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Reception to Suns' cook-off was a bit chili

September 29, 2005|by TIM ROWLAND

And here I thought the Hagerstown Suns were my friend.

No, I'm not all that concerned that we have an estimated 453 gallons of chili in the fridge leftover from our stand at the Suns' annual chili cook-off, and that we will be eating bowls of chili every day until Thanksgiving, at which point we will be eating chili molded into drumstick shapes.

No, the problem was that I had to help, after Kate, Stacey and the Hormel in High Heels (she'll kill me for that one) formed the "Barbecue Barbies" and entered the chili cook-off representing a Competing Publication that I refuse to name because it is quite clearly trying to take food out of my mouth.

Of course, festivals, banquets and events are a dime a dozen around here. My wife, whom I refuse to name because she represents a Competing Publication that was in this case trying to put food IN my mouth, is always mixed up in these affairs, and normally I have a line of defense in place for tight spots such as these - and it involves home improvement projects. Obviously, I'm no big fan of home improvement projects either, but if the choice comes down to pick-and-shoveling through two feet of solid rock to pour a footer and appearing in public - well, pass me the digging bar.

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So the way it works is this: Andrea always has some home improvement project she wants me to work on, be it a deck, a paint job or installing a "water feature," whatever that is. I bank these projects, and then haul one of them out anytime I sense a Disturbing Public Event is on the horizon. I start my project about a week before said event, creating a greater sense of urgency with each passing day until - bingo, I can't possibly help operate the toaster on Toast and Jelly Days in the town of Smithscockoro because it conflicts with the make-or-break crucible of my construction job.

"Oh darling," I will say. I would LOVE to haul the pop-up tent, tables and industrial-strength deep-fryer to the festival at four freaking thirty in the morning and help make the funnel-cake batter, but if I don't grout the mortise joints to the lag bolts on the soffit header joist before the concrete cures, I'm afraid you're going to have a deck without any reciprocators."

"Oh," she will say, slightly unsure of herself. "Well, I uh, I guess we don't want that. Do what you have to do, and I'll get somebody else to help."

Usually it works, and it would have this time, too, if it weren't for the Hagerstown Suns and their precious outfield grass.

'Bout a week ago, I began a project she'd been angling for over the past couple of months, that being a new front walk with bicolor pavers and a red gravel edging. As the days went by, I slowly, and with the technical planning of a moon shot, dug out the dirt and rocks, poured and leveled the sand base and marked the pattern with string.

The one thing I knew she couldn't wait to see was the installation of the pavers themselves, so I scheduled that for Saturday, the day of the cook-off. In an apathetic nod to the event, I agreed to get up at 4 a.m. and deliver the propane, the stoves, pots, tents and all that junk - but then I'd be out of there for good. Swing by the home improvement store for some pavers, slap them down with a quickness and spend the rest of the day watching college football.

"You can't do that," Andrea was saying.

"What?"

"Well, see, you can't drive on the outfield grass, so everyone has to set up their chili booths on the warning track. Everyone is going to line up and drive in at 4, and since the warning track is only one car-width wide, once you're truck is there it has to stay there all day because it will be blocked in.

"Bu ... Iba ... Aba ..."

"I'm so happy we'll get to spend the day together, won't it be fun?"

Finally I found my voice. "But the pavers. Think of the pavers. Won't somebody think of the pavers!"

"Sorry, it will have to wait. Nothing we can do now."

And there wasn't, either. Looking back, I think what rooked me the most wasn't so much the cook-off as the fact that not only did I get roped into the chili vortex, I had to do the stupid walkway project on top of it all. I mean on Sunday, I couldn't very well say, "Oh, sorry, but I'm not going to finish this; see, this whole project was a trick to try to get out of the chili cook-off."

So in other words, I wasted an entire home improvement that I could have pulled out of my hat at some future time to get me out of some future event. And it was a lot of work, too.

I'll just say this. When we finally drove out of the stadium single-file late that afternoon, the Suns are just darn lucky I didn't peel out of line and do a couple donuts in the outfield. I was that upset.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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