Remembering how the right breakfast spot can provide critical sustenance for body and soul.
I was a thirty-something attorney working long hours in relentless pursuit of a partnership with the firm to which I had given seven years of my professional life.
Back then, the term “going to work” was still quite literal; work was a place you went, not something you could do in your boxers from the kitchen table. For most people, especially those of us on the partnership track, this meant rolling into the office at 8 a.m. and working well into the evening.
I, however, am not most people. I was – and remain – a morning person. Accordingly, I chose to work what I called an “upside-down day,” wherein I would arrive at the office in the wee hours of the morning in order to get home while there was still a filament of daylight remaining on the evening horizon.
I’d be out of bed by 3:45 a.m. and be at my desk sometime around 4:30. Unimpeded by work’s typical distractions, I had put in a considerable amount of work by 7 a.m. It was time to head out for a proper breakfast, and that meant a trip to Layton’s.
Layton’s was the quintessential breakfast venue. Operating out of a building that originally housed a Howard Johnson’s, the place retained all of its mid-20th century charm – including the furnishings and at least a couple of the waitresses. The food was hot, generous in portion, and consistently well crafted. The coffee was sturdy, unpretentious, and a better option than the institutional swill brewing in the office pots.
The hour that I would spend at Layton’s each morning afforded me an opportunity to charge my batteries with a solid meal and a jolt of caffeine, and it also gave me the chance to keep in touch with the world at large before returning to another ten or so hours of litigation files. Lingering over the morning paper, a huge, fluffy omelet, and a carafe of java was a guilty pleasure minus the guilt, because unlike many of my fellow Layton’s patrons, I had already put in a quarter of a business day’s worth of time and accomplished close to half a business day’s worth of work.
Did this hustle pay off? No, not in a direct sense. The partnership never materialized and I moved on to another employer. The firm for which I had worked my upside-down days went upside-down itself, dissolving within a few months of my departure, and that explained why the elusive partnership remained just that.
My new job did not require the crazy hours of the old place, but it was also located several miles away from my beloved morning oasis. Breakfast once again became a meal enjoyed at home before the start of the work day. I was grateful for the additional sleep, but I missed my morning respite amidst the clatter of dishes and coffee cups, the crackle of newspapers and the banter of sassy waitresses.
Within a year of my career change, Layton’s closed for good. I am sure that was pure coincidence. To this day it remains unoccupied by a successor tenant.
Nearly a dozen years since the last platter of eggs Benedict and greasy hash browns sat beneath the warm, orange glow of a heat lamp, awaiting dispatch to some suit in a booth, the building that housed Layton’s remains largely undisturbed. Every now and then I drive past it and can see inside its vast plate-glass windows where the counter, the stools, the tables, chairs and booths all remain in place – a monument to the mornings when I learned that the right breakfast can provide sustenance in both the physical and spiritual contexts.