Thursday, July 16, 2009

Care for a Healthy Hotdog?

A couple of weeks ago I had the fantastical experience of meeting a fictitious character I created in one of my first ever blog posts in actual real live flesh and bone. It was like a scene out of Inkheart (not a bad flick by the way) where an author gets to see the physical manifestation of an emotional creation of his imagination. My ink-seed, however, was not a tortured soul from a faraway kingdom with magical powers that allowed him to conjure and control flame whilst battling the evil Shadow and searching for his beloved family. No, no, no. I met the creepy Armenian hotdog vendor.

I have nothing against Armenians. In fact, I’ve met a handful of tremendous people from that heritage and actually from that country (*wink* Hi Zabel *wink*.) But the creepy hotdog vendor in my mind’s eye had Armenian features. Dark and brooding with a forest of thick black hair and matching eyebrows. Think of a much older, thinner, creepier Serj Tankian with less teeth and a top hat.

I was representing my company at the annual School Nutrition Association food show in Las Vegas two weeks ago. While never an overly productive show, it is far and away the best people-watching experience of the year. It still boggles my mind how registered dieticians whose sole purpose in life is to analyze and recommend healthy, nutritious food for consumption, can weigh 380 lbs. and look like they swallowed three small goats, a vat of yogurt, and a down pillow. There’s no way I could take such a person seriously. Do you allow a dentist with crooked, rotting teeth to work on your grill? I am fascinated as I watch the stampeding herd of giddy hippos waddling from booth to booth, gorging their maws with fat and sugar, collecting several bags worth of swag and snacks “for the plane trip home”, aka the hotel later that night. I’m certainly in no place to criticize. I’m not paid to be a nutritionist either.

I digress.

I had the unique once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have the Armenian fruit of my imaginative loins in the booth space right next to me selling “healthy hotdogs” from a small cart emitting green steam, covered by a tiny black and red umbrella. His name was John and he was about 5’8” tall, in his 50s, with thick black hair trimmed short, two big bushy black eyebrows with about 5/32” separation between them, and an upturned lopsided nose that allowed me to see into his skull from one nostril. He wore Tommy Bahama tropical shirts tucked into too-tight Dockers that seemed to contain all his fat, as if he squeezed his upper body like a tube of toothpaste toward his pelvis and quickly cinched his belt to keep it all in one odd compact bubble. But I didn’t care. I was a proud figurative father.

Now, let’s address the concept of “healthy hotdogs.” Like hot snowballs, large midgets, unicorns, and free lunches, healthy hotdogs just don’t exist. What makes it healthy? Do you change the ratio of sphincters and lips from 3:1 to 6:1? Do you substitute bovine reproductive organs with healthier turkey parts? One universal constant is that hotdogs are magical because we specifically DO NOT think about what is in them. The knowledge of the existence of a healthy hotdog causes me to dangerously dwell. “Healthy? What makes it healthy? And if it’s healthy, does that mean my beloved Bar-S dogs are UNhealthy? What would make it unhealthy? I wonder what’s in a hotdog. I always assumed it was grade A top choice beef. No? You mean it’s got lips and butts and bone and eyeballs and fecal matter and hair and ears and….lips and butts?! OH THE HUMANITY!” Then I crawl in the fetal position and scrub my tongue with a wire brush. Some things in life just shouldn’t be scrutinized. We don’t ask who created God. Likewise we should not question what hotdogs are made of and just enjoy their juicy goodness in blissful ignorance.

Further, the bastard son of my twisted mind was unwittingly advertising his hotdogs as being healthy when HE was causing them not to be. He wore the same plastic gloves through three days of show. He would grab the healthy dog, cut it up, serve it to the fat dieticians, and then scratch his head, handle papers, and eat cookies before grabbing another dog for his next victim. I actually watched him violently sneeze into both gloved hands, then wheel around and ask the crowd “anyone care for a healthy hotdog?” He never once changed gloves.

But I don’t care. Like any loving father, I can look past my Armenian man’s faults. He may look like a poorly drawn cartoon character and have no knowledge of restaurant etiquette, but he’s my boy. And I love him for who he is…not what he isn’t.

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