Dom Testa

Author / Speaker/ Broadcaster

Adventures of a Not-So-Handy-Man

My dad was a man’s man. He could fix any problem on any car, or anything else with an engine. He built (by hand) his own remote-controlled airplanes. He hunted, fished, bowled, and was even a whiz at archery.

And he could grill. Man, could he grill - every item that came off the barbecue was cooked to perfection, tender and juicy. Growing up, I thought it was something that one just came by naturally. You know, heat the grill, throw the meat on, turn it, then bring it inside. It wasn’t until I got out on my own that I realized the artistry involved.

Today I’m a so-so grilling guy. I can make good burgers and steaks, but nowhere near the majesty of my dad’s mad skills . . . sorry, skillz. But I enjoy doing it, in my own mediocre way.

So imagine my frustration when - on the third of July - I discover that my gas grill was malfunctioning. It has two long burners, and one of them would not hold a flame more than a few seconds. Somewhere within its bowels there was a problem getting the fuel. I had big plans for the next day, for the Fourth of July, ready to grill baby-back ribs using my brother’s mouth-watering recipe, and damned if I was gonna cook them in the oven.

That meant either (a) dumping my grill and buying another, (b) calling someone who knew their way around a grill’s inner workings, or (c) attempting to repair it myself. Remember all those talents that my old man possessed? The only one in that paragraph that I can claim is bowling, which wasn’t likely to get me barbecued ribs.

But screw it, I thought. I’m gonna do everything I can to get this sucker working again, even if it means tearing it apart.

I ended up tearing it apart.

The easy fixes (cleaning the burner, checking the connections, fiddling with the main feed line) did nothing. I still had half-a-grill. An hour later the top had been removed, the beast was on its side in a submissive and somewhat-sad posture, and parts were strewn around my patio. I’ve got things detached that I’m not sure are supposed to be detached, except by an expert with ten thousand hours of grill repair, per Malcolm Gladwell.

I soldiered on. At some point I was on my back, reaching up with pliers and a vice-grip, fighting through gritted teeth with a fastener that was lodged on a small gas feed line. I’d be lying if I said at this point I was confident in my decision; in fact, I wondered if I could fit the damned thing in my trunk to haul it away and go buy a shiny replacement.

Finally the nut slid over the bend in the line. With it reattached, I stood the grill back on its feet, put the required parts in place, hooked up the propane, and took a deep breath. Okay, one reason for the hesitation was that - after 90 minutes of labor - I didn’t want to lose my cool if the piece of crap still didn’t light. The other reason was that I was contemplating the possibility of a small explosion.

I turned on the gas, hit the igniter . . . and everything worked. Perfectly. Complete success.

Tomorrow is the Fourth of July, and I’m gonna grill a mean rack of ribs. And the whole time they’re simmering I’ll be sitting a few feet away, sipping a cold beer, wondering if my dad is smiling somewhere. Hell, I might even take up archery.

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