Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Finally, a not too cold March evening in the Lower Keys, with temperatures in the mid 60's (17C) a light north breeze and a clear cloudless sky, as befits the passage of a mild Spring cold front.We drove the mile from our house, I walked Cheyenne along State Road 4A, and then joined my wife for an evening of hot dogs and hilarity at the famous Mile Marker 27 Tiki Bar. I am fed up with people who can't put their phones down, but this guy at least took his phone outside before arranging his Spanglish business meeting in stentorian tones.Inside the bar we took one of those absurdly high tables surrounded by the sorts of high stools that make you feel like an extra in a doll house and I took the time to look around. I immediately started to lust after this guy's hat, sweaty, well worn and weirdly authentic in a county that doesn't see a live cow from one year's end to another. Perhaps he was visiting from Arcadia in central Florida, home of the southernmost range. Nancy was sitting at the opposite side of the table checking the hot dog table out and soon she managed to attract some loose men in search of I don't know what. Well I do, but they were class A no hopers so I am forced to wonder how completely unaware men can be of their grodiness. Hope springs eternal. Boondocks is a vast spacious area underneath a palm frond type of ceiling. It's so big the numerous television screens hardly impinge at all on the central area. Some sports bars are so overloaded with giant screens I tend to get sucked into them like a moth to light.
But we were here for more than just eating and drinking and picking up loose women. We were here to cheer on Michael, the master hot dog eater. He is a teacher by day but he recently discovered, quite by accident, that he has a talent for woofing hot dogs faster than anyone else in the room. He entered the contest as a lark and when he started winning he decided to set his mind on winning the grand weenie eating prize at Boondocks. And, by gum here he was in the final round, a plate of ten dogs separating him from a hundred dollars, a three hundred dollar blender and a year's worth of Pepsi Cola. He even had women groupies, and he was totally psyched up to win. I was quite surprised how intensely he was going for it. The peanut gallery ordered ordinary food, one plate each and tucked in as we waited for the gorging to begin- in front of us! Nancy, Nan, my wife and I had never actually witnessed a speed eating contest before and Michael was quick to point out that he had only seen one once before, when he won his heat and passed through to this, the final round. We were all, in some measure or another, newbies. The at-risk kids at my wife's school were depending on Michael to bring home the Pepsi. I cannot get excited about the food at Boondocks. My wife likes the smoked fish and mussels when they have them. My burger was okay, the bread was sweet and lacking in texture and the chili that came with the Texican burger was nothing much. I've eaten here a few times and it never amounts to much. The choice of beers is not much either. The best they have on draft is Grolsch but I'd rather have Guinness or Smithwicks at Parrotdise with reasonable food, or organic draft and excellent food at The Wharf on Summerland. But there again you can't get to see people stuffing their faces on hot dogs at those restaurants.
People were sitting around waiting for the contest to begin but we had to sit through something they called a "grudge match" between two female employees of US1 Radio. Green Judy beat blue Judy when all was said done and eaten.The crowds built and some surprising characters were attracted to view people stuffing themselves on hot dogs at high speed. Then with a flash and a bang the Pirates of the Marquesas showed up. This man asked me what I'd done to get three wives. I needed riepe to help out with a quick witted answer.My wife asked this man, identified as "Boats" if he would donate any winnings to her good cause, the School for At Risk Students, known as Keys Center. His reaction took me aback. Some people are really into this speed eating stuff, red eyes and all:The first heat saw a best time of more than six minutes which put our man Michael in with a good chance as he had won his round previously with a time of 3 minutes and 45 seconds for ten hot dogs. This guy didn't come close in the first set of contestants:Contestants get their plate with stern instructions not to squeeze the buns until after the start. They get to add ketchup or mustard on the theory that more moisture helps the food slide down but it sounds a little intense to me, high speed mustard eating... The judges watch, the contestants suck down glasses of water or dunk their food in the jugs to moisten the mess to help it slide down. This guy was not a winner but he enjoyed the dogs with some beer and he never had to use the vomit bucket set in front of him. When they called out the second set of contestants Michael got organized with his condiments: The pirates were watching intently because their man Boats was in this the final group of contestants.This pirate wench caught a glimpse of someone who put her mind of riepe and this was her reaction, a mixture of disgust and a desire to blow him a kiss.Then the last three contestants got stuck in:This guy is Steve Miller, apparently another employee of US1 Radio:It didn't end well for Keys Center. Michael used the vomit bucket after desperately trying to keep up with Boats who finished first with an incredible time of two minutes and forty seconds. Vomiting disqualifies a contestant and Michael looked quite ill as he staggered away. If this display of grossness doesn't put you off you too can enjoy hot dogs at Boondocks for 69 cents every Wednesday:I recommend eating them slowly but that's just me being bourgeois. My wife guessed within seven seconds the winning time and won a dust catcher for coming in second place. Her friend Cathy did the right thing and admired the objet de junque with proper compliments:We took our leave clutching our prize and wondering what the hell we had just lived through.
These people were happy eating and enjoying a warm night out. They were smart enough to avoid the weenie spectacle. What a strange evening I had.
I have a new essay on party politics at http://conchscooterscommonsense.blogspot.com/