This morning, after grabbing a hot cup of coffee; I looked out my kitchen window, and witnessed a desolate landscape. The temperature was in the low 40’s, the sky was a dark gray, and heavy rain was being driven by wind gusts of up to fifty miles-per-hour. At that moment, the lights began to flicker, the power in my house went off for a few seconds, and then came back on. I was reminded how lucky I was, by a reassuring ding, as the microwave reset itself. A northeaster had formed in the Atlantic Ocean, and was pummeling the entire east coast.
Looking at a dull lawn, still in its winter hibernation, an above ground pool covered in a big brown tarp, a barren and lifeless garden, and a deck bereft of any outdoor furniture; I sighed. I soon, began to anticipate a few months in the future, when my back yard would be a bright and lush landscape, filled with the sounds of birds chirping, and bees buzzing as they moved among the many bright flowers. The pool would be filled with crystal clear water, my fish ponds fountain would be spraying water over goldfish at the surface, as they anticipated their feeding time, and Burt, my trusty old grill; would be standing sentry, as he waited for the first hamburgers, and hot dogs to be placed on his sparkling, chrome surface.
As my mind wandered; it soon came back to reality, and the thought of upcoming events, planned for when the weather warmed up. I now visualized being extremely uncomfortable, drinking cheap flat beer, and bargain basement wines, witnessing billowing black smoke, eating burnt and tasteless food, enduring screaming and fighting, and dealing with blood sucking creatures that make my life a living hell. No, I’m not talking about Sunday night dinners at my mother-in-law’s. I’m talking about that wonderful family tradition, which often spans decades, and multiple generations. Yes, those wonderful summertime events we all call family picnics.
To be honest; they’re not too hard to plan and set up. Just invite every relative you know to your abode, and tell them to bring either their favorite, unique, homemade hot entrée, or a special, delicious and masterful confectionary creation. You then watch, as guests bring aluminum covered trays containing many things my dog, Chase will refuse to eat, or trays of chocolate chip cookies, pies, or cupcakes with the grocery store labels still attached. On the bright side – I’m sure, the nice lady at the supermarket, baked them all with a pinch of love. Now, to complete the picnic preparations, buy a case of hamburgers, ten pounds of hot dogs, rolls, fifty pounds of ice, twenty, half-gallon bottles of caffeine infused soda for the kids, and a keg of the cheapest beer ever created by man. I almost forgot something. Don’t forget to buy some of those flimsy, red or white paper table covers that will either become wet and quickly disintegrate, or blow away in the first five minutes, even though you used nine rolls of tape to try to secure them to the picnic tables. Here’s one more thing to remember. Sneak over to three or four neighbors, and borrow all their available chairs. Even if you remind your relatives at least fifty times; they won’t bring their own.
I made a list of some things that are common to almost all family picnics. Why does every picnic occur on the hottest day of the year? I once had a picnic that was so hot, instead of tossing horseshoes, we had camel races. The kid’s games included dodging tumbleweeds, snaring rattlesnakes, and running from hungry coyotes. You may have noticed that it’s not only hot, but the only shade is a four by four-foot umbrella on the deck, with thirty-four people stacked five high under it. Where are all the shade trees? I know I used to have three or four of them in my yard, until I scheduled a picnic. Did Paul Bunyan go on an ax-wielding rampage when my back was turned? Why is almost every family picnic, held next to massive swamplands or brackish ponds that are natural breeding grounds for mosquitoes the size of small birds? Does anyone really believe that those tiki torches they put around decks will deter a flying insect that can take a direct blow from a baseball bat?
Has anyone ever figured out why, no matter how many times you pump it, you always get nothing but foam out of a beer keg? You still drink it, don’t you? Why does the first beer you drink at a family picnic taste like bath water, but the fifteenth one, tastes like the finest dark ale from a world-famous German brewery? Did you ever notice that each year there are at least twenty or thirty more screaming kids running around like wild animals? The math doesn’t add up, when you only invited twenty couples. Either, your relatives are breeding like rabbits, adoption is big this year, or the neighborhood kids are wandering over looking for free soda, and wanting to pet the coyotes.
Is it just me, or does that enormous pig roasting on the big grill at family picnics, kind of look like me when I’m splayed out on a sun splashed beach? My wife seems to think so. I have a question. Why, when I’m grilling, and wearing my kiss the cook apron, doesn’t anyone give me a kiss? Are they afraid of having a huge cup of foam spill on them? I have a suggestion for any of you planning a family picnic this year. Please, don’t put up the volleyball net. The same things happen every year. Everyone gets drunk, uncle Earl twists his ankle, we have at least one argument over the score, and one macho guy always spikes the ball into some ten-year old girl’s nose resulting in pitiful crying, hysterical screaming, and massive amounts of blood; and that’s just from the macho guy after the girl’s mother gets done with him.
Did you ever notice how hungry you are at family picnics? Is it the consumption of massive quantities of alcohol, chasing your kids around, spiking volleyballs, doing belly busting cannonballs into the pool, or fighting off insects? I don’t know about you, but after four or five hours, I’m wolfing down Aunt Erma’s pickled eels like there’s no tomorrow. I’ll even eat things like egg salad that’s been out in the sun for hours, or hamburgers that have been cooked so long, they look like those tiny ones from White Castle. The foods okay. Just swat the legions of flies away, enjoy, and then hope the Center for Disease Control doesn’t show up at your house the next day, and inform you that you may be at the epicenter of an extreme outbreak of salmonella poisoning.
I better get going now. I just looked out my patio door, and saw what looks like my Uncle Yogi, sitting quietly at my wooden picnic table, at the back of my yard. Could you just “bear” with me for a minute? “Hey…. Uncle Yogi, what’s up? The invitation to the picnic says the first of June, not March 1st. By the way. Isn’t it a little warm to be wearing a fur coat? Well, since you’re here, and sitting so politely, I guess I can fire up the grill, and pull a few beers out the fridge. What did you say? Sure, I can bring everything out in a big pick……..i……..nic basket. No, I don’t mind throwing in a few extra burgers to take home for cousin Boo Boo.