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Sunday, Oct. 21, 2001
People in my life seem to have a terrific enthusiasm for ensuring that Oufoxed be kept in a stupor like haze for the majority of his waking hours. I love them so, for their efforts.

Stu and his wife decided to get me out of the house yesterday, which is always a sign of impending trouble. Ally was off on yet another softball crusade with Beth the eldest (and I still want to type Plimy the Elder every time I write that), Maggie was on a weekend stayover at a friends, leaving only me and Ben to tend the ranch and slog through the pantry leaving great trails of opened snack food bags in our wake. The boy can eat, I tell you. I can't imagine where he got that from.

They carted me off to the Great Watering Hole by the Sea for a chili cook-off contest and pool tournament. Stu is very keen on his chili cooking, is Stu. Given the last episode of our mutual sharing of the dish, you would think I'd learned something. Not. He airily informed me, on the ride to the bar, that I had been elected a judge of the contest and should prepare myself accordingly. Oh God.

After a suitable number of libations at the bar, they announced the time had come for judges to take their places (hey, that's me!). Outfoxed shared the dais with Ancient Sailor and Common-Law Wife (no, not mine, what do you think I am anyway?) as co-judges for the festivities.

There was a disapointing number of entries. I saw 4 crock-pots on the staging table and knew, beyond a doubt, which one was Stu's, the one with "Eat Me!" displayed so wittily on the front. In the interest of fair play, I suggested a blind taste test, where numbered bowls be brought to each judge without knowing where they originated. Stu looked rather disapointed in all this. He made some muttered references about "I sure hope he remembers who drove him here and how far he is from home." That sort of thing.

Bowl #4 actually had noodles in it, which was a chili eating first for me. Drawing on my years of Living as a Poor Parent with Fixed Food Budget experience, I quickly deduced that it was Hamburger Helper with a healthy dash of chili powder thrown in. Ugh. Next, please.

Bowl #3, as it turns out, was actually prepared by the cook at the bar. Common Law Wife took a bite just before me and attempted to supress a horrified look, with the anxious cook looking on from the gallery. With that as a warning, I took a tentative bite. OMG. It was tomato paste with a smattering of ground round. Ancient Sailor on my right was doing his best not to gag, succeeding only when I hurridly thrust a cold beer into his hands.

Bowl #2. The gathered crowd was beginning to be restless. By now convinced that our lives, if not our colon's were in serious danger from chili obsessed amateur's awating our decision, the Judges 3 took a spoonful. Aaaahhhhhhhh. The real thing, at last. A delicate bite, just the right amount of onion, flavorful and a fine full bodied chili with a little something extra on the aftertaste. Wonderful.

Bowl #1. It was announced, as the bowls for this entry were handed to us, that the creator had specified this brew be eaten with crushed Frito's and shredded Monterey cheese. Huh? And was that a big bag of crushed Frito's I'd seen, conveniently laying on the seat of Stu's Suburban on the way over? Oh no, a red herring entry. Stu grinned knowingly from the crowd, raised his bottle of suds and winked as I took spoon in hand for the final time. Dry. Oh gosh, the Frito's had succeeded only in drawing most of the moisture out of the mix, leaving only the beans and hamburger which, in Stu's words, he'd been slaving over since dawn. On the other hand, it at least resembled chili and I had to give him a mark somewhat higher than the first two entries. Plus, there was the whole question of my transportation home for the evening.

As the table was opened up for the crowd to come in and sample all four chili's, the Judges huddled in a corner to debate. Which, of course, wasn't a debate at all. We were actually just having an extra beer and drawing out the time so that it looked like some serious judging stuff was going on. #2 was out in front and pulling away. The only real debate was who to give third place to, Tomato Sauce Boy or Hamburger Helper Kid? That took a minute. We decided to disqualify HH since that noodle thing was just a little bit much, better luck next year Kid.

Last year somebody won second place by going to Wendy's and buying up all the chili they could and putting it in a crock-pot. There was nearly a riot when this all came out. I heard the Judges were last seen fleeing through the parking lot afterwards.

Interesting, as we went by the crock-pots for a final pass. The crowd had emptied #2 entry chili like a cloud of locusts through a wheat field. The other 3 sat neglected, though Stu was getting a little bit of attention as he had placed a mildly pornographic photo in front of his pot. All part of the advertising scheme, I suppose.

Well, they announced the results, and to the relief of the Judges 3, the assembled mob was approving. Chili #2 was the unanimous winner, and a chuckling little cowboy came up to take his prize (which turned out to be, of course, in-house coupons for beer, which he immediately began making good use of). Stu, looking a little glum, got second, only mildly assauged by a similar, though smaller wad of coupons. He was in it for the glory.

He approached, with his wife trailing close behind. "What the hell happened there, PARTNER??" I thought he put a little too much emphasis on the whole 'partner' concept.

I assumed the posture seen so often in statues outside of our nation's Hall of Supreme Justice. With upraised hand and closed eyes, I asked, "Can't you see the beauty in blind justice? I feel so nakedly pure, I am wont for a sword and a set of scales, to go with my flowing robes and marbled texture." It was a defining moment. I'd have given a lot for a big magic marker so that I could write 'truth' on my forehead, spelled out as TRVTH, like the Greeks.

Robbed momentarily of assault momentum, and mindful of his wife bent double with laughter, Stu sighed, and grabbed me as a bear grabs its' salmon on a cold day.

"Listen pal, next year, okay? I'll cut up some of those jabanero peppers you like so much, and throw in some okra."

A year away and already the fix is in. I let Stu pick up the tab.

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