Funny the stuff that goes through one's mind in such situations. I know people who have been in near-death car crashes and their primary concern was whether someone would feed their cat. Being rather fond of cats myself, this can be forgiven. Blame it on shock.
At this moment however, I thought about hotdogs.
Once a week I travel from Eugene to Corvallis by way of 99E. Between Junction City and Harrisburg is an odd intersection of several roads. Seen from Google Earth it looks a bit like the runway schematic of a major international airport. Set back in one of these angles is a little place that sells hotdogs. It's called Junk Yard Dogs, which is a dandy indicator that you will not find linen napkins there. You will find lots of car parts and paraphernalia screwed to anything upright. Junk Yard Dogs began as a humble food trailer on a gravel lot. They kept the trailer and the gravel and added a bit of a shelter. Car seats and bad diner furniture provide a place to park your butt and your food. In front of the shelter is more seating under shade umbrellas adorned with faux tropical thatching dangling down like brown Christmas tinsel. The marquee is an old Checker cab carcass sitting out front like a metal sphinx. The wheels are covered with round Coca-Cola advertising and a red police light is atop-a beacon for those looking for a lunch unencumbered by Heart Association approval.
By comparison, this place makes the lobby of the Darkside a monument to found-object decorating restraint.
One of the charms for me is the total anonymity I enjoy while I'm there. The other diners there are mostly locals. Farm people who don't give a damn how they do it in the big city stroll in wearing rubber boots and tattered Carhartts. Their big trucks are dusted with the residue of real work and they carry themselves with the gentle swagger of those who have nothing to prove, especially to themselves. Rugged suspenders are attached to their pants with big brass buttons and there is nothing pretty about their boots. The tables are shared when necessary, and when not. No one seems to care too much and you better be ready for conversation.
The food is the stuff bypasses are made of. You will not find a vegetarian option on the menu. And you will not care. For me Junk Yard Dogs taken in moderation--say once a week--provides a meal that I've earned by eating properly the rest of the week. Junk Yard Dogs provides an hour of release from the responsibility of being kind to this body, upon which I have heaped 50 years of abuse. The owners usually start preparing my hotdog before I even get parked. By the time I finish the trek to and from the remote restroom, they hand me a plate heaping with joy, and a diet coke. The hotdog must be eaten with a knife and fork. This is not fast food, in that you better not be in a hurry to finish. So I'm not. I text and read and look at the passing traffic and gaze at the Cascades mountains across the fields. Once the dog is gone I usually spend a few minutes picking at the remaining grilled onions and cheese.
So as the beautiful little red car tried to run away with me, I was thinking about how good one of those hotdogs would taste right about now. I was thinking of how they split open the Italian sausage before they grill it, as I pumped the brakes like I was trying to stomp out a campfire. The brown mustard came to mind as I aimed the car anywhere presently unoccupied. I could almost taste the huge bun grilled with butter before being stuffed with cholesterol-laden goodness, as I yanked vigorously on the uncooperative parking brake lever. When I let go of the parking brake and stirred the gearshift looking for a lower gear, I remembered the first time I went to Junk Yard Dogs I was on the motorcycle. It was hot. Damn hot. They had one of those water misters going by the door. I ordered my food and walked right over and stood in the mist, soaking my T-shirt. One of the diners asked me if I thought it was hot enough.
As I combined shifting down, pumping the brakes, and yanking on the parking brake, I flashed back to a cold winter day when I huddled under the shelter against the propane heater--one of those affairs that look like a small tree--trying with my gloves on to cut off a chunk of my hotdog. It was the sliced banana peppers atop the melted shredded cheese that I recalled fondly as the car slowed when it hit the ramp up to the drive way. Lying on the driveway was the block of wood used to chock the tires and keep the car from rolling out of the garage. This time it kept it from rolling into it. As this was happening, I relived in my mind the ritual of tossing out the paper wrapper, putting the soda can in the proper rack, and returning the plate to one of the owners hanging out the window, thanking me for stopping in.
It takes a combination of yoga and human origami to get me in and out of this little red vintage sports convertible. The car is such a tight fit for me I can't wear shoes while I drive it. Upon getting myself untangled from the driver's seat, I proceeded to step right into an ever-expanding pool of brake fluid coming from under the car--in my stocking feet. The gratitude of not damaging an irreplaceable car worth many times what my Harley cost--new--overcame the eww factor of stepping into the goo.
After tucking the old MG away, patting her hood and telling her she was a bad girl for scaring me like that, I walked home without my shoes on. After removing the oil from my feet--a process I should share with BP--I went inside and right to the fridge. I came away with low fat string cheese, baby carrots, and a glass of water.
Post script: Recently at a party the subject of food came up. It so happened I had a phone-picture of my favorite hotdog. I think it was with a combination of pity and humor that my phone was passed around to share the visual experience of my weekly feast. I also have a picture of the MG, but I didn't share it... Until now.