Friday morning. About three weeks after moving to Colorado. I’d accumulated a bill and a pay stub and the other forms of identification I needed to get a Colorado driver’s license. So I woke up bright and early with the intent of getting to the DMV in Boulder the minute it opened at 7 a.m.
But alas, life happens. I got a little bit of a late start. I let the dogs hang out in the yard a little longer than I’d planned — I’m a sucker for what the dogs want. I didn’t get to the DMV until 7:30.
In South Louisiana, the Cajun French word for godfather is parrain. Good luck pronouncing that correctly. It’s one of the few Cajun French words I know that isn’t a curse word. Parrain.
Last night my parrain died. Charles Wheaton. My daddy’s younger brother.
I saw him last year at my brother Daniel’s wedding. But the last time I had any kind of extended conversation with him was a few years ago, in Opelousas. I’d swung by the group home where he was still working at the time, before the state of Louisiana decided that taking care of adults with developmental disabilities wasn’t worth its time or money. Uncle Charles had some choice words about that.
But what we actually talked about that day, and what sticks with me, was my first novel. The one about the priest. He told me he got a kick out of the book, that he loved it. And let me tell you, that’s going to go down as one of the proudest achievements in my writing career. Because Uncle Charles was the storyteller of the family. I might be able to write a story or two, but Uncle Charles could start talking and the whole house would fall silent. Only for a minute or two, though, because it wasn’t long before people were practically falling off of furniture from laughing so hard.
I seem to remember his stories starting with, “Hey, yall remember that old boy.” His stories were often about some old boy. Back in the day. That did something that was hilariously unspeakable. I remember at least one that involved a horny farm boy, an unwilling animal, and a load of one party’s excrement dropped into the other’s pants. Uncle Charles didn’t worry much about mixed company. And he often seemed to delight in making pearl-clutchers clutch their pearls just a little bit harder.
As the first two plates of chopped and sliced pork were placed on the table in front of us, accompanied by sides of Ore-Ida-looking French fries and an entire basket of hush puppies, my first thought was, “I hope I can handle a whole week of Carolina barbecue.”
My son Nick and I were at Lexington Barbecue in Lexington, North Carolina, the first stop on one of our somewhat annual barbecue tours. Our first trip, the Barrage of Brisket Tour back in 2013, took us to the Austin area, where we made five stops. The next tour was 2015’s Madness in Memphis , where we hit six barbecue places (and one fried chicken joint). In 2016, it was Kicking It in Kansas, for seven stops.
That last name is pretty damn awful, and I admit I’m retroactively naming some of these because I dubbed this year’s trip The Meat Sweats Tour.
Since Cara and I moved in together a hundred or so years ago, my consumption of horror movies has increased exponentially. She likes them. And, truth be told, the genre has grown on me, partly due to some pretty quality stuff being released in the last decade or so. There’s also some outright garbage that can be enjoyable in its own right.
The article was headlined “Why Is Brooklyn Barbecue Taking Over the World?” I’m not even going to link to it. But it was a perfect example of a certain sort of food writing: provocative clickbait written by someone seemingly ignorant about barbecue and journalism.
It also gave Brooklyn way too much credit while trying to champion something that didn’t need his damn help—which seems to be a particularly Brooklyn thing to do (and by that, I mean a particularly Williamsburg thing to do).
As a certified barbecue judge who’s eaten his way through Austin, Lockhart, Memphis, and Kansas City, with a couple of stops in the Carolinas, I can tell you this: Brooklyn barbecue isn’t taking over the world, but it is good and doesn’t need this trend-setting bullshit.
The piece featured a handful of places, including one Brooklyn barbecue restaurant that’s been closed for over a year. The only thing remotely supporting a claim that Brooklyn barbecue was taking over the world was that people in other locations are using the same sort of decor (which, to be honest, is generic Brooklyn hipster and not remotely unique to Brooklyn barbecue joints).
And there was the photo. On an oversized metal tray lined with butcher paper, five slices of gray brisket, two pickles, what appear to be two Kings Hawaiian rolls, and beer served in a Mason jar (of course). There had to be two inches of real estate between each item.