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Thursday, July 3, 2003
Dog eat dog world

By Eric Neel
Page 2 columnist

If you're asking why you should want to shove dozens of Nathan's dogs down your gullet while the clock ticks and the crowd cheers and cringes at the sight of you, then you and me, we got nothing to talk about.

But if you think "why?" is a navel-gazing question for salad-spinning wussies, and if instead you're wondering how you should go about getting ready to actually do the dog pound, then you're my kind of people and these 20 tips are your kind of advice:

Oscar Mayer car
If dogs are your game, there's only one ride for you.
1. Be the dog. I'm not talking about some kind of fuzzy-logic Zen meditative state of oneness with the frank. I'm talking about dogs in a blender and then the liquid in an I.V. I'm talking about a blood stream that's all linked up. I'm talking about a body that incorporates and eventually welcomes the toxic blend of scraps and casings that is a hot dog as the very life-blood of its existence.

2. Read inspirational literature each night before bed. "The Little Engine That Could" is good, but "Seven Chinese Brothers" is even better.

3. Recall the unmistakable echo of a righteous belch, the soft squish and sting of a mustard wipe gone by, the sharp smell of your first squeaky-clean plate -- that's right, I'm talking about a little thing James Lipton and the Actor's Studio cats like to call sense memory.

4. Step in front of a mirror right now and repeat after Tina: "Be a man, Mookie! Be a man!"

5. Two words: sit-ups.

6. One word: yoga.

7. Remember, when you're eating those dogs, and you've got a good rhythm going, and you can feel your blood pumping and your heart racing, and you're thinking maybe this is it, maybe you've reached your peak, maybe you can't last another second ... think about baseball.

8. Channel the kid you once were, the kid who filled his cheeks with as many green grapes as he could fit in his mouth at one time, the kid who'd somehow manage to tuck an entire powdered donut in his cheeks, the kid who ate meals like they were pit-stops and took breaths between bites like they were signs of weakness, things best done quickly and in secret.

9. I know a guy in Brooklyn who does plastic surgery (he doesn't advertise). Anyway, this guy, he does a thing where he takes a non-essential ligament from your knee and inserts it at the point where your upper and lower jaw meet, extending the range of your bite and allowing you, like a giant anaconda, to take in prey much larger than the size of your mouth. Call this guy.

10. Say it with me: "The bun is a prop, the bun is mostly air, I do not sweat the bun, I do not see the bun, I do not feel the bun, I fly through the bun with the greatest of ease."

11. Serpentine, Shelly. Serpentine!

12. The "Rocky" five-disc set -- you know what to do.

13. Be the dog. O.K., now I am talking about some kind of fuzzy-logic Zen meditative state of oneness with the frank.

Snoop Dogg
It's cool to be into dogs, just ask Snoop.
14. Play mind games with your opponents. Show up for the competition snacking on a healthy slice of lemon merengue, then threaten to hurl just moments before the gun goes off, and last and best of all, turn to the guy to your right and say, "Damn, Sweetie, you're looking mighty good to me right now."

15. Gravity boots and castor oil -- do a whole, slippery-slope thing with the little buggers.

16. Think of it this way: Each dog is a fear that must be set aside, a doubt to be overcome. Each bite and swallow is a step on the journey to the fully realized you ... aw, screw that self-actualization crap, here's the real deal: Each dog is made up of the rotting entrails of the sorry bum who took your girl away in high school. Each bite and swallow takes strength from his heart and delivers it like a jolt of sweet, green vengeful electricity.

17. Choose a theme song (I like "Atomic Dog," myself: Bow-wow-wow-yippie-yo-yippie-yeah, Bow-wow-yippie-yo-yippie-yeah) and hum it as you chew. A musical tummy is a happy tummy.

18. Keep in mind that dog spelled backwards is god, which makes this some holy work, my friend, which means you need to bring the believer's zeal to the table each and every time out.

19. The key to staring down the pile of meat? The same thing your girl wore the first night she met you, Bright Boy: beer goggles.

And last ...

20. When the going gets rough, when you start to suffer from a bit of doggy reflux, close your eyes and picture your happy place. Maybe do a little Willy Wonka, a little, "come with me and you'll be in a world of pure imagination" -- next thing you know, they don't taste like hot dogs, they taste like snozzberries.

Eric Neel is a regular columnist for Page 2.