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The birth and death of a dream

Michael Blasco | Thursday, September 24, 2009

Some men are motivated by money, some by fame, some by faith. My friend Pat is motivated by his desire to conquer all comers in trivial contests of will.

Over the summer, an acquaintance of mine claimed he had eaten a ten-patty bacon cheeseburger with fries from Five Guys. If you haven’t been, imagine the most heart attack-inducing burger you have ever seen with a side order of about three pounds of fried potato.

Pat, the self-appointed master of eating contests, immediately set a date to top the feat, aiming for twelve patties of artery-clogging glory with fries. Pat – the man who had once eaten three entrees and ice cream in one sitting at a restaurant just to spite the waiter – had chosen a new mountaintop.

As the day drew near, Pat had a new spring in his step. He had a goal, a mission, a purpose. I found that his boundless optimism had sucked me in. I was going to see something incredible – the will of one skinny 21-year old against three pounds of burger.

Still, I didn’t know what I would enjoy more – watching him eat the entire burger or watching him vomit $25 worth of fast food.

One chilly Thursday night in September, Pat and a small crowd of onlookers invaded the University Park Mall Five Guys franchise. The teller who took the order couldn’t believe it.

You want how many patties? With bacon? And fries!?

Pat threw himself into his ordeal with a na’ve confidence, a confidence that eroded only minutes into the contest. You could see it in his eyes; his belief that he could overcome anything – his defining characteristic – was crushed under the weight of grease, cheese, and ground beef chuck.

Forty-five minutes after he had begun, Pat’s progress had slowed to a crawl. He had eaten nine of his twelve patties, along with half of the fries. Each bite took minutes to swallow. His eyes had become glazed and bloodshot. His shoulders drooped.

“Guys… I really don’t how much more of this burger I can eat.”

After he said those words, I realized something. I was witnessing the death of a dream – the death of what made Pat who he was. He would never be the same after this day.

He had failed.

Pat walked out of that Five Guys a man beaten down by his own impossible dream, and the world felt a little dimmer to me for it.

A few days later, Pat would learn that the boy who claimed he had eaten ten patties and an order of fries had lied. When I saw Pat that Saturday, I saw that a twinkle had returned to his eye and a grin had returned to his face.

In a week’s time, I witnessed the birth and death of a dream. I witnessed a man crushed and then reborn. And I realized that I depended on Pat’s dreams as much as he did.

Never stop dreaming, Pat.