Friday, June 8, 2012

The Automat

Ok, so I need to tell you an interesting story about my search for Americana.

During April's A-Z challenge I wrote about paintings I want to take my kid to see and then asked if there were any others out there that I should try to visit, FBT of Kill Me If I Stop suggested two paintings, one by Pollock and I love Pollock and one I'd never heard of (and, I thought I'd looked at all the Hopper's), a painting titled Automat.

Here's what she said:

"...I would love to see Automat by Edward Hopper because there are so many stories to be told from that one instant in time. That's what I particularly like about Hopper; he makes my imagination expand. Is she waiting for someone who never came? Is she just on her own drinking coffee? Does she look sad, pensive, maybe just weary? All of his works are just so suggestive."

Of course, I had to find the painting immediately and when I did something puzzled me. First, of all if you don't have "Diamonds Are A Girls' Best Friend" immediately in your head at the mention of the word 'automat' let me put it there now and second, um, I realized that an 'automat' is not in any way a laundromat with food, as I had previously thought.

This painting does invoke all that FTB mentions and it also had me puzzled...what in the dickens was/is an automat? And, how could I be missing this important piece of America? The answer, of course, is that I've never seen "That Touch of Mink" (when I asked my mother what an automat was she said she didn't have a clue, but when I describe them to her, she said "Oh, like that cafeteria in that scene with that movie starring Doris Day, where the guy keeps trying to get the food, but every time one is set down, someone else takes it and then there's a ruckus in the back with the food service." I said, "Sure."--I really need to see that movie!)

My friends had a few suggestions, as you can see. And, all the things I found suggest that automats (especially those of the Horn and Hardart variety) are no longer in existence. I even checked the Smithsonian as I'd read this lovely article about them from and, well, I was in the DC when I found out all of this information. I made my family go all over the National Museum of American History. GUESS WHAT!? The pop culture section is closed for renovations and, according to the lovely older gentleman at the information desk there used to be one to use (can you believe it?...actually my sister and I think we may have eaten at it one time when we were there...but, it was before I knew what it was and I didn't take a picture!), but they closed it and then he told me to search on Google if I wanted to find one. The horror!

Then BAMN closed, well actually it closed several years ago and I'm left with my itch to eat at an automat...and, boy, I want to, perhaps alone on a dark night wearing only one glove.

Do you know where I can find one? I would really like to eat some processed food or the like or fresh food, I suppose, from a big metal box.

Guess what I'm listening to as I type this...I'll leave you with it.


  1. My husband and I saw and exhibit at the National Gallery about five years ago. It was amazing.

    I think I've seen the modern equivalent of the automat. At one of the malls up here there's a "restaurant" that consists of booths stationed around an elliptical conveyor belt. You are charged as you pick your food off the belt.

    I love "That Touch of Mink" and almost anything with Cary Grant.

  2. I feel as if all hospital cafeterias in Sweden are Scandinavian versions of automats. As well as our uni cafeteria in Malmö.

    I'll now be listening to some Michael Kiwanuka to get that song out of my head.

    Also, I just can't get over the perfection of that painting. I've written so many poems influenced by it, and any day now I'mm be standing in front of it mesmerised.



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