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Paradise Found

Jay Fitzpatrick | Thursday, September 18, 2008

Have you ever wanted something you couldn’t have? Something that just teased you from afar, seeming within your grasp but in reality remains just out of reach? Something that you desperately want but feel you will never get?

I had that feeling once. But, by the grace of God, I fulfilled my primal craving. I ended a four year urge.

I ate at White Castle.

Ever since the epic, groundbreaking film “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle” premiered in 2004 I have wanted a small, square, greasy, oniony burger. This yearning intensified with each viewing until it finally faded into despair. I submitted that I was never getting that sweet nectar of New Jersey, the slider.

And then it happened.

For a job interview I recently had to travel to Merrillville, Ind., a small-ish city south of Gary. On my return, I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, a vaguely familiar fast-food sign. A second glance and I knew that my pursuit was almost complete: I had found a real-life, actual-factual White Castle.

When I walked into the restaurant, I knew immediately what I needed to order. Nothing fancy, no A-1 sauce or jalapeno cheese. Just the good-old-fashioned No. 1: Four Sliders, one medium order of fries and one diet Coke.

I got the order “for here,” because I knew I could not focus on driving while undergoing such a rapturous experience as this. And it truly was.

Most of the time things can’t live up to the hype. “The Phantom Menace” could never compete with the original “Star Wars” trilogy in originality or creativity. Throw in 15 years of build-up and it never stood a chance. But White Castle transcends such earthly problems, maintaining its perfect meat-onion-grease-patty ration on every burger.

I loved it as much as Brett Favre loves football, and as Ryan McFarlane of Sorin College can attest, no one loves anything as much as Brett Favre loves football.

I sat with my order, untainted by condiments, so I could fully appreciate how delicious the natural flavorings of the food was, and came to a fuller appreciation of the film that started my yen for this sweet ambrosia.

Harold and Kumar did not embark on their sacred quest simply because they were stoned. Nor was the restaurant a mere jumping off point to begin their picaresque misadventure.

No, those tiny, greasy hamburgers change you, and only for the better.

Think of the movie: What immediately follows their feast? Kumar grows up and Harold grows a pair.

And so, too, I now feel changed. I’m not sure how yet in any tangible sense; perhaps it is the extra cholesterol in my arteries from those four burgers.

But nevertheless, White Castle has taught me a very important lesson: don’t give up on your dreams, because you never know when they might come true. Mine certainly did.