Best of Charm City

Big John looks forward to the Baltimore Chili Cook-off every year. Held on the infield of Pimlico race track, thousands of music and chili fans gather for a day of food, fun and festivities. Charity groups sponsor tents around the perimeter of one end, serving their version of the Best Charm City Chili. Big John visits them all.

John is big. Six feet eight inches big. He works constructing concrete foundations, so either breaking apart existing slabs with a jarring jack-hammer or hauling loads of wet mud to pour into rebar frames. His upper body is massive, his legs busting against super-sized jeans. He’s an intimidating looking guy, but his friends know him for his quick laugh, helping hands and generous heart.

“How many more tents we got left?” his friend, Joe, asked, a beer in one hand and chili dog in another. They had made it around much of the food area by five o’clock, no-name bands playing at the far end of the field. The headliners were set to start at six.

“Looks like two more after this one.” From his higher vantage point, Big John scanned down the line of tents, over the heads of hundreds of partiers. “The next one’s got Chili-Tots. Love that stuff.”

Big John cut his way through the crowd with Joe in his wake. The wait for Tots wasn’t too long. Joe started to sweat. He had been feeling the heat all day. Sun and spicy food will do that to a guy. But he was now suddenly sweating from head to toe, stomach pains making his core cramp, his arms tingle and his head drop.

“John, Christ, I’m not feeling great,” Joe put a hand on John’s log of a forearm. Big John looked down and saw his buddy’s greening face. “I gotta get to a crapper, like now.”
Big John scanned the landscape, spotting the Port-a-Potty setup to their right. “Common, man, let’s get you to it.” He put Joe in front of him, and they broke through the crowd to the rest area. An extensive line snaked to the entry, too long, Big John knew, for a happy ending.

For speed and dramatic effect, he picked Joe up, carrying him like a big baby. “OK people, I know you’ve got your needs but my bud here is having a bad hot dog type emergency. Can you give us a break?” He implored to the first few people at the front.

The people parted, Joe was delivered to the first vacant plastic stall, and Big John stood guard. Joe eventually exited, color back in his face.

“All end ok, man?” Big John cracked with a chuckle.

“Yeah, that was rough. But I’m good to go,” Joe replied with thumbs up as they made their way back to the main activity.

“Chili Peppers are up in forty. Wanna head to the mosh pit?” Joe asked.

“Hell no. We still have to grab some Chili Taters.” Big John led the way.

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