Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011


We had a relatively nonproductive Labor Day Weekend. While, as reflected in the prior posting, our power was restored after about 24 hours, a wide swath of houses beginning just 5 properties away remained dark for over 6 days.

Our shul had its annual Labor Day barbecue yesterday, run by the Sisterhood. As in past years, my wife volunteered me to run the actual barbecuing (which included procuring the charcoal, setting up the grills, et cetera). My preferred method is to make my own charcoal from wood; this year it would have been ideal because of all of the downed trees in the vicinity. [For the record, when I make my charcoal I have a hose at the ready and frequently spray water into the flaming wood fire to create the charcoal. As seen in the old advertisements, that is how the Jack Daniel's distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee makes their charcoal.].

But there is one particular neighbor who gets squeamish about ordinary outdoor barbecuing, let alone the open flames necessary to create charcoal from wood. She's basically a sweet late-middle-age widow, but her tolerance for risk is extremely low. Another shul neighbor is a firefighter with FDNY, and he has no problem with the conduct of my charcoal-making process, as long as the fire is not left unattended. So, as not to cause this fine woman any untoward angst, I have for several years been using the pre-burnt wood purchased at the store (and known commonly as "charcoal"), at least at our shul barbecues.

At my own home, I do the charcoal-making routine. My immediate neighbors, who seldom if ever have occasion to peer over the fence into my back yard (and vice versa), don't seem to mind, except for the teenage son of one of them who about 2 years ago was all upset about air pollution and greenhouse gasses and global warming. But I explained to him that if the combustion process of which he complained did not occur in the pan of my backyard barbecue grill, it would occur in the charcoal manufacturer's facility -- and gasoline would be burned in order to transport the bag of charcoal to the grocery store. By manufacturing my own charcoal, I use local wood, so while the charcoal-making process is the same in either event, the gasoline or diesel fuel combustion inherent in the transportation process is eliminated.

If I must use charcoal, I prefer the lump charcoal to the briquette charcoal. [And, of course, I never, ever use lighter fluid, let alone the match-light charcoal briquettes.]. The lump charcoal leaves less unburnt charcoal. But this year, I decided to try the Kingsford's Mesquite Briquettes. I bought one bag of Kingsford's Mesquite and one of the lump charcoal. Having done the somewhat scientific comparison, I still prefer the lump charcoal to the briquettes, but if I am compelled to use briquettes, the Kingsford's Mesquites are slightly superior to ordinary briquettes.

In any event, the barbecue went off quite well. We had approximately 50 people in attendance. Busy as I was at the grill, I didn't have much opportunity to sit down and shmooze with the other attendees. I had to tend to the grilling. It was tiring and draining.

But I do not complain! My social isolation was nothing compared to the social isolation experienced by our men and women in uniform whose military duties keep them away not only from the picnic tables at the barbecue, but from their families and friends at home. It is highly likely that I will once again pull barbecue duty next year. And I shall be happy to serve.

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