4 July 2005
The little tented gazebo on the beach with the circle of white picnic chairs looked like it had been set up for some dowager to be serving tea. We pictured Walt's mother sitting in there with a fancy China tea pot holding court.
Of course that didn't happen. No China brought to Tom's annual barbeque and Grandma Sykes is, of course, beyond the ability to pour tea for anyone, with being 91, quite a bit shaky and all but blind. But nonetheless, it was a royal occasion, fit for a dowager, anyway.
This was Tom and Joe's 9th annual 4th of July beach barbeque. I watched the two of them working with the precision of a synchronized swim team and thought back 9 years ago to when Tom first moved to Santa Barbara. Walt's sister's boyfriend had a room to rent and offered it to Tom until Tom was able to find his own place. Tom and Joe became such good friends, that Tom lived there for several years and the two of them remain great friends.
Each year they trot out a sinful amount of food, invite anybody they've ever met to come, and then they turn out this amazing array of gourmet treats, from sausage to several different flavors of marinated tri-tip (including the lethal-sounding "colon-buster") to marinated shrimp, so incredible salmon. They barbeque mixed veggies and roast huge onions. This year an ear of corn got tossed onto the coals and when it started to heat, actually began to pop.
It was also the largest gathering yet, filling two long and one short table, in a huge "U", plus people eating on the grass on both sides of the "U." Walt counted about 60 people, some of whom Tom had never met.
"Are you related to....uh...." she groped for Tom's name. She was a former co-worker of Walt's sister and knew Joe, but hadn't met Tom before.
"Yes," I said. "I gave birth to him."
Tom was so engrossed in slicing tri tip that it was only when he looked up that he realized exactly how many people were standing in line waiting for dinner. Miraculously, they all ate their fill and only one teeny pan full was left.
New at the picnic this year were Walt's cousin Ernie, his wife Lucille and daughter Kayleen, who had flown out from back east (Ernie and Lucille from Maryland, Kayleen from Boston, where she works). They traveled to the picnic with Ernie's brother and sister-in-law, who live south of Santa Barbara in Long Beach. So there was a big family reunion as well, though Ned, Marta and Jeri were not there, nor was Kayleen's brother Ernest.
This year Joe decided to use his new ice cream maker and had spent the week churning out several flavors of ice cream: chocolate, butter walnut, strawberry and apricot ice cream as well as lemon and mango sorbet. They were incredibly good and overshadowed the sheet cake I had purchased at the supermarket in honor of Tom's 35th birthday.
The picnic ended when the sun began to go down, and with the same precision that had accompanied the cooking and serving of the meal, all the tables were cleared, the garbage tossed into the cans and already under attack by the seagulls.
Then we all stood around a hold in the ground waiting for a gopher to emerge...
Finally, we all went back home again, to relive the day's events, to complain about how full we were, to marvel at what an amazing spread Joe and Tom had put on yet again. Cousin Ernie, the family sheanachie, continued the stories he had begun telling at a nearby pizza parlor the previous night.
When we realized we were all starting to doze off, it was time to say goodbye and go to our respective beds (or houses, in the case of some) to get some much needed sleep.
Another successful event! Good job, Tom and Joe!!!
PHOTO OF THE DAY