The Customer Is Always Wrong

In Over Easy, Mimi Pond introduced readers to a fictionalized account of her college years in 1970s Oakland as Madge the waitress at the Imperial Café. This follow-up adopts a more serious, reflective and mature tone, dwelling on the consequences of those years of excess for the Imperial's motley crew. This includes Lazlo, the laidback manager and resident counselor to his wayward employees; Camille, the overly confident waitress who sneaks away to the bathroom for hours at a time to get high on heroin; the no-nonsense trans waitress Babette; and the freewheeling, free-loving, potty-mouthed kitchen trio of Bernardo, Sammy and Tony. Sexual escapades and drug-fueled highs mask emotional deprivation and vacuous lives, which Pond does a wonderful job of conveying through snappy dialogue that reaches across pastel-colored panels and the loose lines of her drawings.

Despite the high school drama playing out at the Imperial, it is the heartfelt adult conversations between Lazlo and Madge that make the story sing. Lazlo and Madge are confidants, mentor and mentee (Lazlo's failed dreams of being a writer, Madge's fledgling career as a cartoonist) who trust each other implicitly with their hopes and fears.

Pond originally conceived of the sequel as a part of a longer, single book, but it's a good thing that the two stories were separated. The emotional resonance would have felt out of place with the fun and carefree environment of Over Easy. Instead, The Customer Is Always Wrong carries its own message of hope for a new generation of misfits who perhaps aren't so different from their 1970s counterparts. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

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