I run a concession stand, but don’t really cook. Sure, every week there are quarts upon quarts of very fine chili sauce marinating upon my stove – though I don’t consider that cooking. Anyone can mix up their grandmother’s tomato base, special spices, ground beef, and onions recipe in a stainless pot … turn the burner dial to medium/low heat, … to free the simmer-scent from its previously packaged existence. Right? One of my good days, casually placing meat on a grill, or condiments in a bun, doesn’t top off a Gordon Ramsay measuring cup bad day. There are guys who cook-cook, and then there’s … me.
I’m not a guys’ guy, either. In the outdoors checklist of life, there’s empty boxes beside camping, fishing, hunting, hiking, mountain biking, llama-sighting excursions, white-water rafting, or rock climbing. I have one vice in storage we found in my grandfather’s toolshed when cleaning out his estate; therefore, you can accurately assume no tobacco or alcohol products have danced across my lips (save the one drag at age twelve and once a year if that wine cooler). It’s a life.
To be honest here, I do give in to a risk/reward obsession. This is the one clamp around my personality I call a life. Casinos, pre-pandemic, and more than occasional stops to the local convenience store – during our viral experience these days – is what checks my boxes. Yep, there are way too many slips of paper and cardboard squares in my past with losing numbers on them. It’s my go-to for semi-validation, probably, and entertainment. All of us do what we do every day … week … to get by. Understanding ourselves is the key. Let’s not do a nasty on our back and pretend it’s a nice spring rain. This was my 2020. It was, I’m sure, a lot of our 2020’s.
I’ve known about my tilt into financial risk taking. I survive by taking those chances. Some work out, some don’t. They’re calculated, yet chancy, and I don’t ever place anyone in harm’s way. Nearly two-thirds the way through a life of wonderful experiences, I’m still here celebrating on the first day of a new year. You are still surviving a life you choose to live, too – with your faults and vices in tow as well.
Maybe you’re cooking today. I’m not. Guys that can are dutifully carving up delicious meats and smiling over stew pots as evidenced by my social media feed pictures. I am envious. I sit here writing words while friends internally glance over memorized recipes in their manly brains. Seasoned pork, shrimp skewers, taters my mom wouldn’t even try, silvery cutlery embedded in meatloafs and pies … all reaching out, yet ungrabable by me. A semi-opened bag of nacho chips within reach here my only friend at the moment. Wanting more is risky. A risk even I cannot take due to the, now, beginning icy road conditions and, additionally, I have some – but no exacting idea – where any of these culinary masters live. (As an aside, the uninvited issue wouldn’t bother me. Maybe them. Not me.).
The early afternoon hours of a new year bring renewed thoughts of community. A time of honesty about ourselves, others, and where we are, especially beginning in 2021, seems so appropriate.
I saw a quote run through the comment section of a friend’s post this morning: “How uncomfortable are you willing to be, so that someone else can feel comfortable?”. This gets right to the point of us – together – as a community. If we’re to be honest with ourselves, are we doing what we need to do for the benefit of someone else? What risks are we willing to take on to benefit someone else? Is unease an ingredient we’re willing to mix in to our recipe of compassion for others?
All pretty deep questions during a day when empty bottles are still rattling around on the table and paper party hats hang from lamp shades even now calmly warm from early morning festivities. Gangs of loved ones celebrating the end of a simple December day. None of us know what this new year will bring. We want nothing special from the fourth digit flip of a zero to a one, other than no more pain and suffering in the lives of those we love. Belonging to us is the hope of a new year crowded with hugs and smiles in person – not millions of 1’s and 0’s transmitting faster than a Covid-19 virus in an empty grandparent’s holiday home or local family restaurant.
The purpose here isn’t to unmask any answer. I don’t have the Gordon Ramsay magic and, thankfully, his colorful language to shock you into a new way of thinking. No meme, cute saying, or puppy/santa picture (although I do have one queued up) elegantly inserted here will either erase your memories of last year, or have you take the next happy exit ramp. Today is Friday, January 1st, 2021. “One day at a time.” is about all I can drop into the party, unannounced.
…which is really what I’d like to do soon as I’m getting hungry and there’s at least a dozen guys who can cook close by. Ah, but I do have a few other options. Friends. Friends who UberEats. I’ll allow them the pleasure through “contractual risk transfer” – despite the possibility that they’ll never know a contract exists. A simple knock and a nod blocks away by a friend could return pork and shrimp back to me. I have ways of finding addresses previously unknown. Little risk / yummy rewards. Well, I may lose a friend in the process, which would be sad. I have to think how uncomfortable I am willing to be … in order … “. Oh man! The trap we set by our own words. How about I simply invite my friends over soon to my concession trailer for a burger, or cheese-steak? At least I know I can cook those.
Start this new year knowing who you are and who you can help. Two really cool commodities that may serve you well going ahead into a time of perfect uncertainty. Level off your measuring cup and stay calm. If you’re a guy who can cook, hat’s off, my friend. Please post pictures for me to see with an address to avoid my searching google maps and, by all means, leave the front door open. I don’t want to lose any friends.