by Steve Bivans
[The following is an excerpt from Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth]
“It’s dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,” he used to say. ” You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to. —LOTR: I, ‘Three is Company’
Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on me;
Other times I can barely see.
Lately it occurs to me
What a long, strange trip it’s been. —The Grateful Dead, Truckin’
Life is just what happens to you,
While you’re busy making other plans —John Lennon, Beautiful Boy
This summer, I barbequed with lesbians.
Yep. That’s what I said. And they were married. Yes, I said married, as in hitched, tied the knot, walked the green mile. Okay, the last one was my veiled shot at the institution of marriage itself, of which I’ve had little success.
But the point I want to get across is that I barbequed with married lesbians, in Yankeeland, in Minnesota, the land of snow, and Germans, and Lut’erns—that’s Lutherans for the rest of us—and Scandihoovians, and Vikings. I, Steve Bivans—southern boy, straight, white, used-to-be-conservative—made proper barbeque with married lesbians. And you know what? It was pretty darned all right. In fact, it was a hell of a lot better’n all right. I loved every minute of it. In fact, everyone should do it!
But I was not always of that mindset. And it wasn’t my fault. I had long held a prejudice against gays and lesbians—as well as other prejudices—because I grew up in a culture in which those attitudes were common. And I don’t mean Southern culture. I mean the culture of white-bread America in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. I’m old, that’s when I grew up. When I was young, before my teens, I didn’t even know gay and lesbian people existed. Once I learned of them, I was told that they were—like so many other people—“living in sin.” That they’re lifestyle was a choice, not something they were born with or into. Well, I’m not here to argue nurture vs nature. I personally believe everyone on Earth is a healthy combination of both. What I want to talk about is life and how strange it is. And how we have no control over where we end up. Not one bit. Why do I say we have no control? Because we don’t. My life is a perfect example, as is everyone else’s, but since I don’t know your story, I’ll tell you a bit more of mine.
Let’s just say that ten years ago I walked into the fortune-teller’s tent at the county fair. I didn’t—and I never will because they’re complete frauds—but let’s just say for argument’s sake that I did. And after gazing into her well-polished bowling ball, or Magic 8 Ball, she told me that in ten years I would be sitting in a lawn chair, in June, in a driveway in South Minneapolis, making barbeque with two women—recently married lesbians—to celebrate said marriage, I would have laughed in the charlatan’s face and demanded my money back. But that’s exactly what happened. And the series of events that led to that moment are staggering and almost none of them were planned by anyone. Sure, the wedding celebration was planned, in the sense that a group of people got together and laid out a list of things to do and get done. But the coincidences that led to me being there are almost beyond belief.
It all began ten or eleven years ago when I decided to go back to school to finish my bachelor’s degree in history and to continue on to get a PhD. That one decision set off a chain of events that put me on a path towards making barbeque with married lesbians. Here’s how it happened, and I’m going to go quickly so hold on. I finished my B.A. in history at East Carolina University from 2004-2007. I applied to about ten different graduate programs, mostly on the East coast. I had not even considered applying to the University of Minnesota until I was talking with one of my professors at East Carolina, who asked me, “Hey, have you looked at the medieval program at Minnesota?”
I said, “Uhhhh no. Why would I want to go there!?” But I did apply, and of the ten or eleven schools I applied to I was accepted to three, but the offer from Minnesota was too good to pass up, so off we were to the land of snow and Vikings. Before applying to the U of M, I had never really given the state a second thought in my entire life. I knew that the Minnesota Vikings football team was up here, of course, and the Minnesota Twins baseball team and that it was cold as a witch’s tit in a brass bra in the winter, or all year, and that the Mary Tyler Moore show was set here, but that’s about it. Why would anyone want to actually move there? Well, we did, and then I was divorced, houseless, moved back home for a bit and came back for a Yankee girl from Minnesota. No one could have ever predicted all that. And that’s how I met Patience’s sister, April, and her sister’s girlfriend, Nicole and ended up making barbeque with them to celebrate their wedding which ten years ago, hell, two years ago, wasn’t even legal in Minnesota and still isn’t in most states of the Union.
What’s my point?
Just this. You have no freakin’ clue where your life is going to lead. None. All plans dissolve
as soon as you walk out the door, if they last that long. Your feet will be swept away and you’ll end up climbing mountains and matching wits with dragons, battling giant spiders, and crawling up volcanoes, or moving to Yankeeland and making barbeque with lesbians.
Plans are all fine and good as long as you don’t actually think they’re going to happen that way. Make plans. But then follow the words of Paul McCartney and “let it be.” You cannot coerce things into being and this is also true of building Shires. Coercion is the myth of control. Coercion is what Saurons and Sarumans try to do, not Hobbits. Hobbits step into the road and let their feet be swept off to adventures unknown. They make plans, sure, but they soon discover that plans change, because Hobbits have no control, nor do they want to control anything. They would rather just let things be and admire them for what they are.
As we continue this journey that we’ve set out upon, keep this thought in mind. Making plans is okay but be prepared to constantly change them, because if you don’t, you’re going to miss out on the best opportunities.
What if ole Bilbo had refused to go on that adventure with the Dwarves? Think about it? Would the Ring have found its way out of the mountains? Probably, but how? Would it have gone to someone as resistant to its power? I doubt it, and that would have been the ruin of all of Middle Earth. Bilbo had other plans that evening, but a wizard and twelve Dwarves offered him an alternative path. He had a choice. And luckily for Middle Earth, and for us, he chose the unexpected one. Would Bilbo, later in life, have regretted his choice? I think not. That doesn’t mean that his choice wasn’t fraught with danger and inconveniences, but in the end, those experiences were worth all the gold in Smaug’s Lair. It is our experiences that define us in the end. Sure, we could choose the safe path: stay at home, eat second breakfast, sleep in late, never go anywhere, or do anything. But one day at the end of your life would you regret not having taken any chances in life? I think so. So take those risks but don’t for one minute think you know where they will lead you. You don’t. Just let it be. Give up coercion.
If you REALLY wanna know how to make BBQ properly, then read the following articles:
Don’t forget the Sauce! How to Make N.C. BBQ Sauce: N.C. Pirate’s Cove BBQ Sauce
and the Sweet Tea! South Farthing Sweet Tea