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Ten Businesses from Lawrence I Miss–Not a Poem

Wherein the author of some of the poems reflects upon his youth, and the places in Lawrence he hungout therein, and then upon the worst of those places, and then ends it premature lament to the eventual demise of the author’s favorite business in the world.

Ahhh, old school Lawrence.  Back in the days when Iowa Street was on the outskirts of town, there was only one Lawrence High School, we didn’t HAVE a T, and Central was, actually, central, instead of squarely in the heart of the ghetto.  Sure, reminiscence is a dangerous thing, but gahddamn I miss these places.

10. Paradise Cafe –Home of Paradise Eggs Benedict, possibly the perfect breakfast food.  No frills, no perks, just good food in a yuppie diner atmosphere.   Sure it got run down after a while, but for eight or nine years Paradise Cafe was the place to see and be seen for the breakfast set.  It’s little pink bastard step-brother, Milton’s, with eighteen types of coffee and purposefully disaffected staff is just one sign of the complete pussification of Lawrence which occurred around the same time we let people from Topeka and Kansas City build spore housing on Wakarusa Street.

9. New Yorker—I couldn’t tell you how the pizza was, my guess was pretty run of the mill, but no one went for the pizza.  No, we went to stick quarters the fuck in video games.  I came for Sinistar, but stayed for Cliffhanger, and Dragon’s Lair.  I had a date there once with my first grade teacher, when I was still in first grade.  I don’t think she took it as seriously as I did, but then I didn’t take her as seriously as my score on Mrs. Pac Man.

8.  The House of Hunan—Chinese on 23rd Street?  No one expected that.  The House of Hunan did move a few times, like a Room of Requirement filled with illegal aliens, but they did Hot and Sour soup like nobody’s business.  My fifth grade teacher took me on a date there.  I think he was more serious about it than I was.  He’s in prison now.

7. Lucifers—Apparently an old apartment building on 9th consumed by fire, or another Gate To Hell, Lucifers was the ultimate adolescent playground.  Filled with the detritus of people much older and cooler than us –used condoms, beer cans, cigarette butts, and charming yet Satanic graffiti, it was perfect for a late night wander promising just a hint of the chance of death.  It’s now a set of apartment buildings, most likely filled with used condoms, beer cans, cigarette butts, and graffiti, but at least it has a roof now.

6. Taco Johns downtown—Couldn’t tell you how man Potato Oles met their fate to my greasy, teenage mouth after school on Mondays, but I’m guessing it numbered thousands.  Looking suspiciously like one of my college theatre professors, Taco John welcomed Junior High kids with his cheery pseudo-Hispanic gut and leering smile, always with a big plate of tacos.  Always.  It’s a fish bar now.  Insert Fish Taco joke here.

5. The Old Arts Center—I know it’s still around, but nobody goes in, and nobody comes out.  The old Carnagie Library was home to more theatrical ventures than I can name, starting with Summer Youth Theatre, where the boys ceremoniously urinated in the boiler room, and the girls dipped their girl parts in paint and made wall decoupage.  Convienently located near the train park for late night excursions and deadly injuries.

4. Vista Burger—No burger joint like it anymore.  You can bleat about Hayes, or Five Guys, or that place on Vermont all you want, I still don’t care what you say.  Vista Burger was the best.  Ever. Anyone who’s had a Vista Burger Birthday Party will agree.  Just one question—what the fuck was the mascotty Vista thing, and did anybody else think he looked like a cartoon drawing of an STD?

3.  Hole in the Wall Deli—I think it’s currently Rick’s Place, it had the best sloppy Joe in town for years, everything came wrapped in healthy, environmentally friendly tin foil, and with a gigantic slice of pickle, and served by big, smelly, hairy men.  Manly men.  The kind of men who would gladly kill the cow, and grind the meet between their teeth to make the Sloppy Joe beef, while smoking a cigarette.  Made Round Corner Cheese Shop look like a bunch of chumps.

2. Jennings Daylight Donuts—A big part of my youth died with the closing of Jennings Daylight Donuts, where the Chocolate Long John, and Apple Fritter made up a major part of my breakfast for years.  I could eat four or five Jennings Daylight Donuts in a sitting, and wind up feeling majorly ill.  In one of the most mis-informed business changeovers in the history of Lawrence, in my humble opinion, it was converted into a brewery, where I could drink four or five glasses of beer, and wind up feeling majorly ill.  Stick to donuts, people.  Please.

1. G. Willikers—Sure, I’m biased.  But you could get food, you could get cigarettes, and you could get beer.  Best part, if you worked there, you could get it all on a tab, which is why I ended up working for two weeks after I got fired to pay off my bar tab.  If the New Yorker was the go to place of my kidhood, and Taco Johns of the teenage years, G. Willikers was where I spent those formative late/post college years.  Amazing Reuben’s, and ladies got filmed in the bathrooms for FREE*.  How’s that for a wild night out!  *(for a limited time only)

Honourable mention needs to go to:

Tin Pan Alley—the alleyway entrance promised something illicit, and inside the hot wings delivered.

Bucky’s—the food was crap, but it was Old School Lawrence.

Cinema Twin—where I saw Red Sonja in all her glory.  Home of my first date, with Julia, where we went to see Mannequin, and then dad drove us home, where she proceeded to ignore me as she got out of the car.  Later had movies for a dollar.  ONE DOLLAR.  Now a Kohls, or Best Buy, or Home Depot, or some other boring, suburban shithouse department store.  Lookout charm and heritage—here comes Horizon 2020!

The Cafe in Woolworths—best grilled cheese sandwiches ever.

That Hot Dog Place on Vermont Street that only didn’t get in this list because I can’t remember it’s name. (Great American Hot Dog?) –Kept the relish and onions in big buckets on a condiment table, and I would eat them raw.  I was eight.  Dad was drinking.  Nobody knew.  Good times.

And finally, the Thank God You’re Gone, We Won’t Miss You At All Awards—

The Giant Racist North Lawrence Teepee—Don’t know what it did, or where it came from, but coming right off Highway 24, you couldn’t miss it.  Welcome to Lawrence, home of Haskell, and stunning fucking cultural sensitivity.

The Schoolhouse—Another of North Lawrence’s finest, a really shit dance club.  I only went there once.  Once was all it took.

The Other Jennings Daylight Donuts on 23rd Street—like the one on Mass, but with no charm.  Custard creams?  Fuck you.

FantasyLand—where I was supposed to go as a youth to get conditioned to bad 80’s music and to come to terms with a personal romantic style that would later be termed ‘fumbling at best’, it’s sad that it’s gone and all, but at least I don’t have to be reminded of my pathetic past everytime I drive down Iowa.  Now also a Kohl’s, or Best Buy, or some shit.  Thanks Horizion 2020!

Last Call—Obvious, but thank fuck that’s gone.  Now if they could get rid of that Piano Bar.

Someday, the Bougeois Pig may go, and at that point my heart will die, and I’ll sever all ties with Lawrence, until then, this remains my fond farewell to bidnesses past.


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