Actually, more like a summer’s sizzling end
On Labor Day weekend I mostly rested and steered clear of labor. It’s a weekend that had, over the years, signaled the end of summer, but this past summer died aborning, getting off to a slow start through June and most of July, with only a handful of days over 80 degrees and briefly interrupted by what passes for a hurricane on this coast.
I did, however, summon the spirit of this country’s fierce and valiant labor movement long enough to, with no little effort, extricate myself from my easy chair and go out back to barbecue some hamburgers for dinner.
I made a bit of a show overselling the effort involved in the task. My daughter Hannah, as she always does when I go through the complicated rigamarole of barbecuing, sniffed that the job doesn’t qualify as work in the slightest.
“All you gotta do is throw some hamburgers on the grill,” she says.
“No, no, no. First you’ve gotta carefully hand-form the patties, making sure they’re 20% fat. Lean hamburgers have no flavor and no sizzle. It’s like barbecuing rocks; zero sizzle feedback. Next, you’ve gotta season them choosing from a variety of options including Montreal steak seasoning, Lawry’s seasoning salt (or garlic salt), coarse ground black pepper or Lawry’s seasoned pepper, maybe a few splashes of Worcestershire for an added blast of umami.
Now you need to start the coals in a chimney with a wadded up ball of New York Times (the throwaways that you might find on your driveway don’t work as well, though they’re satisfying to set on fire). After the coals are all gray, throw the patties on. Some people are slaves to the clock and cook them for x number of minutes per side. I prefer to flip them a few times and just sort of eyeball it. It’s a skill; I can’t teach you how to do it.
So, yeah, beloved daughter, barbecuing hamburgers is laborious, I just don’t make a big deal out of it. It’s what dads do. That, and lay around all day.
What I’m reading
And even laying around all day entails a lot of labor, inasmuch as I’m generally watching Netflix, cruising YouTube or reading books just so I’ll have something to recommend each week in this newsletter.
I might’ve spent too much time trying to find a reason to make the add-to-cart leap after reading a sample of the first chunk of “Somebody’s Fool,” Richard Russo’s sequel-sequel to his excellent 1993 novel “Nobody’s Fool,” and its 2019 followup “Everybody’s Fool.”
The first novel was a masterpiece, following the loveable foibles of Donny “Sully” Sullivan, portrayed brilliantly by Paul Newman in the 1994 film of the same name (the movie also starred Melanie Griffith, Jessica Tandy, Bruce Willis and Philip Seyour Hoffman). The second book was unspectacular and this new one is dragging a bit too much for me. Maybe I’ll finish it, but it’s gotta get back to the end of the line and work its way back up.
More enjoyable was Kentuckian writer Chris Offut’s 2002 memoir “No Heroes,” about his brief and much-hankered-for return to the hollers and ridges of his homeland as a faculty member of his alma mater, Morehead State University, which he finds both as a welcome respite from big-city life, which is just about any town big enough that you don’t know everybody’s name and everything about their family going back a few generations, and frustrating and disappointing for many reasons. Throw away your J.D. Vance “Hillbilly Elegy.” Offut’s nonfiction and his novels are the real deal.
What I watched all weekend
Having made a serious dent in the offerings of the streaming services, I was looking for something good to watch—if I paced myself more responsibly I wouldn’t run out of shows, but I’m a crazed binge watcher.
Then I get an email from our company’s owner, John Molina, who tells me I should watch “Dark Winds” on Amazon Prime. So what am I gonna do, not watch it?
I figured I’d at least give it a try and stick with it until the inevitable zombies showed up. I hate anything with zombies in it.
But, refreshingly, “Dark Winds” is about tribal police in New Mexico chasing after a particularly evil and slippery killer. It pretty much had me immediately, on account of I am apparently a fan of things set on Indian reservations (such as, as I’ve mentioned before “Reservation Dogs” on Hulu), so I celebrated summer’s end by watching all 11 episodes of the two seasons (five in Season 1 and six in Season 2).
So, now I’m back to having no ideas about what to watch, and don’t suggest HBO/Max’s “One Piece.” I feel about anime the same way I feel about zombies.