Science is stupid. And worse, it’s making our lives more stupid every day. Why? Because they do stupid studies that come up with stupid conclusions. And a lot of people stupidly believe them because they’re living with the stupid impression that science is all about being smart.
And that’s really stupid.
Take, for instance, a group of scientists in the U.K., “leading experts on food safety,” who decided to find out how clean and sanitary is the average backyard grill in the Land of Brits. They released their findings over there on Friday, just in time for the start of the Memorial Day holiday weekend over here. The headline on the story posted on one U.S. news website, theweek.com, sums it up pretty well.
“Happy Memorial Day: Your BBQ grill may have more germs than a toilet seat.”
I knew there was more than one reason to wage war on that country.Seems the average home BBQ grilling surface is a magnet for harmful bacteria like salmonella, e-coli and listeria. Because most of our backyard grills aren’t kept clean enough to … well, to eat off of.
Interesting. Now, wait just a minute. Before you, me, and every barbecuing person in this country runs out into the streets and falls on our long-handled meat forks, let’s recall one little-bitty, silly thing that seems to be missing in this whole conversation here.Fire.
Fire is enlightening. Fire is even somewhat pretty. But fire also is hot. Fire burns things. Like houses, paper, trees. Why, fire’s even been known to burn people’s beating hearts … with a hunka-hunka burning love. Oh, and also quite a few hamburgs and hot dogs too.But before it ever puts a sear on a steak, I’ll bet it burns up every single bad ol’ bacteria that might be hanging on to that grilling surface as it burns and brings up the temperature to the necessary sizzling point – hot enough to grill those hunksa-hunksa barbecue food items.
But what if they don’t all die? The bacteria, I mean. What if a few get through and into your disgestive innards?
I’ve already thought of that, got it figured out. And I’m not even one of those smart scientists. Remember, I flunked science.Beer – cold, sparkling, refreshing … and alcoholically antiseptic.
There was a time when I was, shall we say, not well-done.
Oh, in those days I thought I had it all together, figured out. I was every second of 17, a senior in high school and knew where I was going in life. Hell, I’d already been there, seen it all, lived it all.
Right. There are none so ignorant as those who will not think.
It was early 1975 and in my mind, the Vietnam War was still going strong. Actually, it was dying out, would be over for us by April. Too many years, too many dead, too many missing and too many questions had taken all the stuffing out of the nation’s military bluster.
Who am I kidding. The only bluster coming from most Americans in those days was one generation’s distrust of any other. For many in mine, it was disdain for anyone over the age of 30 and disgust for anything and everything about the war.
But there was one shared feeling – for a myriad of reasons, almost everyone not wearing a uniform seemed to revile anyone who was wearing one.
At the beginning of 1975, me, myself and everyone else I was growing up with weren’t sure if by the end of ’75, we’d be over there. We were certain of one thing – we sure as hell didn’t want to go.
At that age, staring into the face of something like that in life can be a really transforming thing – can bring out the stupid in you.
Well, it did for me, at least. I idolized Abbie Hoffman (though I didn’t actually steal his book, “Steal This Book,” I read it cover to cover, over and over, like it was some sort of Newest New Testament), not Richard Nixon. I saw America, like France before it, as the imperialistic aggressor in the war and Ho Chi Minh’s North Vietnamese minions as the valiant defenders of their homeland. And the South Vietnamese? Well, when you’re thinking in those extremes about Vietnam, there was no place left in there for them.
Oh, I didn’t want to bring down the government, destroy the American system. Nothing as drastic or diabolical as that. My most heinous revolutionary thought was wanting to bring down the American flag flying outside my high school, run up North Vietnam’s banner, and cut the pulley ropes.
Had I been a member of the Revolutionary court, I’d have been its jester-in-training.
The target of my self-righteous anti-war snarl wasn’t at any instituition in Washington, D.C, but just one man in my hometown. The father of one of my classmates.
A retired U.S. Marine who hadn’t ever really retired. Looking every bit as disciplined, feisty and fit as he must have been on the first day out of boot camp, he was the living, fire-breathing persona of the Corps. Hell, his big pickup truck was a rolling endorsement of it.
As red as the background of the Marine flag, it had the biggest decal I’d ever seen on its hood. Nearly filled every square inch of it. The emblem of the U.S. Marines.
Nothing reserved about that. Still, I didn’t hate the man, had never met him, but in my mind despised the things he stood for, what he embodied to me.
And then I met the father of another classmate, a strapping, bear-hugging bear of an Irishman, who took a liking to me and decided one night to teach me how to appreciate the fine art of drinking scotch. I turned out to be a disciple of Irish whiskey, my preferred drink to this day.
And in a fit of loose-tonguemanship, I mentioned the Marine. Went off on a dozen eloquent (my thought) verbal attacks, made my fervent feelings known to the first person on Earth other than myself.
Mike listened to it all, said nothing, sipped his drink. When I was done, he thought quietly for a few seconds, no doubt considering his words, and said,
“I know the man, know him well, as a matter of fact.”
He had every right to take my head off with the nearest empty bottle. He didn’t. He just started telling me the Marine’s story. How he’d been a leader of kids not much older than me, how he’d taught them, fought with them, and carried many of them out of harm’s way, over and over, dead or barely alive.
And how he’d re-upped after his first tour, then after his second and then after his third. He’d confessed to Mike that he didn’t love war, hated every damn minute of it. But what he hated more, what he just could not do, was leave those kids behind. By themselves. Without him to help them. To protect them. To fight beside them, and carry them out, if needed. Until they are home, no man left behind – the Marine motto. And his creed.
So, as Mike told me, he had to go back. Until the Marines wouldn’t allow him to go anymore.
I listened quietly, as Mike had done for me. When he finished, I’d finished my drink. But had only just begun to feel like a damn idiot.
And then I said I think I’d like another drink. And someday, I think I’d like to shake that man’s hand.
I think he’d appreciate that, Mike said. And he went to get another bottle.
A few weeks later, the Marine was walking into a gas station when a long-haired, earring-wearing silly-looking kid wearing ripped jeans and moccasins walked up to him. Told the man he didn’t know him, but that he knew Mike and would it be all right if he could shake his hand, say thank you for all he did over there.
What probably was an instinctive look of wariness faded away from the Marine’s face, replaced by just the hint of a smile. Why yes, yes you can.
And they shook hands. And went their separate ways.
I hadn’t changed my politics, and I can pretty safely guess that neither did he at that moment. But at least one of us had changed his perspective on some things. My hope, in a small way, was actually two of us had done that.
There you are, sitting alone at a picnic table in the backyard of a cousin you didn’t know existed until the “Let’s PAHTAY” invite showed up in the mail a few weeks ago. There before you, in lurid tiki-torch technicolor, you watch with dumbstruck awe as your parents and the rest of your family do a very poor, yet very drunken dance that’s best described as a mutant macarena-limbo-polka.
And you, you miserable cuss, are careening, no, make that spiraling, toward sober. You are almost pitiful. Almost.
It’s your own fault. You had to be different. You had to bring that oh-so-classy imported beer with you. The brew with the label of a sacred cow sitting at a bar and the ingredients listed in Gujarati …. but no twist-off cap.
All of the easy-access beer is gone, it’s out there, sloshing around in the bellies of the inebriated near-human mass in front of you.
So, you have your beer, you have your needs, you have your powerful thirst, but you have no … bottle opener.
You had a bottle opener. You brought your own, in fact. It was just there, right there on the table, next to the bowl of nacho-avocado potato chips. One of your best ones too – a work of art that seemed molded just for your hand and your hand alone. Cold, hard, premium aluminum – in shape of a naked woman with breasts big and shiny and strong enough to hook onto the lip of a bottle cap and … rip it off.
A thing of beauty. She, I mean it, was an engineering marvel as well as an artistic one, a true symbol of an advanced civilization. But now she, I mean it, is gone. And you can’t find her, I mean it, anywhere.
How depressing – a man and his beer and ne’er the ‘twain shall meet. It’s at times like this, when faced great and deep loss, that one turns to drink. And you ain’t even got that.
The last time you saw her, your punch-drunk Uncle Louie was holding it up, admiring it and mumbling to himself. At least that’s what you thought at the time. Now you’re worried. Uncle Louie, as he has told you every time he tops his internal 48-ounce alcoholic-beverage fill level, hasn’t been with a woman since before Fiorello LaGuardia had an airport named for him, not since Columbus stopped in the Bahamas to ask for directions to the East Indies, not since the end of the Ice Age.
And then, it comes to you. Your jaw drops; you know that this can mean only one thing. Louie has taken your buxom bottle opener, stolen her, and run off to Vegas. Your only hope is the Elvis Presley Memorial Combination Drive-Thru Chapel of Eternal Wedded Bliss/Electrolysis Clinic/Coin-Op Laundromat is closed for the holidays.
But you know it’s open. And you know Louie has their “Frequent Flyer” platinum membership card. Yes, one desperate man’s hungover cries of woe soon will be heard up and down The Strip in the morning, but what does that matter, your own personal hell is now.
Have you got a belt buckle? Sheesh, you wore draw-string shorts. Good set of teeth? Aha – so that explains why you had the two front teeth capped last year. Lemme think. I’ve got it! Have you got a chain saw?
Don’t look at me that way, of course there’s a chain saw there. No self-respecting American backyard is without one. Look under the picnic table.
See, I told you. Oh, ye of little faith ye. And a Husqvarna, to boot. Nice.
I want you to see something. Prepare yourself for the coming of your mind-numbing salvation. Click below, watch the video and kid, you might learn something:
You don’t have to thank me … just a flip of your cap will do.
That means a lot of things to a lot of people in America. First and foremost, but sadly too often overlooked, is this is a time for us to stop whatever silly or self-indulgent thing we may be doing now and remember how it is that we’re even able to do it. We owe it all to so many Americans who came before us, who fought and died to keep this nation’s beliefs and ideals safe from enemies who, had they won, would have crushed them. No matter how much we’ve screwed up this country lately, it was our freedoms that got us into this mess, and we’ll use the same ones to get us out of it as well. No one should forget that for one moment this weekend. Or on any weekend, or day, or minute, for that matter.
But you can’t overlook the fact this weekend means a few other things as well. Maybe not quite so reverent, but certainly not irrelevant.
It’s the unofficial first weekend of summer, the first opportunity to take our summer clothes out of our closets, hold them up to us, look in the mirror and put them right back where we found them. Looks and the physics of fitting do not deceive – no point in even trying it on. Maybe next Memorial Day.
It’s the first time for many of us to hit the road … to travel and join friends and family to enjoy the long holiday together. This is soon followed by another first, at weekend’s near-end, when many of the same people are snagged in their first highway radar trap of 2012. This, as they just attained Mach 1 speed to race – these sunburned, overindulged, slightly hungover bats-out-of-hell – to get away from those same friends and family. Never met those people before in my entire life, or the two previous ones either.
But for most us, at home or away, Memorial Day weekend is the first chance we have to venture out into our backyards, pull the proverbial manstove out from under its winter wraps, shove out the mouse nests, knock down the spider webs, and scrap off the remnants of last year’s Labor Day holiday weekend.
And with patriotic and enormous pride, we load up our grills with propane or charcoal briquettes, strike a match and in one flip of the wrist, in one single macro-mini-micro-nano-second of an instantaneously combustible moment … we singe off most of our facial and frontal body hair, in one flew swoosh.
But undaunted, and though soon to be under a doctor’s care, we forge ahead, we endeavor to persevere … and we proceed to blow our already semi-bulging waistlines all to bloody, char-broiled hell.
Hey gang, gather ’round! It’s that time again and we’re ready – let’s have ourselves a cookout! Let the dietetic debauchery begin!
There will be flipping and sipping and munching and crunching, forking and knifing and sizzling and wizzling (I know, I know. It just sounded better). Slurping and slathering, belching and burping, chewing and spewing, moaning and groaning, brapping and barfing.
God Bless America.