Lucky Dogs

From the wonderful book, A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole. In the story, Ignatius J. Reilly discovers and ends up working for a famous New Orleans Hot Dog Vendor. In the book, it’s Seven Paradise Vendors… in real life, Lucky Dogs.

Seven Paradise Vendors, Incorporated, was housed in what had formerly been an automobile repair shop, the dark ground floor of an otherwise unoccupied commercial building on Poydras Street. The garage doors were usually open, giving the passerby an acrid nos-trilful of boiling hot dogs and mustard and also of cement soaked over many years by automobile lubricants and motor oils that had dripped and drained from Harmons and Hupmobiles. The powerful stench of Paradise Vendors, Incorporated, sometimes led the overwhelmed and perplexed stroller to glance through the open door into the darkness of the garage. There his eye fell upon a fleet of large tin hot dogs mounted on bicycle tires. It was hardly an imposing vehicular collection. Several of the mobile hot dogs were badly dented. One crumpled frankfurter lay on its side, its one wheel horizontally above it, a traffic fatality. Among the afternoon pedestrians who hurried past Paradise Vendors, Incorporated, one formidable figure waddled slowly along. It was Ignatius. Stopping before the narrow garage, he sniffed the fumes from Paradise with great sensory pleasure, the protruding hairs in his nostrils analyzing, cataloging, categorizing, and classifying the distinct odors of hot dog, mustard, and lubricant. Breathing deeply, he wondered whether he also detected the more delicate odor, the fragile scent of hot dog buns. He looked at the white-gloved hands of his Mickey Mouse wristwatch and noticed that he had eaten lunch only an hour before. Still the intriguing aromas were making him salivate actively. He stepped into the garage and looked around. In a corner an old man was boiling hot dogs in a large institutional pot whose size dwarfed the gas range upon which it rested. “Pardon me, sir,” Ignatius called. “Do you retail here?” The man’s watering eyes turned toward the large visitor. “What do you want?”

“I would like to buy one of your hot dogs. They smell rather tasty. I was wondering if I could buy just one.”

Lucky Dogs cart - Bourbon Street, French Quarter, New Orleans

Lucky Dogs cart – Bourbon Street, French Quarter, New Orleans

“May I select my own?” Ignatius asked, peering down over the top of the pot. In the boiling water the frankfurters swished and lashed like artificially colored and magnified paramecia. Ignatius filled his lungs with the pungent, sour aroma. “I shall pretend that I am in a smart restaurant and that this is the lobster pond.”

“Here, take this fork,” the man said, handing Ignatius a bent and corroded semblance of a spear. “Try to keep your hands out of the water. It’s like acid. Look what it’s done to the fork.”

“My,” Ignatius said to the old man after having taken his first bite. “These are rather strong. What are the ingredients in these.”

“Rubber, cereal, tripe. Who knows? I wouldn’t touch one of them myself.”

“They’re curiously appealing,” Ignatius said, clearing his throat. “I thought that the vibrissae about my nostrils detected something unique while I was outside.”

Ignatius J. Reilly

Ignatius J. Reilly, sculpture on Canal Street.

Ignatius is such a fan of the Paradise Hot Dog, he is able to get a job as a vendor, setting out on the streets of his beloved New Orleans, pushing a heavy cart.

This does not turn out well.

George, who was wandering up Carondelet with an armload of packages wrapped in plain brown paper, heard.the cry and went up to the gargantuan vendor. “Hey, stop. Gimme one of these.”

Ignatius looked sternly at the young boy who had placed himself in the wagon’s path. His valve protested against the pimples, the surly face that seemed to hang from the long well-lubricated hair, the cigarette behind the ear, the aquamarine jacket, the delicate boots, the tight trousers that bulged offensively in the crotch in violation of all rules of theology and geometry.

“I am sorry,” Ignatius snorted. “I have only a few frankfurters left, and I must save them. Please get out of my way.”

“Save them? Who for?”

“That is none of your business, you waif. Why aren’t you in school? Kindly stop molesting me. Anyway, I have no change.”

“I got a quarter,” the thin white lips sneered. “I cannot sell you a frank, sir. Is that clear?” “Whatsa matter with you, friend?”

“What’s the matter with me? What’s the matter with you? Are you unnatural enough to want a hot dog this early in the afternoon? My conscience will not let me sell you one. Just look at your loathsome complexion. You are a growing boy whose system needs to be surfeited with vegetables and orange juice and whole wheat bread and spinach and such. I, for one, will not contribute to the debauchery of a minor.”

“Whadda you talking about? Sell me one of them hot dogs. I’m hungry. I ain’t had no lunch.”

“No!” Ignatius screamed so furiously that the pas-sersby stared. “Now get away from me before I run over you with this cart.”

George pulled open the lid of the bun compartment and said, “Hey, you got plenty stuff in here. Fix me a weenie.”

“Help!” Ignatius screamed, suddenly remembering the old man’s warnings about robberies. “Someone is stealing my buns! Police!”

My son, Lee in front of a cart.

My son, Lee in front of a cart.

6 responses to “Lucky Dogs

  1. Thanks for the picture of the sculpture – I had no idea he was so well feted in his own country. Confederate of Dunces is a book that lingers in the minds and returns in the night.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

      Ignatius J. Reilly is a hero in New Orleans. That sculpture is under the clock in front of what used to be the D.H. Holmes department store (now a hotel). He is holding a shopping bag, waiting for his mother. It is the opening scene of the novel.

      • I had to take a second to realise that the statue isn’t of John Kennedy Toole but of the character in his book.
        I was given the book by a woman from Corpus Christi who urged me to read it. She also said that the actual hot-dogs were the most disgustingly unhealthy food option she had ever been addicted to.

        The story behind the book and the early death of Toole is worthy of a movie in its own right.

        I must go to New Orleans if only to be photographed next to the statue.
        I was recently snapped in the Writer’s Bar at Raffles in Singapore where the aroma of Somerset Maugham’s cigarettes still linger.

        Writers – the true unsung heroes of the world, they have changed it more than any general or politician.

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