In the Middle            

At this point you may be wondering what it was that steered us away from having another generation running the downtown hotdog stand. And though I wish it was better news, it all boils down to my dad getting robbed. Now, this isn’t the first time that it happened to him, or to his father during the course of running operations there, it was just sort of something that was accepted, a fate that came with having a prime location in the middle of the city. My mother though, didn’t seem to share that line of thought, and wouldn’t stand for us to be present any longer within the city. The fact that I was present and targeted during said robbery may also have played a part in the whole ordeal.

I can only imagine what was going through my fathers mind at the time, knowing that it was a decision that my mother would leave very little to actually decide upon, but also that it was essentially the only thing he knew. He grew up on the side of the cart much as I had, and was pretty much the only thing he knew. But, with the steady rise in rental rates, and the meager living that the family was making, perhaps he saw it as an opportunity to finally move on to other things as a means of survival. All I really know for sure is that he didn’t put up too much of a fight when my mother made the ultimatum.

So what began as a life in New York City eventually turned into a teen hood in Kentucky. To say that it was a change of scenery and pace would be putting it extremely lightly. But my mother had family there, and we needed the financial leg up when heading out and starting life all over again. I know that my dad briefly entertained the idea of operating another food card in Louisville, but sense may have overcame him when thinking of the difference between business on Broadway and that within the main thoroughfare of the south. He wound up working as a Supervisor at a food processing factory, which essentially put him on the other side of the hot dog creation and consumption path. But, he must have enjoyed it, and enjoyed making a lot more money, because he is still with that company today.

As for me, most of my formative years were put to trying to fit in with a completely different crowd that acted, looked, and spoke much different to the people I was used to. The aggressive rush of the city crossing paths with the meandering southern hospitality that we all thought to be myth in the city. It was quite the change, but kids are adaptable, and I moved into my new role quickly and passed my high school years with relative ease, beyond everyone around me wanting to know exactly what it was like to grow up in the big apple.

One With Everything            

Whether it’s a movie trope you overlooked, or something out of an old time black and white photo, the prevalence of the hot dog vendor is one that has been around since the days of yore. And though it may be something that most people can look back on with some form of recollection, it was a different scenario for me growing up. You see, I grew up in pretty close proximity to that life, as my dad ran a somewhat successful cart on Broadway, yes that Broadway. The spot my father had reserved had been grandfathered to him by his father, and I assume one day hoped would pass on to me, though admittedly, spending my youth in that environment was more than enough for me, but the fondness of those memories still carry with me now that I’ve moved onto other things, and my father retiring the plot.

Most children who grow up working around their parents I find only have one of two reactions to it, either laden with fond memories, or absolutely hating the idea of it. For me, it was just the way my life was. Now, I won’t say that there wasn’t a whole lot of days filled with characters, regular customers who would stop by with treats for me as they chatted with my dad, but I never really looked at it as some form of responsibility or work. My dad would wake me up around 7 in the summers when I was out of school, we would hitch the cart up to the trailer and make our way downtown. The early mornings in the big city just as busy as midafternoon at some times.

Usual people would come by for morning chats as my dad hooked everything up, I would go to the corner store for the newspaper for him to read as we waited on customers to show up, I would take leftover buns from the day before and walk off a little ways to feed to the pigeons away from the cart. It was a laid back atmosphere, no pressures, no expectations, we would simply do what we did. As the day began to pick up, I would be on fetching duty to make sure my dad had everything he needed at hand, and would take care of making sure the condiments were properly filled. We would continue like this until just after lunch when the rush would die down and then spend the afternoon in idle chatter or watching the people who wandered around the busy streets.

It was a pretty simple scenario, but not one that I was necessarily looking forward to making my own for the rest of my own days as well. The rates of rental would steadily climb, my dad would fuss over bills, and behind the scenes it was not all fun and sun. But it was the childhood I had, and something I remember fondly, hence my ode to that part of my life.