Friday’s Mental Massage

Last year, I made a last-minute decision to sell my gas grill at the annual neighborhood yard sale. It’s taken me until this very second to realize that the grill pre-dated my marriage. My then-fiancee bought it for me as a gift in late 1999. I used it to cook food for a whole bunch of people the day after we got married in June of the following year. When we finally bought a house, I forgot to pack the grill in the moving truck and ended up begging a buddy to drive me back down the highway in his truck to go get it. Once here on Mt. Otis, the grill served me well over the course of a young life of partying, barbecues, and family meals.

Thing was, I never really liked that grill very much. Oh, sure, back in 1999, it was pretty cool to have my first gas grill. I’d cooked on nothing but electricity or fire to that point. Over time, though, I found myself losing desire to spend any time with the green beast. In 2006, I shed no tears when I rolled the thing into my driveway and sold it to a lady for $30.

It didn’t occur to me until I saw the thing rolling out of my driveway that, “Hey! That’s my grill!”

By that time, it was gone. In the few months since I sold off that part of my manhood, I’ve cooked outside on the bottom half of a smoker a few times. However, a 14-inch diameter grill just doesn’t cut it when you’re cooking for more than one or two people.

As it happens, our long-time neighbors are moving to Denver on Sunday. Seeing them go is going to be rough on all of us here. My kid loves their kids. My wife loves the lady of the house. While I won’t admit any man-love for the patriarch, the sonofabitch can fix anything he can touch, and as such, has become the solution to most of my ham-fisted attempts at home repair. That and he is a damned nice guy and quite a bit of fun.

So, we’re throwing the family a small going away thing on Saturday that, apparently, is going to require me grilling some stuff. Yesterday afternoon, in a fit of boredom and latent depression, I turned off my computer and said to the family, “Alright, let’s go.”

The wife and kid are a lot like dogs in this respect. If I actually get up from the computer and say, “Let’s go,” they jump to their feet and run for the door. It doesn’t matter where we go, as long as we’re going. It took my wife less than five minutes to figure it out. “We’re going to buy a grill, aren’t we?” she said.

“Maybe,” I said.

Buying a grill had become a lot like buying a computer for me. While not as expensive as buying a car for my wife, it was a significant purchase. What’s more, like the laptop (oh, yeah, I bought one…more on that next Friday), the grill is one of those things that is distinctly mine. I spend a lot of time alone with it and I want it to fit comfortably with my psyche. So, if I’m going to spend several hundred bucks, I want it to be…you know…right.

And, so, to the store.

The entrance to the store was set up like it saw me coming. No fewer than 30 stainless steel gas grills sat in front of the place, each priced to sell. The pre-Spring sun reflected off the grills and onto my son’s face as he begged to ride the lawnmowers. Sensing I needed some time alone for my own reflection, the wife allowed herself to be dragged to the John Deeres.

“It’s not right,” you know.

That was my heart talking.

“Sure, these things are pretty. They look impressive, what with their big knobs and shiny surfaces. They are all huge and you’ll be able to stand there looking impressive when you cook. But you don’t want this. You don’t. You buy this grill, it will be the same as marrying a woman because she has big breasts and a pretty face. Sure, she’ll make you look good in front of your friends and she might even be fun in the sack. But, at the end of the day, you gotta love her heart, right?”

This was heavy. Heavier than the grills.

I could see the family watching me at a distance. I sort of shrugged my shoulders and said I was going inside to check out the grills there. The family followed.

I made a real show of looking at all the various gas grills, nearly all stainless steel, all of them huge, each with different tools and surfaces. The best excuse I had for not buying a grill was that we didn’t have a vehicle to get it home. My wife, ever helpful, suggested my neighbor could come with his truck and get it for me.

I walked away quietly and went to the service desk to ask who I could talk to about the grills. No one was around except an off-duty guy who had come to pick up his paycheck. I asked him a couple of questions and wandered away.

It just wasn’t right. I was faced with a decision. Did I really want to drop $600 on what was the equivalent of a trophy wife? The buyer’s remorse set in before I’d even picked out the purchase.

I fiddled with a couple more grill knobs and stared into space.

That’s when I saw it.

It was black, square, and sitting off in a dark aisle. No light reflected from its surface. It had no big knobs. In fact, it sat so high on a shelf that I couldn’t even touch it.

That was it. The charcoal was the thing.

See, deep down, I knew I didn’t want a gas grill. Sure, they are convenient. Sure, they look nice. But, other than that, they are nothing more than eye-candy. If I want food cooked over tasteless heat, I’ll cook in the kitchen. A kitchen grill, a broiler, or a butane lighter would do about the same thing…and I don’t have to go outside. Gas grills were invented to give people the illusion that they are BBQ chefs without ever actually doing anything they couldn’t do inside.

Now, I know, most of you likely own gas grills. And I’m not saying anything bad about you. Except that I am. You’re fooling yourselves, people. If you want to cook over gas, fine. But, don’t think you are doing anything more than adding grill marks on your chicken breasts.

I’ve come to believe that good food takes effort and effort, usually, takes time. If I don’t have the 15-20 minutes it will take me to build a good charcoal fire, I don’t need to be grilling. I’ll cook the chicken under a broiler or pan fry the burger. But, if I want really good steak, I’m going to spend some time with it. I’m going to build a good fire, cook it perfectly over the smoke, and then clean up the ashes afterward.

The fat guy from behind the counter wandered up to see the epiphany still in my eyes.

“You decide on a grill?” he asked.

“I decided on that charcoal grill,” I said, the hint of a smile on my lips.

His face screwed up and he said with complete incredulity, “Really?”

“Really,” I said, putting a period on the word like a slap on the ass.


So, I’m putting that bad boy together this afternoon in preparation for the shindig tomorrow. Apparently, said shindig is now going to be preceded by me actually loading a moving truck. I think I might have had a couple of drinks when I offered to do that.

In other end-of-week news, I’m on some emotional rollercoaster that vacillates between high and low about once every 12 hours. I need to spend more time outside and away from this machine, methinks. Thus, the grill.


Local crime drama has picked back up and the owner of an antique store where the wife and I have shopped was shot to death. This is one of those stories that I think I’d be covering pretty hard and for a while if I were still in the business. I owe this thought to the main soundbite from the live interview at noon today:

“Right now, we don’t have any suspects or any leads.”

For now, Christopher Mario Maddox, aka Kit, is dead and the cops are, ostensibly, clueless.


Finally, I think part of what’s getting me down has to do with a mistake I made in 2001. I went after a story really hard and nailed it to the wall. That is, I nailed the story I thought I knew to the wall. The rest of the story turned out to be the real story. The fallout from all of that continues to this day. An e-mail from a man I really respect popped into my e-mail box this week. Blind to him: Thanks for not giving up.


Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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5 Responses

  1. It’s nice to know I have a Brother in Charcoal. My friends bought me my charcoal grill as a surprise last summer. I haven’t challenged a gas grill user to make a steak at the same time I do on my charcoal grill, but I’m tempted to do so when I run into a naysayer.

    FYI, if you don’t use a charcoal chimney, I recommend it. It speeds up the charcoal heating process and ensures all of the charcoal is used. If you don’t want to deal with a lot of ash, go pick up a box of Lump Charcoal too. Both can be found at Home Depot or Lowes for pretty cheap prices.

  2. Anonymous uncle b says:

    I bought a good gas grill 2 years ago. I’ve run that thing over 4 times. Makes a hellova racket. Tough bastard though, still fires up. You need to hire a expert grill maker to build a nice looking cinder block BBQ pit. Someone with good refrences.

  3. Anonymous Su says:

    My Dad still uses a charcoal grill and I have to say he makes the best tasting steak, chicken, burgers and brauts on that thing.

  4. Anonymous Anonymous says:

    Charcoal is for the pits…Though it is damn hard to piss out a gas fire.-FB

  5. Anonymous Un cle Ted says:

    My manhood consists of a charcoal grill with a gas lighter.

    That might make me bi-grillsexual.

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