Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Planned Obsolescence

I understand the manliness inherent in producing a compendium of delicious smoked meats from the depths of your home grill or smoker. It's a long, proud, American tradition only somewhat more important than the National Anthem and only slightly less so than Baseball. In some families no woman dare approach the meat cooker - it's hallowed ground so to speak.

In most families - the man stands around ferociously guarding the grill (the vestigial tail of his wildness) and, regardless of how entirely poor his meat-preparing skills are - he'll maintain them completely unaltered until death.  If you're lucky somebody got hold of him at a young age and taught him how to sear, grill, or smoke properly. If not - you're stuck with him and his rudimentary skills and it ain't going to improve. We're like wolves - better catch us before 12 weeks of age or you'll never get us quite domesticated. In that case, the threat of regression is always eminent. You'll look through the kitchen window around noon on a Saturday and there your man stands - naked, grilling, and holding a crudely sharpened stick.

"Honey! Pants please, and no more stick, ok?"

"Bobby no stick?" he'll reply looking dazed.

That's the norm, but I've approached this situation with a somewhat different perspective.

Instead of stumbling through life fiercely guarding these ancient rituals of manhood; my plan is to carefully train my wife to handle many of these important man-tasks and very gently fade into the comfortable obscurity of my fishing vessel and/or workshop and/or huntcamp. I am planning my own obsolescence. Why wait for nature to do it for you?

One day you're going to come home from the pharmacy, painfully wheeze your way into the house, don your favorite smoking apron and slowly shuffle out the door to the Green Egg. You'll arrive and realize you left the lump charcoal in the house. Back you go.

You're too old and weak to pick up the charcoal and now you can't find your fingers, everything smells like the color brown, your glasses fell off somewhere under the sink and your left shoe is untied. Your wife is still young and healthy because she hasn't spent the last 60 years bent over 10lbs of smoking charcoal, so naturally she's off frolicking at yoga and you're going to have to wait for her to get home to tie your shoe so you don't trip over your gouty toe, fall and break your neck.

You eventually fall asleep leaned up against the fridge with the door open, the meat spoils, you catch pneumonia and you never smoke meat again. It's a sad story and if I've seen it once - I've seen it a thousand times.

Yesterday I got home from work to find the Green Egg puffing away merrily, my various man-sized cooking utensils fanned across the kitchen table, and three racks of baby back ribs thawed, rubbed, and slathered awaiting the grate.

Thanks. I'll take it from here.

Take what from where? You're late and I'm grilling.

"Smoking." It's called "smoking." On a grill: "searing." Peons "grill" - its classless and base. Don't let me catch you talking like that again in this house.

Open the door and hand me my big leather grill gloves.

They're mine.

Open the door.

She pranced gaily outside with 10lbs of pork and began layering it about the grate with precision.

"Here I better do that" I said, loudly, as I began gently easing away from the kitchen.

"That doesn't look right!" I hollered, covering the rusty sqeak of my favorite chair.

"Stay away from my Green Egg" wafted gently in on an applewood-scented breeze. I'm an egghead too and you're not taking credit for my smoke this time!

Nuh uh! You better don't! I am the SmokeMaster around here! I hollered from the den as I gently eased back the lever on my recliner.

Fuel up the boat, Fred: I am officially obsolete.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


There are only a few things worse than realizing you're naked and didn't know it - and of those few things here are a couple I've been contemplating lately:

1. Blood at work. IS THAT BLOOD ON YOUR FACE? Yes. I cut myself shaving and now its bleeding again. I suddenly feel terribly guilty and horrible for having blood of my own, and that you can now see it. Its a tiny shaving nick. That's it. Now, please help me calm myself from the instant shot of horror I felt when I saw your face contort into a mindless, wordless, soundless, scream of terror at the tiny speck of blood on my cheek. Based on your reaction I could easily have had a severed ear flapping down by my neck on a few white strands of ligament.

What is it about a tiny bit of blood that puts people off so badly? I don't get it. You're basically a big, soft sack of meat and goo stuck on a bone frame - life ain't perfect and one way or another - eventually all that goo is coming out. Think on that for a minute.

2.  Death. Nobody knows what happens, exactly. Sure, there is lots of speculation about it and after all the speculation - still nobody knows. Does it hurt? I think its likely. Even something as simple as satching a tooth out feels really weird and kind of hurts - I imagine having your soul jerked clean out of your body probably does too - and it really sucks that the last thing that happens to you is probably going to hurt. I'm already not looking forward to it.

Even if you have a fairly clean massive heart attack and all the goo inside you doesn't just explode out into the open from some kind of terrible disease - what's that feel like? "An elephant sitting on your chest." Awesome. Sign me up for the goo explosion instead - at least I get to ride out and leave a giant mess for somebody else (one of my favorite things).

3. Accidentally drinking orange juice too soon after brushing your teeth. Hey how about this, Colgate: take whatever it is in toothpaste that's ruining my life OUT of the toothpaste! How many hundred years do we have to put up with it?

4. Cutting up the roof of your mouth on a big chunk of too-crusty toast. BAH! I'm pretty sure that's what death feels like after the elephant-on-the-chest part.

Anyway, I'm contemplating all that so you don't have to - just try not to think about it.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012


I am not one to stand in the way of progress. I’ve embraced automation, technology, the internet – anything high-tech and useful in nearly any form.  My otherwise old-fashioned razor even comes with a battery now.

Quite a bit has changed. We put headphones in our ears to go for a run, we never turn off the telephone - I even have a buddy who wears a radio helmet deer hunting so he can listen to UGA games.  Sometimes all the technology can be isolating - I have hardly even shopped in a brick-and-mortar store since the internet (that’s “Innerwebs” or “Entrynets” to my rural family) became viable. 

I’ll admit. All the technology was nice, but somewhere along the road I started to lose touch with humanity. Yesterday I went to the DOT for a trailer tag and I am happy to report: I am back in touch.

If you’re anything like me, a trip to the DOT fills you with foreboding. You don’t know what’s going to happen – but you can be sure it won’t be good.

What always amazes me is the sheer volume of open combat that takes place right there in the waiting room. Yesterday I walked in to find a young man standing at the customer service window balancing a baby on his left hip, wife to  his right (great with child) and a pile of various completely useless government forms fairly spilling out of his significantly bagged-and-sagged jeans.

I could tell by his posture and the whites of his wife’s eyes that all parties were dealing with a flight-or-fight response before I even made it through the cold glass doors and into the frosty environment of the waiting room.

Customer Service (clearly enunciating): Sir, do you owe money on the vehicle?

Man: Yes. No. Yes. I owe my Uncle $500, but he give me this here tag for free.

Customer Service: Is your Uncle the primary lienholder?

Man: I owe my Uncle $500 and he give me this car.

Customer Service: Is your Uncle the primary lienholder?

Man: My Uncle - he give me this car. I pay him some money. Later I pay him some more.

Customer Service: Who is the Primary Lienholder on your vehicle?

Man: I don’t know nothing about nobody “lean”.

Customer Service: Do you owe your Uncle money on this car?

Man: No. Except for the $500 that I owe him.

Customer Service: Where is the title?

Man: I dunno about no title. All I got is the car. Ain’t that enough?

Customer Service: Well, without the title the car can’t be proven to be your car and it belongs to whoever has the title.

Man (louder): Well whoever he is you tell him I’d like to see him try and take it.

Customer Service: No need to shout sir. You’re going to need the title.

Man (patiently): I don’t need no title and I already got the car – all I want is the little sticker that say “you ain’t got to pull me over Mr. Police Officer.”

Customer Service: If you have your Uncle send you the title we’ll convert it to a Georgia title from a Florida title (AH HA! Floridians!) and then send it back to him and he can give it to you and you can put it in your name when you are finished paying for it.

Man: If you give me that sticker I’ll do all that soon as I get home.

Customer Service: I’m sorry I can’t do that. Have your Uncle sign over the Title and bring it in.

Man (blank stare): My Uncle ain’t gon’ sign me over no title until he gets his money I can tell you that fo’ sho’ because he done took it back twice already because we late on the payments. He’s a dealer.

Customer Service: Either that, or have the Primary Lienholder sign the title over to you.

Man: I done told you: I ain’t know no lienholler all I got is a Uncle and a beater car with no muffler.

I eased on around the corner and took a number to watch the drama play out, but was disappointed to see the man, his wife and the young child turn and shuffle out. It’s a shame because both parties were talking to each other with such (relatively) clear enunciation (like they were talking to a baby) that I could hear the whole thing perfectly. Normally you have to kind of sidle up to someone in that situation to hear the whole hissed exchanged through the DOT service window and that can get terribly inconvenient.

I sat for a bit with an eye on the door. I don’t know what it is about government buildings, but for some reason every single person you see walking into one has something pretty bad wrong with them. The first 5 people (no lie) to walk in after I sat down all had something wrong with a leg:

1.       White male, 50s: No left leg, prosthesis.

2.       Black female, 20’s: Crutches

3.       White female, 50’s: Pronounced limp

4.       White male, 30’s: Less pronounced limp

5.       White female 60’s: Wrapped ankle

It went downhill from there. The next one had a cast on his right arm, the 9th had those really dark eye-doctor glasses on and kept sniffling, the 12 and 13th were both fantastically pregnant, and the 14th was so old I can absolutely not imagine how she managed to get to the DOT. The 16th was preceded by her husband in a wheelchair who looked to be roughly 92, mostly blind, certainly incapacitated, and only slightly happier about the wheelchair than his wife; who proceeded to snatch him around and act absolutely furious with the wheelchair for the next 20 minutes.

I guess maybe it was his fault about the wheelchair and she hasn’t forgiven him for it yet. Seems a touch unfair, but hey – they gave him his driver’s license a lot faster than I got my tag, so maybe it was just a prop.

Anyhow, it was worth the trip.