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Oh, God, Deli Haus, I miss thee so. See, back in the day, Kenmore Square used to be a cool place to hang out instead of a smoking, yuppified pit. After kicking heads in the Rat, clubbing on Lansdowne Street, or popping out to Harvard Square for a bite of Rocky, you'd go to the Deli Haus for a beer and a bite or six.

Like most of the restaurants in Kenmore Square, Deli Haus was accessible via a short stairway down from the sidewalk. It combined an Irish-greenish sort of decor, diner booths, and a beautiful synthesis of the archetypal bar and diner counter, complete with taps and spinny stools. It was cramped and warm and cozy like a bar or a diner should be. They had Guinness Floats, breakfast anytime, marvelously greasy potato skins, burgers to die for, and anything else you could imagine, and they were open until 3 AM, after which you could stagger next door to IHOP. They had jukeboxes with actual variety, actual Good Music, like recently released records from local punk bands. Full of friendly punks and all kinds of people, just heaven on Earth.

Deli Haus passed away in December 2001 after 40 years under its original name and a brief reincarnation as the Underground Cafe, which nobody went to. Given its clientele, it was a miracle that it held on so long after the Rat closed down in 1997. The IHOP had closed the year before, and that was it for Kenmore Square: now it's just a little shopping district and a T stop. sniff

There are times in your life when what you really, really need is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (one made by someone else) and a glass of milk.

No matter how much your friends, significant others, spouse, or more-talented-than-Lassie dog might love you, one or more of those times in your life might very well come in the middle of the night, and because you love them (and perhaps, perhaps because in your current mood you really don't need to talk about your sanity, etc.) you're probably not going to wake them up at two in the morning and say "Please. Make me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich."

Not even if you've woken, shaken and stirred, by a terrible dream in which the world came to an end while Andy Griffith stood at your side, laughing and laughing and laughing while his face turns into a death's head mask. Maybe especially not then.

Nevertheless, if you couldn't get back to sleep, if you couldn't quite shake the feeling of incipient doom, you could go to the Deli Haus. You could throw on a sweater and some sneakers and just go. You could take a notebook to write in, or a paperback to read, and a pretty girl with freckles and pink hair would smile at you and say what can I get you?, and you could say "peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and a glass of milk, please." And she would say Crunchy or smooth? and you could say smooth, and she would say Strawberry or grape? and you could say grape, and she wouldn't even ask about the milk, she'd just bring out your sandwich and a glass of whole milk like the kind you got with school lunches, frosty cold, and she'd smile at you.

At the next booth there would be punks or goths or frat boys or an old man with insomnia playing solitaire at a booth by himself, and the music would be Frank Sinatra or maybe Siouxsie and the Banshees, and there was enough light to read or write by but not so much as to be harsh or surrealizing, and people would laugh and talk. It was a good place to be.

And you could pick up your sandwich, made of that soft, soft white bread. So soft that your fingers kind of sank into it, so you held it gentle without even thinking about it. And you take a bite, out of the same place you always started your PB&Js when you were a little kid. Maybe the bottom left corner, if you liked the crust. Opposite if you didn't. And the bread would glom on to the roof of your mouth, aided and abetted by the Peter Pan peanut butter, and the grape jelly would squoosh sweetly against your tongue, and you'd moosh everything around which is how you chew a PB&J, and then wash it down with a swallow of that cold, cold milk.

Then you'd pick up your pen, or your book, and absently savor every bite of that sandwich. Maybe you'd write a description of one of your fellow night owls, or read a George MacDonald short story, and by three o'clock in the morning you'd be feeling a lot better. Good enough to go home and go back to bed, probably.

So you'd pay your tab, which would come to two dollars (two dollars!) and you'd leave a dollar tip.

And it was part of the special magic of the place that the next morning, you'd wake up feeling fine as fresh paint.

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