Act I, Scene 1. Chuck’s Research Room.
Chuck: “Now this is a place I have to see.” That was my reaction after reading an article by David Little, editor of the Enterprise-Record in Chico, CA. It read in part: “The century-old Diamond Hotel was his (Wayne Cook’s) next project. The three-story hull of a building had been closed and abandoned for more than a decade. The windows were boarded and broken. Pigeons lived inside. (Cook and I) walked through the building, brushing aside cobwebs, kicking dead pigeons out of our path, slipping on pigeon poop.”
That article was written in 2001; I wanted to see what the finished restoration looked like.
Act I, Scene 2. The lobby of the Hotel Diamond.
Chuck: “Do you mind if I take some photographs of the lobby?” I asked.
The young woman at the front desk smiled and answered, “I’m sorry, we do not allow photographs in the Hotel.” She offered no further explanation, and I did not press for one.
Before leaving, I surveyed the detail in the ceiling, the beautifully-restored woodwork, the tastefully furnished small lobby, and the old safe near the Registration desk. With deep regret, I left with only a few mental pictures of the grand Hotel.
I took a photo of the exterior as the only record of my visit.
Act II, Scene 1. Breakfast at the Morning Thunder restaurant.
Kate: So there we were (Chuck, his cousin Steve Miller, and I), sitting in a former real estate office converted to a restaurant (Morning Thunder) waiting for our breakfast. Steve and I were drinking French roast coffee, while Chuck was sipping on a fruity, but unpretentious, ice water. Our breakfasts arrived.
For Steve, the choice was the avocado and bacon three egg omelet with cottage potatoes and two biscuits. His omelet was stuffed with large pieces of bacon and thick slices of avocado. There was an interesting textural counterpoint between the soft, creamy, and buttery avocado, the fluffy eggs, and the crisp bacon. The meal was so large that half of the omelet and half of the fries returned home with him.
My breakfast was the Mexican three egg omelet. The folded eggs encased green chilies, tomatoes, scallions, and cheese and were topped by salsa, green onion tops, black olives, salsa, and sour cream. My cottage fries were cooked extra crisp as ordered, and the breakfast was accompanied by two slices of sourdough bread toast.
But it was Chuck’s choice, the poppy seed sourdough French toast, that was the real winner. We have learned that sourdough bread makes almost anything better, and such was the case here. The bread’s denser texture results in a slightly chewy but not tough French toast that holds up well when drenched with syrup. With this, he ordered a side of bacon (medium thick, lightly smoky and salty) and a massive side of potatoes. Half of his potatoes along with half of mine are now sitting in our freezer waiting for a Sunday breakfast at home.
Chuck: I had related my experience at the Hotel to Steve, and as we were finishing our meal, he said, “I just noticed Wayne Cook at a far table, talking to a local politician. I’ve done some work for him; let me find out what the policy is.”
Steve returned with an encouraging up-date, “He couldn’t understand why anyone would say, ‘No photos.’ You’re welcome to take photos.”
Steve commented that Wayne was playing cards, but I still wanted to compliment him on the beautiful restoration work he had done on the Diamond. I arrived at his table just as he was beginning to shuffle the cards. The gentleman preparing to deal did not fit my mental picture of a millionaire who had become an expert in restoring historic buildings in Chico (more in a future blog) and Savannah, Georgia. He presented a “just folks” demeanor. I passed on my praise for his work and my thanks for the photo go-ahead and left just as the last card was dealt.