Issue # 9
May 19, 2000
How to Build a Gas Grill
By Rich Wilhelm

Now that I’m a homeowner, I’ve got this list of Projects.

All guys have Projects. To be a guy is to have Projects. The problem with me is that, up until becoming a homeowner, none of my Projects were particularly useful. My Projects were things like “Create a database for every song on every CD, album, and single I own” or “Plan a trip to visit the gravesites of every U.S. president.” Of course, I can’t forget the classic “Record a tape compilation of the classic songs from my four Telly Savalas albums, interspersed with dialogue from an old Kojak episode I had on video.” Now that, my friends, was a Project.

Times are different now and my projects are beginning to reflect that change. One of the first of my home projects was to rip out the doorknob and replace it after Jimmy locked Donna and me out of our bedroom (well, Jimmy locked the door, but I was the one who pulled it shut). Next, as a precautionary measure, I had to replace the knob on Jimmy’s bedroom door. Then I had to replace the doorknob to the computer/sewing/whatever room, after I somehow got myself stuck in it. This final doorknob project is a story that I will tell another time.

Fortunately, not all my projects involve doorknobs. My latest project was to build a gas grill, and I’m so excited by my successful completion of it that I wanted to share my vast knowledge and experience with you. Therefore, I now present:

How to Build a Gas Grill

The first step in building a gas grill is to own a gas grill. We had been thinking about buying one and had mentioned this to my dad, who promptly found a fantastic deal on a Fiesta model and picked it up for us. After Dad and Mom dropped the grill off at our house, it sat, in its box, in our living room for several weeks while I screwed up the courage to open the instruction manual.

Finally, on a sunny Sunday afternoon, as Jimmy napped and Donna sat on the couch reading the latest Bridget Jones book, I found a place on the living room floor and began to pull the gas grill out of its box, piece by piece. I opened the manual and turned directly to Diagram 1. Studying the diagram carefully, I inserted a nut into a hole in one of the grill’s legs and bolted it to the bottom pan of the grill. I turned to show Donna my work, but she had drifted off into her own little nap on the couch. I thought that looked like a good idea, so I fell asleep on the living room floor.

Two hours later, all three of us woke up and I realized that my grill-building momentum was shattered for the day. We went out for water ices, and I put all thoughts of the grill project aside.

Days passed. Finally, I found myself home alone around 11:30 in the morning. It was a beautiful spring day. I had taken the grill parts down to the basement, intending to work on it late into the evening, sort of like Dr. Frankenstein and his monster. However, it occurred to me that once the grill was built in the basement it would have to come back upstairs so I hauled everything back up and outside, onto the back porch. I decided at that moment that I would sit on the back porch and work on this thing until I had one fully assembled gas grill. Being home alone was a big motivating factor here—I could totally commune with the grill and with my surroundings. Besides, if at any point the grill-building necessitated the use of colorful language on my part, no one would be around to hear it.

Before I launched into the project, I needed music. Grill-building music. Here is what I chose. Substitutions, where applicable, are noted.

A Decade of Hits 1969-1979—The Allman Brothers Band. Now, admittedly, I’ve been on an Allmans kick lately, but the fact of the matter is that no band says “summer” and “barbeque” quite the way the Allmans do. Other ABB CDs could be substituted here, though no other Allman Brothers disk packs quite as many hits as this one does.

Chronicle—Creedence Clearwater Revival. Another great summer band, although I think you could easily substitute a number of CDs by other great summer bands for this one. The Rolling Stones, for example, or a good Motown collection would work well. I’m thinking the Kinks would work here too, particularly if you had a CD with their “Summer Afternoon” on it.

Unchained—Johnny Cash. There is no substitute for The Man in Black.

You might think the choice of music isn’t a serious consideration when building a gas grill, but it truly is important. Whatever music you play is going to seep itself into the grill as you’re assembling it. Think about it—do you really want your summertime barbeque grill to be filled with Broadway showtunes or “passionate” new agey soundscapes by Yanni? I mean, you can go that way if you want to, but if you do, I don’t think I’m going to want to eat a burger from your grill.

After you’ve chosen the music, pour some iced tea. The powered stuff is OK, but if you have iced tea made from real tea bags, mixed with some lemon and orange juice, in a glass filled with ice, that’s better. What would be best would be a mason jar of cold iced tea from some down-home restaurant deep in the American South, but your own recipe will probably be fine. You’ll want to be sure to have enough iced tea to last for the entire project.

I would suggest beer as a suitable beverage for grill-building, but you have to remember, we’re building something here that includes many small metal parts, several of which could be easily installed upside down or backward. You need to have a clear head for grill-building. Of course, I can’t tell you what to do, but if you do drink, please be sensible, OK?

So, you’ve got the music, you’ve got the iced tea. Let’s build that grill. Here’s what you do. Pull out the necessary tools (the instruction book will probably tell you a wrench and screwdriver are what you need) and look at the pictures. The pictures are confusing and the text is worse, but if you just break it down into one tiny job at a time, you’ll soon see your grill begin to emerge.

At various times in the process you’ll need to stop and get lunch or refill your iced tea glass or change the music or go to the bathroom. You will even occasionally need to just sit and do nothing for minutes on end, particularly when the Allman Brothers are playing “Jessica.” There is no rush. This is your grill. Your time. Your iced tea. Enjoy it.

By the way, even if you’re not drinking beer, you will inevitably assemble some piece of the grill upside down or backward. For example, I put the braces on either side of the grill on upside down. That’s OK. Just start over. No big deal. Sure, if you’re far along in the process, some colorful language might pass through your lips but remember: there is no one around to hear you.

I finished building my gas grill around 3:30. I talked to Donna on the phone not long afterward and bragged of my accomplishment. She was happy to hear it, and she asked if I cursed a lot. I told her no, not really.

After you have finished building the grill, you’ll need to get your propane tank filled. You can go to the local hardware store that has seven propane tanks sitting in the parking lot. Each of the tanks has one letter painted on it, so that the line of them spells out P-R-O-P-A-N-E. This would be the same hardware store where you can buy live bait from a vending machine. However, if your town is anything like mine, this particular hardware store won’t sell propane (despite the tanks that sit out front to seemingly advertise the sale of propane), so you’ll have to go to a swimming pool supply store or somewhere else to get your new tank purged and filled. This will cost you around twelve bucks, but it will be worth it because a full tank should take you through a whole summer’s worth of burgers and hot dogs (and steak, chicken and other grill-able delights, if you get ambitious).

You’ve got the grill. You’ve got the tank. All that’s left to do is the initiation of the grill. In order to do this, invite a friend over and fire the grill up. Hang out with your friend and watch the grill as it burns. At one point, you might even want to cook something on it. Drinking a beer and listening to the Monkees or the Zombies (or any music that features a Hammond B3 organ, the unofficial musical instrument of all food that contains barbeque sauce) is allowable at this juncture.

As a final note, I’d just like to say that perhaps you feel cheated here. Maybe you’re thinking, “Oh, man, he promised he’d tell me how to build a gas grill.” Well, I never actually planned on getting into the technical aspects of gas-grill building, just the intangibles that could conceivably make it a fun project.

Besides, if I can figure out how to build a gas grill, you certainly can too!

(Please feel free to email to others who may be interested or to print hard copy for them but remember: The Dichotomy of the Dog is copyright 2000 by Rich Wilhelm. If you plan on making a bazillion dollars from this piece of writing, please let me know so I can sue you or something.)