Burned Out

The following is excerpted from my Facebook page. It is self-explanatory, so I will do very little editorializing throughout, save to occasionally expound on the credentials of a certain poster. I will include my original remarks, then selected comments that were left in response to what I said. I will save further editorial remarks until the end.

Original Remarks:

There are some things that blind people just can’t do. I hate to say it and I know it will anger many of my NFB friends, but it does no good when we ignore the hard facts.
One of the things we can’t do is adequately grill meat.
I was working the CCB summer program two years ago and I asked a coworker who was known for his boastful nature if he would show me how to grill burgers.
“Sho thang! Sho thang!” he retorted in his usual pompous, loquacious manner. “I’m the only guy who can show you how to do it without vision.” I hasten to add here that said coworker was a high partial, which means that he had a fair amount of useable vision.
So the appointed time came when he and I stood over the propane grill with a plate of raw burger patties. He showed me how to turn on the gas, light the burners and arrange the burgers on the grill.
He kept going on and on about using the sound of the sizzling meat to know when it was time to flip the burgers. Then he suddenly grabbed the spatula out of my hand saying, “H’oh! Whoa! Ya got a fire under one a dose! Le’me get it.”
I pause in my narrative to add that my esteemed coworker was not wearing sleep shades.
Anyway, he handed me the spatula back and showed me how to flip the rest of the burgers and remove them from the grill when cooked. But what would’ve happened if he had been blind and had not seen the grease fire? I guess the smell of charred meat would’ve eventually clued us into the fact that there was a serious problem.
I do have a friend who is almost totally blind and he does grill, but he doesn’t have any control over the temperature of the meat. It’s a crap shoot as to whether or not you’re going to get your burger rare, medium or well-charred.
Look, I don’t enjoy saying this. There is a long tradition of grilling in my family. My dad is an expert in grilling steaks, burgers, hot dogs, chicken breasts, salmon and many other kinds of meat over charcoal, propane and wood pellets. I want to follow in that tradition, but as Dirty Harry always said, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”
Now that I’m depressed, I guess I’ll go to Burger King and get a flame-broiled Whopper. It’s better than nothing. *sniffle*

Note: The following comments were just some that were left in response and, in my view, represent a fair cross-section of the discussion. I am leaving only their first names out of regard for their anonymity.

From Katy:

So true. *sad puppy sniffles*

From Lauren:

The grill and all the noises it makes stresses me out too much. I feel you.

From Karly:

I am blind and a home management instructor teaching the structured discovery model. I grill, and teach my students how to grill all the time. Yes, I was very intimidated to use the grill at first, but I have learned it really is trial and error and figuring it out with patience and practice. I finlally was able to purchase my first grill earlier this summer and literally have not used my stove since. I use a meat thermometer at times, I also use my spatula and tongs to tell when the meat is done, as well as timing, which is very very important. You can also do what I like to call the tap method, (I dunno if that is a technical term) LOL, but if you tap your finger on the meat, or whatever you are grilling you can tell the texture of the food you are cooking to tell doneness as well. I have caught burgers on fire, and realized it by smell and sound, but I turned the grill off and the flames did subside. If you heat the grill on high before placing your food on it, cleaning the grill first, then turning it down to the required tempature to cook your food, you will not have as many flare-ups because you have already burned off any left over grease. I was taken -a-back by this post, because with proper instruction and lots of practice, I find grilling to be a very enjoyable and delicious way to cook. I have cooked many different types of food, (burgers, steak, tuna, pork chops, corn, portobella mushrooms, onions, squash, eggplant… I could go on and on. I hope that those who are apprehensive about grilling, will find this post helpful.

From Alicia:

While this may seem unrelated on the surface, bear with me. This comment thread reminds me of something that happened at CCB. I came to the Center knowing very well that a blind person could do things like rock climb, white-water raft, sky dive, and all manner of other thrill-seeking activities. I also knew I could learn the daily living skills the Center taught. It was mostly that I’d never had the opportunity to learn, but I knew once the opportunity was there, I could do it. However, when a pair of blind friends said to me, “Let’s go play air hockey,” I looked at them like they were nuts, and said, “No way can a blind person play air hockey.” they showed me differently. It was just kind of interesting that I knew a blind person could do all this other big stuff the sighted world doesn’t think we can, but I never thought we could play air hockey. Now there’s this thread. I’ve known we could do all manner of things, but like Ryan, didn’t think something like grilling burgers was one of them. It’s just curious how sometimes we know we’re capable in the big areas, but don’t think we are in the smaller ones. And then we start sharing tips and tricks, and sometimes figure out we are after all.

From Jeff, who is also an instructor:

Ryan, I do understand that it can be very challenging, but each of us has to resist the impulse to give in to the initial frustration, or the erge to believe that our personal experience is the only possible outcome for anyone that is blind. I have successfully grilled many times over the years, and once in a while, things have not gone as well as I would have liked, but these have become the exception, rather than the rule. in fact it was one of the saddest days of my life when our grill gave up the goast, and we were reduced to using a Forman grill. I am planning to buy a new one, that will run on house gas this time, so I don’t have to mess with those bottles that always manage to run out of fuel at the worst possible time. My first suggestion is to purchase a grill basket. This is perhaps one of the greatest inventions in human history, well there are a few better ones I suppose, but it is up there. This allows you to perfectly place the meat and keep it in place. It also allows you to flip the meat without the slightest difficulty. Now each grill cooks a little different, but as mentioned above, there are only a few things you need to have control over, and timing is the most important one. Once you have the knowledge of how long your grill takes to cook to the degree of doneness you want, you have become the master of your domain! So, hang in there my friend, each of us deserves to have the joy of grilling a burger or steak over a fire, and savering that smoky flavor with our friends.

From Briana:

Honestly Ryan, even sighted, I go based on the springiness of the meat. Rare is a squishy spring all the way to well done which has very little to no spring at all. I can usually tell how cooked it is by how my fork pierces the meat. You always want a clean grill and if you know how your grill cooks (the hottest and coolest parts of the grill ) you can rotate meats as needed. Keep practicing, and ask questions, I have faith you will do well.

From Dave, another sighted person:

Why I was always happy to man the grill at the annual cookout each year!!

From Martin, yet another instructor:

The 3 t’s of cooking for blind people
And taste if needed.

From Ryan O:

Martin, have you done it? How the hell do you touch a burger while it’s grilling without burning your fingers?

From Martin:

Oh, there will be scorched fingertips from time to time, but you have to ask yourself… Is this burger worth it? The answer is inevitably yes!

From Grace:

No, totally not worth it. Plenty of cook outs to go to put on by sighted friends where I can have a burger without the burns.

From Ryan O:

I remember a friend used a burger basket and it was very effective. I’ve never even seen a meat thermometer. Is it accessible?

From Martin:

Yes, Carina actually has one that talks.

In closing, let me say that I fell into a trap that I have avoided for years. About 15 years ago, I chose to discard my electric razor and start shaving with a safety razor. I was nervous about cuts and nicks, but now, I would never go back to the electric model.

About 10 years ago, I took up smoking cigars as a full time vice. Some sighted and blind friends expressed skepticism that I would be able to light the cigar without burning holes in my clothing or setting my apartment on fire. A decade later and I can boast of a few holes in clothing, but no fires.

My new goal is to grill myself and a friend or two a burger before the summer is over. I will let you know how it turns out.

We never stop learning.

Shoot it Black! Shoot it Blue!

I am an unapologetic supporter of the police. I think they are doing a thankless job in a society that values their worth less and less with each passing generation. My heart bleeds for the 12 cops in Dallas who were shot last night when a peaceful protest over the latest shootings of black suspects by white cops turned deadly.

I came into work this morning and two of my Boulder coworkers were opining that a federal investigation should be launched every time a police officer fires his/her weapon. Really? Would said investigation be conducted by the FBI, who just let a terrorist slip through their fingers; a terrorist who went on to shoot over 100 people in an Orlando night club? Or maybe the DOJ, who is likely going to no-bill a high-ranking official who carelessly, deliberately passed classified information through her private server, despite warnings not to do so? I am unsure of much in this life, but I am damned sure that the tensions between the police and minority communities will not be eased by our federal government. I firmly believe that they are best addressed on the local level.

As people view the videos of the shootings in LA and MN, it is important to remember that we are not getting the full context of the situation. Civilian videos are generally taken after an incident starts, so we almost never see the prelude to the shooting. This problem would be solved if body cameras were mandatory for all law enforcement officers, whether they live in New York City or Beatrice, Nebraska. In our instant digital age, body cams would provide constant video footage for both perpetrators and victims to use as evidence. It would give the general public a far better picture of what cops have to deal with on the streets where ambiguities are omnipresent.

The sniper who shot the 12 cops in Dallas did the Black Lives Matter movement no favors. If BLM took a King-style approach of ‘peace and love through strength’, they would’ve gotten much further with their message. Riots, looting and the retaliatory murders of police officers, who were merely trying to protect those exercising their First Amendment rights, changes the focus of the narrative and sets them back. As long as they continue to take their cues from Malcolm X., and as long as President Obama continues to lend them his tacit approval, they will be rightly labeled as a fringe organization bordering on terrorism.

As an aside, can someone please tell me what the hell Mark Fuhrman (a documented racist) is doing giving commentary on Fox News? I don’t care what his theories are about the O.J. case. He is part of the problem, not the solution.

God bless the five police officers who gave their lives in the performance of their duties. Prayers to their families and comrades who will never see them again. God bless the other seven officers who are recovering from their wounds. God bless Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and prayers for their loved ones.


Witches Make the Best Fertilizer

A lot of people are shocked when they learn that I get up every morning at 5 AM and commute from Littleton to Boulder. I take two buses and one light rail to accomplish this. The round-trip time comes out to about 4 1/2 hours daily. What can I say… I get a lot of books read.

When I first took the job, I knew I would never give a single tax dollar to what we conservatives affectionately call, “The Peoples’ Republic of Boulder.” I have worked there almost 2 years now and I can tell you that the stereotypes are all true.

One example is blatantly obvious. Boulder recently banned the selling of ice cream at all municipal parks and swimming pools. They did it for, “health reasons.” This is the textbook definition of a nanny state. Don’t let Mom And Dad decide if their kids should eat an ice cream cone in the hot sun. Leave it up to the government.

If you use plastic over paper at any Boulder grocery store, you’re going to get taxed for it. The potheads can stink up the Pearl St. Mall with no consequence, but tobacco is a mortal sin.

Speaking of foul odors, my coworkers imposed a new recycling program at our workplace about a month ago. Now, we get to sort all of our trash into various containers, including a compost bin. The compost bin, which contains all organic items, sits right outside the control room where I work. It’s supposed to be put out once a week for pick-up, but no one ever does it.

Last week, the smell of rotting food wafted into the control room and down the hall. On Thursday, I finally snapped and moved the bin outside the back door. My coworker (the crazy Wiccan), threw a hissy fit because I left the bin outside her office window, thereby blocking her view. She didn’t care that the smell of rotting food was stinking up our office, as long as she got to enjoy the blessings of the sunshine from Mother Earth.

This is the environmentalist movement in a nutshell. 53 square miles surrounded by reality, indeed.

OK, so why don’t I just move to Louisville, Broomfield or even Westminster? After six months of working there, I realized I don’t want to leave Littleton because I love living here!

I would describe the political vibe here as libertarian; as long as you obey the law, we don’t care what you do. But more to the point, it feels like a community here.

I have within walking distance, a grocery store, my bank, a dental office, my doctor’s office, a UPS store, a post office, a vet clinic, a liquor store, an antique gallery, a park with a duck pond and much more.

I eat out a lot, and neighborhood restaurants include Mexican, Italian, Middle Eastern, Indian, Thai and American cuisine. Yes, there is a Starbucks nearby. Duh!

I live a block away from a major bus route and a light rail station is a 15-minute walk on a nice day. Even though I don’t really have any reason to go there anymore, I also like living near the Colorado Center For the Blind. I respect their basic mission of teaching blind people the skills of independence.

So, I will continue to grown and gripe as I turn off the 5 AM alarm and stumble to the shower. The job kind of sucks, but the paycheck is worth it if I can stay comfortable here in Littleton.

In the meantime, I will pass the hours in Boulder trying to figure out if Wiccans make better fertilizer since they are more earth-friendly.