I got a call last week from my cousin Brian to meet him and wife, Beth, to pray at an ancient hot dog shrine in Larchmont…my home town…Walter’s, by name, where my father in the 1920s was known to lose himself in a pile of butter-fried franks. Oddly, it has a pagoda roof, more appropriate to Buddha than culinary indulgence and a menu limited to said franks, French fries, sodas and egg creams. It makes it very easy for them to keep inventory and even easier for eager acolytes to order (the only question…how many you want?). It turned out to be a time when Brian, always in an expansive mood, told a couple of stories about his father (my Uncle Jim) that perfectly define him.
First, though, a word about Uncle Jim…as handsome and decorous and elegant a person as ever buckled a belt or combed hair. Think David Niven (for those of you steeped in cinematic history). If he wore a shirt, he wore a tie. If he wore a tie, he wore a jacket. Casual was wearing a sport jacket instead of a suit. His hair was perfect…no strand was allowed its freedom. Anyway, out for a drive one day at a red light, the car behind honked as soon as the light changed…and then again, at which time, Jim, with patrician indignation, put on the emergency brake, got out of the car and strolled to the car behind and rapped on the windshield. The window opened a crack. Do you know me? he asked. No, the answer came back. Then you shouldn’t be blowing your horn at me. And he casually got back in his car, waited for the light to change to red, went through it, leaving the car behind stuck at the light.
Then there was a cop, also many years ago, who had the temerity to unsheathe his ticket book to render to Jim a summons because his car was a bumper-width too close to a fire hydrant. Jim looked at him with sartorially perfect pitch and said, look at your shoes. Can you remember the last time you shined them? And your pants…they’ve got stains. You might look into having them cleaned. And your tie’s unloosened and the neck button on your shirt’s undone. Have some pride in your town. Unaccountably the ticket book got sheathed without a ticket being written.
You never know what a gathering at the local pagoda will bring.(Look it up at: www.waltershotdogs.com)