What does it take to be world famous?


I’m driving along a local route… one of those roads that, while I suppose it qualifies as a main road, you wouldn’t think of using unless you had a need to be there. Basically, when driving it unintentionally, it is exactly the type of road that confirms all fears that you’re lost.

A gas station is located at an intersection, with little else nearby. It’s a minimum of a half-mile in any direction from that intersection to find a store, restaurant, or any other place of business. Half-mile. Minimum. We’re talking houses and lots of trees. Perhaps some livestock. I would not be surprised if most of the residents nearby allow pigs, goats, horses and such inside their homes.

Also at that intersection, across the street from the gas station, is a small piece of open land. And on that land, on this day, is a hot dog cart. It’s a pretty fancy setup. Two or three canopies are in place, along with a couple of tables and chairs. And, leaning off to the side, is a sign:

Try Our World Famous French Fries

And today, those seemingly innocent words have me thinking.

I’ve never heard of these fries. Never knew of them before. Didn’t expect to learn of them now.

I live no more than two miles away from the stand. I pass through that intersection fairly often, and don’t consider myself lost when I am there. Heck… forget the fries… until this very moment, this morning drive in the car, I didn’t even know someone was operating a hot dog stand at the intersection.

So… “World Famous French Fries”… what exactly is the definition we’re applying here?

For me, when you’re claiming to be famous the implication is that someone knows about you plus just a little bit more.

My sister lives in Australia. Based on that alone, I can, quite literally and honestly, make the statement that I am known around the world. Start tossing in the people I know, e-mail, or in some way have contact with, and again… known around the world.

I wouldn’t claim I’m famous.

That famous part adds something a bit special to the declaration… right?

There is a road I have used for well over a decade to get to work. Five days a week… hundreds of time a year… I have driven on this road. Driven past a diner located along it at least two thousand times. (In fact, to work and back home, two trips a day… let’s make it four thousand times.) Never stopped for a meal. Sign out front:

World Famous Pies

One day, while at work, I was having lunch with a good friend that had come down from out of state. And for some amazing reason that I no longer recall, he began talking about the pies at this place. He couldn’t control himself. Soon his description was a muddled mess of whipped cream and oohs and real fruit and aahs and all sorts of inferred bakery delight.

I would contend his opinion provides that bit of special something to the declaration that these pies deserve consideration as world famous.

For the hot dog stand however, I don’t have any such references. (Well… to be fair… not yet. Again… to be fair though… thousands of passes at the sign for pies… spotted the darn cart once.) According to the sign, we’re not talking about the best fries you’ll ever try. We’re talking world famous. If the sign had sign “Best Fries Around”… “Greatest French Fries in New England”… “World’s Best French Fries”… anything like that and I don’t think I’m writing this essay.

But the sign said world famous.

And for some reason I’m significantly more than six hundred words deep on the subject already, and I don’t know why.

Honestly… I do know. Sort of. The hot dog stand is a starting point. Nothing else. If I were running the stand, I’d be looking for an attention getter of some kind. I’d want some bragging rights. “Try Our World Famous French Fries” is probably about as good a slogan as one could make. It calls out to people… in the middle of nowhere… to come over. It’s not really a top-of-the-world claim… it’s more of an invitation. Maybe there are construction workers nearby… perhaps a few people working at home… and it’s time for lunch. And these people are craving something quick and easy and requiring no cooking of their own. But oh my… for shame… there’s nothing close. Except… wait… oh yeah… oh-oh-oh hot and salty yeah…

The World Famous French Fries a block away at the hot dog stand.

Hey… the sign works… this essay is proof of that. I may not have bought any fries from them… I am writing about them. And if I can get my sister and a couple of friends to read this essay, we suddenly have a situation where the little hot dog stand and their fries are in a small way known around the world. Perception becomes the reality.

But what is “World Famous” really? Not that I need an answer, but in a way I’d like to know.

Disneyland is world famous.

The Eiffel Tower is world famous.

Great Wall of China… Sydney Opera House… Statue of Liberty… Stonehenge… world famous… world famous… world famous… world famous.

No arguments there.

Tom Colicchio appears on the successful program Top Chef and is the man behind the Craft brand of restaurants. I think he unquestionably qualifies as world famous, though we’re now slightly into the territory of potential debate since he is not likely as widely recognized as Mickey Mouse.

In My Backpack has, since January of this year, hosted visitors from literally dozens of countries. In my site’s content are interviews with Rick Price (from Australia), Suzie Quatro (for years she has lived in England), and, yup, Tom Colicchio (United States). World Famous? In My Backpack? Probably not.

Or is it?

Because perhaps this is The World Famous In My Backpack web site! (Or maybe it one day will be.) I’ve already said the debate is really about perception.

At the beginning of this essay I described the road… the place where this hot dog stand and its world famous fries are located… as exactly the type of road that confirms all fears that you’re lost. I’ve seen some of the stats for my web site, and I can confirm that judging by the length of stay for several visitors at my site… they arrived here at Backpackville… immediately decided they were in fact lost… and made a quick u-turn back to the world famous internet.

A good friend visits the site often. He refers to it as “the Backpack” and “the ‘ville” and even has me occasionally talking about the site with nicknames. It gets a fair share of chatter and has a bit of a life of its own. And… well… consider…

If you were looking for great fries, this hot dog stand might just be exactly what you were looking for. And… perhaps, just perhaps… this web site is occasionally exactly what someone is looking for as well.

Perception becomes the reality.

World Famous indeed.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com