It's a selfish, selfish trip.
Departure and destination are two of the few controls in this experiment.
Barbecue tasting with the number one barbecue connoisseur in the world (of this blog).
There will be barbecue points and deductions.
1) Does the establishment have a loose meat sandwich in the form of a chopped pork?
2) Does the sandwich include a sauce and a slaw within it?
3) The sauce. How original is it? Do we taste the vinegar? What is the sweet? Level of spice and in where in the mouth does it cling? The amount of smoke allowed through from the meat is crucial here, but not as critical as the question of is more sauce available and do we want to dip our sandwich in it?
4) How fine is the cabbage? Can you taste the onion? Is it crisp against a warm bread, lightly toasted? Give us soggy bread, and we won't complain but you've already been eliminated.
5) How likely is it that someone would call this place a dive? Dark or well lit?
6) Do you feel a history here?
I do realize that I am judging all barbecue joints against a particular one.
He calls and agrees. Most all that he has tasted is compared to what he ate growing up near Memphis.
The call comes through with surprising clarity after a five hour hike into a national forest. The only people he saw today were a couple of guys fishing on a lake. The water filtration system is new, and he's impressed with how it works. Yes, he has thought about the business against a steady sound of frogs and crickets. Air conditioning or a fan would be nice, and, of course, he knows to stay hydrated in a swelter.
He will be fine, he assures me. I have no choice but to believe him.
Sometimes, tonight especially, I get the feeling he's so much more of a writer than I could ever want to be.
Today I am grateful to be able to hear his story and travel with him.