(In retrospect, Pimp #1 was far too wordy, even by my standards, so I’m breaking it into two 1,000 word segments. Thanks Todd and Lynn for the sanity check!)
I saw fights and brawls better than any Pay-Per-View subscription. Most were just guys pushing and shoving, but I’ve seen hair-pulling, shoe-swinging, beer bottle-throwing craziness. The wildest fight got so intense that the local police called in the state police. After they handcuffed and arrested a college kid, his girlfriend jumps on the back of a state trooper. She quickly gets thrown to the ground and as the street brawl continued to escalate, they handcuffed her on one wrist and then the other cuff was secured to a street sign. Next thing I saw was another girl start punching the cuffed girl before a local cop unloads half a bottle of pepper spray into her face. Beer bottles are flying and I just walked my cart 10 yards or so down the street. In all these fights, the hot dog guy was like Switzerland – neutral and no one messed with me as I had what they’d ultimate need tonight…or after they got bailed out of jail.
Speaking of memorable sights on the street, one quiet night a car load of college beauties decided to offer some…I guess you could say “synchronized flashing”. More to the point, no automotive headlights were involved. A customer waiting for his hot dog first noticed this car of “ladies” laughing and pointing and he told me that something was clearly up. They kept circling the block till finally….well…use your imagination. Lots of laughing in the car and then they sped away. Over the next few weeks, this continued to the point where they’d actually pull up to the curb…order hot dogs – as if I didn’t recognize them…then drive around the block over and over laughing and doing their thing. As I suspected they wanted an audience, one night I told the bouncers who in turn told some of their friends. Perhaps 25 people were now on the sidewalk when my buddy Vinny, a local Westfield police officer also stopped by to see what the unusually large crowd was up to. While Vinny and I would love to chat, often I’d have to politely remind him that prolonged visits was…in a sense…bad for both our businesses as his presence would keep some well-served customers in the bar and away from food as they’d be nervous walking up when “Mr. Po-Po” was in sight. Anyway….I quickly explain to Vinny that some lovely ladies were about to drive by on their flash and dash escapade and the crowd was in their honor. Again, I have to be the Debbie Downer and explain to my friend that his presence might have a negative persuasive effect on the festivities. Vinny understood and as the good sport that he is….proceeded to crouch down with the rest of the crowd behind parked cars. As the car approached and festivities began, probably thirty people jumped up in unison behind parked cars nodding and waving back in approval. Hot dog guy just smiled and realized that he had, for the moment, the best job in the world.
Before I end with a less prurient story….One more odd encounter to share. But first…why hot dog pimp you might ask. After about the first year of running my cart solo, I engaged Michelle, a neighbor in a conversation about all things hot dogs. She was a single mom, perhaps 19 years old…living week-to-week and worked at the aforementioned Subway restaurant connected with Gabbys. She was looking for some extra income in a part time job and asked if she could work the hot dog cart with me. She tried it out for a few weeks during daylight operations and she’d bring in more than twice the revenue I would. So, next thing you know…one cart becomes two….then Michelle has a friend and two carts become three. I think I had four carts at one time and the moment I felt most pimp-ish was at Bob’s Clothing Store in Enfield, CT where the four of us went on a fluorescent halter top shopping spree….Jim’s Dog’s naturally expensed these as “uniforms” for the ladies.
OK – enough about pimps and back to the odd encounter. My secondary daytime location which was a biker bar back in the 80’s was called The Purple Onion. It was located at a major Westfield intersection near Barnes Air Force Base and Exit 3 of the Mass Pike. One Thursday afternoon right before I shut down for the day pulls up a black Lincoln stretch limousine with full black out window tinting. The driver window comes down and an older man in a suit says, “Do you have any Coca-Cola?” I nod and he asks if I have any straws and I nod again. “Please wipe the can off with a napkin,” he says. The $1.50 transaction complete, up goes the window and off he drives. Over the next 5-6 Thursdays, the limo would consistently show up and each time the order would be…1 Coca-Cola with a straw…..please wipe the can first. I finally and quietly ask the driver, “Who is in the back?” but he’d only smile and shake his head. A local Westfield police officer finally told me who it was…..Bill Cosby. He owned a home in nearby Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts and used this private airport on Thursdays after filming of the Cosby Show was completed for the week.
Mercifully this meandering tale is coming to an end… To wrap up, Lt. Col Mike Beaver was a USAF pilot acquaintance of mine and lived in the same apartment as a certain fluorescent tube top wearing hot dog gal and myself. He flew a particular aircraft that I’ve always described as …So Ugly, It’s Simply Gorgeous …the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II, otherwise known as the Warthog. One day we were chatting and I told him that on Fridays around 1PM, I’d often see a formation flying towards Westfield from the West. Mike explained that they were returning from maneuvers over New York state. I inquired as to whether or not he could see me along the river with my red Coca-Cola umbrella above the cart. He said that the following Friday he’d be the lead aircraft coming home and if he could see me, he’d blink his front nose wheel landing lights to say hello. Well, next Friday comes along and I’ve got my Bearcat Scanner on the cart listening to Barnes Approach frequency. While I couldn’t hear military jets, I could hear the ATC side of the communication. So, while serving a line of customers, I hear Barnes Approach call out to the inbound A-10’s. A few minutes later, while seeing them approach…but still way off…a regular customer / truck driver questions what I am looking at. I tell the customer that I’m going to wave at the jets and maybe they’ll do something back. Shaking heads all around me, here I stand, on the side of a highway waving at airplanes. Customers now want to bet me for free hot dogs against I can’t remember what (must have been beers in their coolers) and I take all bets. Another 90 seconds of waving and….frankly….mild humiliation… and then…finally Lt. Col Mike comes through….Nose wheel light blinking on and off and ….get this… left and right wings start wagging up and down at probably 3,000 – 4,000 above our heads. Everyone paid for their hot dogs….and I never told any customer how I pulled that stunt off.
Anyway, in a future chapter (or two) of Confessions Of Your Favorite Hot Dog Pimp, tune in as I almost get robbed…almost blow up in a propane explosion, get a police escort at 2:45AM while perhaps drinking a G & T while listening to Big Band music and finally…..learn why my CPA once walked by the cart and replied to my greeting by saying, “I don’t know you and have no idea why you are talking to me”.