January 4, 2005

Dear Mr. Bush,

The greatest hot dog stand in Chicago--and, very possibly, the world--re-opened today after being shut down by a fire over half a year ago. Back before it burned, it was a glorious place; a place where more often than not I would run into someone I knew, seated with friends around a table, everyone laughing and eating, and you could pull up a chair and laugh with them, waiting for your food to come out, steaming hot and heaping with toppings. It was the kind of place no one ever spoke ill of; a magic place--if you believe in that sort of thing--where nothing ever went wrong.

I wrote about the place a few years ago in my magazine. It was a theme issue about Chicago, and I felt like nothing embodied the spirit of this city more than a hot dog stand run by a kind-hearted proprietor who had trained to be a gourmet chef, but instead found his calling in making an honest lunch for honest people. In a lot of ways, that's really all any of us can hope to do.

When word spread of the fire--not their fault, I'd like to point out, Mr. Bush--every person who heard the news witnessed their heart break just a little bit. Everyone waited longingly for the place to reopen, but with each month that passed, our hope faded--until that last glimmer of hope actually turned into a reality.

And so it was that five of us from work went to the store's new location this morning--early enough to be there when they opened, though we weren't the first ones there--and shared once again in the greatest lunch five dollars can buy. And as we sat there, eating and laughing and talking with friends (fully three-quarters of the place was occupied by people we knew one way or the other, though no one had planned it), I thought about how, in this week filled with destruction and devastation, it's good to know that it's possible to regroup and rebuild.

To Doug,



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love your blog - it was passed on to me by a friend.

But this post was especially touching - I too ate at Hot Dougs yesterday and was so happy to see how busy it was. At 3:30 yesterday afternoon, there was still a line out the door, and everyone there had huge smiles on their faces. It was a great feeling of community. And no one does veggie dogs better than Hot Dougs!

9:56 PM  
Anonymous nathan said...

I am extremely sorry. I cry everytime I read your letters and I'm sooooo impressed that you've kept this up. But I cannot help but point out that eating meat is supporting an industry of extreme torture and that eating that shit is supporting (yes) that same administration that this whole thing is a reaction against. I really (REALLY!) hate to crash the party and I know it's such a Chicago thing...... but eating meat is bad for you, bad for the environment, bad for the workers (mostly immigratnts) that have to tollerate the inexcusable conditions of the industry..... vegan is rebellion. Again I'm sorry, because I know your heart is in the right place, but i wouldn't hand 'them' a five dollar bill and then worry that I didn't like the direction my country was headed in. sorry again, but meat is murder.

11:02 PM  

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