Marquel, TPVs NYTimes War in Manhattan Section correspondent, was brushing his dandruff off his Paul Stuart coat, when he read Putting the Cart Before the Art. The overpopulation of food vendors in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art prompted city surveillance in January to confirm whether they were disabled veterans or stand-ins.
Marquel read the article and wondered what difference it makes. Apparently, veterans are given some preferences to sell food in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But why cooking in trucks? Is that really the ideal job for a wounded soldier? Here he, or she, is stuck in a truck theoretically cooking hot dogs. Now, a wounded soldier might know hot dogs. But since these rules were passed, we have food trucks serving high end food. Marquel wondered how shooting an M16 makes someone competent to make spinach empanadas or foies gras burgers, or cactus flavored macarons.
Plus there is this problem of stand ins. Marquel went to the museum and found two trucks advertising former Marines as proprietors. I asked the cook where he had been in Nam.
“Not me, him.” He said, pointing to a body in an iron lung, attached to the back bumper of the food truck.
I went to the prone body and asked him where he’d been in Nam. He mumbled a bit, the machine continued its cyclic sounds, and he gurgled a bit.
The cook screamed from the truck, “he hasn’t talked in fifty years, give it up!” He yelled.
“Are you a relative?” I asked the cook.
“Not at all. I don’t even know his name. I rent him. Been renting him for fifty years.” He said.
“You’ve been renting this body for fifty years, just to cook hot dogs at the Met?” I asked.
“Best location in the city,” he said, kissing his fingers. “Probably best in the world. Thank God for soldiers.”
“Yeah they made the world safe for hot dogs,” I said. “That’s democracy.”
“You bet,” he said, selling two dogs for ten dollars.
I explored the other vendors. One seemed a bit short tempered. I called him on it.
“What do you want, I was there. I was up to my knees in rice paddies, with guns that didn’t work! Going in there, looking for Charlie, slugging it out with him; While pussies like you were back here partying, putting headbands on, doing drugs, and listening to the goddamn Beatle albums!”
He shouted, stealing a line from Rodney Dangerfield’s Back To School.
“I don’t understand why you’re here peddling hot dogs after such a glorious warrior’s life. Shouldn’t you be elsewhere, like maybe a VA hospital?” I asked.
He cursed at me. I found another foul vendor right next to him. He said he’d been in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
I asked him, “so you screwed up a whole sub continent and America’s prestige. Why does that give you the right to mess up the entrance to the Met?”
“I was a soldier.” He said simply.
I repeated the question in a way he could understand. “Did they teach you to cook?”
“Yeah,” he said. “And how to electroshock, hang others by their limbs, and how to piss on Korans.”
“Cooked hot dogs?” I pursued him.
“Sure. It’s the same as waterboarding. Only you stir them once in a while.”
“So you really don’t have any cooking background.” I said.
“Neither did the hajis I waxed in Iraq. I could do the same to you. You want a hot dog or I should wax you?”
“No I just want to know your name rank and serial number. And your Medicare card.”
He had a Medicaid card, which I think meant he wasn’t a veteran. And his id was a Blackwater card, meaning he was a private contractor. Not a soldier. “When was the last time you had a medical examination?”
“I don’t need no examination,” he answered.
“Why not?” I asked. “You seem troubled.”
“I’ll be troubled till you get the hell our of here,” he said.
“Ever been in the museum?” I asked.
“No,” he said, serving a group of girls from somewhere west and south of Newark. ” it’s for faggots.”
“You don’t mind selling hot dogs to faggots,” I noted.
“Even faggots gotta eat, thank God,” he said.
I didn’t eat anything at the museum. I wondered if veterans wouldn’t be better off having jobs where they literally wax people. It seems to fit most of their needs. But not in a truck in front of the Met.