When we finally get close enough to see the "Luke's" sign on the side of the building, a group behind me erupts into song. "Where you lead, I will follow," they belt out. The words to Carole King's 1971 single became an anthem for a whole new generation as the theme song to the Gilmore Girls.
The long-running show about Lorelei and Rory Gilmore, a mother-daughter duo with an enviably close relationship and a serious coffee addiction, hasn't aired a new episode since 2007. But its fans remain devoted, and as Netflix prepares to reboot the series for a four-part finale, it transformed some 200 coffee shops across the U.S. this week into replicas of Luke's Diner — the heart and evident headspring of coffee in Stars Hollow, the fictional Connecticut town where the show was set.
In Portland, Ore., on a wet, chilly Wednesday, I joined fans of the show to queue up for three hours in a line that snaked around nearly two full city blocks. As cars stopped to ask what we were waiting for, the women around me – and they were overwhelmingly women – answered, "free coffee." But the real allure was a taste of of the Gilmore Girls way of life.
To give the uninitiated an idea of just how big a role this diner (and coffee) plays in the show, the first and last episodes of the series both end with a shot of the main characters sitting at a table in the window, drinking coffee. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that at least once an episode, someone mentions coffee: wanting it, looking for it, drinking it. People who arrived in line as early as 5 a.m. to wait for the popup to open at 7 a.m. could relate. We should have brought a coffee to drink while waiting for free coffee.
While I didn't spot anyone wearing a school uniform, a la Rory, or a Lorelei-inspired tie-dye or rhinestone outfit, there were plenty of women dressed in flannel and backward baseball caps ala diner-owner Luke Danes — the easiest way to have a costume while keeping warm. Behind me, a woman waited with her 4-year-old daughter, Lorelai, for over two hours before they had to leave for ballet class. (Yes, the name was inspired by the show.) Most people come in groups — mother-daughter pairs or college-aged friends who seem to see waiting in line as a bonding experience, much like watching the show together.