Sitting over a bowl of Sugar Smacks the other morning - contemplating nothing in particular - it dawned on me that I'd kicked swearing.
Cold turkey.No Swearer's Anonymous for this kid. No secret two-week stay in a rehab center run by reformed Marine drill sergeants.
Actually, it's just that I haven't been out to play golf recently. Or had any reason to crawl under the old Chevy and mash a few knuckles to the point they look like they've been dragged across four miles of cinder block.
Then I ran across this great little paperback at the corner bookstore the other day: "Ten Ways to a Bluer Vocabulary."
Right there, listed under No. 3, was: HOLD A COOKOUT. (The listings immediately preceding it were: 1. GOLFING; 2. CRAWLING UNDER CHEVYS.)
So inspired, I thought maybe I'd pick up a bag of compressed carbon dust this weekend, round up the family, and brush up on my "expletive deleteds" while brushing my spareribs.
I would have bought that expensive Sure-Start stuff, except everybody knows it's dipped in the same flame-retardant they use for baby clothes.
Not a year goes by that I don't threaten to toss an extra chunk of meat on the fire and invite Isaac Asimov over and watch him squirm as he tries to explain how a bolt of lightning can torch a rain-soaked forest, but a box of Ohio Blue Tips and two gallons of lighter fluid won't start a lousy pile of compressed carbon dust.
Maybe some enterprising entrepreneur will introduce compressed carbon dust with itty-bitty lightning rods inside. They'll call it: Match Lightning.
Or perhaps the answer is to only barbecue during electrical storms. Old Ben Franklin might have had a couple of shrimp sizzling on the barbie the day he took up flying kites.
All I know is that when a person catches on fire, they're supposed to spread out some briquets and roll in them.
When I want to get a cookout going, I'll just have a tanker truck dispatched to my house and have a couple hundred gallons of lighter fluid pumped into my hibachi.
If I'm in a real hurry, I'll give the boys at Hill Field a jingle and order a load of napalm.
I suppose I could break down and buy one of those propane gas jobs with the lava rock. They're supposed to be easy lighting and a lot cleaner to operate. Of course, any guy who barbecues on a gas grill probably wears Gucci shoes, listens to New Age music on a Discman and spritzes the flames with Perrier. Oh yeah, and they also say "excuse me" when they belch.
Call me old fashioned, but I like to belch and leave it at that. Besides, I enjoy the challenge of cooking on a grill where temperatures range from those inside a blast furnace to what you'd find on the backside of Pluto.
What better way to stand by and helplessly watch as half of your prime cut is charred to the point that dental records are needed to identify it? Meanwhile, the other half is still oozing its bodily fluids.
And then there's pork chops, which you're supposed to cook until they're the texture of shoe leather so that green hairy microbes won't make you stomach think it's vacationing in Tijuana. Except pork chops always cook like they've been fitted with a heat shield made out of some sort of superadvanced poly-something. Somebody should suggest to the government - in quadruplicate - that the next time one of those heat tile jobbers falls off the space shuttle they just replace it with a pork chop.
Outside of that, I don't worry about burning the meat. I figure that's why barbecue sauce was invented.
You can hide a lot of mistakes with barbecue sauce.
Spread it about 2 inches thick and make sure you get a gob under your fingernails.
Another favorite trick barbecue veterans like to use is cooking past sundown.
You can hide a lot of mistakes with darkness - ask any expensive restaurant. Having a cookout doesn't necessarily mean you have to singe expensive meat, though.
I've found you can singe inexpensive meat just as easily.
Hamburgers and hot dogs lend themselves especially well.
You can hide a lot of mistakes with the (expletive deleted) bun.