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Just Off-Camera

"They respect you if you write. The dumber the world gets, the more the words matter." -Dan Jenkins


Friday, January 21, 2005

About A Grill

You've heard the story before, I'm sure. Boy meets grill, boy falls in love with grill, grill leaves boy, boy pines over grill, boy meets new grill...

When I moved out to Los Angeles, I was excited about having a balcony at my apartment. It meant grilling whenever I wanted to. One of the first things I did after I settled into my new place was to go over to Target and get myself a cheap charcoal grill. I set that baby up as soon as I brought it home, and then I went out to the supermarket and picked up buns, chicken, A1 sauce, lettuce, mushrooms, onions, cheese, and everything else to grill me up deliciousness.

I am not a chef. The kitchen is merely a storage place for frozen food, canned goods, and leftovers. A couple of times last semester I made pasta, and that was a first for me. Pop tarts and ramen are elaborate meals in my book. But if you put my grill and me together, I'll relish the process of food preparation.

During the first month and a half of life in La-La Land, I grilled at least three times a week. The weather's perfect for it. Burgers, chicken, skewers - I grilled it all. I'd get myself a beer, put one of my stereo speakers on the balcony, and kick back in a chair while I enjoyed the fruits (or meats, I should say) of my labor.

Then, during the first weekend of October, I took my grill on a field trip to a UCLA football game. The grill and I, along with three other guys, got to the parking area early (at UCLA football games, everyone parks on a nearby golf course) and fired up the grill. Chicken and sausage were the meats of the day, as I recall.

Short side story about that tailgate: A few girls came over and started drinking with us while we were grilling, and one looked over at the open trunk of my car with a look of bewilderment. I had a feeling as to what was confusing her, so I picked up the ice scraper that had been relegated to the trunk since moving from Connecticut to California and asked her if she knew what it was.

"No," she said. "I don't grill much."

Angelenos don't realize how good the weather here really is.

Anyway, midway through the second quarter of the game, we decided it was time to actually go into the stadium. We didn't want to dump the hot coals on the golf course, so after putting all of our tailgating material back in the trunk, we left the grill right beside my car. I didn't think much of it, since I saw other grills left by cars as well.

We went into the game, which wasn't all too thrilling - since it was an early season non-conference game, UCLA was winning, and so midway through the third quarter, two of the guys decided to go back to the car and toss the football around. Shortly after they left the stadium, my cell phone rang.

"Your grill's gone."

We quickly left the stadium to check on the developing situation. Sure enough, the grill had vanished. All that was left was a pile of ash 10 feet away. The bastards even took the two chicken breasts that we had left on the grill for postgame consumption.

To say I was upset would be something of an understatement. It wasn't about the cost of the grill - the thing cost about $25. It's the principle of the thing. You just don't take another man's grill. It's a violation. It creates ill will in the universe and just shouldn't be done. I have no idea who the guilty party was, but I like to think that the offender got into a karmically related car accident on the way home.

Right around the time of the grill heist, the hockey season was getting underway, and so I didn't have as much time for grilling anymore. Still, from time to time, I wanted to grill on the balcony and I couldn't.

Finally, on Monday, when I had a day off from school, I went back to Target. I bought another grill. The box was kind of damaged, and when I opened it up, the grill was kind of dented, but that doesn't really matter much. It'll hold the coals and the meat, and once again my balcony will glow with the glorious flame of charcoal heating up. This afternoon I assembled the grill and put it in its proper place.

On Sunday, when the Eagles are taking the field against the Falcons in the NFC championship game, I'll be dropping a match into the coals. There is a certain good aura about grilling and football that no petty grill thief can conquer, and perhaps that positive vibe can, in some small way, help out McNabb, Westbrook, Trotter & Co. finally overcome the last hurdle to the Super Bowl.

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