I’m sitting in the large back seat of a car with Columbo, Kojak, and the guy from Hawaii 5-0. We’re hungry, so Columbo is driving us to this restaurant he knows.
We take a right at a corner, and Columbo pulls forward about four parking spaces and parks the car. As he pulls through the empty parking spaces I see the pavement as though I’m a hood ornament on the car, looking down over the front of the car. I don’t wonder about that, but I do wonder why he didn’t take the first parking spot, which would have been closer to the restaurant, whose entrance is on the corner.
I’m seated in the back seat on the right side of the car, and when I open the door, the bottom scrapes the sidewalk briefly before I realize it. “Damn”, I mutter. I wasn’t expecting a low, long, metallic door like this, it must be an old car.
“Don’t worry about it”, Columbo says, “it’s an old car. Besides, I’m hungry, let’s eat”. He walks towards the restaurant as I close the car door. The car is big, brown, and rectangular. It looks like a 1970s cop car, I think.
The restaurant is built into the corner of a large city building. I want to think we’re in Chicago, but as I think about who I’m with, I think maybe we’re in Los Angeles, but really, I don’t know. The exterior of the restaurant is all glass, very tall, maybe 15-20’ feet high. I try to look inside, but with the glare from the Sun I can’t see anything.
As I get to the corner, the guy from Hawaii 5-0 holds the large glass door at the entrance open for me. When I walk in, I see a bunch of cool-looking young people lounging around in the lobby. The floor of the lobby is made of these deep, carpeted stairs that wrap around the entire area, and the cool people are all sitting or half-laying on the left side of the lobby as I walk in.
One looks like a young Ann Margaret, another looks like ... what the heck ... another is my dad. A 1950s version of my dad. He’s young, maybe in his 20s, skinny, with dark skin and slicked back hair, wearing a t-shirt and jeans. At first he’s smiling and laughing with his friends, but when he sees me he stops smiling, and looks down, just staring at the floor. I immediately know that he’s ashamed of me, of the work I do as a cop. (“I’m a cop”, I think.) I’m not rich and successful with cool friends like he wanted me to be.
In other circumstances I might ignore him like he would like, but I have to walk past him to get to the next door into the restaurant, and as I do, I pat him once on his left shoulder and say, “Hi pop”. He doesn’t reply, and I don’t expect him to, so I keep walking to the door. I hear a woman say, “Who’s that?”, but I can’t make out a reply as I walk through the next tall glass door and into the restaurant.
Inside I find that the restaurant is a 50s diner, with shiny metal trim, booths, and overstuffed red leather bar seats. As I walk into the restaurant and take a left at the main counter, I feel my dad and his friends looking at me from the lobby. I think about looking back for a moment, but I don’t. I focus on trying to catch up to Columbo, Kojak, and the guy from Hawaii 5-0.
After walking past the main counter, I turn around a corner to the right, walk a little bit, turn right again, go down a few stairs, and enter a very different part of the restaurant. Immediately I think, “Wait, I’ve been here before, I know this place”. I stand there for a few moments trying to recall how I know it. I feel my brain working, churning, but it can’t recall it.
As I look around, the area feels “heavy”. It’s well lit, but with no windows, a lower ceiling, burgundy leather booths and lots of white table linens, the feeling is ... heavy.
As I stand there trying to recall how I know this place, a tall, young, blonde woman walks up and asks if she can help me. I’m about to tell her who I’m looking for, but as I do, I turn to my left and see Columbo come around the corner of a tall buffet table, so I tell her I’ve found who I’m looking for.
The buffet table is covered with more white linens, looking like a six-foot tall white mountain covered with little towns of food. As Columbo comes around the corner I see that he’s already eating something, has a clear drink in a glass in his left hand, and a small plate full of food in his right hand, with an unlit cigar hanging out between his index and middle fingers. He’s oblivious to me or anything else as he walks around the buffet table looking intently for something else.
I continue to stand there for a few more moments, surveying the room and trying to recall how I know this place, when I hear a familiar intermittent buzzing sound in the background. “Zzzzz ... zzzzzz ... zzzzzz” ...
“Damn”, I think to myself, “this is a dream”. With that thought I start to wake up, but I try to hold on as long as I can. “I know I know this place ... I know this place ...”