I'm not sure how all of this goes together, but I'll see if I can work it out.
It wasn't long ago--and I don't remember where--when the whole bunch of us were subject to one of those cruel games meant to force you undress in front of people you don't know and show them something of yourself that'll make them like you in ten minutes. You know. "Here we go, answer me this--how would you wear your favorite garden vegetable?"
Ain't we got fun.
The question was something about fast food, not complicated. Maybe you had to imagine yourself on some deserted island with one menu item. I don't know.
I spent zero time coming up with an answer--for me, hot dogs. I'm not kidding.
Gasp. Gasp. Gasp. Gasp. Strange looks. Crooked eyebrows. "Seriously?" You'd think I caused offense.
Yes, seriously. Hot dogs.
My mother was a piano teacher. (Stay with me now.) When I was a schoolboy and walked home at lunch, there was always some kid on the piano taking a lesson. My mother was a piano teacher. I know I said that already, but it's also my way of suggesting that she wasn't a cook. I'd make my own lunch, which I did, daily, for most of my middle school years.
A simple menu really, just boil a hot dog, roll it in a piece of Wonder Bread, and smother it in ketchup and relish. Voila.
That's why people say miracles can happen. I still love hot dogs.
Some guy wins hot-dog-eating contests by jamming 79 into himself in ten minutes or whatever. I'm not that gone. But I do love 'em.
Okay, all of that is simply to get here. The world's best hot dogs are from Chicago. Hands down. Even O'Hare. I can't climb out of that place without a couple. I'm sure real Chicagoans have their favorite hot dog haunts, and there may well be some losers; but I'm not fussy. Give me a Chicago hot dog with that juicy kosher dill, and I'm home. Maybe a few peppers. And mustard.
Hands down, however, the best hot dog west of Joliet has to be those beauties from Bob's Drive-Inn, LeMars, Iowa. Go ahead and google. I'm not lying. They're bathed in what Iowans call "tavern," basically un-constituted hamburger brewed with some punchy spices. "Loosemeat" some call it here, but there's something vaguely sinful about that word so retired people like me use it sparingly.
Anyway, Bob's has been on a stoplight corner of Hwy 75 since 1949. It's old enough to retire, but it still delivers the goods. You walk up to the window and wait. No carry-out girls on skates or anything--this is old-fashioned, blue collar drive-in culture right here in Siouxland.
Okay, so it's the Fourth today. John Phillip Sousa plays all over America, and the night sky explodes with China's very best concoctions. If I did my math right, 238 years ago some rapscallion radicals spit in the eye of King George and went their own way. The U. S. of A. was born. It would take a while for hot dogs, I'm sure.
I read somewhere that the city of Frankfurt, Germany, celebrated the 500th anniversary of the hot dog in 1987. You might think of Bob's as the glory of what evolution created after five centuries, the flowering of the art, the best of the wurst (sorry).
Look at that place and remind yourself it's the Fourth of July, doggone it. Hum a verse or two of "Stars and Stripes Forever."
Then step up an order a hot dog. Maybe two or three. They're only three bucks.
You're an American. You bleed red-white-and-blue. U-S-A. U-S-A.
Seriously, if you're in the neighborhood, stop at Bob's for a hot dog.
You'll be ready for the fireworks.