This past Saturday, Homeslice Pizza (Austin’s best pizzeria) threw a carnival to celebrate its third anniversary. One of the many contests was an eating contest, which I had been looking forward to for days.
Unfortunately, I had gone out drinking the night before with my friend Dan’s band, who was playing a couple gigs in Austin and crashing at our place. They had been underpaid by the bar but were compensated with an open bar tab for the rest of the night, a windfall they shared with me. While we certainly had a lot of fun (we ate late night drunk food at a table next to RZA), my head was a little cloudy the next day and I regrettably ate breakfast tacos, torpedoing my chances at the pizza-eating contest.
My performance in the box-folding contest was forgettable; I was knocked out in the first heat. But as I was walking away the MC told me about the Hands On An Eggplant Sub contest, which I spontaneously decided to enter. The rules, adapted from the famous Hands On A Hardbody contest/documentary, were pretty simple.
1. Contestants must place a hand on the eggplant sub.
2. The contestant whose hand lasts the longest wins.
3. No sitting.
4. No booze or smoking.
5. No foul play.
6. Contestants get a ten minute bathroom break every ten hours.
7. No soiling oneself.
The winner got a free large pizza with unlimited toppings every time (s)he walks through the door for a year. A YEAR!
Last year’s contest went 31 hours and involved lots of drinking, rowdiness, foul play and self-soiling, and the winner only got a Wii.
There were quite a few folks interested who I tried to dissuade by loudly joking about my unemployment as both a financial motivator and lack of obligations. Three others entered undeterred.
The only other guy was a high school kid who quit after an hour or two. The next to fall was a gal whose boyfriend had been beaten in the eating contest, taking the wind out of her sails. It came down to me and Sonia.
Unfortunately, Sonia seemed ready to rock. She had quite a network of friends and family who came by throughout the day to bring her tacos, blankets and warm wishes. Her boyfriend tried to bribe me $100 to give up so they could have dinner together. She’s a student and had her next class on Tuesday morning, which was a long way from Saturday afternoon.
The afternoon was actually pretty fun. People were really friendly. They were amused by our predicament, jealous of the potential prize, shocked by the infrequency of bathroom breaks and generally encouraging overall. Sonia and I set up a tip jar (proceeds going to the loser) that was well received, and things were going pretty well.
When the sun went down, things changed. A cold front had blown in a a day or two before, and the low that night was in the 30’s. Sonia and I shivered as we dug our fingers into the gooey sub to shield them from the wind. The carnival ended and people went home, leaving Sonia and I to hang out with the cold folks waiting for a table and our friends who dropped by periodically.
My feet were sore and I had to pee, and the midnight bathroom break seemed pretty far off. I wasn’t real excited about the prospect of spending the next 30-60 hours standing outside Homeslice with my hands in an eggplant sub while standing in my sleeping bag. Sonia seemed pretty unfazed.
At around 9pm, about seven hours after we started, Sonia needed to readjust her blankets again. In an infamous blip of consciousness, she took her hand off the sub to help her other hand and suddenly cried out once she realized what she had done.
I couldn’t believe my eyes, and literally stared at her for like 15 seconds while my mind processed what had happened. I had won! I started jumping up and down and screaming, spiking my hat on the ground like a football in the endzone.
When you’re entire reality for hours and hours and hours is “keep your hand on an eggplant sub”, the thought of taking your hand off doesn’t come naturally. I kept my hand firmly planted in the sub until a judge came out (with a beer for each of us) and ruled it official. I WON!!!!!!
Luckily some of my friends were there to witness it, and we decided to celebrate with pizza on me and beer on them, a formula I plan to repeat frequently over the next 362 days.
Erin wasn’t real thrilled with any part of the situation (my decision to surprise her after she got off work was a tactical mistake) or the fact that the agreed-upon three musicians crashing with us had doubled, but her mood brightened considerably when she got my hysterical call that I had won. She enjoyed the first of many pizzas on me, and we realized that for the next year we will never have one of those nights where we’re too lazy to cook/clean.
Afterwards I walked down to 6th street, hoping to catch the last bit of the band’s set. I found them on a street corner and walked up to them with my arms outstretched in victory. When they saw me we all started screaming and jumping and celebrating. My voice is still a little hoarse.
It’s been a couple of days now, and I’m still blown away. Large pizzas with lots of toppings cost about $30, if I eat three a week (I’m trying to pace myself) than I’ll eat $4500 worth of pizza in a year. That’s a lot of money/pizza, especially for someone who’s unemployed and lives two blocks away.
I took home the four-foot-long sub as proof of my glory, and have been trying to figure out a way to preserve, bronze or mount it. My posting on Craigslist has introduced me to a fascinating array of artists, taxidermists and food scientists.
To anyone who’s been considering a visit to Austin, pizza’s on me. The road has returned to its providing ways.