Guys are usually one of two things.
Baseball or football.
Stick or automatic.
Boxers or briefs.
Handy or clumsy.
We mean well, most of us, but we don’t possess nearly the layers of complication that you do.
We’re simple, transparent human beings and our shortcomings -- as well as our strengths -- are, more often than not, as obvious as fireworks on the Fourth of July.
A woman friend of mine once told me that she and others of her gender can tell within 30 seconds of meeting a man whether or not it has a chance to work.
I can’t tie my sneakers that fast.
It takes me longer to work up a good sneeze.
Minutes can pass before I can decide on Hunan Beef or General Tso’s Chicken.
And don’t even get me started on fantasy baseball. Sometimes, I’m pulling serious vampire hours before I choose who to start as my third outfielder, Jayson Werth or Michael Bourn.
But a woman, within half a minute, knows beyond certainty if the guy she’s just met has even the remotest possibility of sharing her life.
It’s remarkable, really.
And kind of scary, actually.
Now I -- thankfully -- have been in love with the same woman since the fall of 1987, nearly a quarter century ago and, believe me, she’s way too good for me.
I know it.
She knows it.
It’s as obvious (and beautiful) as a full moon rising over the ocean.
Speaking of the beach, we just got back from a couple of days on the Atlantic and -- sunburn aside -- it was a very agreeable getaway, though the water was far too chilly for us to chance even a quick run-in-and-dive moment.
Kind of reminds me of Lucy’s line in “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” when she says something like, “I never eat December snowflakes ... I always wait until January.”
BUT THERE ARE worse ways to spend Kentucky Derby Day than kicking back, relaxing and letting the sun fry your epidermis. I’ll be peeling within a few days, but it’s a small price to pay. We had no spring here, just sort of jumped from almost winter to nearly summer.
Those, when I think about it, are two of the three seasons North Carolina has, the third being full-on heat treatment and hurricane time.
Sometimes I ache for the way Ohio’s calendar so subtly escorted out spring before introducing summer, the way fall segued so gently into winter, but I’m probably guilty of selective memory; I mean, it could snow on either Easter or Halloween.
And there we are again.
My wife bought some fine-looking T-bones for our weekend on the shore and, as a guy, I was looking forward to some serious grilling on the shore.
But here’s the thing.
I’m a charcoal guy.
Always have been.
My luck with propane cookers over the years has been worse than JFK’s in Dealey Plaza.
Well, maybe that’s overstating it a bit, since I haven’t been cut down in a hail of bullets from at least two snipers’ nests, but you get the idea.
When it comes to cooking with gas, I’m a goner.
And my wife knows this.
After all, she’s watched me fail from one end of the Atlantic Seaboard to the other, hardly ever getting those infernal machines to operate, let alone fulfill their function.
Remember that scene in “A Hard Day’s Night” when George is showing Norm how to shave with a blade?
Harrison says something like, “You’re a grown man and you haven’t ever shaved with a safety razor?”
And Norm says, “I can’t help it ... I come from a long line of electricians.”
That’s the way it is with me when it comes to preparing steaks.
I’m a charcoal guy.
That’s what my father was and his father before him.
And, were it my destiny to be a dad, my son would have learned that skill, as well.
BUT THAT SATURDAY NIGHT, after the Derby had been run and Drinko de Mayo was in full bloom, I faced another one of those either/or moments: Either I’d take the T-bones down to the propane grilling arena ... or I’d just fire up the charcoal in the grill we’d brought from home.
Being a guy, I did the wrong thing.
“I don’t think you’ve got any heat coming from this,” my wife said, waving her hand over a grill with buttons and gauges as complicated as the cockpit of Apollo 11.
“I realize that,” I said, trying not to complicate things. “I’m going to get the charcoal started.”
And just then, like in that Garth Brooks song, the thunder rolled.
It’s pretty singular, watching a storm form over the ocean. Bolts of lightning are especially dramatic and the way the wind howls and the temperature drops, well, it’s fun to watch.
Unless you’ve got 20 bucks worth of steaks and about a half-hour to work some magic before the whole resort is inundated with sideways rain and Biblical flooding.
But, as a guy, I took up the challenge.
No way we were calling out for pizza.
And you know what the best thing was, aside from having my wife in the Adirondack chair next to me as those steaks sizzled and the skies purpled?
It wasn’t the fact that the charcoal grayed like the whiskers on Lincoln’s chin or the way the storm stayed at sea, as if some unseen hand was holding it back just long enough for me to do my best grilling of the season.
It was the way folks retreating from the beach and the propane arena would stop.
And smell that glorious aroma of steaks on the grill.
A charcoal grill.
“What IS that you’re cooking?” I’d hear.
“Oh, just a couple of T-bones and some seasoning,” I’d say.
“Well,” they’d say, “it smells delicious.”
We’ve all had that experience, sitting in the backyard or walking around the block when suddenly you get a whiff of an aroma so sublime, so wonderful, that your gustatory system takes control of your body.
That’s what those steaks did that night.
And I know that, as a simple man, I made the right choice.
Published: May 7, 2012