I remember the June Bugs. Bigger than a garbonzo bean, light brown like an old Oak leaf. They flew to the huge lights above the diner, the giant metal halide ten-million candle power suns that drove back the night and illuminated the ThunderBird Inn.

The pool was in the crook of the L made by the rooms of the Motel, sitting like a big empty kidney with an eight foot veil of chain link fence to protects its virginity, a ribbon of black asphalt and parking places leading in, around and then out . The plastic of the lawn chairs was hard and cracked from endless hours of baking in the merciless sun. The spiders had enjoyed their uninterrupted tenancy for a very long time. Elvis had just been starting out the last time the pool was full.

The June bugs made a loud clacking whirring sound when they flew, their carapaces clacking together as the softer wings beneath them beat hundreds of times a minute to keep the beasts in the air. They had huge chitinous claws, tarsus to the bug guys, that were wickedly sharp but not used aggressively. Joined by moths of many great and small with more than a few Goldeneyed Lacewings, there was quite the nightly insect ballet performed for those who knew to look. Intricacies of dance never seen before and never repeated performed as though routine at this oasis of light.

In the diner the barstools and booths were red vinyl, the booths slick and oily looking, shining as if they were feverish, a couple of stools torn with yellow foam straining to escape the tight red embrace of the shiny vinyl cover. The counter was formica, at least twelve feet long, white, sort of, with patches of worn brown showing near the register where over the years it had most often been wiped.

It was hot. Even at midnight it was still in the 90s. The great slow moving fans did little to move the heated, almost liquid air. Turning slowly, silently, hanging like great stationary dragonflys, permanently attached to the ceiling by their metal tethers, endlessly swirling the overheated air, doing nothing to relieve it, they were always there, always turning, always the dark grey of dirty snow.

The walls had been white long ago, but were now a dingy yellow, the chrome strip running along the back wall was an inch wide and four feet off the ground. No doubt there was a time when it was free of dust and rust. No doubt that time was long ago.

Floyd was the cook. Tattooed by other drunken sailors up one arm and down the other in ports the world over, a paper hat, greasy with wear and stained with brylcream, his constant companion; partner to the cigarette permanently fixed to the corner of his mouth. Hair kept in the flat top he grew up wearing, blue eyes hidden by wrinkles that were not caused by laughter, his was the domain of the kitchen.

A great expanse of heated metal, burners on the right and double sinks to the rear, twenty square feet of heat in front of him, it was here that Floyd ruled as a god. A dirty greasy, neverbeenchangedsincethedayheopened apron over his dirty white pants and heavy black boots, smoke curling into his eyes from the corner of his mouth, whiskers sharp enough to peel the potatoes that made his fries, this was his kingdom. This was where he created.
With meat that came from who knew where but the good fortune to be in one of the most fertile regions of the earth, he made a greasy messy fat congealingonyourplateasyoueat gastronomic wonder that even then I knew I would remember. The smell was of the diner itself as much as of the meat, the one without the other would not have been complete. The age, air as old as time, red vinyl booths and formica tables, the ancient juke box by the door, all of it made the food he prepared into more than if he had merely been a goon on a grill, made it have a history, made it have more weight, made it be more real, made it taste so good that even now I can recall it as though it were yesterday and not yesteryear when I last was there.

Maybe it was the meat, maybe it was the dust from the field that bordered the dinerís backdoor. A door which was always open to the dust and June Bugs and Goldeneyed Lacewings. Maybe it was the lettuce and tomatoes, the ketchup and mustard, the onions which I never ate, which were the same ones I saw in the market, the same ones I saw at the fruit stands that dotted the back roads, which had nothing special in them. Somehow though, I think not. They alone could not have accounted for the magic to be found in that Earlimart Eatery.

There, in that greasy dirty, old before it was new motel, off the beaten path to anyplace anyone would purposely want to go, was the ThunderBird Inn. Floyd and June bugs, Goldeneyed Lacewings, empty swimming pool and all. There, in the memory, locked away by bone and skin and muscle, a time and place that will never be seen again.