Here’s how I know I’m getting older: Past springs and summers in New York, my pulse would quicken at a flash of leg, a low-cut blouse, shorts cut to a cheek—lust stoked after a long winter hibernation.
These days, bosoms and behinds provide fewer heart palpitations. Instead, I ache for a lush green lawn. It needn’t be much, perhaps 50 or 60 square feet, space to plant a garden, let my pooch freely pee and, most crucially, store a grill.
The irony is that my brownstone possesses a postcard-perfect backyard. Problem is, I live on the third floor. Backyard access is through a basement, where our nice neighbor repairs computers while wearing pajamas. Much like an inmate clutching a prison fence and eyeballing the freedom beyond, I stare wistfully at the wooded backyard, envisioning plumes of grill smoke climbing to the clouds.
“So why don’t we put a grill in the front patio?” my downstairs neighbor Meghan suggested. Patio might be a generous statement. More accurate might be: fenced-in slab of concrete ringed by trash cans, a stoop and a leafy tree that towers above our building. In its gritty way, the patio’s an urban paradise—provided you don’t mind the occasional maggot slithering from a trashcan.
“How will we prevent people from stealing it?” I asked. Our block is littered with the corpses of stripped bikes left to rust and disintegrate. Surely a blackened grill has some black-market value.
“Big lock,” Meghan replied in a snap.
Sold. The first ’cue met with smoky, meaty success, thanks to Trader Joe’s. The discount grocer is a cheapskate’s dream, stocked with jalapeño-spiked chicken sausages for $3.50 and six-packs of sublime ales for $6.99. (Trust me on the grandeur of the gloriously hopped, craft-quality Mission Street Pale Ale and IPA. Though the label doesn’t admit it, they’re brewed by California’s award-winning Firestone Walker.)
“You’re finally the master of your own grill,” my girlfriend said, wiping a blackened smudge off my grinning mug.
Indeed. One of the lesser acknowledged glories of being a grill master is dictating what’s brought to a barbecue. Need some sweet, buttery Martin’s potato rolls? Coming right up! Bring me Hebrew National frankfurters, stat! Of course, my most common request is beer. The combination of nitrite-laden wieners and 85-degree heats means even the best-stocked ice chest quickly succumbs to guests’ unslakable thirst.
It was a truism driven home last Saturday, when we held a last-minute bash. Other friends were supposed to hold their own grill-fest, but they wilted under the 50 percent threat of thunderstorms. Naturally, skies were Smurf-blue, continuing forecasters’ month-long losing streak. (Seriously, weren’t we supposed to have two straight weeks of thunderstorms that never struck?) Sausages and bratwursts were cooked till as fat and taut as Restylane-plumped lips. Utz chips were devoured. Beer disappeared. I requested reinforcements. My friend Sam left, returning bearing a black plastic bag. Inside sat a six-pack of Miller Genuine Draft, one of my least favorite beers. It’s rich and metallic, like sucking on pennies soaked in margarine. “Uh, thanks,” I said, in the manner of children who receive underwear for Christmas. “Damn—I knew I was right,” Sam said. “You like Coors Light.”
It is no lie: I do adore Coors Light.
Though I’m a craft-beer acolyte, when the mercury crests 85 degrees, I love chugging this lightly alcoholic seltzer. Sure, Coors Light is mass-produced and about as flavorful as tap water, but there are times when quantity trumps quality. But in the absence of Coors Light, I took an MGD anyway. When beer is free, I’m not a picky man.
My friend Ben also held a black bag.
I peeked inside. “My god, Ben,” I said, shaking my head like a disappointed parent. He’d bought Smirnoff Ice, an alco-pop that tastes like a sugary, artificially fruit-flavored hangover.
“I’m going to Ice Sam,” he said. His words saddened me a great deal.
For the uninitiated, Icing is an Internet meme come to real life. Basically, you present an unsuspecting sap with a Smirnoff Ice, and they’re forced to drop to one knee and chug it. It’s ironic to the point of excess—which is the point, I guess. But sometimes, irony and idiocy are one and the same. Sam was Iced, the cloudy liquid going down his gullet as if he were attempting to drink oatmeal. Ben turned to me, a malicious glint in his glazed eyes.
“If you want another hot dog,” I said, throwing wieners atop the hot coals, “you won’t ice the grill master.”