|George throws rock|
There are moments in life that change you. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. But as they happen, you know that the inner workings inside of you, the true essence of your being, has been irrevocably altered. It is in these moments that you are able to see who you truly are. And I, my friends, am a fool. A damned fool. Here is my story:
The summer before university started, I was a free-wheelin', high-spirited, goofy guy, the world at my feet, responsibility a word with little meaning. One night, after a decidedly enjoyable party held at the illustrious Matthew "Stein" Steinberg household, we decided to double down on our destruction of his parents' place by having a poker night. It was on that fateful evening that George Foreman and I changed the world.
That night, the cards were not in my favour. It was a ten man tournament, and I found myself on the outs very quickly. I was eliminated almost at once, along with an illusive and mysterious figure known only to me at that point as "Halby," who I had met briefly the night before.
Knowing that at this point the only way to make up for our lost poker money was to eat that value in food, Halby and I headed to the kitchen. We bonded over our terrible poker performance, our shenanigans from the night before, and our love of processed foodstuffs. After a few cookies were easily disposed of, we decided to step things up a notch and discovered a beacon of light in a top cupboard: a George Foreman Sandwich Maker.
We locked eyes and sprung for the bread and Kraft singles, unable to contain our excitement for the grilled cheese sandwiches that were to make us instant Kings of the Kitchen.
I'll never forget that first bite of processed, melted cheese. From a more far-reaching perspective, that bite cemented a friendship that continues to this day. Of course I didn't know that at the time, all I knew was that Mr. Foreman did fine, fine work.
Around that time a previously unseen figure walked down the stairs and into the kitchen. It was Stein's sister. Things were about to get real.
"Did you guys just use this grill?"
"Y-yeah...we made grilled cheese."
"This is a Kosher grill. You can't put un-Kosher stuff in it. It's ruined."
" *garbled panic* "
I won't get into the complications and intricacies of Orthodox Judaism, but suffice it to say, we had ourselves a situation. Since Stein was a far less observant version of Jewish, it had never really occurred to us that we had to consider the varying religious degrees of kitchen appliances before using them.
Nevertheless, we were still nice boys, and felt genuinely terrible about using and thus ruining her grill. We quickly agreed to pay her the cost of the grill so that she could buy a new, un-grilled-cheese one to replace it.
To her credit, she was as friendly about it as you could ask for, and suggested that one of us may as well keep the sandwich maker at that point. She took out the box for the grill, put it on the counter, and left us to our own devices.
By this point, the poker had pretty much stopped as the rest of the group came to see what all the fuss was about. Halby and I realized that our four-minute old friendship was about to be tested. While a certain Solomon-like wisdom may have been more fitting given the Semitic circumstances, cutting the grill in half wasn't really a viable solution. It was clear only one of us was leaving the house with this grill.
While a couple physically and emotionally intensive ideas were suggested, we agreed that considering we didn't really know each other's strengths and weaknesses, a classic dispute-settling game of rock-paper-scissors was in order. Given the stakes, no ordinary one match winner-take-all throwdown was going to cut it. This had to be a best-of-seven, dig deep into the bottom of your soul slugfest.
Considering the mountain I was about to climb, I went immediately to my Argentinian Confidant, Daniel Barmasch, for guidance. He gave me a quick but thorough two-minute training session, analyzing Halby's tendencies, any flaws in the design of the game we could exploit, and the potential benefits of a rock-heavy defense. Meanwhile, Halby was getting similarly trained by the formidable duo of Stein and Brian Leibtog. I knew I was in for a tough fight.
Finally, after the requisite amount of hype, and being fully enclosed in a circle by our friends as if we were about to rumble, we let our fists fly.
Boom, I lead with a rock, smashing his scissors, quick lead.
Halby fires back with a rock of his own, tie game.
Then, something strange started to happen. We entered into one of the most outrageous games of paper-rock-scissors this world has ever known. Without exaggeration, we must have tied a good 12 times before we entered our final stalemate, at 3-3.
Next point wins. It all came down to this. And then, the real fireworks began. Rock-paper-scissors, tie! Rock-paper-scissors, tie! Rock-paper-scissors, tie!
After each tie, the room boomed with shocked yells, girlish squeals and unfettered glee.
I now knew what it felt like to line up for a penalty kick in the World Cup finals, or what it must have been like on those last few steps up to Mount Everest's peak.
And then, my brain entered a higher level of thinking, and all I saw in my mind was one word: Scissors.
Even before I threw those two fingers into the middle of the ring I knew I had done it. Nothing had ever been so clear to me in my life before, or since. His pathetic full-handed paper just hung there, flapping in the breeze. The George Foreman Sandwich Maker was mine.
The kitchen erupted. People were hugging, crying, dancing. We knew we had just experienced something truly special. I ran in a full circle slapping hands, like a less steroidy Hulk Hogan winning the heavyweight title.
Finally, the moment had arrived to hoist my trophy.
I carefully placed the grill in the box and lifted it up for all to see, while exclaiming as loud as I could, "THIS IS THE HAPPIEST DAY OF MY LI--"
The bottom of the box gave way, and my most cherished possession, the Claret Jug, Stanley Cup and Lombardi Trophy all rolled into one, came tumbling out. The grill, along with my childhood innocence, crashed to the floor, smashing into a thousand pieces.
There was silence. Complete, utter silence. Nobody moved. I slowly looked around. Everyone was looking down, unsure of how I would handle this emotional nuclear bomb.
Truthfully, the next few minutes are a blur. I know I collected the smaller pieces and threw them out, and put the main grill piece in a freshly constructed box. The boys finished their poker game. The next thing I remember was getting in my car, my destroyed grill in the seat beside me.
"Come on George. Let's go home."
A few weeks passed. We recounted the tale again and again, adding an artistic flourish here, getting a spectator's viewpoint there. Eventually we decided that there was only one way to officially end this chapter in our lives.
Through a careful combination of unfounded teenage invincibility and watching Office Space one too many times, we decided that after all the grief and emotional turmoil this grill had caused us, it was time for Ashie to get Smashie.
We picked a random weekday, and in the dead of night, six of us drove the grill to an undisclosed location in a nearby park. Then we took out the baseball bats. I felt like a mobster executing a hit.
We took turns smashing it, throwing it in the air and hitting it like a baseball, and generally taking out all our teenage frustrations on a defenseless, inanimate object, yes, but a defenseless, inanimate object that had toyed with our emotions like no living, breathing soul ever could.
And that, my dear friends, is more or less how things ended. We all went back to our everyday lives, forgetting about the incident for weeks at a time. But every now and then, when the smell of processed cheese wafts through the air, I pause for a moment to pay tribute to my fallen comrade.
Goodnight George, my sweet prince. May everything you create in Sandwich Heaven come out crispy and delicious.