I claim the happy fortune of having spotted our townie hotdog hearse on two occasions. Someone has bolted a mastiff-sized fiberglass hotdog to the top of a hearse. The fiberglass hotdog is of quality construction. I’m convinced it is not simply an object procured by chance from some second-hand warehouse. It is shiny and new looking, as if commissioned for this very purpose. Somebody put their best efforts into the fabrication of this hotdog. The hearse, while a dated model, is in excellent condition. During my second sighting I was able to note that the curtains are well maintained, looking crisply starched, creamy white, and pleated. Intrigued, I want to meet these townie hotdog hearse makers. I peer through the windows and see two regular-looking guys minding their own business as they navigate their odd conveyance about town. That I have seen it twice leads me to believe the hotdog hearsies are a local phenom.

I have questions for the people of the hotdog hearse. I wonder whether they inherited the hearse, or did they accidentally come upon the opportunity to purchase the hearse, or did they purposefully seek out a hearse in great condition? I wonder how much the hotdog cost, and whether they worked through local craftspeople. I wonder if the hearse is functional, perhaps a service I might commission in my final will and testament. Maybe the hearse is converted into a kind of hot dog food cart? Then again, this is unlikely, given the condition of the curtains. Perhaps a frozen frank delivery service, then. I dig for answers that would reconcile the reality of townie hotdog hearse.

I wonder if there is an intended a statement through the hotdog hearse. The hotdog symbolizes its own gamut of themes in American culture, from the shady meat packing practices in history, to the happy-go-lucky sentimentality of summer ease and patriotic celebrations. Kid food, ketchup, macaroni, Chicago, ball park, picnic, campfire. Maybe it is commentary on the condition of American culture. It could even be a vegan or health food message juxtaposed atop the association – literally – of death. Though I may not hold certain of these convictions as strongly as those who could hypothetically convey them, I enjoy their method of expression.

I feel a solidarity with hotdog hearse people because I enjoy the weird sense of humor they apparently possess. Impossibly, I sort of feel they have imagined the hotdog hearse just for my benefit. I surprise myself to find that this hotdog hearse gives me a sense of appreciation and ownership for this town.

We once decided to locate to Salem based on a sense for God’s moving us, and of course the proximity to work, but the city held no particular love in me. I regret to admit Salem seemed to connote an underwhelming reputation that I believe is undeserved. Still, and not merely because of the hotdog hearse, I have grown a true affection for our city. Our city is home to many charming and cultural places, and to kind hearted, gifted, and interesting people beyond my counting. Salem is growing and developing in beautiful ways through the imagination and hard work of our locals. Our downtown is developing its own new flavor of day and night life through interesting shops and eateries; numerous landmark natural areas await discovery, aided by improved accessibility; indoor museums and recreation areas for all ages abound in which to weather the rainy winters, and movie theaters, restaurants and breweries of distinct character dot the urban zone. Though I was not born a townie, I suddenly realize that our family has produced two townies of its very own. I react progressively from aghast ludicrousy, to humor, acceptance, and again, affection. Subtly it seems this city and I have become benevolent partners. Salem is become home. What an odd way to discover my town has become home.

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