This weekend my aunt, uncle and five-year-old cousin took me on a short trip through the suburbs and into Chicago. We passed many landmarks of familial and general interest that reminded me how time can fly.

We stopped at the cemetery where my Grandma Marianne and Grampa Julius are buried. (For those who would understand: Julius was my Russian step-grandfather who was the source of the “Kate” accent.) Grandma Marianne hated geese in her day, which was probably why so many of them desecrated her grave in the particular manner they chose.

We drove past the hotel near O’Hare where O. J. Simpson stayed the day after his wife and her friend were brutally murdered by unknown assailants. You know, the hotel where he cut his hand. Accidentally. Innocently. It’s hard to believe that was more than ten years ago.

We drove past the high school my parents attended. We drove past the house where my Viscariello grandparents lived for decades. More precisely, we drove past the parking lot where the house where my Viscariello grandparents lived for decades used to be.

Anyhow, our eventual destination was one of Chicago’s minor but more charming landmarks: the Superdawg at Milwaukee, Devon and Nagle. It’s a drive-in hot dog and hamburger stand; you park next to one of the speakers, place your order, and a carhop will bring you your food. You sit in your car and eat. Not too many of these places around anymore.

Superdawg’s mascots are two anthropomorphized hot dogs named “Maurie” and “Flaurie,” after the owners. Maurie is the male hot dog, and wears a leopard-skin caveman outfit and sandals.Flaurie is the female hot dog, is blonde, has a blue bow, a blue skirt, and blue sleeves. I was unimpressed with the choice of mascots. They should have gone with a schnauzer wearing a hot dog bun, or a cape with an “S,” right? A hot dog wearing a caveman outfit was silly.

We placed our orders and the carhop brought us our food. It came in a small box with decorations reminiscent of the Fifties, probably because the architecture, look, and ownership ofSuperdawg haven’t changed much since then. The box didn’t have flashy coloring, it didn’t have a game piece, it had none of the trappings of modern fast-food advertising. The lid featured an image of Maurie resting on a two-piece chaise lounge. It had various writings on it, but the one that interested me most was:

“Your Superdawg lounges inside, contentedly cushioned in Superfries, and comfortably attired in Mustard, Relish, Onion, Pickle, and Hot Peppers.” (In my case, onion was crossed off, because onions and I—well, there’s history there.)

The caption was clever, but not edgy, or cutesy, or obnoxious. It, combined with the vision of Maurie unwinding on a chaise lounge after a long day at the office, changed my impression of him. It made Maurie seem like an exemplar of Hugh Hefner’s target audience: an upper-class, yet not uppity gent who enjoys his leisure and does some modeling.

But something was nagging at me: why wear a leopard-skin? Wouldn’t it have been more appropriate if Maurie were wearing a smoking jacket and puffing on a cigar, or maybe a pipe? I thought that would fit the caption better than a caveman outfit. But perhaps the leopard skin was more comfy than a smoking jacket, or his regular clothes.

I looked up at Maurie atop the restaurant, trying to discern the mind of this timeless figure. And then something clicked. I suddenly understood: Maurie looks relaxed in the picture on the box because it’s his subtle way of mocking us. That’s right, mocking us.

You sit in your fancy, modern car, thinking that Maurie and his wife look silly up there on the roof. You smugly bite into your relish-laden likeness of him, and might even think that you could create better mascots. You self-righteously finish your hot dog, and prepare to drive away…

…but then you catch that last glimpse of Maurie’s relaxed visage on the box, and realize that though you have consumed and destroyed a graven image of him, he is completely indifferent to it–for you are nothing to him. We are nothing to him. We don’t threaten him, or even raise his ire. Any feeble attempts at offending him fall pitifully short because we are mere ants before his mightiness.

Eyes blazing with primal ferocity, Maurie taunts the elements on the most punishing of these brutal Chicago nights, wearing naught but a flimsy leopard-skin as we mortals timorously drive by, snugly buckled in our toasty-warm cars, wearing our cowardly Gore-Tex parkas and our shameful mittens. We cower at the worst of winter’s bitterness and the cruel passage of time—Maurie roars at them, and at us, and towers over that blustery intersection, triumphant and unbowed for over fifty years.

Or maybe the owners just thought the caveman thing was neat, I don’t know. Either way, it was a pretty good hot dog. And it was nice to see timelessness, albeit briefly.

This entry was posted on Monday, December 5th, 2005 at 3:32 AM.

2 Responses to “Superdawg.”

  1. donnimikk Says:
    December 5th, 2005 at 10:00 PM

Grampa Julius also created my nickname. RIP

  1. ourladyofcoincidence Says:
    December 21st, 2005 at 10:41 PM

Just wanted to mention that the Noonan House is in the Superdawg area (at least a stone’s throw- maybe a little more…)- in case you’re not familiar… it’s got the tree that “grows” through the roof- very popular house in these parts.

Of course if you can’t get to the neighborhood, just go to: & then click on “Holiday Display” video.

Thought you might be interested….
Merry Xmas to all