"You know how you feel when you've been out all weekend, drinking cheap whiskey and eating chili dogs?" one considerably ill character asks another in one of the more dire later episodes of the series M*A*S*H; "I wish I felt that good."
The weird thing about that statement always seemed, to me, that if you felt bad from drinking whiskey and eating chili dogs all weekend long, at least you could do so remembering how good you felt while you were drinking whiskey and eating chili dogs. It's the sort of thing a writer thinks up in the confines of the writers' room which, in that specific vacuum, sounds not only witty, but wise.
But I digress.
These were awesome.
The chili is plain, flat, out-of-a-can Patterson's Hot Dog Chili Sauce. I had never had it before, and I highly recommend it. It is a pretty basic down-the-middle chili sauce, mildly spicy and nice and sloppy, the way it has to be for the chili dog application. Beneath it, if you can't make out by the picture, is a layer of cole slaw. I don't get why people don't put cole slaw on hot dogs. Underneath that is a generous caulk of yellow mustard-- Plochman's, of course-- and under the dogs themselves is a layer of cheese, because, really, why not? The Saras are part of what's left from a mixed 12 pack, but chosen pretty deliberately, and they went along well. The lager came across as a natural companion to this kind of fare, while the brown ale brought out some extra spiciness and exotic notes in the chili and mustard. Excellent. (Also, I didn't really want to leap off the ledge and go to having chili dogs with an IPA, although that is something which, in retrospect, I am anxious to try. )
The film of the day is soemthing I completely stumbled onto right around lunch time. I had been out provisioning for the better part of the mid-morning, and when I got back and settled in, shortly after noon, this was playing on the station that I had been tuned into previously. I saw this on DVD shortly after it was released in that format, and I have been able to catch it once or twice a year on cable since then. American Splendor is like a chili dog . . .
No. I don't mean that at all.
American Splendor is a movie that I find both easily watchable and maddeningly frustrating by turns, depending on what kind of mood I am in. Today it was both. On the one hand, it's easy to watch Paul Giamatti dig into the role, which he does with vigor and, I think, pretty obvious glee. (It would be just as easy, if not more than a little crass and tasteless, to suggest that the character he is playing in this film is not a far cry from the one he played in John Adams, or to suggest that Pekar is the kind of guy Adams would have been had he been born and grown up in middle century Cleveland, but that is a muddle for another time.) Also, there's enough of Pekar himself (as well as other characters in the living drama) in the flick to lend it a strong air of authenticity.
On the other hand, speaking as one who has only once or twice surveyed (found, not bought) any volume of American Splendor, and didn't find it to be terribly enlightening. Or even very interesting. Indeed, I can only imagine that the world is filled with legions of people who watched this movie but were not strongly moved to seek out and read the works that supposedly inspired it. So does that make me a hypocrite? Should I, on some level, feel a little cowed, a little guilty about enjoying this depiction of a man whose works I have not given a fair hearing and judged as wanting anyways? (It is at this juncture that the Wifey would declare "He's got his money." To which I would probably add "He's dead." Pekar passed away just shy of three weeks ago. A cause of death still has not been announced, so far as I know.) Or can I just watch and enjoy this attempt to portray and, to some degree, sum up what was, apparently, a quirky, interesting, and, eventually, relatively satisfying life?
Do I recommend it? I think you should always question life. Interrogate it, challenge it, examine it from any and every angle you can catch. Ask yourself how much you know about it, wonder what you might be missing. When presented with the facts of someone else's life, why shouldn't you do the same? Try and figure what's the case and what's been made up, painted in, tacked on with epoxy, buffed clean, blended along the edges. As for the chili dogs,* just eat them. Never question a chili dog or a Chinese dumpling. It's better for your sanity.
*I am very tempted to change the title to "Ceci N'est Pas Un Chiene de Chile," for my pal Doc Nagel, who's a big fan of the Matisse gag, but this'll do just as well.