The Forest Primeval

Every August, the weather in Baltimore delivers a promise of the days to come, a couple of warm-but-dry days where a sweater is needed when the sun goes down. Yesterday was one of those days and I made an impromptu decision: Instead of going to a gym, why not take a hike? And why not take my houseguest, Ruth Jordan, to the neighborhood, Dickeyville, where I grew up? With a side trip to Louise’s Bakery, formerly Bauhof’s, to buy the cookies I loved in my youth and take them to my book-signing last night. We walked for 90 minutes through Leakin Park and if Ruth ever doubted that I knew where I was going, she politely kept it to herself.

My childhood backyard

Ruth and I were in the car when the earth moved. I didn’t mind missing it. And I won’t mind scooting out of town in front of Hurricane Irene this weekend as I head to Pittsburgh for a tour stop. Baltimore, in the wake of the earthquake, was pretty adorable. People called WBAL to share their experiences, but because the damage appears to be minimal, there was a breathless inanity to it all. Later, when someone told me that she was in a D.C. building where people feared an act of terrorism — that made sense to me. But descriptions of glasses clinking — hee! Fact is, we had some damage here in South Baltimore when some things rolled off a shelf on the top floor.

Actually, Baltimore has been fricking adorable in general this week, providing my guests with all sorts of Baltimore moments. My favorite, I think, was the woman driving her trash to the dumpster — on the hood of her SUV. Yes, she had two enormous trash bags on the hood of her vehicle as she drove v-e-r-y-s-l-o-w-l-y to deposit them (quite illegally) in the dumpster at the local shopping center. Then there was the woman in the wheelchair, puffing on a cigarette and rolling backward in a lane of traffic in what is essentially the exit ramp onto Mulberry Street downtown. “Now that,” Ruth said, “is hardboiled.”

Debt ceiling? It's the hardwood floor that really gets you.

As I’ve often said, I love to eavesdrop in Baltimore, my favorite line of all time being: “I have such a goddamn fetish for fried chicken,” although I’m now pretty sure the man said “got-damn.” And sometimes, like two characters in my 2024 novel, I’d Know You Anywhere, I like to notice when I say things that seem like the most unlikely sentences in the world. “I left my poncho in the Ritz-Carlton.” Or, coming to the theme of today’s give-away: “I once took a ride on the wienermobile.” Please, don’t even attempt a double-entendre. I’ve heard them all. I was a reporter, I wrote about the experience for the San Antonio Light. The earth didn’t move.

Some folks may know I have a fondness for banks, particularly ones that were used for advertising. A bank plays a key part in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, too. So today, I’m giving away a bank I found on eBay. It is,  in fact, the wienermobile.

Today’s question: Oscar Meyer or Armour? Or Hebrew National? Hey, even if you don’t eat hotdogs, you have to have a preference as to the best jingle.


19 thoughts on “The Forest Primeval

  1. Before I became a vegetarian, I loved hot dogs. The pseudo-dogs they sell now have a decent flavor, but as with many veggie products, they can’t duplicate the texture. They will never be anything close to the real thing, when you fry, boil or grill them. Condiments help — but only so much.

    Back in grade school (Ascension School, Arbutus, MD), we didn’t have a cafeteria like the public school kids, so once a month we were treated to ‘Hot Dog Day.” It was huge for us. Funny how everything in Catholic school takes on a ritualistic quality. We would parade across the parking lot to the auditorium in orderly lines, based on our grade level. Delicious boiled dogs were served by parents while the Nuns and teachers alternated relaxed banter with serious patrol of the aisles. There was usually a bake sale as well, which was interesting because you got to taste some other kid’s mom’s cooking. Usually, it made you appreciate that the brownies at your house were way better.

    A last frank thought. I have always thought that “Hot Dog Water” would be a great name for a punk band. So far, no takers.

  2. Hot dogs don’t taste like they did when I was a kid, but Hebrew National Jumbo dogs are pretty good.

    Speaking of the weinermobile, I spotted it (or one of the fleet) in Aberdeen, SD last month, in the parking lot of the Ramada Inn. I have no idea what it was doing there, but I was driving, so I didn’t get a picture. My Grandgirls saw it too, so I know I wasn’t hallucinating.

  3. 1. I remember the New York World’s Fair and the Weinermobile there (I was very young) and I got a Weinermobile whistle (that must have been a freebie) molded in the same shape. I am surprised that I don’t have it still. I think it may have “played” two notes, not just one. 2. I have a Lincoln penny bank that I treasure. He is made out of pressed glass and the metal top with the coin slot cut into it is his stovepipe hat. It was a gift from my grandmother, who I am guessing got it free from a bank.

  4. LOVING all the Tree Grows In Brooklyn references this week. It’s been a great excuse to start another reread - my first since having a daughter of my own. It’s always been one of those books that has said different things to me when I’ve read it at different stages of my life (I read it for the first time when I was about the age Francie is at the beginning - “she is eleven”), and reading it now as a mother is fascinating.

  5. I haven’t had a hot dog in who knows when, but have prepared quite a few for the short crowd that is ever present. The Oscar Meyer jingle gets my vote, but there’s something about that ‘We answer to a higher authority’ that always makes me smile. :)

  6. I agree with Patricia - I love the Oscar Mayer jingle still, but like the “We answer to a higher authority” line for Hebrew National. I seldom eat hot dogs, but I still enjoy the Orioles brand or Hebrew National.

  7. I’ll go with Oscar Meyer, but my true hot dog love will always be Hofmann’s Snappy Grillers. Pure white hot dog Coney deliciousness.

  8. Best jingle-Oscar Meyer!!!
    Best for consumption-Hebrew National

    Oh, a weinermobile!!! I must have-that is one of the few things that my collection of dachshund kitsche is lacking.
    (I’m glad I kept trying and got into the website. I would not have forgiven myself if I had missed out on a chance for a weinermobile!)

  9. Laura, Laura, Laura…
    Baltimore, Brooks, Cal, Memorial Stadium? Is there really any local choice other than ESSKAY and a cold Natty Boh?

  10. Although we felt the earth move under our feet yesterday, it was a pleasure to meet you at Barnes & Nobel for the signing for your 16th novel, The Most Dangerous Thing!

    Also, regarding weiners…gotta love the pic of the Obama bobblehead that wobbled from the shelf during the quake!

  11. I have a bad reaction when I see the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile. I was in third grade when the Oscar Meyer Weiner theme song debuted. I was moved from one class to the high level class with all new students who had been together since kindergarten. I was the new kid. Mrs. Williams was mean and made me write with my right hand. I am a southpaw. She also insisted that I go by my given name, Oscar and not my nickname. So I when the Oscar Meyer song came along I was the subject of ridicule and teasing. It was not a good year.

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