texanist propane or charcoal
Charcoal or propane?Illustration by Jack Unruh

Q: Propane or charcoal?
Gus Burns, Corpus Christi

A: Over the years, the Texanist has had a foot in both of these combustive camps. Propane is greener, cleaner, and speedier, and on occasion, he has found these qualities persuasive. Charcoal, on the other hand, delivers a slightly better flavor and the pyrotechnical satisfaction derived from setting something on fire. The choice between the two can be said to make manifest the classic struggle between convenience and quality, an ageless battle that has reared its head innumerable times throughout human history. Your query echoes such antique conundrums as “printing press versus illuminated calligraphy,” “phonograph versus live band,” and “Night Hawk Top Chop’t Classic TV dinner versus Momma’s home cooking.” Needless to say, the Texanist takes this question very seriously. He has studied it at great length, broken it down and built it back up and broken it down again. He has consulted with a wide range of experts in the field of patio cookery, including several semi-reputable physicists, an ex—volunteer fireman, three trained chefs, and a reclusive cookoff champ. He has burned whole afternoons poring over books in libraries and papers on the Internet. Leaving no stone unturned, he has even taken his inquisition to Academy Sports and Outdoors, a usually fruitless endeavor, which, as usual, produced no fruit. In this case, both he and the particularly hapless Academician to whom he directed his query were brought to tears as they wrestled, quite literally, with the answer. When later presented with security camera footage that documented how his casual interrogation had gradually turned brusque and irritated until it finally erupted into a full-blown dustup, the Texanist was forced to admit how personally invested he had become in the resolution of your question. Apologies belonged to the Texanist that day, and soon thereafter, at the request of a kindly municipal court judge, he was obliged to trade in his sooty lab coat and firebrand inquisitor’s chef hat for the apron of a regular backyard joe. Now he saves the grilling for juicy meats and fresh vegetables. The fact is that a delectable repast can be had with either charcoal or propane, and in lieu of a cook fire of hardwood, either will do just fine.

Q: How do I tell a friend that his band sucks?
Jessica, Dallas

A: While a simple “Dude, your band sucks” holds obvious appeal, the Texanist would advise against pursuing this course of action if it is your ultimate goal to maintain congenial relations with the musical marauder. Doing so would leave the songbird sullen and the relationship itself in tear-soaked tatters. Cream rises to the top, and the rest sours and curdles and turns to clabber. And while real clabber can be quite enjoyable when sprinkled with brown sugar and cinnamon, the same cannot be said of the foul, earsplitting musical clabber that exists in the world of friends’ bands, a clabber that, alas, no amount of sugar and spice can make palatable. After being confronted with enough blank stares instead of the once-dreamed-of ecstatic applause and shower of panties, your maker of malodorous melody will come to realize this. Unfortunately, it is an organic process, not unlike the decay of an old tree stump, and will take a while to run its course. Until then all you can do is bite your tongue and plug your ears.

Q: Why do men and men only back into parking spots?
Mary B., Austin

A: In the olden days, before the power of our chosen modes of transportation exceeded that of just one horse, this phenomenon did not exist. Have you ever come across an equine hitched to a post by its rear end? The Texanist hasn’t either. It’s an absurd image. Certainly a person who attempted to hitch his mount in this manner would have been thought a real jackass. And, as with many things from the past, what would have counted as asinine then can be considered equally so today. The plain fact is that excessive effort spent planning a speedy egress makes for nothing more than an excruciatingly slow ingress and a backup of frustrated motorists (Come on, people! Move it! The Texanist has puzzles to solve!). As for why males make up the vast majority of those motoring Texans who choose to turn the parking lots and garages of our great state into snarled jams of cussing commuters, the Texanist can only point to the lamentably long list of masculine rituals that, while intended to produce some sort of advantage in this ofttimes brutish and nasty world, end up only making it more so (see steroid abuse and groomed privates). The gender imbalance in this foolish behavior may also reflect the near impossibility of penciling on eyeliner and accurately applying lipstick while driving in reverse.

Q: I work internationally on a drill ship on a 28/28 rotation. Every 28 days I fly either to Texas from wherever on the globe my ship happens to be or to my ship from Texas. Now, I read your response to the question posed regarding dipping in the office, but what do you say to planes? I find it impossible to make a fourteen-plus-hour flight without launching a fatjack of my favorite flavor of Skoal. Am I wrong in doing this? I do on occasion receive unfriendly scowls from some fellow travelers, especially when I’m in business class.
David, Pattison

A: The Texanist, in his air travels, has found that there are those passengers who will be suddenly stricken with the vapors when faced with anything that comes from the mouth of a voyaging neighbor, whether it be cigar smoke, convivial chitchat mistaken for bad pickup lines, feverish swine flu-laced coughs and sneezes, actual bad pickup lines, or tobacco spit. The close quarters of even the most modern of airliners can make comfortable companionship difficult to achieve. But the key to not being looked upon as a fuselage featherbrain by your row mates is, as ever, simple decorum. Back in September 2007, when the question you allude to came up, the Texanist counseled a reader named Mike that the modern office was not the horseshoe court, and he will re-extend the same bit of wisdom to you, David, of Pattison. Class is more than just a grade of travel, and whether you travel in the first, business, or economy category, it’s still important that you try to carry yourself with a certain level of refinement, as much, in any case, as can be achieved with a face full of slobbering brown spittle.