Monday, June 18, 2007

Father's Day Blowout

Part of the struggle of having a career and a family is finding the time to have a hobby. I used to really enjoy the pleasures of highly irresponsible drinking but after I started having kids, I realized that children are particularly merciless when it comes to tormenting a grown-up with a monumental hangover. When the pain I had to endure on Saturday morning exceeded the fun I had on Friday night, I started planning my monumental benders around days when I could count on waking up in an empty house.

In order to fill the empty void left by my excessive sobriety, I took up fishing. It is a fun sport, not too expensive and provides me with some precious quiet time where I can be alone with my thoughts, however disturbing these can be at times. It also has the benefit of getting me out of the house and to a cabin on the Pere Marquette River for a full week every other year where I am guaranteed to wake up in house occupied by no one other than fellow inebriates so that our hangovers can be enjoyed in the manner that they were supposed to be. Unfortunately for this pastime, with each child I get the time I have to spend on this endeavour decreases dramatically and now that I have just had my fourth, I fear that this hobby is going to be neglected just as bad as my drinking has been of late.

Then there is my barbecue. With me not able to drink or fish as often as I'd like, I took up grilling. I really enjoy the process of cooking up my own sauces, marinades, rubs, bastes and condiments and exploring the process that goes into creating the perfect meal. I have gotten outdoor cooking down to an art and among my family and friends have achieved the status as a grilling deity, producing table fare that is often reminisced about when we are confronted with the spectre of food prepared by my less-than-adequate relatives. Barbecue has become one of my favourite hobbies, though I must admit that cleaning it has not.

That is why, after I started to heat the grill up this Father's Day weekend and went back inside the house to collect my ingredients, I was not at all concerned when my daughter called out from the bathroom that she could see smoke coming out of the barbecue. This was not unusual in the first few minutes of grilling, so I told her it was not that big of a deal. "But Dad, it's a lot of smoke!"

"Well, the grill's got a lot of stuff on it from the hamburgers I cooked last week," I answered as I was chopping green onions. "Just give it a couple of minutes, Honey. It'll burn off."

My wife was changing the baby in the living room. "Shouldn't you at least go look?"

"I will. Just let men finish chopping these onions first. It'll only take me a second."

"Well, a seconds all it takes to..."

"Do you want to chop the onions? Just give me a second and I'll take a look."

"Jep, I..."

She was interrupted by my daughter. "Daaaaad! There's fire coming out of it now!"

"Jep, go see what she's..."

"All Right! All Right! I'll go take a look for cryin' out loud!" I threw down my knife and walked over to the sink to wash the onion juice off of my hands. The batch of hamburger my mother had bought for the last time I grilled was excessively fatty and it was no surprise to me that the grate could be on fire. In fact, I had the heat up all of the way for that very reason. I was trying to burn it off. As I leisurely strolled to bathroom to look out the window that faced the part of the driveway where my barbecue was, I cursed under my breath and wondered what it was about female biology that caused them to nag incessantly. I vowed to contribute a thousand dollars to medical research if that community would just consider looking at that particular part of the human genome.

To add to my irritation, when I finally opened the bathroom door to get to the window my daughter started whining about my sudden intrusion into her privacy. "Daaaad! I'm going potty!"

As I pulled back the window shade to look outside, I told her, "Then you should have waited until you were done to...OH MY $&#!% GOD!!! SHIIIIIIIIIIITTTTTTT!!!"

The grill was entirely engulfed in fire, spewing thick smoke into my third car garage and sending flames shooting up through the stainless steel doors of the compartment that holds the propane tank. Knowing that the tank could blow at any second, I grabbed my daughter by the arm ripped her off of the toilet and practically through her threw the breezeway and into the kitchen. Panicking, she waddled around the kitchen while she desperately tried to pull her underwear up above her knees while screaming "FIRE! CALL THE FIRE DEPARTMENT! FIRE!! FIRE!!! CALL...AAAAAARRRGGGGHHHHHH!!!"

My four-year-old son was sitting at the dining room table drawing and took his sister’s distress much more seriously than I did. His eyes got as big as pie plates and as he looked at me, he cried, "COOL!" He then jumped up from his seat at the table and took off running, disappearing before I had a chance to tell him anything. I then took off in the opposite direction and bolted outside to see if there was anything that I could do.

As soon as I ran out of the garage door, I saw that the hose was still out, running across the front lawn from the landscaping I was doing earlier. I could not see the grill from that vantage point but I knew that it was still burning furiously from the thick smoke blowing across the driveway. I sprinted out into my yard, turning away from the grill to get the hose. Once I had the end, I ran back to the other side of the yard where the spigot to turn it on was, barely seven feet from the inferno.

When I rounded the corner, the first thing I saw was not my burning barbecue, but my four-year-old son. He was sitting cross legged in the grass, maybe two yards from the blaze. The expression on his face was full of surprise and awe, of wonder and excitement, basically having the same gleeful look on his mug that he had when I took him to see "Sesame Street Live" earlier in the year. If I had come out with my arms full of Graham Crackers, Marshmallows and Hershey Bars instead of garden hose, he would have been in paradise. I screamed at him to get inside but the urgency in my tone of voice just seemed to scare him and instead of ducking to a safe shelter, he just ran around in a circle aimlessly as I turned the water on.

I know you are not supposed to apply water to grease fire, but I had no choice. The fire was so hot that it had warped the drip tray, which had collapsed and was dripping organic napalm onto the propane tank. If the water did nothing but relocate the fire, I would have been happy. As it worked out however, the water worked spectacularly. It produced an interesting array of sound effects like the hiss of instant evaporation, the popping of cooling metal which sounded eerily like a hopelessly stoned Jamaican steel drum band and the roar of exploding grease. It was quite impressive and actually caused my son to stop running enough to "oo" and "ah" as if he were at a fireworks show.

When the grill cooled down enough for me to look it over, I found it to be a total loss. To add insult to injury, I had to spend the rest of the night listening to my wife ask me why I didn't clean the grill like I said I was going to and my daughter remind me how I needed to listen to her when she told me something. If they weren't chirping at me, my son was running around telling everybody in the neighbourhood who passed by how I had set the barbecue on fire. On Sunday, my baby daughter was baptized, so Mason gave the preacher a full blown account of the fire as well as my entire family, my in-laws and the rest of the congregation. The story gets more fantastical with every telling and in the last version I heard, we were all saved from a fiery demise by Spider Man and the Backyardigans.

On the bright side, since my last hobby has literally gone up in smoke, I'm thinking about starting to drink irresponsibly again.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm assuming a Backyardigan is a kind of a Mr.Rogers shirt, but red and blue with black stripes and a spider logo?

Or possibly some sort of subterranean gnome, bent on collecting underpants with the goal of world domination?

I need clarification here...

12:27 PM  
Blogger Magnum PO said...

What is it about the questions women ask after the fact that are so annoying? I know they mean well, but nothing gets me pissed off faster - all questions sound like "why did you do that, you idiot?"

8:01 AM  

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