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Something You Can Do With Your Family Is Go To The Hibachi Grill

photo-1 copy 5I recently took my kids to visit my parents in Michigan, and that’s always weird for me because I’m this strange generational bridge between them and they wouldn’t even KNOW each other if it wasn’t for me. I’m the thread that holds everybody together, and yet the world doesn’t revolve around me, which is a terrible injustice.

If I had to pick an event that summed up our trip, I’d have to go with our trip to the hibachi grill where we were treated to teppanyaki cuisine in a family friendly environment and great fun was had by all. Hibachi is a great metaphor for life because, as pictured, the entertaining chef hurled vegetables through the air and we tried to catch it with our wide open mouths and sometimes a zucchini would smack you in the cheek. What I mean to say is that when a zucchini smacks you in the cheek, you should never give up. Just open your mouth and try again. When your life is dark and stormy, keep your head up, open your mouth, and the world will rain vegetables. Do you see? It is just like that.

The chef asked everyone what we wanted to order for lunch and, when my daughter said “Chicken,” he put a rubber chicken on her plate and that’s when we knew that this was a much bigger adventure than your ordinary meal. It was a meal performance. Meal as art. A meal designed to wedge us free from our subjectivity and view our situations from a less literal perspective. Did my daughter want a rubber chicken for lunch? Of course she didn’t. But she didn’t specify that she wanted regular cooked chicken and the chef thwarted all our expectations, resulting in an raucous expenditure of hilarity by all.

When the chef tried to spray sake in my mouth, I refused because I’m a recovering alcoholic and a relapse is still a relapse when a hibachi chef is spraying sake in your mouth. The idea to let him do it crossed my mind, to burn down my entire life in exchange for an endless cycle of depressing my nervous system that harmed everyone who loved me. Isn’t that crazy? I know. It’s the hibachi grill! Burn it!

Speaking of burning it, the chef squirted a bunch of stuff on the hibachi grill, lit it, and an enormous flame nearly singed all our eyelashes. It was really cool because who doesn’t love bonfires on the grill at lunch? Fire makes me think about the way the present is constantly consumed in the fire of the future and how we’re all flames in One Big Soul Fire or something cool like that and maybe love is a fire or lust and passion burns and resentment and it’s better to burn out than to fade away. Heraclitus said the world was a fire and Thales was stoking his fire when he said “The world is full of gods,” and when I was a small boy, I burned my hands very badly in a fire. There’s a Dogen quote about burning so purely that you leave no ash, which is a good way to be, and I love arsonists because, when something gets in their way, they just light it on fire like The Doors and remember when Jimi Hendrix lit his guitar on fire and sprayed it with lighter fluid? That’s how my family is, in a good way. You have to read between the lines.

The chef made a volcano of onions on the hibachi grill and lit it on fire. That is all your ideas about the world, everything you think you know.

Man, he was good with the knives and the spatulas and click clack on the grill and spinning them through the air – mesmerizing. And how does this sum up our trip? I don’t know but that’s exactly it because not knowing is the thing, not knowing what’s coming next but being nimble like a hibachi chef juggling knives and rubber chickens and not taking yourself so serious because life is performance art and, in order to truly see that, you need to burn down the literal, find yourself in metaphors, open your mouth when the zucchinis come, and hug your mom. Hug your mom because your mom loves you and she can finally sleep at night because you order Diet Cokes and pass when it’s your turn to be squirted with sake.
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