If you found this blog by Googling my name or by following sundry noxious links (you know where), please note that all claims that I was fired from my job are 100% false, as are most of the other things written about me. I don't know the people who are libeling me, but it's clear they have some imaginary axe to grind and way too much time.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Get the Eaters Fresh Food!...My Account of Nathan's Famous July 4th Hot Dog Eating Contest 2009

Saturday was fantastic.

I showed up at the W Hotel in Midtown at 8am and found the lobby filled with the greatest competitive eaters in the world. As I stood there clutching my newly-issued jailbait uniform, slightly starstruck by the scene, Juliet Lee came over and asked for a picture! We posed, I stammered something about being a big fan, her husband took a snap, and told me he'd "send a copy to the blog."

Huh? How did he know??

Then, Rick the Manager came over and introduced himself. He is the gentleman behind the previously posted email, and he turned out to be neither sketchy nor interested in my boobs. We chatted, and he explained that an alert had gone off at MLE when I'd started writing about the contest, and that my blog link had gotten emailed around. (Huh. CIA, are you watching?)

Not competing, but still rocking a killer stage look. Oh yeah, Rick's beard is cool too.

Then I spotted Kobayashi and pretty much died. He was sitting in the middle of the room with his entourage, discussing matters of great digestive urgency. Eventually, I summoned up the courage to ask for a picture.


See that smile? That is the smile of a polite man with more important things to do.

I tried to tell him how big a fan I was. He did not speak much English. And then Sonia "The Black Widow" Thomas showed up, completing the Badass Asian Triumvirate of Eating and making me feel like a total fanslut for going up to her and telling her how big of a fan I was.

8am and stunnin'

So then the Eaters and Bunnettes were divided up and loaded onto two separate party buses for the trip to Coney. When I got on the bus, the only seats available were across from Joey Chestnut, who did not look, at that moment, like a man who wanted to talk to a girl in a cheerleader outfit.

But, being the opportunistic blogger that I am, I asked for a picture.

I made the trip from Midtown to Coney Island with Juliet Lee on my left, Joey across the aisle, and Courtney, another Bunnette, to my right. It was entirely surreal.

Juliet was a complete sweetheart. She wanted to know where I was from, how many siblings I have, where I went to school, my major, what my parents do for a living, etc, etc. We discovered that we emigrated from the same city in China (Nanjing) around the same time (early ‘90s). She, a mother of two, even asked if I was friends with my mother when I was a teen, to which I can only hope I replied with a “no” that was emphatic enough to be reassuring.

I, in turn, asked her about the cranberry sauce.

“How did you do it?”

“I am good at the things nobody else prepares for, because I never prepare.” Not that I understand how anyone can ingest 13.23lbs of cranberry sauce with or without preparing.

“That was hard,” she continued, “because it was all liquid. Many times, I thought I was going to throw up. I found a bathroom in the casino afterward and tried to throw up but I couldn’t. You know, I had to go back because they hadn’t announced the winner yet, so I didn’t throw up. It was so sweet, all I want to eat afterward was a pickle. I just wanted something sour in my mouth.”

“It must be easier to do the things like hot dogs or pizza,” I mused, “I can’t even imagine doing something like raw oysters.”

“I did clams! I won clams.”

“How many did you eat?”

“Twenty-three dozen. Plus one more.” Holy crap.

“That must have been so tough. Raw seafood is so hard to digest.” (Holy crap indeed)

“Yeah, the clams were really hard. My stomach didn’t feel so good. I was going to the bathroom every ten minutes for two days. Every ten minutes! The clams weren't very fresh. That's the problem - they have to make so much food, it's just sitting out there.”

TIME OUT. Are you people getting this? This tiny woman is saying, in an impossibly sweet, adorable way, that she had to slay an angry dragon every ten minutes for two days due to eating shellfish that had been festering in pools of melting ice. This sport is DEDICATION.

“Where does it all go?” Courtney chimed in.

If you can fit the baby, you can fit the food!” What a woman.

Courtney said it best - "She is FIERCE!"

Meanwhile, Joey had been sitting across from us, simmering in nerves. Once in while, he'd bubble over and thrash for a few seconds to some inner music. When I watched the competition later, I realized this dance move had a purpose - it's his own variation on the wiggle penguins use to get a big fish down.

Courtney’s curiosity took her there first: “Joey, how do you prepare?”

“I don’t eat for a couple of days.”

“But do you keep your stomach stretched out?”

“I keep it stretched out; I drink a lot of water and milk and stuff.”

“Are you nervous?”

“I am nervous. Last year was close. A lot closer than I was comfortable with.”

“What was the last thing you ate?” I had to know.

“A hot dog. On…Thursday.”

“Are you hungry?”

I don’t really get hungry.” Whoa.

Another bout of head-banging-rocking-out.

"Do you listen to music when you compete?"

"Yes. I always annoy the other contestants because I put a speaker under the table so I can hear my music."

"What kind of music do you listen to?"

"Rock. A lot of Rob Zombie and stuff."

"Do you have a go-to song?"

"Feel So Numb's a good one. 'I feel so good I feel so numb, yeah...'" Appropriate.

At this point I feel I should describe the other occupants on this bus, which included more sedentery-looking competitors by the names of Franco Camerini, Micah Collins, Humble Bob, Gravy Brown, and some others I don't remember. Everyone seemed to know each other.

Humble Bob gets up to pee.

"You all seem to be pretty friendly," I said to Joey.

"Oh yeah, we're all friends. We see each other all the time." Rick The Manager had said earlier that these guys were competitive eaters by day, competitive drinkers by night. Makes sense. "But we all have regular jobs," he continues, "eating's my weekend hobby."

"REALLY?" This was like being told superheroes have regular jobs. "So what's your weekday job?"

"I'm a construction manager." Amazing. He's really a Regular Joe.

"So do you still like eating?"

"Oh yeah, I love food. Know of any good places?" In my excitement upon learning that Joey Chestnut is 1) a foodie, and 2) open to hearing restaurant recommendations, I totally blanked. I may have directed him to the slew of East Village sushi places that do $25 all-you-can-eat, and if that's the case, I'm sincerely sorry to the proprietors of those establishments: I never meant to put you out of business.

"Do you ever do those restaurant eating challenges? You know, if you eat it all, you get it for free?"

"Oh, all the time! I hold records at a lot of those places." He seemed more relaxed now, smiling. I didn't realize until I watched ESPN afterward that he's only 25. A kid, who would otherwise have been just another Joe from California, with an amazing talent. Of course he's proud of having his face up on restaurant walls across America.

And of course he's nervous. This is his third year starring as the unlikely hero in a Red, White, and Blue-spun tale of America vs. Japan, good vs. evil. The only thing more absurd than the storyline would be failing it.

We arrive at Surf and Stillwell and wait in the bus for our next orders. Joey asks someone what the temperature is outside. Eighties and sunny.

"Perfect competition weather," he decrees.

"It must be harder to eat when it's hot and humid out."

"It is. And sometimes, if it's too hot, the dogs sit out there and get leathery." Gross. If anyone out there was wondering whether the taste of hot dog number 59 or 68 is still important, the answer is yes, yes it is, and texture too. Get the Eaters fresh food!

"How many do you think you can eat today?"

"Probably high sixties. I've been doing 60's in practice. My goal is seventy. You'll see the record broken today, absolutely."

There remained only one more question:

"So do you give Kobayashi the stink-eye when you see him?"

"Ha, just a little bit."

"He's been good lately."

"Yeah, he beat me in the Pizza Hut contest last month. He was fast. I never got into my rhythm. But this is my game. This is my game."

It's already gone down in the annals of Youtube and blogs alike, how Joey Chestnut thrashed his way to victory, annihilating 68 dogs and his own previous world record. Less well recorded is how I got splattered with hot dog debris as I stood behind Sonia Thomas, flipping numbers and being the happiest girl on earth. Sonia went on to break the women's record at 41 dogs! You can catch glimpses of my midsection on the ESPN coverage.

It was a hot, dehydrating, exhausting, and often foolish day (just ask anyone who was there and saw us "dance"), but it was worth it so many times over to be there, in the thick of the carnage. And I am so eternally grateful that Juliet and Joey put up with my nosyness and were so nice to me - that bus ride was the best part of the day. And if this post pings any alarms over at MLE: thanks for letting me be there, I had a great time.

5 comments:

  1. Trust me ..Joey (like myself!) ALWAYS wants talk to a girl in a cheerleader's outfit!;)

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  2. Sounds like a good laugh, but I really couldn't see myself getting up at 8am on a Saturday.

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  3. So...where is the Ron Jeremy pic?

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  4. The life of a Bunnette. Great read. Some of those conversations are hysterical. And bless Juliet for 23 dozen clams. Incredible.

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