Friday, April 20, 2012

The Hot Dog Man

Street meat.  Mobile food trucks.  Hot dogs stands. 

These were all very foreign to a kid like me who grew up in the suburban setting of Lilburn, Ga.  It was only on television, where a NYC hot dog cart ever provided me with such an illusion of greatness. 

So, it was during my freshman year at UGA when I first discovered a real life “hot dog man”.  Walking out of Justin Eisle’s bar, Hollisters, I’d make my way down to the corner of College and Broad, and be greeted by a kind gentleman, of eastern European descent, that was always willing and able to serve me a fair priced dog, with a smile.

As the months went by, I found myself on that corner pretty regularly.  Thursday nights became my weekly residency at Hollisters, and I’d belt out tunes to throngs of underage products of the Greek system, mainly taking advantage of the $1 Coors Light special.  My friends, Tom Seward and Kyle Rhodes consistently referred to the place as “dolla-keers”, which I suppose is a fitting name, and an actual rhyme when spoken from their South Georgia accents.

Yet, when the bars closed, and the kids scattered from downtown, I’d always find myself spending more and more time with the “hot dog man”.  While waiting for my Sabrett – lined with kraut, mustard, and relish, Matt Barnett and I would sit on his coolers and talk shop while our dogs were expertly prepared.  We’d tip him generously on nights when crisp $100 bills lined our pockets after a gig – getting paid to drink beer, sing, and hang out with your friends?  Yeah, we were pretty lucky.  

Anyways, no matter what happened, the “hot dog man” was always there for us.  Over the years, we’ve shared many of experiences.  He’s seen me puke my guts out on Broad Street, after imbibing on too many Red Snapper shots after the ZETA Halloween social.  I introduced him to countless girls I was trying to impress at the end of each evening.   He also witnessed, along with Booger, my infamous race throughout Athens at 2:00 a.m. with Captain Spangler, my Military Science teacher at the time.  Hell, Booger still owes me a white Levi’s western shirt from the day he borrowed mine, only to spill mustard down the front while ranting  and raving about the latest JB/Houser tape he’d bootlegged from the 96’ Sit and Ski tour

As the years passed I befriended the “hot dog man”.  Particularly Barnett and I, who’d stop by his stand at the end of a long evening of throwing back Sweetwater 420’s to tell this man that we loved him.  And to be quite honest – I do.  

His name is Rumen.

It’s been many years since those days at “dolla-keers”, so many that I hate to even do the math.  During that time, I’ve seen Rumen put forth work on a computer science degree and I’ve met his lovely wife, and his family.  

Yet, I suppose what I love most about Rumen is his attitude.  18 – 22 year olds can be belligerent assholes after a night of drinking, and to say that Rumen is always treated with respect from his patrons would be a severe understatement.  Yet, his attitude, smile, and genuine personality always prevail.  He’s that kind of guy.

So, once again, it was my pleasure to spend several late-night hours chatting with Rumen last weekend in Athens.   Come to think of it, students graduate, restaurants and bars change, but Rumen still remains.  So long as he’s there, I’ll keep making the effort to relive my college glory days.

Thank you, Rumen.

And, I do love you!

MM

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