I was ten years old and just the year before men had first landed on the Moon. My sister was six, too young to entrust to me to babysit so my parents employed a teenage girl named Jessica to take care of us in the afternoons while they were both out working. Once or twice that summer, the three of us took the streetcar down the steep hills from our house a couple of miles to the Pacific. This was San Francisco: the cold Alaskan current just offshore made it basically out of the question to do any actual swimming, making the amusement park called Playland-at-the-Beach the major draw for kids our age.
The park there was in its declining days after seeing decades of thrillseeking families. There were bumper cars, a hall of mirrors, a roller coaster, and a concession stand where you could buy corndogs. My tastes were not well developed then, so I did not take mine with yellow mustard, nor relish, just plain. The savory but slightly sweet breading was a remarkable counterpoint to the meaty dog. The first two bites were easy to do if one took care not to burn one's mouth, but beyond that, it took some attention to eat one's way around the pointed birch rod without either biting into it and getting that unpleasant taste in one's mouth, or carelessly knocking off part of the grainy batter (which did not adhere to the hot dog with great vigor) and have it fall into the sand. To reach the last bite of hot dog and slide it off of its stick would leave behind a fragment of batter maybe the size of a pencil eraser. Without benefit of the succulent sausage the batter would be rather more tough than the rest of the casing less sweet and less identifiable as a foodstuff at all, sticking quite firmly onto the wood. The consistency would depend on whether the corndog was only lightly fried to a light chestnut hue or cooked and cooked to a dark walnut. Being a frugal little kid, I would chip away at the little dessicated cone of batter with my teeth and catch the last few crumbs of it as it was coaxed free. I would avoid throwing my stick on the ground, having been instructed on the importance of preserving the Earth, but would deposit it in the trash receptacle in a civilized manner.
My sister finished her pink popcorn and Jessica her cotton candy and then we'd be through. By that late in the afternoon, the wind off the cold water was pretty stiff and the gray clouds started to come in. We walked all the way back to the streetcar and got back home before the chilly fog could roll in for real. A year later, Jessica had moved on and her sister Sheena babysat us, and the year after that was the year they tore down Playland-at-the-Beach to make (what else?) condominiums. Its funhouse and its corndogs are now nothing but memories. But San Francisco still gets clammy and cold by the ocean in the summertime late in the day.