“You’re really enjoying yourself, aren’t you?” my girlfriend asks. Much to the amusement of passing Greenpoint grandmas, I’m pummeling her patootie with paper-wrapped sausage.
“Other women would die to be smacked with three pounds of such delicious kielbasa,” I counter, spanking her rump once more—a love tap, if you may.
“Hitting my ass with meat will not make me give up vegetarianism.”
“A man can try, can’t he?”
“Perhaps I just need a bigger kielbasa,” I say. Lord knows I could return to Steve’s Meat Market (104 Nassau Avenue betw. Leonard & Eckford Sts, 718-383-1780; B’klyn) and score a larger sausage. Since before Watergate, Steve’s has cranked out massive lengths of house-smoked, all-pork kielbasa. Unlike other surly Greenpoint butchers, Steve’s men are patient. They’re happy to decipher the dozen-odd kielbasas spelled with a jumble of z’s, c’s and the occasional w. My minutes-earlier experience was indicative of their demeanor.
“How can I help you, sir?” queries the white-capped butcher as I step to the counter. He’s wearing a red T-shirt emblazoned with kielbasa power. It features an egg-shaped sausage possessing skinny legs and bulging, ’roid-rage arms.
“Something for the grill,” I say, licking my wind-cracked lips.
He ponders the plastic pig on the counter and then grabs a couple coils of firm, lightly smoky and lusciously fatty podwawelska ($3.75 a pound). “This will cook juicy and crispy,” he says.
“The grill thanks you,” I say, cradling the waxy package like a newborn. Following the ass affair, my girlfriend and I bike to our pal Angela’s Williamsburg abode. She’s turning 30. To celebrate, the ex-cheerleader-turned-advertising vice president is hosting a block party behind the BQE. There’s beer, a booming sound system and a Hibachi.
“Can I be grill master?” I ask Angela, as excited as a politician near a prostitute. Short of devouring dumplings while receiving a hummer, nothing makes me giddier than grilling. Perhaps it’s control; being responsible for folks’ feeding is as intoxicating as the scent of sizzling flesh. However, I chalk it up to the madeleine effect: Grilling transports me to my greasy Ohio childhood.
After my elementary school’s final bell rang, I’d hustle home and fire up the family gas grill—my urges were fueled by equal parts pyromania and hunger. My chosen meal was a snappy Hebrew National frank or a homemade hamburger patty. Each hot bite brought me a happiness I’d be hard-pressed to match until I discovered beer.
Angela understands my grill glee. “Fire it up,” she says, pointing me toward charcoal. I stack a pitch-black pyramid and toss a lit match. Flames relent to a measured burn. In celebration I crack a creamy and hoppy Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale. Because the Michigan brewery doesn’t distribute to New York, I demand any visiting Midwestern friends bring me a six-pack or, if they care to crash on my couch instead of the unmopped floor, a case. My last visitors wisely bequeathed a case.
“Are you OK?” my girlfriend asks, checking on me.
“Am I doing OK? It’s meat time,” I say, grinning toothily. I bend the kielbasa into a smiley face and hoist it to mine. She covers her ass and shuffles away, shaking her head and likely wondering: What past-life crime did I commit to deserve him?
Free of womanly influence, I spend several hours tending the glowing grill. With a scientist’s locked-in focus, I cook kielbasa, burgers and hot dogs to charred perfection. Partygoers rush over, hands grabbing, mouths chewing. Soon, bellies are ballooned. Coals have cooled. It’s time for dessert: cans of Coors Light and cornhole. This does not entail group sodomy, an act for which I’ve never developed a knack. Cornhole is a Midwestern leisure sport. Two raised platforms containing a circular hole are set 33 feet apart. Participants take turns trying to toss square beanbags into the hole.
“It’s more of an excuse to drink,” I explain to my girlfriend, like tailgating or days of the week ending in Y.
“And you’ve played cornhole?’ my girlfriend asks, as incredulous as if I said I wrestled raccoons.
“Do dogs like to hump legs?”
“The more I learn about you and Ohio, the less I understand,” my girlfriend says.
“We’re both a four-letter word for a good reason,” I say, grabbing a fistful of beanbags and tossing them high into the air, aiming for that dark, shallow hole.