ARCHIVES Pt. 1

 

LP vs Charcoal: a Discussion in which Scoop and Cap't Kirk fight giant radioactive spiders, and Scoop gets slapped when he neglects Mrs. Scoop's tubes
Animals On Viagra and Dirty Politicians

Don't camp again until you read this column!

 

Scoop's Oldies but Goodies

We'll dig deeper into the Vaults as we progress. For now, let's just ease you into the Past...

Oldie #1  July 2000

LP Gas or Charcoal Cooking--a Discussion.

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BURNT OFFERINGS: THE THRILL OF BBQ, THE AGONY OF Da' MEAT

Camping is fresh air and relaxation and a roaring fire and…

Yes…food!

Back in the prehistoric Charcoal Era, times were simple. You took your round black Weber kettle and you cooked your food. More often than not, this also involved alcohol. That was fine. You eventually got to eat. Then we got modern, and had to be fast. There was no time for that one last beer or cocktail. I too belatedly joined the fast-track style of grilling out.

The first time I read the instructions on how to assemble my new gas grill, I was confused. One reason was the 500+ parts included, none of which resembled in any way the drawings in the manual, which looked like a bad copy of a child's stick-figure drawing. Also, the instructions were in Japanese, even the English version ("insert to Part 39 top lid casting with two clevis pins and two hair pins, not included"). But my initial confusion was the huge Spider Warning on the first page. I admit, it scared me.

Was it warning me not to eat spiders? OK, no problem. But maybe giant Japanese spiders, probably poisonous, might be inside the carton. Being Japanese, did they have radioactive Godzilla-like powers? Then I read further, and found I should make sure these spiders had not, or ever will, infest the "Venturi Tubes".

This sounded like some "female" thing, so I asked Mrs. Scoop if her "Venturi Tubes" had been infiltrated lately, and she promptly slapped me, stating: "How would you know, you slacker?" So I had to remedy that particular problem immediately, and that's why this column is a little late. Sorry.

Anyway, if spiders do infiltrate your Venturi Tubes--which by the way, for you ignoramus beer-swilling males out there who don't put the toilet seat back down, are the tubes hidden way under your gas grill that supply the gas that you ignite--they will hide in them. So you should always inspect the Venturi Tubes as often as required, or you will get slapped. Trust me on this.

If they--the spiders, probably Japanese--do get "homey" in your "Tubes", their webs, apparently with the tensile strength of hardened steel cables, could cause a massive explosion when the Igniter Button is pushed. This, by the way, would make an excellent Star Trek movie:

Mr. Spock: "Captain, data shows the Giant Radioactive Japanese Spiders have managed to infest our Venturi Tubes."

Captain Kirk, swiveling in his chair: "No radioactive spider is going to take command of my ship! Scotty, fire the Ignitor!"

Scotty: "Captain, there's too much pressure! The Venturi Tubes, they no canna' stand the pressure! They're gonna' blow!"

Anyway, this problem has never bothered me a bit. That's because, out of the 20 or so BBQ gas grills I have purchased in my lifetime, not one--and I'm not kidding--has ever had an Igniter that has lasted more than two days. My phony lava rocks--now "upgraded" to white squares with holes in them for "better air-flow"--are always littered with piles of burnt matches. This brings us to today's first SAFETY TIP:

Always use the built-in Igniter to start your flames!

Ha-ha-ha…just kidding! No, the Safety Tip is to stand as far away as possible when flicking your matches into the grill in hopes of igniting the flames. However, this Safety Tip will not always work, due to

#1) You throw matches like a sissy, or

#2) Those four or five pre-dinner drinks you've had make you brave like Squirrel, but dumb like Moose, so you get right up there, figuring your cat-like reflexes will enable you to dart out of harm's way as the flames, powered by five minutes' worth of escaping LP gas, erupt to a height of seven or eight feet. Many eyebrows and knuckle-hairs have been lost in action this way. So I don't recommend it.

Another method would be to use maybe ten feet of fuse, the type commonly found in sticks of dynamite. You could actually make this sort of an Olympic ceremony thing: you hit the boom-box and the opening strains of "2001: A Space Odyssey" fill the air. The expectant crowd is slightly nervous--they can smell an odor of LP gas in the air. You light a match, one of those foot-long wooden ones. You hold the match aloft, then dramatically raise it to the end of the wick tied high above you.

The wick sizzles and snorts its way down the trajectory, headed for the grill. That sweeping majestic horn part of the "Odyssey" song fills the air. The grill ignites and the crowd is on their feet, cheering madly. This is Barbecuing at its finest, Folks!

SAFETY TIP #2: Remove the dynamite from the wick before attempting this stunt.

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You can also try another sure-fire method, especially if you've vowed to never put together another Christmas present for the kids ever again, certainly not a bicycle: Buy pre-assembled!

Ha-ha-ha--just kidding! That's because I already tried this sure-fire method by tossing my old grill on the street and driving vigilantly to a large 'Lumber Yard/Everything Else' type of store and buying a pre-assembled gas grill. The clerk was very helpful, but being in the middle of a big store filled with shoppers, I was not able to fully test all the functions of the grill, especially the Igniter.

Do I need to go any further with this? Sure, the Igniter for the fancy attached soup-cooker thing ignited instantly. I felt proud. But how about those main Igniters, eh? Not a chance, pal...

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: I could have taken the grill back right then, but it would have interfered with my pre-dinner cocktail hour. And the grill was sold "as is". Besides, I'm no sissy. I throw matches like bullets.

So maybe it's not the store's fault, and not the clerk's either. So I won't mention the name of the place, but I do want you to know it's not Ace Hardware and it's not Home Depot. But I will mention the clerk's name, even though he was very helpful and probably didn't put the grill together himself. His name is surprisingly similar to the name of the store. It's…"Menardo".

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OK, now that we have the grill ignited in one way or another, let's cook!

However, that presents another problem area, at least for me. On any given weekend, at any campground, you see men of all sorts expertly grilling food. How do they do it? I mean, some of these guys I wouldn't let plunge my toilet, yet they become Master Chefs at the campsite grill. Yes, there are many men who are indeed experts, some of whom I shall mention in the next paragraph. But let's face it, the only obvious answer to some of these other guys' skills is that they've either been:

  • Poaching all their lives.
  • Eating Road-Kill, and know how to expertly cook almost anything.
  • Survival…they only have four teeth, none in the middle area, and steaks must be tender.

But then there are the rest of us, and somehow, I'm just not making it in the BBQ Winners' Circle. Just last night I ruined $45 worth of steaks and Jumbo shrimp. Mrs. Scoop put it very succinctly: "You can't grill, you never have been able to grill, and you never will be able to grill!"

You know, she might be right. So that's why I'm impressed when I see regular people with all their teeth like The Fabulous Augello's and the Hart's coolly whipping together feasts that include grilled steaks and chops and chicken plus breads and salads and pasta, and Frank and Al over there concocting meals that make me salivate like a Pavlov dog, and Cap't Len deftly flipping Italian sausage. And I'm sure you see it all around you, too: BBQ talent galore.

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In another near-famous grilling incident, at least in my mind, my good friend John VanHorn arrived at a backyard party of mine. Many people had to be fed, there were twenty steaks to be grilled, and, of course, my grill would not…(ALL TOGETHER NOW!)…IGNITE!

But quickly wheeling over my beat-up backup grill and hooking up a spare tank of gas, John threw all twenty steaks in a pile on the 3-foot surface of the grill, sort of like a pyramid of meat. I must explain at this point that John and I had been golfing, and we have Three Rules of Golf: 1) We don't walk--we must have carts. 2) We bet on every hole. 3) We drink a lot of beer.

So the famished crowd was a bit doubtful that they would be fed anything edible from this pyramid of meat. But steak by steak, John sorted them out and twenty minutes later we were all feasting on some fine T-bones.

So why can't I do that?

It must be that as a child I was frightened in some way by a grill, or a hamburger. I don't know. But I do recall a more recent incident, in which many brats and hot dogs were seriously injured.

Milton's annual Chicken BBQ and Arts and Crafts is justifiably famous and well-attended. Many years ago, for the first time, it was decided to also serve brats and hot dogs. I volunteered to cook, and enlisted the help of several good people, one of them being another good friend, John Kath. We set up next to the Milton Fire Department table, where they were roasting corn to sell later.

First, by dawn's early light, I helped set up the grills for the chicken. I think it was raining, but I definitely remember there was a problem keeping the charcoal lit. A "special flammable liquid" was brought in to speed up the process. I noticed that it worked very well--the charcoal was just right in a very short length of time, and all was well. John arrived a bit later, and we concentrated on our brats and hot dogs.

This went fine, until the first batch was done. Some devilish fiend had surreptitiously planted a cooler of cold beer in the back of my pickup truck. John and I, backs to the grill, trying to hide because no beer was allowed in the park, were discussing many important topics, one of them being the taste of a cold beer when grilling out, when John noticed that the coals needed reviving.

Now, People, I stand before you and swear that I did not pour the "special flammable liquid" on the charcoal after we loaded the grill with the 2nd batch of brats and dogs. I do know that it took a while for the "special flammable liquid" to take effect. I also know that John and I were enjoying another cold beer when there was a loud cry of "Fire!".

And to this day we are grateful to the five Milton Firefighters and two Paramedics, all of them in BBQ aprons, who left their corn roaster and dashed over with a hose to put out the blaze that unfortunately destroyed 30 brats and 20 hot dogs. Actually, "destroyed" is not the proper term, since John fed many of the brats and dogs to his since-departed horse Ned, and brought the rest to a pot-luck dinner the next week. All of those people are still alive.

So, you see, I have a perfectly good excuse for being grill-deficient. It's self-inflicted bad karma, or maybe a feng shui thing. My grill is not aligned with the stars, or the natural forces of nature, or whatever. So I'm going to fix this right now. In ten minutes I am going to take my non-working LP-gas grill right back to "Menardo" and demand a replacement that works, even though I bought this grill at the beginning of April, and it looks sort of ugly by now. Just to be sure, I'm taking Mrs. Scoop with me. She can be a terror. I'll let you know how this turns out as soon as I get back…

(ELAPSED TIME: 1 Hour. Extra minimal damage inflicted to grill when it tipped over in the back of the truck on the way. Most loose parts recovered along highway.)

Well, I must admit it went very well. Mrs. Scoop didn't need to terrorize any clerks or managers…I explained why I was returning the grill, and I got my money back, no problem. Then we returned to the grill aisle and looked at replacements. I glanced briefly at a shiny brushed-metal deal for $699 and quickly averted my eyes. Then we looked at the same model we had returned. We looked at every LP-gas grill there. Then Mrs. Scoop looked deep into my grilling-deficient eyes, and I knew the answer. I bowed to her wishes and bought what she wanted, clever man that I am.

And now the new grill awaits. It was pre-assembled, so my set-up time was zero. The steaks are marinating, the corn is soaking in salt water, a salad has been made. All I need to start the grill is right at my fingertips…a fresh bag of charcoal and a match. My "Igniter" comes in a squeeze-bottle. I am BBQ Man--hear me roar! (And my instruction manual has no Spider Warnings--we charcoal men just fry those suckers right up!)

There is of course a downside to reverting back to a charcoal grill. No, it's not my pride…even Dirty Harry says a man has to know his limitations. What it is, is the extra time spent waiting for the coals to be just right. Me, I see the silver lining in all of this:

My cocktail hour just got extended another 40 minutes.

Cheers, everyone!

 

(PS: In case you're still figuring it out, it was Menard's, and and it was just my bad luck, and they were very helpful. I shop there often, happily.)

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(Last issue's Scoop column had a real contest, with a real prize of a gift certificate generously donated by Dave's Milton Ace Hardware. I forgot to mention a deadline, but if you're reading this, you're too late.

Since I won't know who, if anyone, won before I turn this in, the answer is

(A) Nobody, since no one has entered any of my contests in the past five years…

(B) The name listed below has won a $25 gift certificate, courtesy of Dave's Milton Ace Hardware:

Will the Chief (the Editor) please announce the correct answer? Thank you. And readers--hurry up. Your steaks are burning.

Editor's Note: Sorry, Scoop--no one entered this one, either!

Oldie #2  June 2000

Let's meet a few more characters who will teach us some Safety Tips. And let's be careful out there!

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IMPORTANT SAFETY WARNINGS EVERY CAMPER MUST KNOW!

Yes indeed, Spring is here at last! Trees and flowers are blooming, farmers are fertilizing, and in the air is the smell of…Danger!

This is because most of you are so eager to resume camping after that long winter that you throw all caution to the winds. I know this because I already see potentially-dangerous things happening all over the place, and by the Reporter's Code of Ethics I am bound to report them to you. Much more will happen as the summer goes on, and I can only do so much by myself. So if you know of anybody else we can make fun of, please let me know! (Scoop@scoopjackson.net ).

First off, we have a Severe Rake-Attack Warning. Leaves are everywhere, and seasonal campers are anxious to get their sites clean, but please be careful during this strenuous activity. I'm not talking about heart-attacks here--I'm talking about new camper Bill Greco, who was seen recently with a bandaged hand.

According to Bill, he was raking leaves when "the rake suddenly shattered and bit me." Bill was not seriously injured, but in anger he tossed the broken rake into his campfire and left.

That was a mistake, Bill. Evidently you have not heard the "haunted rake" story often told around late campfires. Why, just the other day someone noticed that your wounded rake was now out of the campfire and it seemed to be slowly inching its way towards your trailer. Beware, Bill! You shouldn't have left the scene until the rake was mere ashes! Campers, if you see a man staggering towards you clutching at a rake with its tines sunk in his throat, run away! (I also suffered an injury while raking, when my rake snapped and whapped me upside the head, to use a "hip-hop" term. But I was smart and burned my rake beyond recognition.).

Next we have Tom S., another new camper. Tom's last name is being withheld for reasons he and I discussed, and I felt justified. And he gave me a beer. Tom's story doesn't start at a campground, but I fear it will affect segments of the wildlife population at our campgrounds here in Southern Wisconsin, and in a disturbing way.

Tom owns a business known as 'All Wild Animal Evictions'. He describes his business as "evicting" wild animals from your house or area and repairing the damage they have done. It's a full-service deal. He seems very capable and efficient, and I would recommend him, except he goes camping to get away from work, just like you. So leave him alone on the weekends.

Anyway, at first, not aware that an Investigative Reporter such as myself was nearby, he happened to mention that the Yellow Pages in Illinois made an error in his ad a while back, a mistake that may haunt him up here in the wilds of Wisconsin…

Instead of 'Wild Animal Evictions', the ad was printed as 'Wild Animal Erections'. According to Tom: "I got a lot of strange phone calls. Sometimes older women. Once there was a chirping voice that oddly sounded like a parrot."

To Tom, that was in the past, in Illinois. Up here, however, it may be a different story. Unseemly as it may seem, I know that many women from Illinois carry old phone books as a source of toilet paper when they need to wander into the woods for a call of nature. They think these "yellow pages" (joke!) will just disintegrate. How wrong, Ladies! What actually happens is that in Fall the leaves disappear and right there is Tom's Yellow Pages ad. All is quiet now, and the animals of the woods venture out. Most of them merely sniff at Tom's ad, but there is one, Guido the Badger, the Leader, who has learned to read, although not real well, and only big print.

Guido squints at the ad. His eyes open wide. He is an old badger, and there is no badger Viagra, but yet here is help! Not having a cellular phone, he waits for Tom patiently. He knows this man will soon be here to help him. After all, it's in the Yellow Pages, right there! And one day, just as Tom is trying to have some peace and quiet…

Ok, so I exaggerate. But let's extrapolate a bit here. Scientists are busy cloning animals all over the place. DNA is experimented on, perhaps altered. As OJ Simpson will tell you, DNA samples are often "planted" in the wrong places. So what happens if scientists create a highly-intelligent but older animal that can read but escapes near a campground and has a certain, ah…'dysfunction'? So, as a service to wildlife, we hereby issue our 1st Official Notice:

NOTICE!!! To All Older Male Animals: TOM DOES NOT HAVE ANY VIAGRA, TOM DOES NOT NEED ANY VIAGRA, AND EVEN IF HE DID HAVE SOME, HE WOULDN'T GIVE IT TO ANY ANIMAL NAMED GUIDO. SO THERE!

You're welcome, Tom.

Our next tale of fear is not much cleaner, because it involves a lot of mud.

And a golf cart. And an elected official of an Illinois city north of Chicago. Because I don't believe in mud-slinging (ha-ha!), names have been withheld (see next paragraph). Also, he will pay for my fees AND the cart the next time we golf together. And I will win, correct? (His son, also involved in this story, can pay the 2nd time. I know I'll win that one.)

The mystery-man, Mr. "R" (Randy Hart Sr.), came to his seasonal site recently and found almost-flat tires on his golf cart. With his entire family anxious for a golf cart ride in the woods, Mr. R managed to get his cart to an air compressor. Once there, he was flummoxed. With air-chuck in hand, he stared bewildered at his deflated tires. He circled the cart. He stared again. Just in time, as the family was badgering him, someone came along and showed him how the air-chuck is fitted to the tire valve. With a sigh of relief, the family of wife, son, and assorted grandkids went merrily into the woods. But not for long…

Guido, thoroughly frustrated, attacked with a vengeance…WAIT--that's not true! What actually happened is that Randy Sr. got stuck in a valley between a body of water and a slippery slope. Generations of family were screaming as Randy sloshed his cart in the mud, rocking it to-and-fro in vain. Young children hung on in sheer terror as the cart spun deeper into the slick mud embankment and then even closer to the chilling water. Son Randy Jr. tried valiantly to shove from the back of the cart, only to be quickly covered in mud. A rescuer later described him this way: "He had clumps of mud hanging from everywhere, even his earlobes. All I could see were his eyeballs. He looked like one of those Clay-People from a Flash Gordon movie, and he walked like that, too, because he was so thickly coated."

During Randy Sr.'s feeble attempts to escape the clutches of the deadly valley, his wife and grandchildren fled, seeking help. Luckily, "J*e Augell*" (name withheld) and a friend answered their distress call. According to "J*e": "We drove my truck into the woods. At every path that he might have entered, we yelled out Randy's name. We got no answer. My friend and I decided to walk the area. We walked maybe a mile at least before we heard a response. There was Randy Sr. and Randy Jr. ..."

"This way!" they shouted, so we followed them down a slimy trail they should never have gone down on in a golf cart. And they kept walking, for another 100 yards at least. We walked a very, very long way.

"Finally, we reached the cart. My friend and I were exhausted, but we and Randy Jr. struggled with all our might to free the cart. Randy Sr. kept splattering mud at all of us, the cart getting closer to the lake one time and more rutted into the hill the next. At last, with a supreme Herculean effort, the cart was freed. And then, as we watched, Randy Sr. waved Goodbye and sped up the trail, leaving us stranded!"

In all fairness, we now give Mr. Hart's side of the story:

"I didn't want to get stuck again, so I kept going."

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So far we have covered Deadly Rakes, Wild Frisky Animals, and Golf Carts Driven By Politicians. What is left? Oh…

On a sad note, I must now report that Bill Greco, the afore-mentioned tool-damaged man soon to be attacked by his murderous rake, will not be hired by Menard's as a shed assembler. Neighbors were aghast as Bill's "Easy-To-Assemble In Only Five Hours" shed turned into a marathon 3-day project. When last seen, Bill was on the roof of the shed with a roll of Duct-tape, for reasons unknown. Bets were being placed as to a completion date.

And, of course, no Safety Column would be complete without mention of the irrepressible Jimmy Barnes. To those of you 'out of the loop', Jimmy is the Chicago Firefighter who almost burned down his own Fire Station while basting BBQ ribs with a kerosene-soaked brush. Jimmy is presently under a Curse, which can only be removed when he buys everyone he meets a beer. Jimmy's latest unfortunate incident occurred last Fall, but I've been saving it:

In what seems to be a common event, Jimmy clogged the toilet in his trailer. He then used a plunger on the toilet. As best as Jimmy can determine, he did NOT adequately plunge, leaving the pipe under tremendous pressure. According to Jimmy, when he flushed the toilet again: "This giant geyser shot up, like a backfire, almost to the ceiling. Everything, including myself, was splattered. Thank goodness it was only water at this point!"

In what we can only conclude as a confused state of mind, Jimmy again flushed the toilet, this time while peering intently into the bowl…

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FINAL STUFF: I want to say that I have known Randy Hart Sr. for many years, and I find him to be an upstanding and capable person, except when it comes to golf carts. That is why you should always vote for him, so maybe he could get someone to drive him around on his civic duties. Or at least get a government car with fully-inflated tires. And I will certainly drive the cart when we golf!

As for Jimmy Barnes, he cleaned up well. Always one to capitalize on his misfortune, he spent the rest of the day, in his words, "looking for French women and asking them if they wanted to see my bidet." Also, his Italian pals have asked him to become their Consigliere, so Jimmy has decided to change his Irish name. He will henceforth be known as "Guido Stiletto", no relation to Guido the Badger.

Speaking of Guido the Badger, he wants you to know that he will be appearing June 15th on the Jerry Springer Show along with Sally the Squirrel and Ruby the Raccoon, in an episode tentatively titled: "Inter-Species Dating--I want my Badger Back!"

And our sympathies again to Bill Greco, who lost out on another job, this time as a replacement for Tim "Tool-Man" Taylor on the new 'Home Improvement' show now in production. A source close to ABC said: "He certainly qualified in the 'tool-skill deficiency' area, but when we advertised for someone with 'rakish' good looks, we didn't mean that way!"

Have a great summer, but ladies…let's be careful out there! In the woods, I mean. Some of those guys you date are real animals.

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