cubs fan got it in the face with a stein. And then we had another brawl over at Cubby Bear, where we made three arrests. And we just got done with all the paperwork. And it's been, what, two and a half hours on the paperwork. Total of four arrests, four arrests.

Clark Eichman

Yeah, yeah. Four arrests.

Norman Knudsen

First time to sit down and have a cup of coffee and relax and unwind. This is my regular hang out here. The Golden-- what is it-- Pancake?

Clark Eichman

I don't know. You come here all the time.

Norman Knudsen

I know. I come in here all the time. I just know 2971 Lincoln. Mike is always hanging around. And then there's, well, Bob over there. He's sitting on the end. Hey Bob, how you doing? Donna, Mary, Dave, the one cab driver. I've come here quite a bit. Man with a gun.

Dispatch

--West Belmont. 19th at West Belmont.

Norman Knudsen

Damon and Belmont.

Clark Eichman

Right down the street.

Dispatch

The good citizen says three men standing on the street. One is a male--

Clark Eichman

There's a car right now, three blocks away, three guys with a gun. Three blocks from here.

Dispatch

I'm getting description of a male, white, bald head, white T-shirt.

Clark Eichman

Now, supposing they're heading towards Barry, which is this way.

Norman Knudsen

They can break our personal if they want. Our lunch break, they're not supposed to. But if it's a hot call. Like, this one might not even be bona fide.

Clark Eichman

Probably eight out of every 10 calls are garbage. They're not-- now there's two calls. Now it might be legitimate.

Norman Knudsen

One thing that happens is when you get a regular partner, and even somebody who you can work with for the first night, you learn their first name, not just their last, and then where did you work before, are you married. He collects hockey cards. I collect monster memorabilia, models. I do model collecting. I collect a couple guitars. I play the guitar. And then other things.

But you create a bond. You'll even tell some intimate secrets, things that even the wives don't know about. But you're creating a bond. The people don't realize that. 90% of the job is you and your partner in the car. It can be a long night, or it can be a lot of fun.

Clark Eichman

The other thing is if you don't feel like doing anything, on some nights, you don't have to. You might not get a call, you can chill out, drive around. You know, you'll just be off in a haze and it doesn't really matter.

Norman Knudsen

It's almost 5:00, in the morning, AM, three more hours.

Clark Eichman

Yeah.

Norman Knudsen

If we don't get a late arrest. 1-9-2-2 is back with you.

Ira Glass

They head toward the door.

Norman Knudsen

Donna? We'll see you guys manana.

Ira Glass

"Hasta la bye-bye," says Donna, over by the counter.

Dispatch

--and 1902 wants a--

Norman Knudsen

All right, see you guys all later.

Clark Eichman

The damn sun is coming up already.

Ira Glass

The damn sun streaks its damn light through the cursed windows. Donna straightens things up a little, surveys the restaurant. She's the waitress that we first interviewed a full day before, the one who brings in cookies on Christmas for everybody. And she eyes the morning regulars at the tables.

Donna

Well, it's now 5:00 Saturday morning. And I got one hour and 45 minutes. And I know it sounds a little corny, but I really do enjoy it. As soon as it starts to get daylight, I start to feel good. The day people come in, the nice smells, the nice colognes.

It's kind of wore off on the night people, but the day people, it's so fresh, it's nice, refreshing. Everybody else is getting sleepy and I'm starting to wake up because I'm a day person that's been working nights for 26 years. But I'm handling it all right.

[MUSIC - "EGGS AND SAUSAGE" BY TOM WAITS]

Credits.

Ira Glass

Well, our program was produced today by Julie Snyder and myself with Alex Blumberg, Blue Chevigny, and Jonathan Goldstein. Other people who took shifts recording at The Golden Apple included Mary Wiltenburg. Joe Richman recorded Daniel and Allison. Joe's the producer behind the great radio series Radio Diaries. Wendy Dorr recorded the policemen, Oscar, and the two drunk women who would not go home with him, Tom and Scott, and the lady who explained earthly time. Nancy Updike's story was produced with a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting as a part of hearingvoices.com.

Many thanks to Tom and Nick and Pete, the owners of The Golden Apple and to the dozens of customers that we interviewed over the course of the day. When you visit Chicago, The Golden Apple is on Lincoln Avenue where it hits Southport. My recommendation? The feta cheese omelet.

Our website, which has just been redesigned with all kinds of new goodies where you can get our free weekly podcast, listen to old shows from our archives and now get bonus video clips from our TV show, www.thisamericanlife.org. On the site this week, you'll also find a new blog by producer Jane Feltes about all the music on our show. This American Life is distributed by Public Radio International.

[FUNDING CREDITS]

WEBZ management oversight for our show provided by Mr. Torey Malatia, who's always reminding me--

Kim

I'm a journalism major, by the way. Yeah. So I understand what you're doing right now.

Ira Glass

I'm Ira Glass. Back next week with more stories of This American Life.

Announcer

PRI. Public Radio International.