Look out! He’s carrying a harmonica!

USA TODAY has an article today about the lives of airport security screeners. Among the disclosures: A “suprising number of people” pack harmonicas in their baggage. That made me crack up because I’ve had several experiences on this front.

My weirdest experience in this area involved getting through security at the White House west gate some time in 1994 (I think). I was heading in for a news conference, but I had a gig as soon as the presser got over, so I had to haul my harps along. Through the X-ray machine they went. “What the hell is this?” the uniformed Secret Service screener said, laughing (remember, this was well into the pre-9/11 days and these guys saw me all of the time). I had to open the case for the security crew and they all ribbed me for carrying two dozen harps into the White House. But harmonicas aren’t a security risk (unless you consider being annoyed to death a security risk), so they let me bring ’em in.

I went to the news conference, hammered out a story in the White House press room, hopped in a cab and went to a dive college bar in Northeast (still wearing a suit) for the gig. That may have been the oddest collision of work and hobby I’ve ever had.

The Zen of Q

I smoked a brisket — which isn’t my BBQ specialty — for Labor Day and was rewarded with the most tender, flavorful briskie I’ve ever cooked. And I again was reminded why I enjoy cooking big hunks of meat for ridiculously long times until they are falling-apart tender.

Most people can’t make good BBQ, even if they want to, because it’s just too easy for them. The concept of cooking a piece of meat for 12 (or even 18) hours while hardly ever messing with it at all is anathema to most folks. They just can’t wrap their arms around the concept of cooking something that requires almost no intervention. They want to prod and poke and peek and measure and turn, and what they usually end up doing is ruining and giving up.

Making Q is all about the art of slowing down. I know that once I get the temperature stabilized on my smoker, I might need to visit it once every four or five hours. My Q doesn’t need my help; it needs to be left alone. There’s a lesson in that for a lot of hyperstimulated people these days.

Since I had the smoker fired up, I also made pastrami (which is just smoked corned beef, covered in coriander and black pepper) and smoked a link of Texas sausage I had sitting around. I’ve now got meals for at least the next three days.

Slow down. Cook some Q. Have a beer. Enjoy the day.