So, it's a Monday night, and I'm still worn out from a busy weekend of football, my lovely wife purging the house, a wedding on the 3rd Saturday in October of all days (365 days in a year and they pick Alabama vs. Tennessee Saturday), and smoking a pork loin on the Igor Mk. 1. I've also been feeling a certain stir and hearing a quiet call. A call to come back home.....to the BBQ competition home that is. I've been out of BBQ competitions for over a year now, and I must admit for the longest I didn't miss it at all. Heck, I didn't even want to discuss it, and I openly said words such as 'probably never again', 'why would I do that', 'I'm doing it just for fun now', 'I've got a trailer for sale.' For the longest time that was the truth. Maybe others can relate, maybe not. And then it began. Slowly and incrementally, I started to miss competitions and competing. To quote Kylo Ren from Star Wars, "There has been an awakening." Being the mental health professional that I am, I automatically assumed I had gone completely whack-a-do. Way out there and completely nuttier than squirrel poop. Who in their right mind would give up $750.00-$1,000.00 in costs, a full weekend, good sleep, and a lot of time to go and do a BBQ competition? No one, right? Well.......maybe not 'no one'. To quote Lee Corso, "Not so fast my friend!" For whatever reason, I've resurrected the craving for BBQ competitions; to be out on the road; seeing my old friends; and generally winding up in the middle of the pack. I used to refer to Grandpa's Pride BBQ as the Cleveland Browns of BBQ competitions. We weren't the best, but we weren't dead last either. So there's that. The best finish we ever had was at Porktoberque where we finished 8th overall. I got a nice clock out of that one. I do like to think some things with me have changed in the past few months. No, I didn't return an e-mail to a Nigerian prince that wanted to share with me his incredible wealth. No, I didn't hit the Powerball or lotto, and no the sales of the 12 Months of Shirtless Sexy Jeff Calendar didn't suddenly skyrocket ($14.95 + S/H order now and be just in time for Veteran's Day). I just miss it. Not all of it of course as there are some elements I could do without; however, there are the important parts. I like talking to strangers.......a habit picked up as a kid much to the dismay of my parents and my teachers from the 3rd through 8th grades. I like making new friends (real ones and not the imaginary kind), and I like to root for those folks around me. I think I forgot that part. If, and it's still an 'if', I decide to return to the rough and tumble world of BBQ competitions, I have some goals for myself. Some professional and some personal. I would like to outscore and place ahead of my old sensei Rub Bagby in at least one competition. I still think the school he puts on is a top-notch BBQ school and was good money spent wisely. I'd like to go to cook's church with Jeff P from Louisiana. I would like to add to the BBQ bucket list of maybe getting to Bentonville one day for the Nationals. If I get there, I'd love to see Wink, Bobby Lankford, Forrest, Jacob Ray and a couple of others there competing too. I can't do a lot of competitions....I accept that, but I think it isn't about quantity as much as it is about quality. Granted, if you are going for Team of the Year, you have to be a bit of a road warrior. Sadly, my job won't allow for that currently. What I can do, however, is to focus on what is important: Seeing people, spreading the good word about BBQ, being an ambassador for what we all love and enjoy, and treating where ever I may roam as a new adventure. So to quote another band that got back together, "Sky dive naked from an aeroplane......kick start my heart!" Y'all take care, and Riley says, "Hello and stop singing."
So like many of folks living in the State of Florida, I'm thankful the storm didn't impact our area as badly as it could have. Don't get me wrong, there were large parts of the state that got hammered , sadly, with loss of life and property. Many lost everything they have to include family and friends. I ask that everyone continue to pray for those folks and the folks impacted in Texas and Louisiana. The other day, I ran into a large convoy of Texas Game Wardens that were heading south to help out.....just like our Florida FWC officers did for them. Nice. With the majority of the storm heading up to Georgia and other parts north, I've been doing like a lot of others which includes a lot of prayer, taking stock of the storm's impact, doing some reading, thinking about what we need to do to be better prepared for the next storm/natural event, and watching t.v. Sadly, shows like Keeping up with Kardashians, Real Housewives of the whatever, and CNN are still on. To add to the televised nightmare, there is a new show on Animal Planet called, and I'm not kidding, "My Big Fat Pet Makeover." Apparently, someone, maybe sober....maybe not, in the Animal Planet Executive Suite said, "Hey, the Kardashians and CNN are still on, so why don't we do a show about fat pets and how we help the pet's people get them slim again." I'm no animal expert; however, maybe....just maybe.....you should stop feeding your pet 4,390 empty calories a day and let it run once every solar eclipse or so. But that's just me. It also got me doing a lot of pondering about my BBQ status. I haven't participated in any competition in over a year, and my beloved Frankensmoker 3.2 is disabled due to a horrible miscalculation on my part. So given our current meteorological state, I've had time to rethink a lot of things to do with BBQ. Primarily and before I can even consider returning to the circuit, I will have to get Frankie up and going again which will include designing and finding someone to fabricate a new firebox. I ideally would like a firebox that will be sealed and will allow for a charcoal basket. I'm sure the right resources are out there. Anyone with any ideas, please message me. Also, I think I want to dedicate more time to doing BBQ for the sake of doing BBQ. I enjoy BBQ, I enjoy eating, so why not do more of the two things I like most? I want to play around with rubs using different spices. I don't have any grand ideas that I will sell my stuff since I don't really have the BBQ circuit cred' to make it like many of the Titan of Smoke have done before me; however, who knows what the future holds. My fear is that BBQ is waning in popularity which is sad to me. There are fewer and fewer t.v. shows that focus on all things BBQ, and there has been a decline in the number of competitions. On the upshot, there will always be a strong base to support good BBQ since BBQ isn't about competitions or t.v. as much as it is a way and style of cooking. Additionally, there are BBQ restaurants in both chain and individual forms that continue to grow across the country, the number of sauces and rubs available at local stores continues to increase in variety and styles, and people who just enjoy good, slow-cooked, ol' fashioned, smoke-filled, take-the-secret-of-the-sauce-recipe-to-the-grave, lip-smacking good BBQ keep on enjoying their body weight in BBQ each year. Whether you call it BBQ, Bar-B-Que, Barbecue, or Heaven slathered in a sweet and sticky sauce, we gotta keep the flame burning with the accompanying thin, blue flame. If the Kardashians and the Real Housewives of Hair Product #3 can stay popular, I think the future for BBQ is pretty bright. It would be too sad to consider otherwise. Y'all take care, and Riley says, "Hello and I'm not going out to pee in that."