Adventures in Barbecuing
Posted by infinitygoods on October 4, 2007
We were supposed to meet at 12:30 pm to go to the park for a leisurely barbecue, but I got held up at the store by a shopping mob and in the streets by heavy traffic, a broken down green pickup from the ’60s too heavy for three men to push through the intersection faster than a slug’s pace, and even a detour through the beaten-up path of a road construction crew.
Result? Our son and I were an entire hour late. Yikes! It’s a good thing it was an old friend. We’ve known each other about 15 years, so we were forgiven. Good thing it wasn’t a Monday too. At least we didn’t have Murphy’s Law to worry about.
So after exchanging hellos and hugs with our friend and her adult daughter who is about my age, we start loading the cars with the barbecue supplies, the chihuahua and a spiffy new blue cube-shaped cooler on wheels, when we realize the cooler doesn’t fit in the trunk. It would fit in the back seat if only the door was wider.
We need to lift it high so it can go through the top portion of the door where the opening has a few millimeters of clearance. My muscles, having always been complete wimps, exclaim out loud for me, “I can’t lift that! I can try helping you,” but my brain takes over the millisecond my fingers touch the cooler and sends the mental message to those silly muscles, “Who are you kidding? Ppplleeeaasse, not even in your dreams!!”
Then the daughter teleports that cooler right into the back seat like a breath on a feather. “Well! That’s taken care of,” I sigh to myself in relief.
So off to the nearest park we go — in two cars because the cooler takes up the space of one person. Our son rides with our friend, and I follow her car with her daughter riding shotgun in case I need directions, because I have no idea where we are going.
Just a few blocks later we arrive at a beautiful park with a lush lawn, shade trees, clean tables and hardly anyone in sight. The park is practically all ours. When what do we discover? What is the No. 1 thing we need for a barbecue? That’s right! There were no barbecues at this park. So back in the cars we go. The chihuahua tugs at the leash as she’s not ready to leave. Did we just get here? She looks at us, determined this is going to be her day at the park. She gives in, but not without a bark, “You people are loco! Loco, I tell you!”
Only a block later we are at an even prettier park, with a pond with resident ducks and geese and a golf course as a backdrop. Our son is excited to see so many beautiful birds. And look, there’s even fishing! What have those kids caught? They look like they’re struggling with it. It must be a good catch … of duck?! … Catch by the webbed foot and release! The duck flies away. We move on. We drive through the entire parking lot in search of that all-important barbecue. We strike out a second time.
After a short discussion we decide to go to the same park we went to for the Fourth of July. At least we’re positive there’s what we’re looking for there.
We send our son running to reserve a table and barbecue, although by now it’s about 2:30 p.m. and I figure everybody has already eaten. My stomach is growling. We’re even sitting at the same table we sat at on Independence Day.
And so, what do you do when you find yourself at the park with two other women and a child, ready to barbecue, but the person in charge of bringing the starter fluid left it at home?
Well, my stomach growls in a wild panic, and three women and a child go on a hunt for anything that burns. How about the paper napkins? They’re hiding out with the starter fluid! The daughter hunts down a few bits of paper and a paper sack. It burns well, but not long enough to start the charcoal. We’re back to square one. We gather leaves and small twigs, when the October wind starts picking up. The four of us huddle over the barbecue, but the lighter and the few mini-flames we get are immediately blown out.
By now we must look so comical that an old woman who was sitting a few tables away with her husband comes over to lend assistance. She too gathers brown leaves, twigs and huddles over to block the wind. Nothing works. Four women and a child cannot get a fire going.
Now a fifth woman comes over to lend encouragement and make conversation. She talks to us about her two terriers and our friend’s chihuahua. The dogs introduce themselves the way dogs always do. She tells us it’s good the chihuahua is on a leash, but our terrier should be too or the park rangers will stop us.
All fire building attempts stop. Our terrier? Isn’t he her terrier? The one on the leash is, but the friendly white one is ours, she claims. Well, he’s very cute, but where’s his owner? He has tags and a collar, so we figure the owner must be close by and return to our fire building attempts.
The fourth woman’s husband joins us and gathers more leaves and twigs. I go to my purse and rustle up some old unneeded receipts from my wallet and my last kleenex. By the table I find some dried redwood tips and add those to the fire too. The kleenex and the redwood really burn well, which gets the older man thinking. They used to use pine needles back in the days when he was a Boy Scout!
So four women, a child and a man are now in search of redwood tips. The wind is still blowing. The child never had more fun in his life. My stomach is snarling like a rabid wolf when our friend’s daughter notices that the friendly white terrier is searching for food. In unison, we all agree he’s hungry, and our friend checks his tags and calls the number while we continue our attempts to defy the wind.
Our friend finds out the little dog is a rescue dog. Apparently he escaped. They are sending someone to get him, so the well-behaved chihuahua loans her leash to Little Houdini.
The fire is roaring, the very kind and helpful senior citizens leave, and up run a woman and three children in tears, demanding to get their dog back. At first, they think we are stealing their dog. Our friend calms them down by telling them she has already called the rescue place and calls again.
Fears are calmed, emotions are soothed and the children hug their dog and the chihuahua. The woman tells us they just rescued the terrier last week. She was going to get him a tag with her phone number on Friday but decided against it. They left him in the backyard adjacent to the park and went out. Upon their return, Houdini had vanished. The woman talks and talks. She sounds like she had a real scare. It’s only been a week, but the entire family is already very attached to the friendly Houdini.
As I check on the fire and the food, our friend calls out, “Does that barbecue turn?” Those things swivel? Sure enough, they do. We should have done that earlier when the wind was blowing.
Finally our food is ready, the woman, the three children and the dog leave and we eat, we talk, we have fun. The rest of the afternoon and early evening are fun and comfortingly uneventful, but when we pack up for home we all remark that the best parts of the day were our adventures in barbecuing.
You would think this is fiction, but no, no, you can’t make up stuff this good, as they say. Nope, this ladies and gentlemen, is my life!