HOTDOGS! GET YOUR HOTDOGS!

There’s plenty new on FAU’s Boca campus. We got the new brand flying proud on the Social Sciences Building, we got sweet Arabian-style couches in the UC, and we’ve got hot dog stands. I rank the addition of these tin steamers on wheels as the single moment where FAU stepped up to the plate and became a true campus for students – a place where any Owl can hit the books while munching on a crisp all-beef dog with some onions and spicy mustard.

These dogs are top-notch! True ballpark style in both consistency and size. I don’t know how we ever got along without them. I think back to the pre-hotdog stand times at FAU like I might look back on a tour in war. Nauseous pangs combine with stinging headaches when I remember staring down page eleven of a thirteen page paper and had to settle for a bag of chips and a Skittles out of the vending machine if I wanted a quick chimp-chomp to fire out those remaining paragraphs.

Charles Simic in his essay “On Food and Happiness,” recounts his greatest meals as the only true way to tell the story of his life. Food and happiness go hand in hand for Simic. Whether it was the burek (a Middle Eastern pie stuffed with meat, cheese, or spinach) of the famed chef Dobrosav, the pastries at his childhood bakery, or the soup served at his Parisian elementary school, Simic recalls these meals, whether singular or routine, as the essence of his life. They were the lens into his relationships, his desires and his accomplishments. Believe me, I am peering through a similar lens when I enjoy an FAU hotdog. I am carrying on a similar tradition. I remember in great awe my first ballpark dog. When I was nine, my father began taking my brother and I to one Miami Dolphin game a year. This was the ’80s and the last days of the Orange Bowl. I remember my father handing me that steaming foot-long beef stick tightly wrapped in thin aluminum foil. I unwrapped it and moved to the condiment cart. I was eye level with the yellow mustard pump all crusted over at the tip as my dad recommended some relish and spooned it on. From that day forward, some of the greatest football moments – Miami’s Monday Night win over the Chargers by way of a hook and lateral pass or Nat Moore’s propeller spin after a catch on the one-yard-line – were accompanied by me, up 50 or 60 rows, raising only one hand as the wave whirled round the stadium because the other hand held my prized ballpark dog.

I was as drunk as I’ve ever been at a night club waiting on my friend who was the designated driver. He was convinced he was going to get some girl’s number and, for some reason, there was this college kid running a hotdog stand on one side of the bar. He was cleaning up! Everyone was dropping three bucks for a late night munch. I had zero money. I had burned it all on vodka and O.J. figuring I would have been home long ago raiding my own refridgerator. I was so hungry! Three times I walked up to the stand and stared at the hotdog on display. It had mustard, onions, and relish. I was so drunk I kept looking through my pockets expecting to find the cash I missed the first two times. I don’t know what came over me but in some sort of animalistic yet justified impulse, I picked up the dog and swallowed half of it in one bite. The kid running the stand couldn’t believe it. At first his eyes narrowed in a bouncer-like rage. He was going to get violent, but then he looked into my eyes. I stared at him with such an apologetic innocence that he quickly lightened up, laughed, and said, “Just get out of here.” I turned away and barely noticed, much less acknowledged, the looks of pity from the line of club-goers who watched the whole sad occurrence. I just ate that sweet dog as I voluntarily threw myself out of the club. I camped out on my friend’s hood until he showed up (without the number).

City Place in West Palm isn’t just a place with a great movie theater. It’s the place with the greatest hotdogs. Sometimes I’ll drive fifteen minutes just to go to that stand. The guy knows his business. The dogs are always perfect and he refuses to buy jarred chopped onions. The man chops his own onions. And for some reason, the canned Coke he sells is always chilled perfectly. He’s always listening to a retro-pop radio station and, as I wait for him to prepare my hotdog, I am treated to an old Huey Lewis or INXS tune. One time a kid came up to the stand and attempted to hassle the hotdog man, talk him down on the price of the finely prepared Hebrew National. The kid’s tone was very disrespectful and I wouldn’t stand for it. I stared the kid down and chased him off. How dare that kid disrespect the best hotdog man in the business! What are we teaching our children? A great hotdog man or woman has the power to become the creator of our greatest experiences. Our lives, in part, are fulfilled by the pleasures that only a great hotdog man or woman can provide.

So, fellow Owls, do yourself a favor and treat yourself to an FAU hotdog currently in front of the Wimberly Library or Fleming Hall. Take it from someone who is experienced in America’s great hotdog tradition, you won’t be disappointed.