On July 4th, 2016 on stage at the Nathan's Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest's 100th anniversary, I achieved enlightenment by eating the singular perfect garlicky natural-casing wiener nestled in a spongy bun. This Holy Grail of hot dogs was a century in the making and the totem that tore a rip in the time/space continuum and opened my gateway to Nirvana. Around me my fellow Major League Eaters ate astronomical amounts of HDBs (hot dogs and buns) in ten minutes, pushing the physiological limits of human consumption while I ate but one. That one, however, turned my stomach into a flux capacitor and allowed my enteric brain (neurons that governs the function of the gastrointestinal system - the cerebral gut) to journey to a mystical destination: Nirvana. I am one with everything and used no condiments. On the back of each eaters' jersey is their personal best in HDBs but my jersey's number reformed into the infinity symbol. As an added bonus to achieving enlightenment, unlike previous July 4th contests, I still have room for apple pie. I've been a Major League Eater for fifteen years and unbeknownst to the ranked eat-letes and voracious fans of the pro-eating circuit, I have been preparing for this journey throughout my speed-eating career. In secret, I have spent time in each city that I travel to for consumption contests studying with shamans, spiritual guides, Zen masters, Butoh instructors, yogis, and once at a Hooters Chicken Wing Eating contest I had an ill-advised meeting with a Santeria consultant (we had differing opinions on what to do with poultry.) A brief history of my stomach can be gleaned through the hundreds of MLE contests I have participated in - I've competitively eaten from A (Asparagus - 4 pounds in ten minutes) to W (Watermelon 3 whole, six minutes). Sadly Xiaolongbao, Yogurt and Zucchini have yet to be sanctioned.
A brief history of humans' attempts to either time travel or achieve enlightenment is still too long for this Huffington Post blog, but let me mention a few highlights:
In Christianity, many believe "Revelation" is an allegory of the spiritual path and the ongoing struggle between good and evil. Today MLE's George Shea, signature hawker boater hat upon head preached 20 feet in the air on a riser above 35,000 fans at Stillwell and Surf Avenue at Coney Island and screamed, "They say that competitive eating is the battleground upon which God and Lucifer wage war for men's souls and they are right."
In mysticism, eschatology refers metaphorically to the end of ordinary reality and reunion with the Divine. Again, I quote George Shea introducing me:
"He was first seen standing at edge the shore between the ancient marks of the high and low tide, a place that is neither land nor sea. And as the blue light of morning filtered through the blackness it revealed a man who hails from the far corners of the globe where the dark arts are still practiced. This is a man who has been to the beyond, he was buried alive under 60 cubic feet of popcorn he fought his way out for survival, he is known as David Blaine of the Bowel, The Evil Knievel of the Alimentary Canal, the Houdini of Cusini...Crazy Legs Conti"
Last week, my food stuntman abilities were tested as I climbed atop a Wonder Wheel car and ate 12 Nathan's HDBs while it revolved. I cheated death by not falling and also avoided getting squashed or knocked off by the swinging cars. I survived the stunt and gained a new respect for Coney Island and the thrills it gives and provides (video here) Unlike Icarus on wax wings, my SkySuit got me to terra firma with only some hot dog detritus and Tang stains (Tang was good enough for space so it's good enough for bun-dunking in the clouds.) The view was incredible, the ride exhilarating and life-affirming and the 13th dog eaten safety on the ground and a few beers at Ruby's on the Boardwalk delicious. However, I knew I had one shot at elusive enlightenment and it would involve a "Altered States" meets "Back to the Future" effort -
Step 1. locate the perfect hot dog in 2016, on stage at July 4th while celebrating the birthright of America through competitive eating.
Step 2. Morph into that hot dog and travel back via the cerebrum of the gut, my enteric brain to 1916 when Ida and Nathan Handwerker created the first Nathan's (not yet famous) hot dog that lead to the juggernaut that is the Major League Eating hot dog contest. Sort of Kafka's "Metamorphosis" but with less buzzing around and more sizzling and grease.
Step 3. Quickly ingest the perfect dog at the buzzer of the contest, in essence, eating myself from the past and achieving in the present, in the words of philosopher Karl Spackler, "total consciousness. Which is nice."
Some of my preliminary research lead me to Albert Einstein, who perhaps after a large lunch, posited that if space-time is sufficiently twisted, a time traveler can, while traveling toward the future all the time, circle back and visit an event in his own past. I wasn't around 100 years ago so I had to abandon Einstein. Theoretical physicists Kip Thorne and Sung-Won Kim identified a universal physical mechanism (the explosive growth of vacuum polarization of quantum fields), that may always prevent spacetime from developing closed timelike curves. I understand about .33% of what they discovered but thought I had found the answer by cribbing their studies of the existence of "wormholes" and could synchronize the consumption of myself (transformed into a once-in-a-century HDB) that would rip open "the wiener hole" in the space/time continuum. I worried that the scientific community might not take my ripped wiener hole theory seriously so I had to look much further back in history to Aristotle, who wrote: "What is eternal is circular and what is circular is eternal." I used this as my mantra and my guide. Granted a hot dog is more of an oblong, but I believe the concept holds.
As it happened at the buzzer of this years' contest, my journey was two-fold (similar to the pro-eating technique separating the dog from the bun manually while orally reuniting them in the mouth for their journey to the stomach) - I travelled back and forward in time the same moment, I closed my eyes and transformed as the last century of frankfurter chomping ended and the next began. It was glorious; almost indescribable but I will try to give you a view into the beyond. My stomach expanded as if all the Macy's July 4th Fireworks went off at once while Katy Perry (also in my stomach) sang, "Firework." My enteric brain became a Möbius strip assembly line of hot dogs. I entered an M. C. Escher drawing and left though an Alejandro Jodorowsky film. Every meal I ever ate flashed on the inside of my closed eyelids and then I felt a warmth, like a hug from humanity and I opened my eyes to the new world before me.
The Bunette behind me quizzically turned her flip card to "1." On my left a Nathan's rep, holding four plates, looked dejectedly at the 20 uneaten HDBs. On my right, in the maelstrom of meat, the bejeweled yellow mustard belt held aloft, dazzled in the sun. The American flag was shoulder-wrapped around the victor; The confetti guns fired. Some will question my dedication to competitive eating - - if I've tanked my Major League Eating ranking by consuming just one hot dog and bun while the elite eaters around me consumed record number HDBs at the 100th running of the dogs. Naysayers and internet haters may doubt if I truly went to the beyond and back. Religious scholars, luminous academics, hard-wired scientists may doubt my arrival at Nirvana coupled with time travel achieved by eating a hot dog, but I feel beatific - It's July 4th and I've just eaten the American Dream. My stomach may be untraditionally unfilled but my mind is satiated and most importantly, my soul, like a belch, emanates from deep within and dissipates in the Coney Island air, heading upwards to the ether and back to the beyond.
Crazy Legs Conti can be found in person at the official hot dog afterparty at Professor Thom's tonight at 7:33 pm (password "Swordfish") and on the internet at www.crazylegsconti.com