Monday, October 02, 2006

Black Horses take Warriors

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Baseball, Hot Dogs and the guy from KISS

The hot dog guy stood under his red and white striped canopy next to the
carousel. He was talking a mile a minute to the lunchtime crowd that was
passing by that gave him an aura of being the wizard of Congress Park.

The thing that first brought him to Saratoga was the horses, “training
thoroughbreds since 1983,” he says. It is something he continues to do
to this day. This year he got himself a silver cart and a vendors’
license to give himself a little something extra to do on fall afternoons.

“I train racehorses at the Oklahoma track in the morning. Then I go
home, take a shower and come down to the park to sell my dogs,” says the
hot dog guy, whose name in real life is Eddie Miller.

Seven days a week he stands here with his cart. A long table topped with
neatly displayed condiments sits nearby framed by a pair of barrels
filled with soft drinks.

“Hot dogs he-ah,” he announces periodically, turning the dogs over a
sizzling grill. “Kosher hot dogs. Kosher Knishes. The taste of Coney
Island right he-ah in Saratoga,” he says in an accent that was born in
Brooklyn and raised in the Fran Drescher neighborhood of Queens.

“The hot dog guy is happy,” he says, taking in his surroundings and
flashing a genuine and infectious grin at every person that passes by on
these gorgeous, sun-filled autumn afternoons.

“Congress Park is just beautiful. How can you even compare this to
Flushing Meadow Park? There you get, ‘Yo, ya got a dollar?’ and ‘Hey,
gimme a cigarette.’Ø”

Here you have moms walking through the park with their babies, students
sitting in the park and reading their books. It’s Beautiful,” he says.
“Selling hot dogs here is not very hard, my man. It’s a real nice

Growing up he was able to experience the growing rock scene in the
suburbs of post-hippie New York.

His brother was a talented musician who played in a popular rock band
until it imploded when the guitar player discovered heroin and the organ
player left to join the Hare Krishnas. He became friends with Stanley
, the starry-eyed guitarist who formed a band with a bass player
named Gene Klein.

The musicians changed their names to Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons,
respectively, and to that degree of friendship Miller says, “I like the
band KISS a little bit.” He says it was the Rolling Stones that provided
him the biggest thrills, however and right in his own neighborhood.

“The Stones at Shea Stadium. I remember when they came on stage and
played ‘Start Me Up,’ you could look up and see the top tiers of the
stadium start shaking,” he says. “The only time I ever heard that place
so loud was in the 1969 World Series. The Mets and the Orioles. Game 3,”
he remembered.

“When Tommie Agee hit that Jim Palmer pitch for a home run, the whole
place was shaking,” Miller recalled. It was a day when Agee would make a
pair of historic, circus-like catches— one over the shoulder going to
the wall and the other diving across the outfield warning track — that
would save the home team, and lead to eventual victory of the World
Series two days later.

Now, he’s got himself Sirius Radio, where he says he can listen to the
Rolling Stones 24 hours a day.

His favorite music these days however, he says are the sounds that come
from the Congress Park carousel behind him. It’s an inviting place that
is enticing him to stay on in this city.

“I started the last week of August and my permit goes until Halloween.
That’s when I was thinking that I’ll put on a Dracula mask and then
that’ll be it,” he says. Now, he is thinking about staying on a bit
longer. Thinking about the future and pondering the request of whether
the hot dog guy had any final wizardly-like words of wisdom.

“The meaning of life?” he says aloud, turning the dogs over the sizzling

“I’d say, keep your hands up and your ass off the canvas.”

by Thomas Dimopoulos
The Saratogian, Sept. 29, 2006.