“The Shortest Distance Between Two Points is Often Unbearable”

Milestones 

I looked at the temperature gauge quizzically. How was smoke pouring out of the smoker but not able to get to that 185-190 degree Fahrenheit temperature that I like to smoke at? A couple of troubleshoot activities I ran through. It wasn’t my smoker and I had only used it once before. So I rechecked all my connections. The smoker box wasn’t totally attached to the cabinet. So I made sure to reattach it and waited. For a moment it seemed my problem had resolved itself. The smoker temperature was climbing. Yet I was only able to get it to around 115 degrees. This would be a problem because I was smoking Boston Butts and needed them to reach 175 to 180 degrees. I knew I was going to have to enlist my back up plan and throw them on the grill and smoke them that way. So I pulled out the grill, quickly washed the grates, replaced them, opened the hood, cut on the gas and went to fire this sucker up. Click. Click. Click. Great. Some asshole (me) forgot to replace the gas when he used it up last. 18 hours until my daughter’s first birthday and birthday party and things weren’t going well.


My wife and I had decided that we should throw a party for my daughter’s first birthday. We had kicked around a couple of ideas and finally settled on having it at the Oyster Catcher Community Center on Seabrook. The rate to rent it was fairly low, and I figured I’d make all the food for the event so we wouldn’t have to pay to have it catered. On top of that, if the weather was nice there was a swimming pool and the beach was a boardwalk away. So we made a guest list and it got a little out of hand and so I made the trip to Costco to get supplies.

Luckily I had a backup gas canister. I mean, letting one go empty is not the end of the world when you’ve got yourself a backup. Click. Click. Shit. Some asshole (me) had also used up that canister without getting it refilled. So I jumped into my truck, gassed it out the driveway, and probably scared my neighbors in the process. I run to the closest filling station and trade out my empties. No problem. I’ve scheduled some time into food preparation for these types of crises, I just have to be diligent about my time use from now on. I take the wood pellets I was going to use in the smoker and stack them up in a foil packet and place them on one of the burners and get them going. I trick the grill into holding a little over 200 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a little hotter than I’d like but it will do. I walk in the house to prepare the sides. We’ve decided to have potato salad with the Barbeque (Barbeque is a proper noun) sandwiches I’m currently smoking the meat for. I course cut a large bowl of red potatoes and throw them in a large bowl. I fill a pot with water, put it on my stove top and…. Click. Click. Click. Oh come the fuck on. How did the large tank in front of the house run out of gas? This time it was not my fault, rather the company that services our house’s tank. Luckily, the stove was electric. It looks like it’s going to be a roasted potato salad.

Despite everything going wrong that could go wrong, the wife and I were able to jointly get a meal out for the 60 expected people that had RSVP’d “Yes” to our daughter’s birthday party. The party would go off without any major incidents or meltdowns. My Inlaws, my parents, my wife, and my 3 sisters along with myself all seemed to enjoy ourselves and didn’t even bicker at our normal level. It probably helped that there was a lot of children, ages 5 and under, at the party. By the time it was over I was sending plates and containers full of Barbeque with folks. Only about half of those who RSVP’d “Yes” actually attended.  


It was a very nice day and I was full of pork but I had to come to the realization that my baby was now a year old. She had spoken her first word a few days earlier (despite my best efforts to get her to say “Tar Heels” it came out “dad”) and would be walking in the week following the party. And I get it, as a parent you want your child to develop, learn, and share with you, but selfishly part of you wishes that they would always fit on one arm or snuggle up under your chin when they sleep. And while I would hardly call the process “unbearable” as my Bukowski inspired title would suggest to you, I do write this with tears in my eyes. Both happy and sad for my little baby.

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Pink and Blue / True Gold / Nine Days Old:

Episode 11
Alright this episode isn’t for the faint of heart. I’m going to give my opinions on some matters which South Carolinians may take offense, and as history teaches us, there’s no one more dangerous than South Carolinians when they feel slighted (just ask Charles Sumner).

Charleston is the greatest city in the Carolinas. North Carolina is the better of the Carolinas. Carolina is better than S. Car (or whatever that school in Columbia is legally allowed to call itself now). Lexington Barbeque is the best Barbeque in the world. And while the state of South Carolina focuses their passion for athletics into football programs that have one National Championship, the state of North Carolina focuses its passion towards highly successful basketball programs. It is this basketball focus that has stuck with me throughout my adult years, always watching football with a passing interest, but often spending more time focusing on my beloved UNC Tar Heel basketball program.  

Regulars coming into my bar have nicknamed me a variety of things, but most of them have come up with the nicknames “Big Mike” or “Carolina Mike” on their own. Both nicknames are easy to come by. I’m a large guy, which explains “Big Mike” and 9 out of 10 shifts you can find me wearing a UNC ball cap.  

Growing up I would sneak my radio under my pillow in bed and listen to all the late night basketball games. My mom, also an avid basketball fan, would let me watch the early games on TV. She’s such a big fan she loaded up all the kids at home (my oldest sister was studying at UNC at the time) and drove us to Chapel Hill to celebrate the ’93 NCAA Championship (I still own the t-shirt I bought from the bookstore). The only time I’ve ever cheered against UNC is when I was at CofC in the nineties and attended the Diet Pepsi Tournament where CofC played UNC (A game the Cougars won).

So it’s with this love of North Carolina that I wear plenty of Carolina Blue clothing. It’s my favorite color. And being much larger than my daughter (remember the whole “Big Mike” thing) I get to pick out what she wears. This means plenty of superhero, punk rock, and UNC onesies. Her wearing these onesies she often gets called a he.  

Working at the Upper Deck, and as a bartender elsewhere, I’ve been around many different types of people in my life. The Upper Deck has always had a policy that anyone who isn’t an asshole is welcome. The bar I worked at in Memphis, The Cove, had the same policy.  

My daughter being called my son doesn’t bother me. I do find it odd that strangers would call a child her size either a boy or girl. Here’s the thing. Don’t assume. While it doesn’t bother me that someone gets my child’s sex wrong, the mentality of having to label gender does bother me. Just don’t be an asshole. Or I won’t give you drinks.

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