Hot Dog

It’s just a hot dog, Roy.

It certainly feels a lot more than that. But I have to keep reminding myself. It’s just a hot dog.

Perhaps the reminders of the physical nature of tonight’s meal are mental exercises that prevent me from a cataclysmic emotional overload that the sweet old man who’s patiently waiting for me to leave my table so he can clean it won’t understand. Hell, I won’t either. It’s just a hot dog.

But it’s more than that. Portillo’s has become a part of my family. From late nights where the northbound shuttle schedules and Mother Nature’s chaotic winds left a young Captain stranded. Where my dear father would slide on his classic flip flops and drive two hours to rescue a tired, hungry soul like mine. It’s just a hot dog.

But it’s the same hot dog that we sat down and enjoyed together, and talked about life. About love. About what truly matters in this life. And why this place is so damn good. About flying. About the countless smooth landings to report back to my best friend. About the future and when we’re coming back. It’s just a hot dog.

But it’s that same hot dog that brought me and my mother together. Sadly, with not much time left on her clock. We didn’t talk about her prognosis, but we knew what it was. And we knew we didn’t have much time. But we splurged for that cake shake. But not until we ate Chicago’s greatest export, the way God intended. It’s just a hot dog.

But it’s that same hot dog that I saw my children eat for the first time the right way. No fork. No knife. No catsup. The first stop anytime we are within radio range of one. The same chairs. Same tablecloths. Only more memories. New ones. Sometimes new friends. New family. It’s just a hot dog.

I stop here every time I’m in town. And I’d be lying if I said it was because the food sucked here. More than just a warm meal, it’s a time machine to moments and memories that slowly escape my feeble mind while my heart aches to find the replay button. Every bite, every taste, every dip of the best cheese fries out there, my eyes water triple that my taste buds.

It’s more than a hot dog to me. But right now, it’s just a hot dog.

It’s just a hot dog.