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Author Topic: EP413: Why I Left Harry’s All-Night Hamburgers  (Read 16617 times)

eytanz

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on: September 14, 2013, 09:47:44 AM
EP413: Why I Left Harry’s All-Night Hamburgers

by Lawrence Watt-Evans

Read by Jonathon Hawkins

--

Harry’s was a nice place — probably still is. I haven’t been back lately. It’s a couple of miles off I-79, a few exits north of Charleston, near a place called Sutton. Used to do a pretty fair amount of business until they finished building the Interstate out from Charleston and made it worthwhile for some fast-food joints to move in right next to the cloverleaf; nobody wanted to drive the extra miles to Harry’s after that. Folks
used to wonder how old Harry stayed in business, as a matter of fact, but he did all right even without the Interstate trade. I found that out when I worked there.

Why did I work there, instead of at one of the fast-food joints? Because my folks lived in a little house just around the corner from Harry’s, out in the middle of nowhere — not in Sutton itself, just out there on the road. Wasn’t anything around except our house and Harry’s place. He lived out back of his restaurant. That was about the only thing I could walk to in under an hour, and I didn’t have a car.

This was when I was sixteen. I needed a job, because my dad was out of work again and if I was gonna do anything I needed my own money. Mom didn’t mind my using her car — so long as it came back with a full tank of gas and I didn’t keep it too long. That was the rule. So I needed some work, and Harry’s All-Night Hamburgers was the only thing within walking distance. Harry said he had all the help he needed — two cooks and two people working the counter, besides himself. The others worked days, two to a shift, and Harry did the late night stretch all by himself. I hung out there a little, since I didn’t have anywhere else, and it looked like pretty easy work — there was hardly any business, and those guys mostly sat around telling dirty jokes. So I figured it was perfect.

Harry, though, said that he didn’t need any help.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!



merian

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Reply #1 on: September 15, 2013, 04:13:12 AM
This was a fun one. Well done. I listened to it on the way into town for a multi-stop shopping trip, so I was slightly distracted. Otherwise I might have seen the end coming (I did wonder how the author would bring this to a resolution). It was warm and human, and the narrator character nicely fleshed out. Not deep, but neither a romp sortof thing. Simple premise, good execution. Like.



InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #2 on: September 15, 2013, 06:02:36 AM
I really liked this one. It was quite a change from the only other thing of Watt-Evans' I'd read, which was a high-fantasy piece.

I kind of figured out what the resolution would be, but that doesn't mean it was any less well done, and the author did do a great job of building up the appeal for world-shifting before that. But then of course we're reminded just how lost these souls are.


PS. Norm, you're from Balmer? That explains a lot.....
« Last Edit: September 15, 2013, 06:11:04 AM by InfiniteMonkey »



flintknapper

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Reply #3 on: September 16, 2013, 03:07:43 PM
I thought it was a light easy to follow piece. It was sweet, but not too sweet. It kind of has a hitchhikers guide vibe only in reverse. There we have the reluctant man being propelled into space travel where as here we have the willing talked out of time/dimension travel.

I found the descriptions and setting adequate and I like the fact that this piece took place in rural America.

The big surprise is that I thought a piece like this would have lent itself to humor, but there really wasn't any in this tale. That was a strange choice, but one I can respect because I think the whole story was set up to get the author's pov across.




Balu

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Reply #4 on: September 16, 2013, 09:40:47 PM
The best SF always has that sense of potentiality, a feeling that there's something out there that we can almost touch. I loved that this really captured that feeling, but also captured the potential downside of following that feeling too. Great work.



Thunderscreech

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Reply #5 on: September 16, 2013, 10:33:15 PM
Really reminds me a lot of the Callahan's Crosstime Saloon books by Spider Robinson.  If I was on the path, you know what trade goods I'd carry?  History books.  You could sell them to writers, screenplay folks, all sorts of broke folks who could turn them into 'fiction'. 

Oh right, 'broke'.

One thing I wondered though was how Harry turned all the funny money into what was needed to run his bar.  What exactly IS the conversion rate between the quatloo and the dollar these days?



Joshua A.C. Newman

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Reply #6 on: September 17, 2013, 02:53:01 AM
This story was charming, yeah, funny, yeah, and personable, yeah, but I think what made it really shine for me was the extraordinary delivery. Hawkins' changes of voice were subtle enough to keep everything flowing, but felt different that I always knew what character was speaking. I hope we hear more from him!



Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #7 on: September 17, 2013, 04:01:57 PM
And here's me joining the yay-sayers. This is going to be a mighty boring thread because I (at least) have nothing controversial to say or any complaints about the story or narration. Both were superb and lent themselves to a fun and enjoyable experience for me.

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chemistryguy

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Reply #8 on: September 17, 2013, 06:40:15 PM
So I'm going to be the wet blanket at this party.

This one got me through my morning commute, but otherwise left no impression on me.

Part of it was the fact that out of an infinite number of outcomes, the travelers are like us.  Similar even in their biochemistry.  In my immediate family alone (4 people), we have to watch out for dairy, soy and gluten.  How the hell are all of these trans-dimensional beings able to eat at this greasy spoon and not suffer digestive problems?

Quote
One thing I wondered though was how Harry turned all the funny money into what was needed to run his bar.

Yeah, what does he do with it? 


Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #9 on: September 17, 2013, 07:40:21 PM
So I'm going to be the wet blanket at this party.

This one got me through my morning commute, but otherwise left no impression on me.

Part of it was the fact that out of an infinite number of outcomes, the travelers are like us.  Similar even in their biochemistry.  In my immediate family alone (4 people), we have to watch out for dairy, soy and gluten.  How the hell are all of these trans-dimensional beings able to eat at this greasy spoon and not suffer digestive problems?
Well, maybe some of them did get indigestion, but they don't care because they like the atmosphere and familiarity.
Quote
One thing I wondered though was how Harry turned all the funny money into what was needed to run his bar.

Yeah, what does he do with it? 
I'm guessing that he used it to make change to other travelers. Certainly there were enough similarities between 'verses to work. Also, surely some of it could be sold for the value of the metal.

Cogito ergo surf - I think therefore I network

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chemistryguy

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Reply #10 on: September 18, 2013, 11:56:02 AM
Quote
Also, surely some of it could be sold for the value of the metal.

I can buy that.


PresterJon

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Reply #11 on: September 18, 2013, 12:53:45 PM
Is it wrong of me that, immediately after I had processed the happy ending, my brain smash-cut to an alternative ending involving a very non-dimension-hopping van owner rolling a naive-teen-sized, plastic-wrapped bundle into a West Virginian roadside ditch? It would've been a PseudoPod story in that case, I guess...



chemistryguy

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Reply #12 on: September 18, 2013, 05:38:15 PM
Is it wrong of me that, immediately after I had processed the happy ending, my brain smash-cut to an alternative ending involving a very non-dimension-hopping van owner rolling a naive-teen-sized, plastic-wrapped bundle into a West Virginian roadside ditch? It would've been a PseudoPod story in that case, I guess...

Not wrong at all  ;D

Refrigerator moment!  Of course the boy goes dimension hopping.  He also does not go dimension hopping.  We have an infinite number of universes, remember?  Everything that can happen, does.  So, PresterJon, your ending is but one of a limitless list.

It stands to reason that if it is possible to successfully navigate the multiverse, then someone has arrived at the solution in one of them.  Or one trillion of them.

It also solves my problem with trans-dimensional biochemistry.

I pick the ending where just after the boy leaves Harry's, another one from a parallel universe pops in and seamlessly takes over the busboy/server position.


Cutter McKay

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Reply #13 on: September 18, 2013, 09:11:46 PM
I really liked this one, too. About halfway through it I thought I had it figured out. "Ah, he's going to go dimension jumping, which answers the title question of why he left. So I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be just the opposite, that he left to not go dimension jumping, but to explore our own world. Very nice bit of subversion.

Quote
One thing I wondered though was how Harry turned all the funny money into what was needed to run his bar.

Yeah, what does he do with it? 
I'm guessing that he used it to make change to other travelers. Certainly there were enough similarities between 'verses to work. Also, surely some of it could be sold for the value of the metal.

I'm in the camp of he uses it to make change for other travelers. Most of these jumpers will be moving on to other dimensions, theoretically to worlds where that same currency would be used. He also might exchange it with some of the jumpers who have settled here on earth, like Joe, who have local currency to trade for.

And am I correct in my understanding of the ending line, "What brings you to Benares?" that this means the story didn't even take place on our version of Earth? Or is Benares a place on Earth that I don't know?

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Windup

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Reply #14 on: September 19, 2013, 05:22:16 AM

Yeah, this was a blast.  I was grinning like an idiot pretty much the whole time I listened.  And the narration was spot-on for the character.

As for the currency, I think he mentioned that some of it was melted down or sold for its metal.  In addition to making change, I thought he might occasionally buy ingredients from passers-by as well.  I would guess that some of the regulars need something a little special in their "hamburgers." 

"My whole job is in the space between 'should be' and 'is.' It's a big space."


Escapee1000

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Reply #15 on: September 19, 2013, 02:16:01 PM
I liked this story. I thought the author captured the protagonist's voice nicely - and I very much liked the way the voice artist read it.

It's interesting that the science- fictiony bit. (The customers being from parallel worlds) isn't actually all that important to the story: it's really about the young man and the kind of adventure he really wants. His final solution to this is a choice he could have made any time, without understanding the mystery at Harrry's.

Benares, by the way, is a place in India. (And also a restaurant in London, England : either works).

As to why the customers are humanoid and can eat burgers: maybe similar universe are grouped together - it's easier to travel to more similar ones. A hazard, you'd think, would be that of repeatedly ending up in universes which were only trivially different to your starting place (the difference is that someone in Tokyo chose different socks this morning…)



jpv

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Reply #16 on: September 19, 2013, 08:32:27 PM
I really liked it. I listened to it while I was running and I actually went an extra half mile just so I could listen to the whole thing. :)

I always like stories with alternate realities. This one in particular made me think of the mirror universes in Stargate SG-1. In that case, they had to keep scanning through until they found the one they came through. At one point, they're about to go through but then they see that someone on the other side is the wrong rank / they haven't been promoted in that universe. Brings to mind just how hard the idea of going 'home' again would be if literally every choice that could ever have been made could go either way.

On the flip side, the people in this story did seem relatively samey. I guess that could be related to the same reason people chose West Virginia in the first place, that it didn't change much. But where were the truly alien visitors? Just how weird could it get?

One thing that it vaguely reminds me of is a short story I read some time ago and have been looking for. In that story, there's basically a house which shifts dimensions. Once you enter, you can never leave and when the house shifts dimensions, it takes you with it, no matter where you are. One central point is about getting a piano for the main character. That's about all I remember and my Google Fu has been failing me finding it again. Has anyone else ever read that / remember what it was called? Thanks!

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Captain (none given)

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Reply #17 on: September 20, 2013, 12:04:31 AM
I like the story, but that's not why I'm posting here. Or I suppose it is, but a little more indirectly. What I want to talk about more is the wanderlust attitude that seems to have been with us (and by that I mean Americans) since the 60's that shapes this story.

As a member of Generation Y not even of drinking age, I am amazed at how much I keep hearing this drive to be doers, creators, builders, explorers. I definitely have this dream. I like to pretend I'm a writer by scribbling notes down for stories and then never actually building on them. I like to pretend I'm a scientist because I work an internship in a lab while I'm applying to medical school. I like to pretend I'm a theologian because I talk with my friends about items of a spiritual natures, go to church, and read certain books. But the question that this generation seems to be drenched in is "Who am I, really?"

Traveling has always seem like a way to answer this. "I'm an explorer. I've seen the world; I know how it turns." When the world is mapped out what do you do? Our dreams turn to art and engineering... but still we explore, or at least we want to explore. Because now we see the world and we want to see it for ourselves. And now more than ever we are capable of it.

Mine is a generation drowning in information. I can buy a hard drive to store a terabyte of data. Depending on what source you are looking at the human brain is estimated to hold about 6 terabytes to 2.5 petabytes of data. But I can have for myself a whole terabyte, more than that. I could probably fill my life's worth of photo albums on that. So with all this information flowing around us, washing over us, inundating us in every minute of our waking lives (I mean you're already on the internet looking at this after listening to a podcast), we feel connected. But (correct me if I'm wrong here) it also makes us feel so far away. I don't have to walk up the street to talk to my friends, I send them a text instead. It feels harder and harder to do things because we make it so easy to sit tucked away from it all.

We can explore the world from behind a computer screen. But it leaves us empty. And when we explore we complete the dream of being a doer and we become one. Because while it's fine and good to see the world, it's another thing entirely to experience it. So yes, I really like this story because I see it as a challenge to break free of just being a dreamer. But there still needs to be that caution, once you leave you can never go back. Once you've seen the sun, there's no place for you in the cave anymore.

Sorry for the long post. I told you I like to pretend I'm a writer.

"The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart." -- Maya Angelou


Dane Train

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Reply #18 on: September 20, 2013, 10:39:07 PM
I just finished listening to this and loved it so much that I had to write a response.  This was the type of story I needed in my life right now.  The narrator was so perfect for this story and made me feel like this could have been real.  The stories inspirational message did wonders for my spirit.  I have been sharing it with so many people.



mb

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Reply #19 on: September 21, 2013, 11:03:45 PM
I liked listening to it and was fairly well entertaind, however, I felt a bit short-changed in the end: the story did build up, and there were all those weird customers of the diner, but in the end, they were not weird at all, and nothing exceptional happened, and it felt all a bit like Hitchikers Guide, without the genius in it...



quasidoza

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Reply #20 on: September 22, 2013, 05:20:08 PM
I liked this one.

I actually missed the twist of him exploring this reality and had the Oh moment when I read the first line here.  :-[  but my missing the obvious didn't stop me enjoying it.

I hope he goes back at some stage and decides to travel.

I have a problem with the infinite universe aspect, in this case there is a universe where they have worked out how to navigate and transferred this knowledge into the mind of every sentient species in every universe and another where this hasn't happened.

Edit: Sliders came to mind as well

« Last Edit: September 22, 2013, 05:21:43 PM by quasidoza »



alwaysblack

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Reply #21 on: September 24, 2013, 11:43:10 PM
...Traveling has always seem like a way to answer this. "I'm an explorer. I've seen the world; I know how it turns." When the world is mapped out what do you do? Our dreams turn to art and engineering... but still we explore, or at least we want to explore. Because now we see the world and we want to see it for ourselves. And now more than ever we are capable of it...

It's funny, because when I got your post I was just in the middle of a thought that's sort of the other side of what you're talking about. I made a turning-30 resolution to travel and see more of the world, but the more places I saw (albeit weird and wondrous) the more I realised that, for the best part, places are made by the people that inhabit them and when you come home, your experience of those people casts the people you thought you knew in a different light, and the exploration continues over territory you thought you had mapped out. And then it strikes you that the only place you can really explore is your own perception of others, in fact, yourself.

And then I thought, maybe that's what this story is really about.

I would really like to hear 'Why I Came Back to Harry's All-Night Hamburgers'.

"If I asked you where the hell we were," said Arthur weakly, "would I regret it?"


rlzack

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Reply #22 on: September 25, 2013, 02:14:39 PM
But the question that this generation seems to be drenched in is "Who am I, really?"

Every generation thinks they are unique. And in a sense, every generation is unique. But consider - if the explorer, scientist, theologian, etc. wasn't innate in many of us, we would still be sitting in trees in the African savanna, would not have utilized fire or the wheel, would still be worshiping the sun or moon or local volcano.

My generation (tail end of baby boomers, and I don't really consider myself one of them, but that gives you a time frame) did a lot of self-exploration with drugs, with eastern religion, by questioning their parents ideals. But down deep, they too were asking the question, "Who am I, really?" As I think every generation does.

Welcome, Captain (none given), to the tribe that is humanity. And remember, this story was written (1988) before you were born, so any questions it raises in you were questions that the author was also working through.

As for the story itself - how can you argue with one of the classics?



Devoted135

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Reply #23 on: September 30, 2013, 03:20:11 AM
I really enjoyed this story. I agree with Captain and with rizack that each generation does seem to ask these basic questions in their own way. I happen to fall squarely in between you two, at the tail end of generation X, and I identify with these questions as well. As for the story, I'm glad that he decided to get to know his own world before deciding to see what other universes had to offer.

One nitpick: When you tell me you're outside of Charleston, I'm going to think you're in South Carolina. So there was a bit of whiplash when he later referred to being in West Virginia. ::)



Cynandre

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Reply #24 on: September 30, 2013, 07:18:04 PM
This tale put a new twist on the Thomas Wolfe Quote, "You Can't Go Home Again."
I believe the character learned a good lesson.

My only problem is the story kept bring me back The Simpsons' Episode, Time and Punishment, although it more about Time Travel. :)

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