1980s, Culture, History, Nostalgia, Photography, Pics, Vintage

Coffee At Ruby’s

At first, this image of Ruby’s Diner in Schenectady, NY may seem like a study in isolation. The calendar shows September 1988, and while that may not seem like that long ago to some of us, just peek in to this scene to see how the world has changed. RubysDiner88-034Gerd Kittel’s pre-digital camera shows us a man and a woman (presumably both past their physical prime), sharing booths with no one. The woman appears contemplative and dressed for work. The man reminds me of my grandfather: intent on reading the news, colder in his old age and consequently cardigan-clad, and probably smells of Old Spice. No laptops, no iphones, no flat screen TVs. Just take that in–no one is staring at a screen. Like you’re doing right now.

There are Polaroids tacked to the wall. A cigarette machine. God knows the price then, but I passed one only last weekend, a relic itself, and the cost was $10 per pack. And you know smokers will pay it. Formica tabletops. The TV is not a wide screen. It has knobs which to turn. The coffee cup is small. It is not a Starbuck’s grande. That doesn’t mean he won’t consume more than the 16 oz; it just means a waitress will be by shortly to top him off. And that means human interaction. She might bring more cream. She might ask what he is reading.

But first, she will ask the photographer to step out of the way. You can see his reflection to the left of the TV, the man in the Anthony Bourdain sweater.

20 thoughts on “Coffee At Ruby’s”

  1. What a sweet and nostalgic piece. Makes me almost want to jump into the scene and relive some of 1988. A slower time. A time of more direct human contact. The man is occupied with his newspaper and the woman, although by herself she doesn’t seem too distraught by a lack of companionship. Human or otherwise. Maybe some folks really are content with who they are,and don’t need external validation. I think that’s a good thing. I can definitely testify that being alone don’t necessarily suck. Hey, I wear Old Spice. I guess I am old enough to be your Grandpa.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a cool photo! You are good at picking these apart for meaning. Hard to believe that was ’88. I don’t think I paid much attention to older folk back then, so can’t remember anything outside of the shoulder pads, big hair, etc. This picture has a different feel altogether.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ok, Mr. Crankypants. It’s all relative. My bet is that you, in your early years, thought anyone over 18 was ancient. Recently found a letter from a high school boyfriend who was in basic training. He was talking about how his drill sergeant could “run pretty fast for an old guy.” Turns out the sergeant was all of 43–ouch.

      Sorry to have stepped on the lawn, but it’s Kerbey’s lawn and until she tells me to git out, I’m staying.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There is room on the lawn for everyone except emo teens in black hoodies. Or teen girls with muffin tops in short shorts. Or toddlers really; they can get out of control, and I can’t tolerate their shrieking. Oh, and people who write checks at grocery stores. But everyone else!


  3. Welcome to the Twilight Zone:

    Presented for your consideration: a time traveling hipster walked in and ordered a triple venti, soy, no foam, non-fat, pumpkin spice at 120 degrees with an extra shot, 10 pumps of caramel, upside down.

    They gave him a cup of black coffee.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t think it’s posed, Mark, or the dude would have been wise enough not to get himself in the mirror. It is a coffee table book of diner shots. Kerbey, is somebody drinking coffee in every shot? If so, well … Genius!

    Schenectady, just down the Thruway from me here in the ‘Cuse, and just 26 years ago. It seems a century ago, but there are still diners like that around here, if you know where to find them, and of course, I do. But even the old joints are gussying themselves up with flat screens and a cleaner touch.

    I think the guy is getting ready to look at the entries for the ponies at Saratoga. I think the woman is dreading something, perhaps facing the onslaught of another rush of the tourist trade from the ponies starting at Saratoga. That coffee cup is no 16 ounces, Kerbey. Try 8. Maybe 10. Lots of refills.

    Liked by 1 person

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