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.
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.
But what’s increasingly clear is that Trump doesn’t understand how actual business works these days. Trump has probably never shopped at Amazon. He’s probably never shopped at Walmart. He’s probably never shopped at a grocery story. Hell, he’s probably never shopped for himself, period.
I’m ALL for companies paying their taxes. And more taxes! And we should definitely have a discussion about Amazon demanding and getting NFL-stadium type property tax breaks and other incentives from cities. And the NFL getting those sorts of tax incentives. And real estate developers like Trump and his family getting those breaks.
But he’s suddenly worried about this one business paying taxes. Bullshit.
Small businesses? Walmart and Target killed a ton of those and never provided opportunities for third-party selling or for so many other small businesses to sell their stuff.
He also doesn’t understand how the postal system works. The only reason the USPS was never Trump’s delivery boy was because no one ordered Trump Steaks or whatever he was trying to sell.
I’ll tell you what this is. The few real businessmen he pals around with are old farts with their money tied up in retailers with way too many physical locations and far too few sales. He probably thinks Sears is cutting edge and saw a segment about Toys r Us on the news. And he can’t run real-estate cons on companies uninterested in giant stores.
Oh. And he probably is just jealous of Jeff Bezos, who is an actual billionaire and instead of turning into someone who’s developed Grandma Ass in his old age looks more and more like Mr. Clean. Don’t even get me started on Trump probably thinking Bezos assigns and writes stories for The Washington Post.
(And if your only response is “But Hillary,” just save it. She’s not the president. No one cares about Hillary at this point but Hillary and Fox News.)
After over a decade of attending and planning and participating in panel discussions, I’d become pretty convinced that a) panel discussions suck and b) there’s no reason for them to ever go longer than 25 minutes. But last night I sat through a panel that ran a little over two hours and I didn’t want it to end.
The topic was brisket. Yes. That’s right. Two hours about brisket.
This isn’t exactly a fair comparison to my panels of the past. Most of the panels I’ve dealt with over the years have been marketing, advertising and media related. And something happens to even interesting people when they get on a stage with talking points from a PR team and some message to sell.
Behold, the brisket. A beefy beauty, but not the easiest cut of meat to tame. That one there is moist, succulent. It is sporting a sexy little smoke ring and a glossy black bark. But appearances can be deceiving. I’m not going to complain (too much). The brisket was perhaps the juiciest one I’ve ever done. But it wasn’t smoky enough. Neither was it seasoned enough for my liking.
The amount of smoke — or lack thereof — wasn’t a surprise. I was experimenting. I use charcoal plus wood chunks. Even if I wanted to use logs, the practicalities of New York living would make it prohibitively expensive (though I did order some sticks from Smoak). I used a lot less wood this time around to see what would happen — and what happened was perfectly fine barbecue that I wish had gotten a little more wood smoke on it. I also expected it might be on the milder side since the turkey and chops I’d pulled off earlier didn’t get very much smoke on them.
I had a very surreal moment last month. Trying to find something at Trader Joe’s, I overheard a man with a British accent asking a store employee if TJ’s carried something called Tony Shasheer’s.
“Excuse me?” the store employee said.
“Tony Shusheery’s?” the Brit said.
“Say what now?” the employee responded.
“It’s a Louisiana seasoning blend,” the Brit said.
“No,” the employee said.
I should take a moment to point out that, defying centuries of Wheaton genetic coding, I didn’t insert myself into this conversation. One, the first rule of Trader Joe’s is “Get the hell out of Trader Joes.” Two, I knew that TJ’s didn’t have Tony Chachere’s.
Last month, I went to Jamaica to run the Kingston City Run. There were goats, course corrections, hills and a full moon — among other things. I wrote about that particular race for Uncommon Caribbean. Check it out here.