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Little Red Cafe

In the pepper-hot Salinas Valley in the early thirties there was a little red cafe just off the right-of-way. Inside, there were three hard-oak tables with frayed, gravy-spotted covers on their tops. One rickety chair sat pushed at a slight angle under each one, traces of old meals on their worn-smooth seats. A waist-high counter stretched the length of the far wall, dotted at predictable places with sugar and salt and pepper containers, and crystal ashtrays with SEE THE WORLD'S OLDEST TREE printed all over. Wilma was the waitress; Carl the cook. A big plate of scrambled eggs and bacon and toast and grease-soggy potato patties cost fifty cents, all-you-could drink coffee was on the house. Getting served, well, it took as long as it took. On Saturday nights with the ozone just right, the Grand Ole Opry came all the way out from Nashville just to play on the radio.

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