Coincidentally — or perhaps appropriately is the right word — my brand new daughter-in-law, Ashley, made her first trip to Pittston the same weekend I wrote a column about Majestic hot dogs.
Ashley is “brand new” in the sense that she’s been married to my son Michael for a year-and-a-half.
I officiated at their wedding on the rooftop of the restaurant Little Goat in Chicago in July of 2015. That’s another story for another day.
Ashley loves hot dogs.
They now live in Los Angeles, but when they were still in Chicago, Ashley couldn’t wait to introduce me to the Chicago Dog.
I went there on my first visit filled with anticipation for deep dish pizza. I had never even heard of the Chicago Dog. But Ashley quickly took care of that. And she made sure my initiation took place at the “cathedral” for Chicago Dogs, Wrigley Field.
In addition to a hot dog, the Chicago Dog features yellow mustard, chopped white onion, sweet pickle relish, hot little devils called sport peppers, chopped tomatoes, celery salt and a long spear of dill pickle, all enclosed in a soft sesame seed bun.
If it sounds filling, it is. But Ashley, who is 5’10 with the figure of a runway model, can polish off two of these babies without flinching. I can see why my son married her.
So here she was arriving with Michael late Thursday night, March 2, two days after I had submitted the aforementioned column and about a day before the Pittston Progress containing it hit the streets. A trip to the Majestic was definitely in order.
There was only one problem. With the Pittston St. Patrick’s Day Parade about to dominate our Saturday and their return to L.A. planned on Sunday, we had to get there Friday. But I am a Catholic and Lent had just started. Need I point out a hot dog is made of meat? Well, sort of meat.
What did I do? I did what any Catholic these days would do. I rationalized. I had just received a letter from the Greater Pittston Friendly Sons of St. Patrick explaining the bishop had granted dispensation for those attending the banquet on March 17, a Friday, to go ahead and eat prime rib. There is a fish option at the banquet, however, and therein lay my loophole.
“I’ll just apply my dispensation to a Friday Majestic hot dog,” I reasoned. “And eat fish at the banquet.” Perfect.
We parked in the city lot on Main so I could challenge Ashley to pick me out on the Inspiration Mural. She did so with ease but seemed surprisingly (to me, if not my wife) unimpressed. I chalked it up to the Majestic hot dogs on her mind. I had talked them up big time in the
car and continued to as we walked up the street, also sharing the salve I had concocted to soothe my Catholic guilt.
It all built to a perfect crescendo just as we reached the front of the Majestic, where taped on the door we found this little sign: “Closed Fridays During Lent.”
Ashley masked her disappointment well as we crossed the street to Callahan’s, where I thoroughly enjoyed a tuna melt and most likely saved my immortal soul. She had a salad and remarked about the upbeat atmosphere.
The hot dog debacle made for good conversation as we treated Ashley and Michael to a smorgasbord of assorted pizza (her first white pizza by the way) Friday night at my sister’s house with as many family members around as we could muster, and faded quickly Saturday morning when we squeezed our way into the Red Mill Tavern for pre-parade Bloody Marys and a fine helping of bagpipe music.
Post parade, we lunched on stuffed artichokes at The Gramercy, another first for Ashley and this time for Michael as well. They left wondering if they could make them at home.
Michael works in the advertising business. Every time Samuel L. Jackson asks you “What’s in your wallet,” Michael’s had a hand in it. And those Capital One “Road to the Final Four” commercials with Spike Lee and Charles Barkley joining Jackson are his as well. The latest round will begin airing this weekend.
But if you think that is cool, get a load of what Ashley does for a living. She’s a marketing director for Netflix films. That took her to the Toronto Film Festival recently where she joined Justin Timberlake at dinner. That may be the real, and quite understandable, reason for her ho-hum reaction to my mug on the mural.
Ashley’s job also means that when Netflix produces Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” which purportedly will cost nearly $125 million, she will be doing the marketing. The movie, as most of you know, is based on the Charles Brandt book “I Heard You Paint Houses,” which I may be the only person around here yet to read.
Ashley was not aware of where she was geographically until I explained it to her and then Pittston got waaay more interesting.
At the Red Mill I told my friends Danny and Jody Brogna (first cousins) about Ashley’s connection to the movie and they told her they wanted to be in the cast.
“And you won’t have to teach us any lines,” Danny said.
“We already know them,” Jody chimed in as though they had rehearsed it.
The movie is set for a 2019 release. Surely we can get Ashley to the Majestic before then.
Ed Ackerman writes The Optimist every week. Look for his blogs during the week online at pittstonprogress.com.