Sometimes, you just want a hot dog. There's no logic to this. We all know that no good can come from eating them. But as Americans, they are simply our second favorite phallic food item and we love them as much as they hate us. Bratwursts are great but they're just too Bavarian for us to embrace as our own. Same with the uppity corndog, which is like the hot dog's arrogant, pretentious cousin that got into an Ivy League university (less the product of good breeding than good breading). No sir, we love the good old regular hot dog with working class condiments like mustard, onions and relish (read about anti-ketchup-on-hot-dogs sentiments here, here and here). As such, I found myself craving one today and as such, I had to have one.
Tampa doesn't really have street corner hot dog vendors and very few restuarants serve them. Of course, there's Mel's and I think Checkers has them but the quality of food and service at Checkers, which used to be superior for a fast food joint, has degenerated to the point where I'm not sure you can even call them restaurants anymore. That means your options for getting a hot dog if you're not in the vicinity of Mel's are limited to convenience stores and sporting events. And since there are precious few Tuesday afternoon sporting events until spring training starts, I started looking for a convenience store.
Being born and raised in Michigan, it was drilled into me at a very early age that the best hot dogs were made in Michigan because the state had by far the most stringent quality control standards in the nation when it came to making hot dogs. I don't know if that's common knowledge nationally but I used to hear it all the time from people who were obviously quite proud of it. Oddly enough, I never heard that said about anything else produced in Michigan and remember thinking at an early age, "Really? Hot dog production is where we plant the state flag when it comes to a commitment to excellence?" I mean it's still a hot dog, folks. Someone who makes a point of insisting on only eating hot dogs made in Michigan because they're just soooo much better than the ones made elsewhere is a little like someone facing a firing squad and demanding that they sterilize the bullets first.
Anyway, since I no longer live in Michigan, I've surrendered what little high-mindedness I ever had in regards to hot dogs and I went in search of a convenience store, specifically a 7-Eleven. 7-Eleven is like the Williams-Sonoma of convenience stores when it comes to hot dogs. The dogs themselves are plump and juicy and they have all the condiments you could ever want, including pumps that dispense chili and bright yellow cheese-esque goo. But believe it or not, I actually couldn't find one so I pulled into some generic, dime-a-dozen Pump & Gulp, Shop & Suk, Blo & Go or whatever it was called on Kennedy Avenue. Again, we're talking about hot dogs. There's no reason to think that even the skeeviest convenience store can't serve (what passes for) a decent hot dog.
I got into the car, pulled into traffic and took a bite because I'm such an outstanding driver that I actually drive better while eating a four course meal than most professional ambulance drivers with their hands at ten and two. I was struck immediately by the taste. It wasn't that it was bad. Hell, I was sort of expecting it to be bad. Rather, what struck me was the lack of taste. It was utterly devoid of flavor. I became alarmed immediately. "Is my tongue having a stroke?", I thought. "No wait, I can taste the bun". This realization failed to comfort me. Quite the opposite, actually. "Oh lord, how is that possible? Buns are supposed to be flavorless. The only reason they exist is so you don't get your hands messy. They're edible napkins. And yet, the bun has more flavor than this hot dog? This...this just isn't right." Of course, there was only one thing to do, which was to take another bite to make sure. So I did and the same thing happened again. "No flavor! How is this possible? Every hot dog has a flavor of some sort! Even if it's spoiled...especially if it's spoiled...it's going to taste like...something! Dear God, in what unholy manner of abomination have I just invested .89? More importantly, what is it doing to my innards?" I took another bite and wondered if it was some sort of tubular, meaty, dirty bomb, it's insipidness cleverly disguising a new and painfully lethal strain of botulism that would explode in my stomach. It would be just like the terrorists to try to get to us through our wieners. Bastards! I took the fourth bite and started wondering where the nearest hospital was, just in case. Thankfully, it was just after I'd taken the fifth bite of this Satan's spawn-sage when I finally saw the friendly, familiar green, red and orange glow of a 7-Eleven sign in the distance. "Thank God", I thought. "If I c-can...just...get some..ch-chili...before it's t-too late...". But by then, I looked down and realized that there was just one bite left. So I just gulped it down, went back home and wrote this.