As far as I can tell, this book takes place in the mid to late 90s. For one thing, there is a Tower Records. For another thing, regular people don't have "cellular telephones". People can still smoke in restaurants. And the IHOP uniform is old "Swiss Miss", the girl of the alps hideous outfit. Also, people write letters still rather than email each other. The book itself was published in 2007.
Francesca, "Francie", is a 20-year-old virgin with a capital V. In high school she spent some time in a mental hospital for depression and is in AA. Now she has moved to San Francisco to live in "Serenity House" with her Philosophy of Nonviolence professor, whom she is madly in love with (she also loves Hope from Days of Our Lives and her sexy AA sponsor, Maria), and her community college professor's girlfriend and boyfriend. Irene, the professor, is taking a sabbatical from teaching to be with Gustavo, her boyfriend who is working on his degree, and her girlfriend Jenny, who has been friends with Gustavo since high school and works at the store Muffins Muffins. In Serenity House, they practice environmentalism and acts of nonviolence toward the world and nature, except for Gustavo who has issues from a disturbed childhood and can get away with yelling and screaming and hitting Jenny once. Everything is in service to the goddess who will guide their way. Francie, who gets the nickname of "Goaty" because she's afraid to take showers for fear of wasting water and begins to smell, has a hard time with this lifestyle of bland food and lukewarm water to wash dishes. But after she gets her job at IHOP she soon finds a place of her own.
Her job at IHOP consists of working with gay men, drug addicts, and a couple of oddballs. She begins to write to help her through her screwed up life and working at the IHOP provides plenty of things to write about, as does the goings on at Serenity House. At IHOP she meets the weirdest people, including the Pyramid People who run the Pyramid scheme of selling stuff. They only order a cup of tea and a sundae. This sucks because she has to make it and they leave a lousy tip. They also keep trying to recruit her. There's also the cop who thinks he's a big shot who has a crush on her and the motorcycle guy who offers her a ride that she accepts because she loves bikes. BTW, don't ever tell a waitress to "make sure the soup is hot" because this means they will stick it in the microwave for at least three minutes or more.
Eventually, Francie will find someone who does care about her a lot and she will finally lose her virginity, only to cause more problems in her life. And suddenly it begins to rain, as someone else shows interest too. Francie seems to fall in love at the drop of a hat. But keep in mind that she is twenty and has never dated before or had any romances so this is all new to her. She is like a blind woman trying to find her way through a room filled with her heart's desire.
This book is hilarious and perhaps a bit nostalgic as it will remind you if you are not twenty, that time in your life when everything was new and life was a buffet to sample from. Where you screw up a lot and do crazy things while trying to find your way. Francie is a special character as she has gone through a lot of self-hatred for being a lesbian and it took a lot for her to come out. Now, she's stumbling around in this new world while keeping her head above water and keeping her sense of humor. This really is a wonderful book, though it does make me think twice about going to IHOP again.
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: In the book, Maria, the sponsor, keeps reminding Francie to use protection, and that is what I'm going to do here. Herpes is forever. Genital warts--yuck! Gonorrhea--look up the disgusting pictures of what THAT looks like. Chlamydia can make you sterile among other things and over half the time you will have no symptoms whatsoever. Hepatitis is also forever. Syphilis can be cured, but not before it does some damage to you. Trichomoniasis, which shows no symptoms in 70% of people and makes you more susceptible to getting other STDs (when you do have symptoms it makes sex very uncomfortable). And of course AIDS. All of these things can be prevented by using a condom and a dental dam. And I mean you use them for oral as well as anal and vaginal sex. If you are desperate and don't have a dental dam handy, saran wrap can work in a pinch. It's not the person you're having sex with you necessarily have to worry about but the person they slept with who slept with that person who slept with that person who slept with that really questionable person. Please be safe. It can be dangerous out there.
I think there is an indisputable ling between freaks and a bottomless coffee cup.-Ali Liebegott (The IHOP Papers p 7)
I love Irene. I’ve never been so in love in my life. The kind of love where you believe if you can have the other person, everything will be perfect. Life will be fine. Every drop of pain scrubbed free from life’s ink.
-Ali Liebegott (The IHOP Papers p 26)
Everyone wants to be found, Goaty. The problem is sometimes we get so good at hiding we don’t even know we’re doing it anymore.
-Ali Liebegott (The IHOP Papers p 150)
“Your father and I wouldn’t charge you a thing to talk about your problems.” I felt guilty for making my mom feel excluded, but I certainly couldn’t hire her as my therapist. I wasn’t that unhealthy yet.
-Alit Liebegott (The IHOP Papers p 176)
The weirdest thing anyone has ever said to me while I was waitressing was from this man who used to come in and eat buckwheat pancakes and read Tai Chi books. He said, “Never cook rice while listening to rock music, because the negative energy from the rice will lodge in your lower chakras and cause mental anguish and sexual frustration.” I said, “Oh, I was sexually frustrated and mentally anguished long before I ever listened to rock music while cooking rice.” Who were these freaks—and if they were concerned with right livelihood and health, what were they doing eating at IHOP?Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/IHOP-Papers-Ali-Liebegott/dp/0786717947/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1474295876&sr=1-1&keywords=the+ihop+papers
-Ali Liebegott (The IHOP papers p 201)