Barbecue Zen: A Life Lesson from a Cookout

(photos from Nutty Nuchtchas and Bruce F Press Photography)

10385393_10201495629506364_381941092020939126_nThe week following Balticon 48, my social media feeds could easily be broken down to two topics: retrospectives of the event (which was awesome, by the way, and if you weren’t there—think about being there in 2015) and a variety of perspectives on the #YesAllWomen hashtag. While nostalgic and contemplative the looks back to the Memorial Day Weekend were, it’s been equally disheartening reading stories from people I admire and hold in high esteem like Dr Pamela Gay, Jared Axelrod, Chris Miller, either being victim of or watching others victimized by people who think they are cast in a season of Mad Men. Sure, there are men who behave badly in our culture but I had no idea just how deep this dark, twisted rabbit hole reached.

In this post I want to talk about both. In particular I want to talk about that amazing cookout you may have heard Balticon talk about on Friday night, and what we all can take away from it.

If you didn’t know about Balticon’s Third Annual New Media Meat & Greet, don’t sweat it. The event wasn’t “on the grid” at Balticon. Never is. This was something that had started two years ago when I offered to host a cookout at my (then) hotel, the Residence Inn. The idea couldn’t be more simple: bring for the grill something for you and a friend (be that a close friend or complete stranger), and then socialize. When we first did it, about thirty or some people showed up. It was a nice, comfortable outdoor gathering, easing all of us into the weekend.

The turnout this year was a bit larger than that…

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I think folks were worried about me as I got asked several times if I wanted to take a break from the grill. Much appreciated, but I was in a very special zone. Part of my joy in flipping steaks, chicken, venison, brontosaurus ribs and prime cuts (and you think I’m joking there—trust me, I’m not! The Encaffinated One brought it hard for this year’s cookout.) is having the party come to me. Stands to reason: if you are hungry, you go to the grill to place your order…

10296428_809225572422395_468004466855230163_o“Hi, I’m Tee, and I’ll be handling your meat tonight.”

With my “Social” playlist offering a backdrop, the Meat & Greet offered an open air atmosphere outside of the hotel for attendees to mingle. I got to say “Hey!” to a lot of familiar faces but there were a fair share I did not know. It was extremely cool meeting those new to the cookout, saying “We didn’t know how this worked until we got here.” That disorientation didn’t last long as food came off the grill, the camaraderie and community nurtured by the guests ranging from podcasters to writers to artists to attendees to all of the above. I was particularly grateful that the Residence Inn were so accommodating in managing the trash cans and offering their courtyard to us collection of nerds for several hours. I looked to my left and I saw Nobilis Reed and PJ Schnyder assembling an assortment of kebobs. To my right there were new people arriving with—yes—MOAR MEAT, which evoked some snark from the cook but also led to food orders, where to find drinks, and what brought them here. I don’t know how long I manned that grill, but the hours slipped by and when I finally got a moment to enjoy a quick hit of the Midas Touch (see above), I got a chance to enjoy the company. Good company, all around.

1492415_809224962422456_5727503762424744170_oSince our Balticon weekend and reading the discussions spawned from events at UCSB, I keep thinking about that barbecue, about what made it work. Like any event, especially one as big as that cookout became, I was worried about pissing off the hotel, disarming any volatile situations, or cleaning up any messes from folks who didn’t know when enough alcohol was really enough; and chances are I will be worried about that next year (oh there will be a cookout next year, have no fear…). None of that happened. I met for the first time folks like J.R.D. Skinner and Mike Luoma, connected with the hosts of the MythWits, and re-connected with friends from previous Balticons. We were all there, together, and nobody got hurt. As far as I saw and heard, nobody walked away offended, violated, or insulted. Nobody felt threatened. Nobody was in danger. We all trusted one another.

It was a matter of respect. There was no entitlement, no expectations. We respected each other, and something that simple—something so simple as saying “I don’t know you but I’m cool with you if you’re cool with me…”—made for an unforgettable night, a night that reminded me of why I not only love Balticon but truly love the circles in which I travel. Great people who truly get it.

12719_809225655755720_5169111780271956479_nYes, I believe we are better than male entitlement, better than PUA’s, better than bad behavior. This isn’t rocket science. This is about respect and about trust. Is that so difficult to grasp? I don’t think so. If enough individuals make these choices and understand that regardless if you’re a CEO, a writer with a few awards under your belt, or just a fan of the 2014 Tomb Raider, you’re all putting your pants on the same way. Provided you believe in pants. If enough individuals get this, you create a pretty damn cool community. A community that is easy to believe in and create great things, be it art, social accomplishments, or friendships.

This is the zen of a barbecue, and we can all do this. We can be better. What happens next is up to you.

3 thoughts on “Barbecue Zen: A Life Lesson from a Cookout

  1. In many ways the cookout was an audience selected from an assortment of people who know how to behave with respect to those around them. One can only hope that it will serve as an example to others that there are better ways to have fun without your enjoyment being at another’s expense.

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