I had a grill—a cheap, off-brand, bizarrely squircle-shaped charcoal kettle job, which I picked up for a few bucks at Big Lots (which, for the unacquainted, is a name for what is left strewn on the landscape when a giant comes lumbering down the mountain, lifts up a Wal-Mart, holds it upside down, and shakes it for a few seconds, before carrying it off to use as a Frisbee)—which, despite its obscure origins and odd shape, served me quite well for several years, before one day tendering its resignation by collapsing into a sad pile of somewhat frighteningly frangible metal scraps the moment I dumped a bag of charcoal into it on a gorgeous afternoon at the very end of last summer. I like to think that this poor generic relabeled compost tumbler's final generous act toward my family was to self-destruct prior to the ignition of this last fire, which certainly would have caused its altogether disintegration and the burning down of my home. In any event: I had a grill, and then I did not have a grill, and it was all rather sudden. I had to broil those chicken breasts, and man, that's just a bunch of bullshit right there.
Not having a grill in the winter isn't the biggest hardship in all the world, especially since my usual response to the arrival of cold weather is to burrow deep into a pile of dryer-warmed laundry and sob inconsolably for five months—but still. We do still get the odd pleasant, relatively warm, sunlit day during winter, especially now that the Earth is goddamn ruined, and on those days, it's nice to be able to decide that I'm going to cook dinner on the grill, before the sun rockets below the horizon 15 minutes after dawn and the total pitch blackness sends me back inside to chew on some bread in my toasty pile of laundry. The important thing, even in those winter months, is what the grill represents: the freedom to make the choice to grill, to be outside, to prod a fire and feel the sun on your face and smell smoke and know that your neighbors are burning with gut-churning envy as they poke hopelessly at their whole wheat pasta with fucking kale greens and steamed cardboard. It was a long winter without a grill, speaking figuratively of course, because, at least as far as global weather patterns are concerned, there hasn't been a winter since 2004.
Owing to a combination of Eastern European ancestry (my Latvian-American grandfather so loved a good bargain that he purchased wooden duck decoys simply because they were on sale, then stuck them in the tree in front of his house as decorations because, hey, he had to do something with those good bargains), a childhood of financial hardship, and an adulthood of being bad at things and thus not getting paid very much to do them, I'm known among those who know me as neurotically tentative about making any purchase larger and more permanent than the week's stock of groceries. I don't think I'm cheap—when I finally do get around to spending the money, I tend to spend a lot of it—so much as I'm incapable of spending money on anything without feeling as though I have been irresponsible and wasteful and stupid and selfish in doing so, and instantly regretting the whole fucking thing, not just the purchase but the Whole Fucking Thing, my stupid life and my parents and the advent of capitalism and, like, how come we don't just share everything, man, and this is all a savage bloodthirsty horror-show dressed up as a society, and humanity was a big mistake, and I'd just goddamn drown myself in the bathtub except that that's like nine bucks worth of water right there. My socks have holes in them. The pants I am wearing have no button. The towels in my bathroom are older than Time. I simply cannot convince myself to replace any of them.
So it was with the grill. I knew I ought to have one; I knew having one would make me happier; I knew that replacing a high-use appliance that can be had for relatively little money is not the sort of thing that marks one as an improvident wastrel worthy of stoning in the town square ... and yet. Knowing that you need a new grill is not precisely the same thing as swiping your debit card at the home goods store and committing to the purchase of one money that might otherwise be spent on, like, what if the kids suddenly need new heads? How are we gonna pay for their new heads? We're not, that's goddamn how, because you had to have a grill. Well I hope you're happy, because now we've got the only kids in town with the outdated head models.
This is the precise reason why Home Depot invented spring: without it, no one with even the tiniest vanishing droplet of obdurate Eastern European blood would ever purchase anything. The warming weather; the longer days; the blossoming daffodils and chirping birds; the clear blue skies and shimmering crystalline sunlight and, by God, any goddamn thing growing on the trees to cast beautiful flickering shadows in that sunlight: all at once you are drunk on Vitamin D and serotonin and you are screaming Woo! and twirling your ragged shirt over your head and, most brazen of all, plunking down a couple of bucks to replace it. The shirt. Not the head. Not yet.
And that's how I came to have a new, modest charcoal grill: in between Woo!s. I feel like shit about it, but I feel like great shit about it. I may never use anything else. Not just for cooking: I mean, I might never use anything else, period. If I could brush my teeth with this thing, I'd brush my teeth with it, but I cannot, so I am not going to brush my teeth anymore. Here, again, what matters most is what the grill represents: that I may stand outside of my home in pleasant weather and prod a hot fire without being required to first set the tires of my car aflame. That I may induce a state of deep, sizzling, sexy caramelization on hacked-off wads of animal tissue without filling my home with smoke. That I may cook dinner without somehow managing to dirty and/or destroy every solitary goddamn item of cookware the industry of mankind has ever produced. That I may live, damn you!
The moral of this story, then, is that I have a grill now, and if you do not, I am better than you, or maybe that you should get a grill or appreciate the one you have, because grilling is the reason for living, or anyway it's a reason to feel good about living, look, OK, I was never really planning on this thing having a moral. I like my grill. I'm glad I have it. Isn't that enough for you? What's with the third-degree, Mom?