Remembering the Pink

It was the summer of 1987. My friend Pete from 1969 kindergarten at St. Mark had an apartment on Elmwood by We Never Close.

He ran hot dog cars for someone I never met. It was a cash business. The prime location was the vacant lot between the Pink and Brickbar.

We’d set up about 11 p.m. or so, with a cooler filled with hotdogs from a forgotten Broadway Market stand, Krug’s I think, and a towable wooden cart with a propane grill, a cooler, rolls and condiments.

Food safety was an afterthought – look at the bag of dogs from the warehouse (garage) refrigerator. If they were still pink, smell one. Then take a bite. If it tasted OK, we were good to go. After all “best buy” is only a suggestion.

If the rolls weren’t fresh it didn’t matter, as long as they weren’t moldy.

On the street, it was a cash business. I’d chum the air by throwing chopped onions on the fire to make the whole street smell.

A hotdog was $1.25. If you came out, at 11:30 p.m, after 3 hours of drinking, and smelled the air you would approach the stand.

“Gimme a dog” you’d say.

“That’ll be a buck and a quarter” said the friendly dog dude.

You’d pull two crumpled ones from your pocket.

“Do you want your bun toasted? Mustard? Ketchup? Pickle relish? Onions?”

“I’ll have onions and mustard.”

I’d take a couple minutes to put it together. If you never asked for the 75 cents, I would never offer it. Often, people would tip as well.

There were a few rules on the street. Cabbies and cops and bouncers always got free dogs. You needed all of them on your side. It was one community. Everyone was hustling.

6 hours later, I would be standing on the street with $600 in my pocket, $90 in wages, an equal amount in tips and whatever you call that 75 cents and the money people paid for dogs.

I did that gig for two summers. A couple times, I thought, standing on Allen Street at 5 a.m. with that much cash, I am a mark, just waiting to be stabbed, robbed and left for dead. Only it never happened.

I never really liked Brickbar with the brick floor and cases of OV Splits and too much 80s pop for my taste. It reminded me way of Cassidy’s or Third Base where we used to go to drink-and-drown night before DWI was made illegal because too many lives were ruined.

The Pink was pleasant, unpretentious and had killer steak and cheese sandwiches. The light was dim because you wanted to taste your food, not eat it. It was a bit like eating a hot dog of unknown origin origin.

Pete’s been gone a couple years. I can still taste that steak and cheese and remember waiting for him to show up in his early 70s LTD to tow the cart home so we could go across the street for coffee and a donut as the sun rose.

Those days were more innocent than these. The Pink burned Monday. It will never be the same. I hope those people who lost 75 cents never missed it or caught on and no one ever got sick from a bad dog. I will add the Pink to my list of losses. Right next to Pete.

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