Tuesday, December 15 2020

cds, happy hour, and grill fails

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone. Happy Monday. I hope you're well rested and caught up on things. I hope you have some fresh coffee at your side. I hope you have just enough energy to stick it out until the holiday break.

This morning underneath the familiar clattering of our living room keyboard hums a CD burner, a staple of end of the year mixtape season. I'm on the fourteenth copy. Every few minutes, the disk tray pops open. I remove the disk, write "2020" on the front center with a sharpie, and then seat it in a new clear disk jacket. Beside the sleeve of blank CD's and cases rests a neat stack of printed labels. This year, that's where my job ends. Marissa gently and graciously confirmed my suspicions that last year's labels looked like crap. They looked like crap because I, lacking a single crafty bone in my body, cut and taped them all myself. I mistakingly believed that my crude handy work on the label would be a nice metaphor for the love and attention that went into the audio, but it turns out that there's already enough of that in a burned CD alone. Handing somebody a burned CD already screams homemade - crooked cut paper and wrinkled scotch tape is just beating a dead horse.

Still, you have to admit that CD's are great. They are just magic enough to be convenient, but still physical enough to enjoy all the gratifying tactile sensations. There's no "in the cloud" replacement for the way a CD fragments light or the sound the disk tray makes when it clicks into place. I love how they look stacked together, and I even love the clatter they make when you accidentally nudge your book shelf and send them toppling.

Sip. So here we are at Tuesday. One day of the work week down in the books, but how did it go?

I had a busy morning yesterday. I managed to fit three and a half trips around the pomodoro timer before I even thought about emerging from my bedroom. But when I finally did, we had our pick of all the fridge leftovers collected from this weekend. Things slowed down after lunch. My former boss from my old team invited me to a virtual beer over zoom, and by coincidence that bumped into a second happy hour to send off my current boss, who is moving to another team.

Over lunch, Marissa and I usually do a check in to plan the rest of the day. She usually asks me how busy my afternoon is show she can plan around me. Yesterday, I relished the opportunity to tell her that I had two back to back happy hours to attend.

"I'm swamped," I said, barely keeping a straight face. "First I gotta drink a beer with Heath, then my team expects me to drink a beer to send off Seth."

"Oh what a bummer," said Marissa, feigning sympathy.

From ripping through a sprawling to-do list of tasks and tickets in the morning, to spending most of the afternoon in small talk over drinks, it was a lopsided but satisfying workday. And it was made even better since I was off the hook for dinner. Yesterday Marissa treated us to barbecue pork skewers. She urged me to capitalize on the time off with a nap, but I instead threw on my winter coat and stood beside her to take in the smell of the grill. Looking much more confident, she lit the coals, dumped them across the kettle, and wiped the grate with clean oil before carefully laying the sticks of wadded up meat across the flames.

"Ooh, I think these were a lot fattier," she said. "I hope they don't burn." Marissa stood over the grill with concern as the fire below hissed and cracked. Minutes later, her poor skewers were engulfed in flames.

"It will probably be fine," I said, sensing her growing disappointment over the turn of events. "I probably set you astray, maybe the fire was too hot."

Sitting down to eat an hour later, I tried to ease her sense of defeat with more platitudes. "Grilling is like pizza," I said cutting into a skewer. "Even when it didn't go as planned, it's still a treat." "Hey - that's what barbecue sauce is for," I continued. "I don't mind some gristle, and look - Rodney loves it."

Rodney paused from gobbling his pieces of pork to flash a toothy grin, giving us a vivid view at all the pieces of char and gristle caught in his teeth and stuck to his lips. He looked the way the dogs do when they sneak off to lick the grate and I don't catch them.

"Thanks," said Marissa. "I'm just bummed. But I have to learn... it's my first grill fail. Is it edible?"

"Of course it is, honey," I assured her. "And the only reason you're disappointed is because you utterly killed it last time. If you made this on your first try we'd be raving about it."

Marissa has a lot to learn about what makes a true grill fail, because a barbecue pork skewer with just a little too much gristle hardly belongs in my hall of grilling failure.

Let me tell you about the swordfish incident. Marissa and I were just married, and we embarked on our staycation honeymoon in my tiny apartment in Rockford. Wanting to kick off our honeymoon in style, I picked up a filet of swordfish from the grocery store. Never mind that it was twice as expensive as anything else I had grilled. My new bride deserved the best, and I would wine and dine her with my exquisite taste in seafood, and at the same time impress her with my mastery over fire.

It had rained the night before, and my tiny gas grill was soaked. By the time I got it lit, the propane flooded chamber flashed with a bright orange flame. I gave Marissa a cool, smouldering look, pretending like my arm hairs weren't singed clean. The pale hunk of swordfish was still frozen, and it was so frozen that as it slowly and painfully defrosted over the grill, the melted ice kept extinguishing my fire and I had to light it several more times. By the time I served her the piece of expensive fish, the outside was barely cooked, the inside was still frozen, and the whole plate faintly smelled like gas.

"It's supposed to be served a little raw," I said. Minutes into the meal, I bit into ice, and I changed my tune to "maybe we should just eat around the outside of it."

Then there was the hotdogs and hamburger incident. We had my sister over to our apartment, and I offered to grill some hotdogs and hamburgers for us. My hand formed patties immediately fell apart over the fire, and while struggling to keep the ground beef together I accidentally knocked half of our hot dogs off the grill and into the dirt. I didn't recover enough meat to make one hamburger, so we shared the hot dogs and picked at a bowl of charred ground beef.

I hate to be so macho, but when it comes to grill fails, Marissa is only a beginner. She merely adapted the grill fail. I was born in it, molded by it. I didn't grill something correctly until I was a man and by then it was only blinding.

Thanks for stopping by today. Have a wonderful Tuesday everyone.