I've had some interesting conversations with co-workers, colleagues, friends, and casual acquaintances over the years, and in those conversations, I've culled a list of things that I, JB, believe that every man should know how to do.
These are not things that are special, unique, exotic, or crazy. They are skills that combine elements of survival, etiquette, and self-reliance. And class.
In no particular order, my list of 11 Things Every Man Should Know How To Do:
11. Start a fire without matches or a lighter: Have a means to create a spark and a means to capture that spark. A 9 volt battery and a small portion of steel wool, or a flint and steel will both cause a spark. A cotton ball with some petroleum jelly, or a handful of dry shredded bark with a dollop of alcohol based hand sanitizer will catch that spark. Add to the resultant flame with dry sticks, small at first (less than your pinky finger) and slowly increase.
10: Score a baseball game: This says it better than I can. Mind you keep track of BB, HBP, and double plays.
9: Shoot a firearm: If you don't know how, go find a local firearm dealer that offers classes and take one. Learn the differences between rifles, shotguns, and pistols. Shoot several different types, in various calibers, and practice often.
8: Find North without a compass: Assuming you know nothing about the stars, the Big Dipper, and Polaris: With a non-digital watch (i.e., one that still has hands that rotate about the watch face,) place the watch flat on the ground. Slowly rotate the watch until the hour hand points at the sun. Half-way between the hour hand and the 12 o'clok position, put a small stick flat on the ground in line with the markings of the watch. That match is aligned to the North-South Line, pointing South. Now, if your watch is one of them fancy gollywog digital types: During daylight, place a small twig in the ground, as vertical as possible. Place a small pebble at the end of the shadow. Now sit down. Wait 15 minutes or more. Preferrably more. Like 30. After 30 minutes, put another stick in the ground, again as vertical as possible. Mark the end of the shadow with a pebble. The line between the two pebbles is generally East-West.
7. Cook a GOOD meal: No, spaghetti with Ragu doesn't count. Nor does Mac-n-Cheese with Hot Dogs (good though it may be, hot dogs with mac-n-cheese will NOT impress her on the third date.) First, understand that if you can read, you can cook. If you can't read, it's doubtful you'd have made it this far into this post. Now, then. Don't skimp on ingredients. If a recipie tells you "a pound of quality Italian Sausage," then spend the money. Follow directions carefully. Slow down. Think before you act. My favorite: Eggplant Ratatoullie on Rice. Dice one eggplant, one large green pepper, one large yellow onion, and one each yellow squash and zucchini. Heat a VERY LARGE skillet over medium heat with a splash or two of oil (Extra Virgin Olive Oil is ideal,) and sautee onions until almost clear. Add the peppers and squash and zucchini, and continue to sautee. After 5 minutes or so, add the eggplant, and reduce heat to med-low. During this, cook two cups of brown rice according to package directions. After the onion/pepper/eggplant mix has cooked though, add a 14oz can of diced tomatoes in juice, salt and pepper to taste (some generic "Italian Seasoning" works well in here, too,) and heat through. Serve the ratatoullie over the rice, and pair it with a salad and a bottle of Shiraz (Yellow Tail will do.)
6. Change the oil in a car: Start the car, and let it run for a couple, two or three, minutes to warm the oil. This facilitates the old oil draining. Shut the enging off, jack the car up, using the frame, and keep in mind that you chock the rear wheels, lest it slide on you. Under the engine, locate and remove the oil pan plug, letting the old oil drain to a collection pan. Once the oil draining has slowed to a trickle, replace the plug to finger tight. Go into the house, have a cold beer. Wait. At least one beer's worth of wait time, preferrably two. Return to under the car, remove the drain plug again, and let the last bit pour out. Replace plug, tighten with a wrench, and replace all the old oil with new. The same weight oil, of course: Old 10W30 = New 10W30. Old 5W40 = New 5W40. And so forth. Most engines will take 3 quarts, some need 4. Put 3 in, then wait another beer's worth of time, and check the dipstick. Add as necessary.
5. Provide First Aid to an injured person: Take a class.
4. Make a Kick-Ass Bloody Mary: Get thyself a tall glass, some quality vodka (I like Grey Goose, YMMV,) and some fresh tomato juice. Also get thyself salt, pepper, a lime, a kosher dill, Tabasco, and Worchestershire sauce. Pour some salt and pepper onto a saucer, wet the rim of the glass, and dip into the salt/pepper mix. You're going for something akin to what bartenders do to a margarita glass. Fill the glass 3/4 with ice, add an ounce and a half of vodka, and fill almost to the top with tomato juice. Splash some Tabasco and Worchestershire, to taste (I go for more Tabasco than Worchestershire, but whatever,) and slide the pickle spear into the end result. Set a slice of lime on the edge of the glass, and serve.
3. Train a dog: Of all the things on this list, this one is the easiest one, in my opinion. Then, too, I understand dogs a hell of a lot better than I understand humans. The first step is to understand dogs. After that, to teach a dog "Sit," you take a treat, hold it in front of the dog, and slowly move the treat above and back of the dog's head. As she moves her head up to follow the treat, her rump will drop, and she will sit down. Say "SIT!" the very instant her rump hits the ground, then give her the treat and praise her as if she just built Rome in a day.
2. Replace a flat tire: When you hear that highway starting to whine, and you know that left rear tire is about to blow, here's the plan. It should go without saying, but I'll say it anyway: Make damn sure you have a spare that has and will hold air. A flat spare is as useless as an unloaded gun, an empty keg, or an empty wallet at the titty bar. While the car is still on all four tires, loosen all the lug nuts, either in a cross fashion if you have four lug nuts, or in a star pattern if you have five. Jack the car, using the frame as a jacking point, until the tire is well off the ground. Remove all the lug nuts, and remove the flat tire. Put the spare tire on, replacing the lugs to finger tight in the same fashion as you took them off (Cross or Star, depending.) Lower the car to the ground, and once back on all 4 wheels, tighten the lugs as firm as you can. Hightail it to the closest tire repair shop, keeping to the speed limits of your spare, if applicable.
1. Cook a steak on the grill, Medium Rare. Look, here's the thing: When it comes to Man-Skill, there's nothing that tells folks "I am the MAN!" like being able to cook dead animal flesh over an open flame. This ranks up there with dragging a woman back to your cave by her hair, popping the clutch on a '72 'Cuda with a 454 Hemi, or killing a Kodiak Bear with nothing more than your fists and a Victorinox Swiss Army Knife. This, friends, is REAL MAN STUFF. The weak need not apply. Get a hot grill going. Lots of charcoal, or the gas on high. Scrape the grill clean early, then season the grate with a cloth soaked in oil. Let that oil burn off. During this, take yourself some quality cuts -- I'm a New York Strip guy, but if you want a Ribeye instead, knock yourself out -- and season it. Nothing crazy here, just a light coat of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Both sides, of course. When your grill is nice and hot, plop the steak down. It's going to sizzle. Don't mind that. If it flames, a quick squirt of water with a squit bottle will do, but DO NOT DROWN THE CHARCOAL! Let the steak sear. 3 or 4 minutes a side. Turn, and let sear. 3 minutes, and turn again, with a 1/4 rotation (this puts those nice square sear marks on the steak.) 3 minutes, turn again. 3 minutes, remove from heat, put on a plate and cover with foil. Serve with a loaded baked potato, steamed asparagus, and a big honkin' bottle of wine.
There ya have it, folks. 11 Essential Skills for Every Man. Know them, and perfect them, or be foreever doomed to the realm of "Wussy."