Category Archives: manly matters

Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em

I’d been thinking go buying a cheap smoker to dip my toe into the dark art of barbecue when my wife Ann called.

“I have a surprise for you!”

Oh, Christ, what now — another cat? But this time she’d really outdone herself: standing in the garage was a ceramic Big Green Egg, one of the fancier — meaning more expensive — smokers out there.

This was certainly not something I would have ever bought for myself, but she discovered it on Craigslist, for sale by a man who bought it several years ago and never used it. He finally decided he couldn’t stand looking at it anymore, and it came to us at a fraction of the price of buying a new one.

So, since then, every weekend has been a festival of meat.

It turns out that when it comes to barbecue, the internet is both a blessing and a curse. You can find a recipes for anything you want  — but ten-thousand of them — and every person who smokes meat has a different opinion on how to do it. It makes your head spin.

pulled pork1

Pork shoulder which went on the smoker at 4:50am on Sunday.

But for all the confusion, one thing has been constant: everything I’ve cooked in the Egg has been spectacular. Can you remember the best chicken you’ve ever eaten? I can — it was last week.

So, what about health considerations? Some would say that at 54-years-old, eating more meat might not be the best game plan — but I’m not really eating more meat, just better meat. The jury is out on the health effects of breathing too much smoke, but hey, what are you gonna do?

The Clock

There comes a time when things have to go.

Years ago, we had a garage sale when my mother was selling her house. My father died several years earlier, and spread out on the lawn and driveway were a lot of his things. Tools, clothing and the bric-a-brac that builds up after of decades in the same place. I didn’t end up with much of it.

My mom went from place to place, each time shedding more possessions — and now we’re facing a move that will not allow furniture to go along.

And that brings us to the grandfather clock.

My father built the clock 40 years ago from a kit and it stood for years in our dining room — and now no one in my family wanted it. I’m at a point in my life where I’m trying to get rid of things, not acquire more — but the idea of the clock going on Craigslist and ending up with some strangers really bothered me.

So, I drove to Poughkeepsie and loaded it in my car.

I may regret it one day, but how can I just let the clock go? So much of the tangible evidence of his life is gone, scattered here and there — it just seems like something he made should stay with me.

No, we’re not defined by stuff, but objects have the power to transport you through time. What could be better for that than a clock?

The Menands Bypass

There’s a little known route that takes you from Menands to downtown Albany with few traffic lights and little traffic.

It’s that road that runs past Huck Finn’s Warehouse — Erie Boulevard, but I’ve always called it Huck Finn Street — and it delivers you into the heart of Albany without all the hassle. Now, the northern end has been extended all the way to Simmons Lane in Menands so it’s better than ever.

Simmons hooks up with Broadway within spitting distance of the old Montgomery Ward building — but this is so new that it’s not on Google Maps yet, which shows a gap in the road near the sewage plant.

menands

Some of you are saying, “That’s great, Rob, but why not just jump on 787?”

Excuse me, but that’s not the point of awesome shortcuts! The point is to amaze your friends with obscure routes that get you around town like a magic portal. They won’t be very amazed if you take 787.

The Snow Report

Well, a month ago I claimed it wouldn’t snow this winter because of the new (used) snow blower in the garage. That was just me being cheeky — but now you’ve got to wonder.

snow blower

Here we are, a month later, and there still hasn’t been enough snow to use the damn thing. This has caused me to do something I haven’t done since elementary school: wish for an epic snowfall.

Every day I check the forecast with the perverse hope that we’ll get dumped on. Even my prayers have not worked. They go something like this:

Please, God, send us a hellish storm that incapacitates the area. We are an ungrateful people and deserve to be punished with at least 18 inches of snow, preferably falling during the overnight hours…

Not sure if that will work, but just to cover all bases, I’m following the example of Park City Mountain Resort  and seeking members of the Ute indian tribe to help bring some snow. I’ll let you know if anyone replies to the ad.

Straightening Up

A big chunk of Saturday was devoted to cleaning my garage. That may sound boring, but you have no idea how good it made me feel.

The space has been somewhat out of control for a long time — but now that I need a place to park my snow blower, enough was enough. Seven hours and two trips to the dump later, the garage was reclaimed. It’s still not perfect, there are some more things that should go in the trash, but the difference is startling.

Don’t get me wrong, a neat freak, I ain’t — but there’s something very satisfying about a clean and orderly space. My theory is that we may not be able to fix this complicated and cluttered world, so we seek to reduce chaos where we can.

Maybe for you it’s your car or the kitchen or your desk at work — a small corner of the world where you set the rules. Or you could be one of those people comfortable with disorder everywhere. That’s fine, I’m OK with that, but please put that shovel away. I will not have your anarchy in my garage.

No Snow this Winter

Good news, everyone: it will not snow this winter!

I can guarantee it. This has nothing to do with long-range forecasts, the Farmer’s Almanac or climate change. I can guarantee it will not snow because I just bought a snow blower.

After years of struggling against winter — and the town plow — I decided it was time to turn to technology. There were two big reasons for taking the plunge. First, my sons no longer live at home, so the source of free labor I long relied on has dried up. The second reason? Chalk it up to this universal principle that governs much human behavior: I’m getting too old for this sh*t.

There was a time when I relished the vigorous workout of shovelling and took great pride in my ability to conquer the elements. Even though my driveway routinely gets two or three times the snow in front of it than my neighbors, I’d simply laugh in their general direction.  “Ha, look at you people and your snow blowers! Suckers!”

Well, I’m starting to think that maybe I was the sucker.

So, later in the week I’ll pick up my gently used 8HP two-stage snow blower. It’s a bit more machine than I need, but this is one of those areas where you shouldn’t skimp. Are you going to go out and buy the cheapest parachute?

One note: the no snow guarantee doesn’t start until the machine is in my garage. Until then, all bets are off.

Call Me Lefty

It’s been a glorious summer so far, but thanks to a bum arm, there have been some minor inconveniences.

In June I injured my arm while on ambulance duty when lifting an oxygen tank. If memory serves, when it happened I commented, “Fu*K! Fu*K! Fu*K!” and proceeded to hop cartoon-like around the ambulance bay.

I’m not sure I actually heard my distal bicep tendon tear, but I immediately knew there was trouble and ended up riding in the ambulance as a customer, not an EMT. It’s worth noting that the incident drew everyone within radio distance so they could stand around and watch me writhe in pain.

Lifting an oxygen tank does not make for a very glamorous story, so in order to spice things up I concocted a variety of tales that made my arm more interesting. The top three:

1. I lifted a car off an injured person.

2. Caught a baby tossed from the window of a burning house. No, wait — TWO babies.

3. Wrestled a contaminated needle away from a deranged patient.

The long and short of it is I required surgery to reattach the tendon, a barbaric procedure that involved drilling a hole in my arm bone. This video shows what they did:

After ten days in a soft cast and a month of wearing a sling, I’m starting to get better, but full recovery is still months away.

The lesson here: when there’s something heavy to lift, find someone else to do it.

A Dollar and a Dream

When it comes to shaving, I go with the cheapest. The cheapest shaving cream, the cheapest blades and no fancy balms or lotions.

But it’s not just about money.

One time my wife brought home a big bag of remarkably elaborate and expensive looking razors. They came from someone who works in R&D for a big razor company; he was hoping me and the boys would try these fancy things and provide feedback. I didn’t touch them. Nope. Just give me my plastic disposable twin blader. You, know, the kind of razor they let prison inmates use. Seems to work just fine!

Being so cheap committed to the basics,  I was intrigued by the Dollar Shave Club. It seems that a dollar — and another two dollars for shipping — will get you five blades a month. They even throw in a free handle. Very well, let’s give it a go. This could mean I never have to even think about razors again, and that I like the sound of that.

I’ll let you all know how this goes. In the meantime, watch this tremendous video from Dollar Shave Club. It’s one of the big reasons I signed up.

Let One Rip

When I heard that legendary local sportscaster Rip Rowan had died it left me melancholy. There goes another one, I thought.

Rowan was one of those old school guys who were in ample supply when I got into the TV business, before pretty faces became the norm, and street smarts meant more than a degree from Newhouse.

But as I pondered the passing of Rowan, I could not get this thought out of my head: how did he get the nickname, “Rip?”

Like a prayer answered, my question was addressed in today’s paper:

“Rowan had a mischievous streak, which included legendary on-set flatulence, according to McLoughlin. “He did it on purpose. It was murder,” he said.

Ha! Try that today and you won’t get a colorful nickname, you’ll be sent to visit HR — and likely receive a ticket to some sort of sensitivity training class.

R.I.P. Rip.