Scott Graves
Curry Coastal Pilot

I like to think of myself as a manly man. And like most manly men, I did something that most do as summer approaches. I bought a new barbecue!

Not just any old barbecue. Nooooooo. I’m not one of those wimpy men who purchases a typical, run-of-the-mill barbecue at Wally World. I traveled hundreds of miles across a blistering desert, through alligator-infested swamps and battled a tribe of moonshine-sippin’, tobacco-spittin’ folks wearing sauce-stained shirts to reach the mecca of barbecues: Domicile Depot.

After playing a game of hide-and-seek with annoying sales people in orange smocks, I ended up buying the “Mondo Viking Screaming Eagle Napoleon IV” model. I had to sell a kidney and mortgage the house, but it’s worth it! It has six side burners, a six-foot grill, four cup holders, wi-fi and a hot tub. There’s the traditional “low and slow” cooking option, or the new, high-tech “Death Star” laser method that can destroy an entire planet in 2.3 seconds. The next model up was self-cleaning, but a real man cleans his own grill. Some days it’s the only exercise I get.

I paid extra for the “already assembled” model. (I know. I know. Not the most manly thing to do, but …) I lifted one end of the grill and rolled it across the store, telling a complete stranger, “Hey, look at me! I’m taking my new barbecue for a walk!” The security guard wasn’t amused and sent me to the nearest checkout stand.

The cashier charged me an extra $50 because it was pre-assembled.

“Such a deal!” I said.

She thought I was being sarcastic. I wasn’t. The last time I tried to assemble a grill, it took two weeks, I banged my shin (twice!) and it ended up looking like an alien spaceship had crash landed on my back deck. The first time I used it, the burgers kept sliding off of the grill — into the dog’s mouth — and then it exploded. The barbecue, not the dog. So paying $50 is worth protecting my manly pride — and less expensive than rebuilding the back deck again.

According to the secret association GIFMO (Grilling Is For Men Only), barbecuing has become America’s number one pastime for men. You thought it was football or baseball? Don’t be silly. Sports are just an excuse to dust off the grill and do a little male bonding over charred chunks of meat. Barbecuing involves three manly activities: playing with fire, drinking beer and wielding long-handled tongs! In fact, the manliest song by a man of all time is Bruce Willis’ ode to barbecuing called “Killing bad guys with my barbecue.”

You’d think that the more expense the grill is, the better the results. Wrong! I quickly learned that it’s not the machine, it’s the man. When it comes to grilling meat, this grillslinger offers two options: completed charred (“It’s not burnt, it’s cajun!”) and raw in the middle. A third option, according to the wife, is “order pizza.”

One of the first things I do when grilling is burn the first hot dog or hamburger as a sacrifice to the Viking barbecue gods. With Zeppelin’s heart-pumping “Immigrant Song” blasting from the stereo, I offer a prayer, “Oh mighty gods of grilling, bless the food I’m about to char beyond all recognition. And please, PUH-LEEEZE, Don’t let me sear off my eyebrows this time.”

Gas grilling goes back to caveman times. However, instead of using a propane tank (which wasn’t invented until the time of The Crusades) it involved a torch and a caveman with excessive flatulence. It took a long time to cook the meat. And led to the invention of Beano.

Some people think men like to grill meat because it makes them feel manlier. After all, dangle a steak in front of a lion and you might lose your arm. Right? Nope. Researchers at McGrill University in Canada found it’s just the opposite for men.

To research this, scientists devised an experiment in which a bunch of guys listened to an actor reading from a script. Every time the actor stated the price of the Mondo Viking Screaming Eagle Napolean IV barbecue, the guys were outraged and punched him in the arm. But when the actor showed them photos of delicious, dripping meat, they calmed down and gave him a big hug.

Scientists concluded that the photos reminded men of peaceful gatherings with friends and family at mealtime. A time free of the stress that comes with “hunting” wild beasts with long-handled tongs — and dragging barbecues to the checkout stand at Domicile Depot.