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Opinion >  Column

Paul Turner: The cookout conundrum, gas or charcoal?

UPDATED: Tue., April 24, 2018

FILE – Retired Spokesman-Review features writer Jim Kershner, who continues to write the newspaper’s This Day in History column, prepares his charcoal grill for a load of chicken on Wednesday July 11, 2007. (Christopher Anderson / The Spokesman-Review)
FILE – Retired Spokesman-Review features writer Jim Kershner, who continues to write the newspaper’s This Day in History column, prepares his charcoal grill for a load of chicken on Wednesday July 11, 2007. (Christopher Anderson / The Spokesman-Review)

It’s Spokane’s great divide.

No, not politics or Chevy trucks vs. Fords.

I’m talking about two radically different kinds of people.

In one camp, there are those who put their faith in gas grills. In the other are staunch believers in charcoal.

Short of actually witnessing them at home engaging in backyard grilling, what’s the best way to tell them apart? Besides asking, that is.

I have a few helpful hints. You may not agree with my findings. But I would suggest they are as accurate as any other Spokane cookout survey based almost entirely on blowing smoke.

Here are the telltale traits.

Gas: Uncommonly serene in moments of crisis.

Charcoal: Has been known to say, “Take a whiff of me. Don’t I smell like eau de briquettes?”

Gas: Tends to issue commands like the captain of a ship, regardless of whether anyone is listening or not.

Charcoal: Often, for no apparent reason, sings “Love is like a dying ember.”

Gas: Prefers potato salad that might just as well be called onion salad.

Charcoal: In the matter of Silver Age comic books, preferred Marvel over DC.

Gas: Didn’t have a favorite Beatle.

Charcoal: Wears a T-shirt noting that Father’s Day was invented in Spokane.

Gas: Claims to have visited Walk in the Wild zoo back in the day.

Charcoal: Refers to the Bing Crosby house over near GU as “Graceland West.”

Gas: Knows how to yell “Get off my lawn!” in four languages.

Charcoal: Prefers mass-market industrial beer and thinks IPA is a baseball statistic.

Gas: Claims to be 49 but also claims to have watched the first Super Bowl.

Charcoal: Can talk at great length about proper milkshake thickness.

Gas: Still uses old gift boxes from The Crescent at Christmas.

Charcoal: Used to build Aurora monster models.

Gas: Remembers the Seattle Pilots and can quote from Jim Bouton’s “Ball Four.”

Charcoal: Saw the Pilots play the Spokane Indians in an exhibition game here.

Gas: Loves to explain how the Spokane Canaries could have won the Stanley Cup if they had been a better, less road-weary team.

Charcoal: Remembers being outside on a farm near Spokane and hearing B-36s loudly pass overhead.

Gas: Knows what was in that spot before the current business.

Charcoal: Can speak knowledgeably about defunct Spokane breweries.

Gas: Can list many of the entertainers who performed at Expo ’74.

Charcoal: Can explain why the B-52’s tail got shorter over the years.

Gas: Saw the Monkees at the Spokane Coliseum.

Charcoal: Knows which former local news anchor appeared in “The Rockford Files.”

Gas: Knows which former local news anchor was on the cover of People.

Charcoal: Claims to have voted for Cecil Andrus and Donald Trump.

Gas: Has won several bets by knowing that GU used to be in the Big Sky Conference.

Charcoal: Remembers the Mom and Dads, Spokane recording artists.

Gas: Still slaps himself upside the head for using a relatively rare Frank Howard baseball card in his bike spokes.

Charcoal: Knows which “Mad Men” episode mentioned Spokane.

Gas: Knows what scene in “Coal Miner’s Daughter” includes a reference to Spokane.

Charcoal: Had one of the first Ford Mustangs until realizing the engine just didn’t have it.

Gas: Was standing near the starting line at Bloomsday in 1988 when the seating platform in the press truck fell apart moments after the beginning of the race.

Charcoal: Thinks the first name of the Lewis of “Lewis and Clark” was Gary.

Gas: Likes to say “We’re going to need a bigger boat” whenever out on an Inland Northwest lake.

Charcoal: Never uses “barbecue” or “BBQ” as an all-purpose synonym for cooking out.

Of course, sometimes you really can’t tell the difference. But maybe you had already figured that out.

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