Man About TOWN

Free Wheelin’

by Man About TOWN

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Apr
1

The Man About TOWN embraces a childhood desire

Whenever someone compares the relative ease of relearning a task to “riding a bike,” it is safe to assume they have never seen me ride one. I grew up on a mountainside in western North Carolina where there were no sidewalks or bike lanes, and the roads were narrow ribbons of blind curves with low shoulders. Riding a bike in this area was nearly impossible, so the kids rode go-karts and ATVs and in certain cases lawn mowers. To be fair, the riding lawn mower was an acceptable form of transportation in this small community, especially for those who’d lost their driver’s license. It was not unusual to see a John Deere or Troy-Bilt parked next to Fords and Chevys at the convenience store or laundromat. Driving past such a scene, my mother would usually point and say, “Looks like Randy got another DUI.”

But as a child, even one with access to a riding mower, I still wanted a bike. Each Christmas morning, I would rush downstairs, certain that a shiny new Schwinn would be sitting next to the tree only to discover in its place a saxophone or chemistry set. The closest I came was on my fourteenth birthday when I unwrapped a unicycle. My parents seemed to be working on a theme because just three months earlier they had given me a pair of stilts for Christmas. Perhaps they felt my poor grades and disinterest in sports warranted a suggestion toward circus life.

But I’ve long since left the mountainside and now live just steps from the GHS Swamp Rabbit Trail. From my kitchen window, I see all types of bikes and all types of riders. From the logo-covered, spandex-wearing road cyclists on their $5,000 Cannondales to the bearded hipsters in sport coats and selvedge denim pedaling their antique “fixies,” it seems everyone has a bike, except me.

So, ignoring my rule to never do anything that requires wearing a helmet, I decided it was time to purchase a bike. A friend suggested I visit Kip at Lucky Bike (2 Sidney St, Greenville) just off of Poinsett Highway. Kip gave me an enthusiastic thumbs-up when I told him I was in the market for my first bike and showed me his inventory. Kip collects used bikes and refurbishes them, replacing most of the parts: tires, tubes, gears, etc. It’s like buying a used car from a reputable lot run by a top-notch mechanic. Kip said that if I planned to ride mainly on the Swamp Rabbit I should consider a “hybrid” bike, which is a cross between a road bike and mountain bike. I took Kip’s advice and am now waiting for my “hybrid,” which should be ready in a couple of weeks.

In the meantime I have borrowed my friend’s bike a few times to explore the trail and get the hang of riding. Despite never owning a bike as a child, I’ve found each time I ride, I feel like a kid. I swerve and hop. In one brief moment of enthusiasm, I leaned back and jerked the handlebars up in a feeble attempt to perform a “wheelie.” And this is the appeal of the bicycle, to young and old alike. A bike is freedom. No motor, no noise, just a quiet means of escape.

Man About TOWN

City Love

by Man About TOWN

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Mar
1

The Man didn’t realize how good he had it until he’d gone

A couple of weeks ago the beautiful blonde who inexplicably enjoys my company invited me to accompany her in New York while she attended a business conference. I was hesitant at first because I had just completed a record-breaking six weeks of temperance, exercise, and clean living, and Manhattan is hardly conducive to any of those bad habits. But then I remembered the wise words of Oscar Wilde who said, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” So I packed my bags and prepared to rekindle my love affair with food, drink, and good-natured debauchery. I was to be the Man About TOWN in a different town.

Despite being born and bred in the South, I have spent a lot of time in New York City. My father was from Long Island and lived and worked in the fashion industry in Manhattan for many years before moving to a small Southern town and falling in love with my mother. He would often take us to New York and drag us to all of his old hangouts: P.J. Clarke’s, The Bull & Bear, The Oak Bar at the Plaza. During one of these trips, I asked my father what he missed most about living in Manhattan. “Anonymity,” he replied, noting small towns were full of people interested in your closet and what skeletons might reside there.

As the beautiful blonde attended her conference, I snuck away to revisit some of my father’s old haunts and raise a fork and glass with his ghost. A gin and tonic and a hamburger at PJ Clarke’s, a dry martini at the Oak Bar, a medium-rare filet at the Bull & Bear. Each time I visited these places with my father, he seemed a little disappointed, remarking at how much they had changed in the years since he’d move away. I found the same to be true now, realizing it wasn’t the food or drink or decor that had formed my fond memories, it was spending time with my father that made these places special. They just weren’t the same without him. I believe the same held true for his return visits—it wasn’t the places that had changed, it was the faces that were different. He hadn’t loved living in Manhattan because of the anonymity; he had loved the familiarity.

Maybe this is why our visits to the city became less frequent as the years went on. And maybe that’s why I found myself longing for the comforts of my town and understanding why I frequent the places I do. It’s not Soby’s or Rick Erwin’s or Davani’s or American Grocery that I love. It’s Carl and Michelle and Rocky and Darlene. It’s people who greet me by name and ask about the kids. No matter how large the city or small the town, what we love is the feeling of community. That was what my father was always trying to recapture when he returned to New York. Just like the old theme song says, “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.”

Man About TOWN

Shape Shifter

by Man About TOWN

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Feb
3

The Man About TOWN diversifies his modus operandi

For each of us there are times when bad ideas seem like good ones. For me that time usually occurs in the company of like-minded friends somewhere between the third and fourth drink. That’s when the clear thoughts of rationality start to become opaque, and ridiculous pronouncements such as “we should open our own bar” or “let’s all buy a vacation house together” are actually given consideration. It was during one of these times that I announced I was going to get in shape. To make matters worse, last month I committed this declaration to print in this magazine. I’m not saying that getting in shape is a bad idea, quite the contrary, I just wish I’d kept my intentions private since I now notice friends and colleagues glancing at my mid-section, silently assessing my progress, of which as of this writing has been scant. Worse yet is when they actually comment, usually saying something like, “So, when are you going to start?”

Like any good procrastinator, I began my fitness plan by immersing myself in research in an attempt to discover the most efficient workout program. After days spent scouring the Internet and fitness magazines, I came to the conclusion that there isn’t one. But one thing everyone agrees on is the importance of working out safely to avoid injury. My research found that one of the best ways to minimize the risk of injury is to undergo a functional movement screen (FMS) to identify any tightness and weakness in the body.

My friend Mark Murphy at Premier Physical Therapy and Personal Training offered to conduct the screening at his facility just off of Pelham Road in Greenville. After completing a fitness and health questionnaire, Mark handed me off to trainers Keith and Patrick. Keith led me through each test while Patrick, clipboard in hand, observed, assessing and taking notes on my form. For the first test, Keith handed me a rod, similar in size and weight to a broom handle and told me to hold it directly above my head. I was then to preform a deep squat, keeping my knees in line with my feet. As I lowered my body I could feel tightness in my back and shoulders, and my torso automatically leaned forward. I glanced at Patrick for some sort of feedback, but during each of the tests his expression never changed. He looked as if he were sitting at the final table of the World Series of Poker.

I won’t bore you with the details of the other six tests except to say they included phrases such as “active impingement” and “rotational stability.” Each test is graded on a scale of one to three, one being bad, three being good, with a total perfect score of 21. My total score was ten, which meant my body, once a cooperative employee, had at some point become unionized and now works only through a series of negotiations and accommodations. Keith and Patrick identified my weak points and led me through a series of stretches to perform daily at home to improve my mobility and prevent injury.

I made an appointment for five weeks out to gauge my progress and left with a stack of papers explaining the recommended stretches. Mark promised to help me set up a strength-training routine upon my return, which will fall just shy of my 45th birthday. For a self-described procrastinator, I’m making pretty good time.

Premier Physical Therapy & Personal Training
1310A Garlington Rd, Greenville
(864) 288-2998, premierptupstate.com

Man About TOWN

Back to Good

by Man About TOWN

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Jan
6

The Man About TOWN vows to undo the harm of his indulgences

Upon opening my closet door one recent morning, I experienced an embarrassing hallucination. As I stood there selecting what to wear, I saw my wardrobe come to life. The pants and shirts began to quiver, and the belts coiled up tight in an attempt to conceal themselves. T-shirts and underwear scurried about and a stack of sweaters slowly retreated to the rear of a shelf like a hiker backing away from a slumbering bear. I even noticed one slim-cut Italian dress shirt waving a white flag. I felt their pain.
You see, over the past twelve months, your Man About TOWN has been dutifully being, well, a Man About TOWN. Which, if one is to do properly, requires a significant appetite for food, drink, and charm-filled socializing, which invariably leads to more food and drink. The problem is, all this carousing has increased my waist size from a respectable 32” to a measurement I’m reluctant to commit to print. My clothes have gone from fashionably covering my body to now struggling to keep it cylindrical. In other words, my wardrobe has become a closet full of sausage casings.
For some men, the first line of defense in dealing with a newly acquired spare tire is to adopt what I call the “diagonal waistline.” A physics-defying anomaly where the front of the pants are pushed down and worn several inches lower than the rear. The upside is it saves the wearer from having to purchase bigger pants; the downside is you look like a high school football coach. No, the only true fix for a spare tire is to deflate it.
When a man reaches middle-age, certain things begin to happen to his body that are both confusing and disturbing. Hair goes missing from the scalp then suddenly reappears, seemingly overnight, on the top of the back or peaking out of one’s ears like a follicle version of hide and seek. We begin to make audible sighs of relief when we sit down and groans of stress when we attempt to rise. And the calorie-rich food and drink once burned easily by our youthful metabolism now smolder along our waistlines.
This January, I have finally decided to accept the fact that I am no longer in my twenties, or thirties for that matter, and that my body is now what car enthusiasts refer to as “vintage,” which requires a little more care and upkeep than a newer model. So, for the next several weeks I will eschew the barstools and romantic tables of my favorite haunts and experience the physically active opportunities Greenville has to offer. I will experiment with diets: slow-carb, low-carb, raw, paleo, vegan—and dip my toe in the world of yoga, Crossfit, Zumba, spinning, and martial arts. I will harness my willpower and commit myself to one of the harshest words in the English language: moderation.
I will report my experiences and progress here and let this page serve as a formal record of my commitment to turn back the clock. I can already hear cheers of support coming from my closet.

Man About TOWN

Rules of Engagement

by Man About TOWN

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Dec
11

The Man About TOWN shares holiday advice

If there was ever a tempting time to dip deep into the well of pharmaceuticals, it is surely the holiday season. I’m talking specifically about the 62 days beginning the morning of November 1, when retailers try to convince us Christmas is mere hours away, to the afternoon of January 1, when we awaken red-eyed and groggy, a little heavier, a little older, and full of promises to make better decisions in the coming year. It’s a two-month whirlwind of shopping, cooking, eating, drinking, and maddening attempts to tolerate children and relatives. And though the general sentiment of the season is supposed to be “Good will toward all,” the underlying feeling is more “Where’s the Valium?”
But through years of trial and error, your Man About Town has devised five rules for surviving the holidays. I can’t promise they will alleviate all of the season’s anxieties, but they’ve helped me retain a modest amount of sanity without having to visit my pharmacist.
Rule 1: Moderation. You may think it strange for someone who generally imbibes with the enthusiasm of a sailor on leave to preach moderation, but during the holiday season a level head is crucial. While that fourth bourbon or fifth glass of wine may improve the taste of your sister-in-law’s vegan kale casserole or pull you through yet another secret Santa office party, it is a very slippery slope. And with everyone now carrying a full photo production and distribution facility in their pocket, i.e., a smartphone, being over-served could result in a viral-spreading office-party image of you with a lampshade on your head and Barbara from accounting on your lap. Remember, on Facebook no one can hear you scream.
Rule 2: Simplify Gift Giving. Each year I select one item, perhaps a hand-blown vase or artisanal wooden bowl, and give it to everyone on my gift list. I think of it as the year’s “signature gift.” My holiday shopping takes approximately twenty minutes.
Rule 3: No Room at the Inn. Guest rooms are for out-of-town friends. Hotels are for out-of-town relatives.
Rule 4: It’s the Thought That Counts. Whether you’ve been naughty or nice, you will invariably end up with gifts you don’t want. I shamelessly return them and buy what I wanted in the first place, like a new driver or bottle of 25-year-old Scotch. I mean, really, what do you need with a hand-blown vase or artisanal wooden bowl?
Rule 5: A Quiet New Year’s Eve. Despite my affinity for Champagne, tuxedos, and intoxicated merriment, I always stay home on New Year’s Eve. I light a fire, put some Coltrane on the stereo, and toast the beautiful blonde who inexplicably enjoys my company with the most expensive bottle of wine I can find. We rarely make it to midnight—wink, wink, nudge, nudge. That’s how you ring in the New Year!
But however you choose to spend this holiday season, your Man About Town wishes you health, joy, and most of all sanity. And, honestly, isn’t that all we really want for Christmas?

Man About TOWN

Dirty Bird

by Man About TOWN

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Nov
5

A bourbon brine seduces the Man this Thanksgiving

With the yearly feast around the corner, I feel I should make a confession: I hate turkey. Actually, that’s not totally accurate. The truth is I loathe turkey. Turkey breast, turkey sandwiches, turkey burgers, turkey meat loaf, I despise them all. And that’s not even mentioning the possible human rights violation known as turkey tetrazzini. In my opinion, as far as flavor is concerned, turkey falls somewhere between styrofoam and bark.
As a kid, Thanksgiving was my least favorite holiday. Other holidays were fun. Christmas had presents, Fourth of July had fireworks, Memorial Day and Labor Day were all about cookouts, and Halloween was a sugar-fueled, costumed Euphoria. But every Thanksgiving was exactly the same, me at a cramped table stuck between arguing uncles and cheek-pinching aunts, staring blankly at a dry bird stuffed with wet bread. My only condolence was knowing they would all be asleep in an hour. Thank you, L-Tryptophan.
Some may scoff at my disdain for this traditional feast but I feel I’m not alone. In fact, I believe there are legions of secret turkey haters out there who suffer through this dry, tasteless bird only because it is a vehicle for much better fare. Let’s face it, the real stars of Thanksgiving are the fixings—butternut squash, green bean casserole, macaroni and cheese, sweet potatoes crusted with brown sugar. The turkey is the stage, but the fixings are the show.
Even some chef friends of mine have admitted that turkey is on the bottom of their protein list. “I never cook it,” one local chef recently told me. “It’s just dry and tasteless, why bother?” Another said he cooks turkey on Thanksgiving only so he can have a couple of days of turkey sandwiches afterwards. Others said it was all in the preparation and that I should try smoking the turkey to impart more flavor. Some even recommended deep-frying it, which to me seemed liked a bad idea even before I watched a YouTube video titled “Turkey Frying Disaster Compilation.”
But Chef Jason Scholz of Stella’s Southern Bistro in Simpsonville wouldn’t give up on me. He admits turkey is often “dry and flavorless” and probably the reason gravy was invented. But Scholz has a flavoring secret and it involves the only turkey I usually have in my house, the kind that’s wild and 100-proof. Upon the mention of bourbon, Scholz had my attention. The trick, he claims, is to create a brine of bourbon, brown sugar, and spices and allow the bird to soak up these flavors for about 30 hours prior to putting it in the oven. I’m going to try Scholz’s recipe this year as a last-ditch effort to stick with tradition. But I still wish the Pilgrims and Wampanoag had just roasted a pig.

Man About TOWN

Candy Land

by Man About TOWN

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Sep
30

Come Halloween, the Man will exact sweet revenge

As kids growing up in a small, Southern town, my friends and I approached Halloween strictly as a candy-gathering operation. Candy was the main objective and wearing a disguise merely an added bonus. Looking back, it seems odd that children who were constantly told not to take candy from strangers were, on this particular night, actually encouraged to do so. Of course some neighborhood kids would waste the fruitful hours of Halloween night egging houses or threading toilet paper through trees, but we shook our heads at their shortsightedness. Mischief was available any time; free-flowing candy came but once a year.
For several years, the operation remained the same. We would meet at my house to don our costumes and pick at whatever snacks my mother had put out for my friends’ parents, usually Ritz crackers and a brick of cream cheese topped with pepper jelly (the late ’70s were not exactly the golden age of hors d’oeuvres). Then, splitting into groups of two (trial and error had taught us smaller groups equaled more candy per person), we would blanket the neighborhood, buzzing from door to door like bees collecting pollen.
When our bags were overflowing, we would reassemble at my house and spread our bounty on the red shag carpet of my parents’ rumpus room. Here we would separate the wheat from the chaff, organizing our harvest in order of value—high: full-size candy bars and packs of bubblegum; low: pencils, boxes of raisins, and apples. Everything else fell somewhere in between. Then a complex trading ritual would commence. To someone unfamiliar with Halloween this would be a bizarre sight: small cowboys, superheroes, and vampires sitting crossed-legged on the floor, bartering Gobstoppers and Pop Rocks. All this taking place while the grown-ups sat in the “formal” living room, drinking whiskey sours and listening to Percy Faith 8-tracks.
Thirty-five years later, I still get excited about Halloween and choose to celebrate it much the way my parents did, at home with a few good friends waiting for a new generation of trick-or-treaters to ring the doorbell. I always wear a costume, and in past years have answered the door dressed as everything from Britney Spears, à la “Hit Me Baby One More Time,” to a Franciscan friar. This year, thanks to my friend Lydia at the Costume Curio on Laurens Road, I will be entertaining guests as Oscar Wilde in a frock coat, thin-striped black pants, cravat, and ankle boots, plus a glass of absinthe to complete the effect. I can’t wait to see the looks in the children’s eyes when I open the door and reply to their query of “Trick or treat?” with a witty, Wilde quote, a box of raisins, and a pencil. Is it just me, or do kids eat way too much candy these days?

Man About TOWN

Smart Guy

by Man About TOWN

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Sep
3

September marks a month of recharge for the Man

I n the first act of Noel Coward’s 1930 play Private Lives, a honeymooning couple exchanges witty banter while enjoying the view of the French Riviera from their hotel terrace. Their conversation eventually deteriorates into a heated discussion of the husband’s previous marriage and the shortcomings of his ex-wife who initiated their divorce. His new wife wonders why he put up with this shrew for so long, and asks why he didn’t initiate the divorce himself. The husband, quite taken aback by this question, simply responds, “It would not have been the action of a gentleman.”
Over the past 80 years, the “actions of a gentleman” have become rare to the point of near extinction. Whereas a gentleman once rose when a female entered a room, a woman is now lucky if her appearance warrants a glance away from the latest text message. Gentlemen used to hold doors, dress for the occasion, arrive on time, write thank-you notes and send flowers. They didn’t wear hats indoors or golf shirts to fine restaurants. They were quick with compliments and sparse with critiques. They behaved by a code of conduct based on the respect for the feelings, sensibilities, and welfare of others.
Unfortunately in today’s world we are often too busy coddling our own feelings, sensibilities, and welfare to notice those of others. We’ve become a society of narcissists, gazing constantly into the reflective pool of our smartphone screens. While technology has increased our ability to connect, it has at the same time lowered our standards of behavior. The smartphone hasn’t killed gentlemanly manners but it has certainly put them on life support.
To this steady and unfortunate decline in etiquette, your Man About TOWN says, “Enough already!” Enough of Instagramming the dragon roll or checking our fantasy-football standings while our dinner companions sit idly by. Enough of illuminating the darkness of the Peace Center to tweet that we’re watching Jersey Boys. Enough of conducting loud, personal phone conversations in waiting rooms and airport terminals. Enough of being too impatient and reckless to pull off the road before responding to a text. It’s time for us gentlemen to raise our standards and remember our smartphones are our servants, not our masters.
In an effort to lead by example, I vow for the month of September to leave my phone in the car when visiting a restaurant, theatre, or someone’s home. When my phone is with me, I promise not to act as if I were Bruce Wayne and every text alert or social-media notification were the bat signal. I promise not to text while driving or interrupt a face-to-face conversation to check my phone. I promise to excuse myself and conduct my phone conversations out of the earshot of others. In short, I promise to use my phone with the feelings, sensibilities, and welfare of others in mind.
By the end of the month, I hope to discover I am not as tethered to my phone as I once thought and that the time saved by not constantly texting, posting, tweeting, or throwing animated birds has allowed me many more opportunities to perform the actions of a gentleman. As Noel Coward himself once said, “Manners are the outward expression of expert interior decoration.” For me, September is the month I do a little redecorating.

Man About TOWN

Image Consultation

by Man About TOWN

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Jul
30

The Man About TOWN revs up his inner renegade

After seeing the movie Star Wars at the impressionable age of eight, I immediately took on the persona of Han Solo. I wore a white shirt and black vest and along with the family Labrador/Wookie spent hours defeating the Galactic Empire from the cramped cockpit of the Millennium Falcon. Or, as my parents insisted on calling it, the pantry. A few years later, I wore a fedora and brandished a whip, all while rescuing priceless religious artifacts from the jungles and deserts of my backyard. And as a high school junior, I took to wearing a bomber jacket and driving my father’s station wagon as if it were an F-14, hoping someone would give me a cool nickname like Maverick or Ice Man. From the cowboys of the earliest silent films to the superheroes of today, emulating film characters is one of the joys of youth. But problems arise when one fails to outgrow this desire. For, as an adult, big-screen imitation is decidedly more complicated.

It was right after a recent viewing of the 1963 film The Great Escape that I decided I needed a motorcycle. In the film, Steve McQueen plays a WWII prisoner of war who risks a daring escape by jumping the German/Swiss border on a Triumph Trophy TR6. I wasn’t interested in jumping barbed-wire fences, but I was interested in looking cool. Now it should be known that once a man reaches a certain age, voicing a desire to purchase a motorcycle is viewed with the same raised eyebrows as if he’d mentioned botox or hair plugs. But desperately holding on to youth is what we men do best. It’s why convertibles and combovers exist.

I started my search online and discovered that in 2012, Triumph released a limited run of Bonneville T100 Steve McQueen–edition bikes. These matte khaki-green beauties were designed to replicate the bike McQueen rode in The Great Escape. But they only have a single seat, which meant the beautiful blonde who inexplicably enjoys my company would have to stay at home while I look cool, completely defeating the purpose. Plus, with only 1,100 of these McQueen-edition Triumphs in existence, they are all but impossible to find.

The standard Triumph Bonneville is also a beautiful piece of machinery. I stared at it in the showroom as if viewing a masterpiece. I had never been on a motorcycle before and when I sat on the Bonneville, it was much heavier than I’d anticipated. My mind immediately flashed to it toppling over as I cruised down Main Street, draining every ounce of coolness I’d built up. I sat on other bikes in the showroom, as well, and always felt the same spasm of fear, imagining scenarios that ended with me in positions I would rather not adopt.

Occasionally the wisdom of age trumps the impetuousness of youth, and I left the showroom in my boring but safe German sedan. Stopped at a traffic light on my way home, a thunderously loud Harley pulled up next to me. The rider was a man about my age, clean cut with no visible tattoos. He looked like he could be a dentist or accountant. I thought about the small boy that still lives in all men and have to admit I was a little jealous. But as he roared away when the light turned green, I couldn’t help but wonder who he was pretending to be.

Man About TOWN

Fire Starter

by Man About TOWN

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Jul
13

The Man faces his fear of outdoor grilling, just in time for the Fourth

After enjoying a recent backyard cookout, the beautiful blonde who inexplicably enjoys my company suggested I invest in an outdoor grill. It did seem to be the one gaping hole in my culinary arsenal, which includes almost every other accoutrement from food mill to chicken-shaped egg topper. But despite being a self-proclaimed gourmand, for me the outdoor grill never held much cachet. One reason is that armed with a little skill, a hot stove, and a set of well-seasoned cast-iron skillets, one can pull off some amazing gastronomic feats. Another is my innate fear of being slightly intoxicated near open flames and pressurized fuel. But knowing this beautiful blonde’s suggestions are really thinly veiled decrees, I grabbed my wallet and set out to do some shopping.

The first stop was Charleston Cooks on North Main Street for accessories. Store manager and chef Mark Pollard proudly directed me past displays of gadgets that made my well-stocked kitchen feel sparse by comparison. There were graters and peelers and juicers and scalers and even little rubber pods to gently cradle poaching eggs. My credit cards began to tremble as we approached the grilling section, but Mark suggested starting out simply with only a few “must have” accessories. While debating the virtues of tongs versus forks, Mark informed me he is a former martial arts champion. At that point, the debating abruptly ended and I enthusiastically agreed with all of his recommendations: long locking tongs and an instant-read thermometer, both by Rösle, an Outset brand grilling basket, silicone sauce mop, a soaker box for chips (Mark likes to soak his in bourbon and apple juice), and a Pitt Mitt glove.

For the grill itself I headed south to see my friend John Colacioppo who, along with his wife Kelly, owns The Cook’s Station at the corner of Main and Augusta. Although Kelly bears no resemblance to Wilma, John is a dead ringer for Fred Flintstone and has a working beer tap just feet from his desk, a perk miles beyond the standard office water cooler. John led me on a tour of grills with prices ranging from a few hundred dollars to more than $8,000. Knowing my weak spot, and budget (under a grand), he guided me toward the Primo brand, Kamado-style ceramic grill, hinting that it could double as a backyard pizza oven. The Primo uses natural hardwood lump charcoal and is versatile enough to grill, smoke, roast, or bake. Imagining myself impressing the beautiful blonde with wood-baked pizzas, grilled steaks, roasted chops, and sautéed seafood, all without having to conquer my fear of propane, was enough to sell me on the spot.

While discussing the versatility of the Primo grill and the abundance of accessories available to the backyard chef, I asked John his favorite methods of grilling. He talked about Boston butts and flank steaks and even French-bread pizzas he’d grilled for his kids. But then he told me some of his best times behind a grill were the simplest. Just he, Kelly, and a couple of their friends down at Cleveland Park, grilling hot dogs on one of the beat-up, park-issued hibachis while the kids played nearby.

It seems grilling, like most activities, is not about the stuff but about the people you’re with. So whether you’re searing scallops in a full outdoor kitchen or grilling burgers on a hibachi down at the park, enjoy it with the people you love. That’s my plan this summer. Yabadabadoo!

The Cook’s Station
659 S Main St  Greenville.
(864) 250-0091, thecooksstation.com

Charleston Cooks
200 N Main St  Greenville.
(864) 335-2000, mavericksouthernkitchens.com