“Kill your heroes and fly, fly… Everybody will die…”
Well what the hell does that mean? I think as I listen to my music and scrub ensconced black crud—and what a perfect word for it—off of the grill’s cooking grid (Google tells me that is what it’s called). I gaze down at the black, scummy water in the kitchen sink, my chosen place for the task.
Cleaning the grill is a task I particularly enjoy, despite the horrors lurking beneath the grill’s hood. It’s something that you can put effort into, smashing things about like you’re fighting a goblin, making a nuisance, and generally acting like you’re doing something incredibly important. There’s the added bonus that you can see piles of black gunk come off for all your efforts. Yet, despite how much shit comes off, the grill will still look more or less grimy when you are done; there are greasy, burnt, charcoal sins that can never be undone unless Christ himself redeems them.
This means no one can really say you didn’t really clean it well—the term “well” really ceases to have meaning when you refer to the horrors under the grill’s hood. Thus you can spend as much or as little time on it as you want and still receive a “wow, nice job on the grill.” Just don’t tell my supervisors that.
It’s a fantastic time to think and to listen to music, however, because no one messes with the guy at the kitchen sink sloshing absolutely revolting water everywhere and attacking the collected pieces of grill with such reckless abandon that several people have asked if I have unresolved anger issues. “Did your father beat you as a child?” “Were you teased for your incredibly large ears?” These are questions I face everyday.
“Never let your fear decide your fate… I say you kill your heroes and fly, fly… because everybody will die… We’ll love you more than you know…”
Wham, whack, scrape, scrape, scrape, whack, scrape…
Awolnation, the band I was listening to, is one of those gritty hard rock bands that is perfect to listen to when beating back grill demons. With a scratchy voice, deep bass lines, and wicked guitar licks behind me, I say I clean at least fifteen percent better, although, as we’ve previously discussed, this really has no relevance to the current situation. It really means I make a lot more noise and feel like a rebel.
Frankly, I sometimes just don’t pay attention to song lyrics but mumble along until the chorus, which I belt out with abandon. And I suspect I’m not the only one who does this, considering all the car singers I’ve had the “pleasure” of riding with. But this time, I decide to listen, and sometimes when you listen, you hear strange things.
I switch grill-cleaning tools, putting aside my battle-scarred scraper in favor of a thick brush. I deliberate, turning into full “English major mode,” where every word is laden with gut-wrenching meaning. Feminism, historical criticism, Darwinism, post-modernism—I was switching interpretive lenses so fast, I could barely see.
Is the song a reaction against having people we respect, whom we seek to emulate? Is it a caution against putting too much hope and trust in one fallible person? Is it perhaps a realization that heroes are, in the end, exalted gods who are distant and that true community is found in those actually around us?
They’re all equally commendable theses. But the question I ended up at was: is there a place for a hero while I clean a grill? While Superman (the worst classic invincible hero) is out saving the world and dating incredibly attractive women, I’m covered in grime, decidedly without any lingerie models throwing themselves at my feet.
I put the final grid of the grill to the side and gather all the collected pieces together, making my way outside to the body of the grill. I set the pieces on the ground and then stare at the interior, blind to its contents. Is there actually a place for heroes in modern life? Heroes are out there to fight the battles we can’t fight ourselves, to make the sacrifices we can’t make, to be smarter, stronger, and faster than us. But really, if I need something, I look to science or Google, which leads me to the conclusion that my true hero is either a heartless search engine, a vague concept of human progress, or a master grill cleaner.
And, honestly, what would a hero be without people who look up to him? Without people to save, Superman is just a lonely man, crisping his bacon with laser eyes. Really, he should be thanking me; I’m the one who makes his very existence, his very vocation (if I dare use that brick of a word) meaningful.
The song dwindles off; my eyes return to focus on the burners and sides of the grill, a black hell. Taking a bucket of hot water and soap, I swill a little water in the interior. I take my scraper in hand and start to scrape away, watching the grimy crud build up on its edge, and somehow I’m content with where I am—heroes or not.
Ben Rietema (’14) lives in Wanaka, New Zealand at the moment. Besides staring at and running in mountains, he makes a wicked hospital corner and can clean a bathroom like Gandhi (if he were a housekeeper) at his job at a local lodge. He also enjoys saying “HOUSEKEEPING” in the highest pitch voice he can muster before entering a room to service it. benrietema.wordpress.com/