Sometimes people ask me to describe what a Communi-D barbecue is like. Usually they imagine an outdoor soup kitchen: line up, get served, sit, eat, leave. I tell them that is hardly the case, that we enjoy getting to know our friends in each location, there is no server-served, sometimes there is music or inflateable slides for kids, or tons of balls and sidewalk chalk. Sometimes people bring their pets. Sometimes the three-year-old little girl walks to the barbecue by herself. It’s never as predictable as lining up and never as bland.
But, for those who are curious, I did my best to take mental notes of everything I could so I could do my best to lay out what a “typical” barbecue is like. I hope this helps and I imagine that these feelings will be echoed by anyone who has been to a barbecue.
Friday night Mike Schmitt and I were watching the Tigers game at Rochester Mills. In between games of pool and cheering on the Tigers/Brandon Inge I asked Mike what barbecue he was planning on going to. “Detroit,” he said. “I am taking my little cousin. She has been interested in going for a while and she finally has a free weekend to go. You?”
“Hazel Park. Jenny hasn’t been to that location yet, so I want to take her there and show her that.”
“Cool.” Mike said, pulling out the triangle and racking the balls.
I picked up my girlfriend at noon, fought a strange amount of Saturday traffic and drove to Hazel Park. We climbed out of the car at Green Acres Park and walked toward the pavilion that Elevate Detroit commandeers every month. A couple of guys were had just lit the grill and were spraying lighter fluid on it laughing.
I walk up to Jim Sterner, one of the organizers of this location and a friend from Kensington. We hug and I introduce him to Jenny.
Jenny and I walk into the pavilion where there are already 30 people sitting and talking. We find a table and sit down. We are only in place for a few moments before Jenny jumps up and runs over to pet a fat Chihuahua that someone had brought with them. She fawns over the dog and they share a few dog stories.
The limits of Jenny’s love for animals was quickly tested when a man from the neighborhood walks across the park with a colorful Macaw on his shoulder. Jenny loves animals, but hates birds. She quickly retreats saying “the bird was looking at me. Made me uncomfortable.”
“Hi! Are you Josh?” Another neighbor has walked up from the far side of the park, pan in hand.
“No, I don’t know Josh.”
“I brought brownies. Do I need to tell someone?”
“Well don’t tell too many people, because I want to make sure I get one!” I said. She didn’t get it. But I showed her to the tables where we set the food.
“I made these this morning!” She exclaimed, very proud of her batch. “I have never been to a barbecue before but my neighbor down the street, she can’t be here today, but she told me about this and I said, ‘ooo I can make brownies! So I did!”
“That’s great!” I said. “Hope I can get one!”
She nodded and smiled really big. “You better hurry there are delicious!”
Walking back, Jenny and I passed an elderly couple. Both were well-wrinkled and beginning the bend that seems to come with time. They were sitting at a table with some others, telling stories. They were the life of the table!
I noticed that they were both wearing Obama 2012 hats. I slowed down and leaned in, “I like those hats!” I said.
She gave me a big non-toothy grin and launched into a story about getting a life-sized cardboard cutout of Barak Obama from one of his old campaign headquarters. She said that she had called her son to come over and put it up in the living room on a hook on the wall.
The punch-line was something about her son having some objection to “hanging Obama.” The table erupted in laughter.
Jenny and I took our seats next to a woman who had been passing around petitions. We looked over her petitions and signed the ones we agreed with. Then we started talking about her family. This lady had grown up in Hazel Park and had a grown son who lived in Hazel Park as well. She was, however, a little upset that her other son has decided to move to Sterling Heights, so far away.
This reminded me of the moms I knew back home who were upset when their kids moved the ten miles from Beebe to Searcy—a similar distance. It was neat to see, the day before mother’s day how mom’s are the same wherever they are.
There was a family sitting behind us that were Iraqi immigrants. We met the month before and it was great to see them again. They bring their newspapers in Arabic and read while their kids play with the soccer balls that we bring every time. I waved and them and we smiled at each other.
I was lucky enough to get a brownie. I don’t like touching my food so I went to cut it with my plastic fork. This was immediately thwarted as my fork broke in half as well as three prongs busting off. We all laughed at how hardy these brownies were. Jenny laughed at me because I had to suck it up and touch the brownie. And it was delicious. But hardy.
We went to leave after some time. I shook hands with Jim again and we were walking out. I noticed there was one more brownie so I ate it. I doubled back really quick to find the girl.
“Hey! It looks like all your brownies are gone! You should bring more next month!” She was overcome with excitement and ran over to the pan. Peering in to confirm it, she grabbed her pan and held it out. “All gone!”