Standing on the deck of a Brooklyn apartment owned by the bass player of a very famous musician—think Hibbing, Minnesota—with two young musician types (not the kind of guys who had spent a lot of time hovering over a grill) I imparted some grill advice on the troubadours: “The key to bbqing,” I stated as I took another pull of my Brooklyn lager, “is to not care too much if the hotdogs* are over done.”
Now I know this isn’t the advice of a grill master, someone who has plates of meat stacked high on the fold-up wood-slated table on the side of the grill, kebabs lathered in special seasoning all morning waiting on the island in the kitchen, and an arsenal of metal grilling tools with wooden handles and leather straps to hang properly in their place when not slinging meat. Still, these guys appreciated the advice, and after calling Liz out to show us how to start the grill, all ten of the packaged dogs were placed on the grill top and left there to cook in peace, without some self-ordained grill-god hovering over them, calling out every few minutes, “The dogs are almost perfect” and “Who’s gonna be ready for one of my famous Juicy Lucys*?”
The thing about a guy like this is he can never relax at an outdoor gathering where a grill is present (and most likely other places as well). Upon seeing the outdoor stove, his machismo flares up as though the grill pinched his girlfriend’s tush, drank all his beer, winked at him and, with a head nod, said, “Hey boss,” like the offenses hadn’t occurred, or, if they did, what was “boss” going to do about it anyway. These are the guys who take gatherings like these as opportunities to spout off all the useless information—or information to which they believe they are the only ones privy—that their girlfriends have gotten sick of hearing at home and pretty much tune them out so successfully that the guy stops spouting off at home. So, a bbq is his time to once again get behind his pulpit (the grill): “People think the Yankees just go out and buy their team, but the Yankees actually have a good farm system…” “I used to have one of these electric grills, but f that, charcoal, baby, that’s the only way to go.” “No, no, the greatest movie of all time, that would be Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Hands down.” These guys will forever judge you if you prefer to just sit at a bbq and enjoy the company of those around you. That’s what pussies do.
But that’s what events like these should be about. And that is why I imparted the well-done sagacity on these distressed would-be hot dog cooks.
I realized shortly there after that this advice is not only pertinent at the coal-driven events that pepper the summer months, but in all avenues of life. Obviously the statement needs to be tweaked a bit, but the sentiment remains true: the key to pleasure is accepting less-important things may be less than perfect if it means giving your attention more fully to the things that really matter. I would much rather spend my afternoon talking with friends and loved ones than making sure a burger is exactly medium (or a veggie burger is not too crisp along the edges). I prefer to hear the inspiring story of a woman I just met who is about to publish her first novel, which she wrote right after having her first daughter (It was the year of a million divorces, her and her husband agree with a laugh), than being chained to a piece of metal with another blow-hard comparing notes on the most appropriate positions on the grill to move the brat as it cooks—to, you know, keep all the juices in, but still cook it all the way. And in life I prefer the interesting people to those who expound on subjects they should accept they don’t know anything about. Are you really sure that’s how much sled dogs eat over the course of the Iditarod? Have you ever seen a sled dog?
All I’m saying is this: we have limited time. And we have an even smaller amount of time when it comes to events where people we like and love gather together in one place. We don’t have that many 4th of Julys left. When you get the chance to sit with all these people, enjoy them. You'll enjoy throwing the Frisbee with your friends so much that you'll forget about the grill for a while. You’ll be so fascinated by your cousin’s story of visiting Tibet that you won’t even notice that the hot dog is a bit on the well-done side. Everything will taste good, including life.
* These guys happened to be cooking hotdogs, but the advice holds true for any bbq-able items: burgers, brats, portabella mushrooms, et al.
* If you ever find yourself at a bbq where a deranged lunatic claims he can make a Juicy Lucy, politely decline—this will not be easy; he will try to force it on you—ask for a regular burger and move away from the grill. This “Juicy Lucy” will be nothing more than three pieces of cheddar rolled into a ball and shoved in between two patties, and you’ll end up scalding your face when, after two bites sans cheese, you reach the molten center and pull off a mouth full of cheddar with specs of burger clinging to it.
When You Get Bored Here, Go Here:
- David Luke Doody
- David Luke Doody is a freelance writer and editor. He is a founding editor of InDigest Magazine (www.indigestmag.com), an online literary magazine and the blog editor for Guernica Magazine (www.guernicamag.com). His writing and interviews have appeared in those magazines as well as in The Huffington Post, mnartists.org, The Minnesota Twins Yearbook, and Intentionally Urban Magazine, among others.
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