Monday, August 4, 2008
A New Jersey Tale - Fuhgedaboudit!
When I decided to go to Constructing Modern Knowledge ’08, I worked on getting my plane tickets with Scott Floyd of Whiteoak ISD. Knowing that gas prices were climbing, luggage was costing money and plane tickets were not getting any cheaper, we turned to Priceline.com. When all was said and done we flew to Philadelphia and made a connection there to fly into Manchester. The return trip was going to be a little different with the first leg of the trip going to Newark, NJ and then from Newark to Dallas.
Backtrack a bit to the 4th of July and the Travel Channel. I happened to catch the Top 10 Hotdogs Places in America and wouldn’t you know, one of them is in Clifton, N.J, Rutt’s Hut. Upon further investigation Clifton is about 20 miles from the Newark Airport. Since I was traveling with Scott Floyd (@woscholar) I hoped he would want to take a side trip especially since we had 4 hours to burn while in Newark.
We landed in Newark and headed to the taxi stand. Scott had done some research and I knew the cost of the ride out there would be a bit expensive - $52 – one way. So we got to Newark and went for it. I told the driver, country of origin unknown, that we wanted to go to Rutt’s Hut and he assured us he “knew” Clifton, NJ. So while he was driving I was using my iPhone to get us the address and directions we needed. After a couple of wrong turns we circled back and arrived at Rutt’s Hut. There were 2 entrances so we took the non-bar entrance first. We stood there just watching and soaking in the atmosphere. There we were, two Texans in the midst of New Jersey history, society and Travel Channel lore. We walked up to the counter and truly not knowing what to get I simply ordered 2 “World Famous.” That’s it. Nothing else on the overhead menu about choices. The guy behind the counter who probably was the guy that made sure the Sopranos was authentic on TV, looked at me and said “Anything else?” I just said no. In less than 10 seconds I had two “rippers’ as they are referred to. The reason they are called rippers is that they throw these hot dogs in deep fat fryers and cook them. Once they get hot enough the skin rips and they pull them out, slap them on a bun and pass them to you. I then moved to the side and looked around. There were two containers with lids on them and I took the lid off one and there was this chunky yellow stuff (which Gary Stager assures me is known simply as “yellow stuff’) that I assumed was their homemade relish. The other container had what looked like a special mustard concoction. I put the “yellow stuff" on one hot dog and the mustard on the other. After a bite I walked back to the counter and asked if I could get a soda and the Soprano historian looked at me and said “I asked if you wanted anything else.” I got my soda and looked at Scott and he simply used ketchup on his one dog.
We ate and actually made small talk with one of the locals who was watching his young daughter work on eating a cup of chili. The local asked us where we were from and then he asked if we had ever seen the bit on the Travel Channel? When I said yes he said “whatever you do go over to the bar area and also make sure you go in the restroom. It will all take you back to the early 1920’s. Scott and I took out our cameras and were snapping pictures and people all around knew we were definitely tourist. So we finished in the diner part and walked around to the bar/dining room area. I walked up to the bar and sat down and Scott joined me. The bartender who looked as if he lived there for the majority of his life asked what we wanted. Scott said he was good and I said 2 dogs and a Pepsi please. Two more deep fried, nitrate infested, sulfide loaded Rippers. As I ate and Scott drank the Coke he had with him we looked around and listened to the bartender ordering food on a microphone to the other side of the diner in a language foreign to the two of us. We could see him open his mouth and hear sound come out and were totally unable to translate it. Next thing we knew food appeared at the pass through window which he delivered. Amazing.
We finished up and started planning our next move – getting from Rutt’s Hut to the Airport. I told the bartender that I needed to call a cab, thinking of course that any bar has several numbers for cab companies. He looked at me and said “You gotta number for one?” To which I replied no I don’t and he walked away. Scott and I looked at each other and we started chuckling. We walked outside, I called information, I was connected and I was told that it would be 20-30 minutes. We were still well within our layover window so it was all good.
We walked around taking pics outside and talking and then started to get a bit nervous. I called information again and as I was getting connected this huge black limo pulls up with a guy that looked like Kam Fong Chun from Hawaii Five-0 only bigger. He was wedged into the front seat with a huge crate in the passenger seat. He said “You call for a car?” I called for a taxi. “You goin’ to Newark?” I said the Newark airport yes. “Get in.” I looked at Scott and we hopped in. The limo smelled of stale beer, and was dirty. The ac barely worked and then the questions and the verbal assault started. “Where youse from? Texas. “Texas? What part?” Dallas and East Texas. “Oh I’m going there soon.” Really what part? “Terrell.” (He pronounced like Terrell Owens of the Cowboys) Oh where Jamie Fox is from. “Who?” Jamie Fox. “Yeah whatever.” What are you going there for? “Going down to buy me a gaming dog.” Me I am thinking a bird dog but quickly realized NOT. “They still do that in Texas?” (Dog fights) Scott replied it’s against the law. “That’s what I thought. No cock fights, dog fights nuttin huh?” Nope. “That’s why the only thing left in Texas is steers and queers.” Not in our neighborhood. “Yep steers and queers.” “I got me a world class champion up here in the front.” I’m thinking I doubt he is talking about parading a poodle around at the Westminster dog show. He tells us that the only reason he is in the limo business is that his uncle set him up and was willing to front him the money. Otherwise he would be working in the family furniture store for $300 a week.
We got to the airport, in plenty of time for our flight and OZZIE our limo driver was laughing because he talked about always being abusive to his passengers and they still keep coming back for the entertainment. All about the atmosphere in the state of Jersey.
I think I will watch a rerun of the Sopranos to relive it.