“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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“Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.”

Introspective thoughts late at night after too much coffee.

I was recently speaking with a friend about our fathers. Like most conversations worth a damn, it was early in the morning and fueled by a couple pints of beer. My friend brought up a really solid point about my father that I’ve been thinking about ever since.

During the course of our conversation I mentioned how when growing up we had a lot of books in our house. We had multiple built in book shelves, and the room I slept in we had 3 more large free standing bookshelves. My parents also took us quite often to the library and let us check out stacks of books. I’m pretty sure my parents were aware that I was sneaking in extra reading under my covers at night growing up. I also mentioned that my parents had saved a few of their college text books which came in handy for school projects growing up. I always thought that was a great resource and had saved quite a number of my books from college for the same reason. My friend then asked me what my father read.

It took me a minute to think about the question. I have very vivid memories of reading as a child with him. One of my most clear memories from growing up is reading “The Swiss Family Robinson” with him. But reading for himself? The only publications I could remember him reading were ENR (Engineering News Record, a trade magazine that my sisters and I had zero interest in), the newspaper, and college textbooks. I went on to tell my friend that both of my parents took classes at the local community college throughout my years growing up. I can to this day remember my mother bringing me into her computer labs while she learned auto cad and my father studying Spanish at the dining room table.

 

my father, my little sister, and me around 1986

 
My friend was quiet for a moment and then said something I had never thought of. He said “wow that’s really cool. I’m sure you and your sisters watching your parents continue their education as adults really instilled a sense of the importance of education into you at an early age”. 

This was my first thought that rushed to my head; how do I make sure that I instill this value into my child? How do I make sure to show her that education is really important and one of the keys to a better life?  

I examined myself. I know I can do better to learn more. I have been coasting for a couple of years now outside of the classroom. I still read a decent amount but not as much as I’d like. But I do have many interests that I could go to the local community college and explore more (auto mechanics, graphic design, computer programming, culinary arts, etc). I’ve also thought about going back to school and getting a certificate or masters in therapy. So these are now my 5 year goals. To make sure that I’ve spent some time learning new skills over this time. My wife, who works full time, and still takes time to help me out a ton with parenting and housework can make time to read both for pleasure and continuing education. If she can do it so can I. And hopefully our child sees that with education, the world is there for you to explore.  

  

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