Certainly the language is rife with what I constantly railed against once upon a classroom time in training my young writers, the dreaded cliché. While trite expressions such as “Hot enough for ya?” and “Stayin’ out of trouble?” provide the lubricant that make the conversational gears turn more easily, their inclusion in writing promotes the ordinary and impedes the memorable.
Now, there are always exceptions, and it took Columbus’ own James Thurber to show how an accomplished author can revitalize a cliché and turn it into comedic brilliance. In his hyperbolically hilarious autobiography, “My Life and Hard Times,” in one chapter, Thurber recounted his undergraduate days at Ohio State and spoke of a classmate in an economics course named Bolenciecwz, the quintessential dumb jock. In speaking about the star tackle on the football team, Thurber said, “While he was not dumber than an ox, he was not any smarter.”
And so it is that I’m about to ignore my own admonitions regarding cliché usage and use one. Ready, folks? Here it comes: “Time flies.” Now, I know there’s a typical post-scriptural part of this trite truism, as in “when you’re having a good time,” but I’m really becoming more and more convinced that time moves at the same rapid pace even when we’re bored.
Of course, as I’ve grown older, this whole “time flies” notion becomes much more obvious. In trying to recall, say, the year someone passed away, unless we’re talking about my own parents or a friend for the ages, it’s a pretty safe bet that I’ll be anywhere from three to five years wrong.
This past July I was yet again faced with this whole celerity with which time passes and, of course, that leads to a story, one about a midsummer Saturday when I had an entire day to myself, a day when both the great Chuck Berry and I had “no particular place to go.”
While taking some early morning time tidying up my nest, a thought began worming its way into my noggin, and it wasn’t the first time for this particular thought.
I have a charcoal smoker that I’ve thought about using often over time. I’m a big fan of smoked meats, especially pork, and often when making my appointed rounds and driving my roads will think about getting that charcoal smoker out after seeing off of a rural road one of those little smokehouses with the billows of smoke coming up through the pipe.
Whenever I’m working around the house, I’ll spy that charcoal smoker and think, “Hmm… it’s been a while since I’ve used that thing.” However, even though I enjoy the finished product when smoking meats, I don’t enjoy the lengthy process, which involves soaking wood chips and prepping the coals and keeping an eye on the gauge and adding more charcoal if it dips below the ideal range. It’s really a several-hour process.
Nonetheless, on that one mid-summer day, I did indeed buy some pork cutlets and added some rope sausage one of my grateful bar customers, Frank Guagenti, gave me and went searching for the cooking chart. I remembered I always listed the date, type of meat and cooking time in the margin of the chart. Finding the chart, I incredulously looked at my last date of usage, and it was 7/29/01!
How on earth could it have been 16 years, before that dreadful 9/11 moment in time, and three presidents ago since I last committed to the process? I’d passed that smoker dozens and dozens of times and always would say, “I’m going to get that thing out soon!”
While the speed with which life passes often is more noted in my own house in those more poignant moments when I pass photos still on the walls of my daughters and see their gap-toothed little second-grade smiles, it also came this summer when I finally decided to pull that smoker out.
By the way, the finished product was delicious, just as I think it’ll be in 2033!
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News and Our Generation’s Magazine, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.