September 04, 2009

The Grill Express

My wife and I attended a wedding this past weekend in Ottawa. It was about the most fun I've ever had at a wedding, and certainly one of the best weddings out of many weddings we've been to this year. (Congrats Ben & Erin!) In part I think it was because I felt closer to (the groom) than any other of the wedding participants I've attended this year. And the other part was it being in Ottawa -- a chance to see the many friends I had gotten to know 10 years ago when I lived there -- many people who to this day I consider to be some of the best people I've ever known.

Being in Ottawa made me think about all the memories I had there, and had me reminiscing about "the good ol' days". During that time I met this guy, a very passionate person and all he ever talked about, at least when I first met him, was a device called "The Grill Express". His name was Lon Wong.

He would talk about this mythical Grill Express like it was some kind of super appliance to end all other appliances. If I recall it was a pre-George Foreman grill, better than all of its predecessors. It was supposed to be able to grill almost any fresh food in under 4 minutes, while sealing in all the flavors. It just happened that around that time Lon discovered someone selling their Grill Express on EBay, and of course he had to have it. As the shipping date neared, I could see in his eyes that he was about fulfill one of his many lifelong dreams.

After he finally received it, I heard very little about it. I was never invited over to try it out, and it seemed like I stopped hearing about it. We all did. It's as if it never existed. One day, and I believe this was Canada Day, 1999, another friend named Jason Chau and I drove over to this guy's house to hang out. It was this big yellow house that had at one point in time been used as a bordello. Lon was still in his room sleeping, so we wandered around the house to explore. We walked past into the kitchen and noticed something on the counter -- it was the Grill Express.

It really didn't look all that impressive. I remember thinking it was so small, how could you fit a meal in there other than for small children? Jason picked it up and tried to figure out how it worked, tried to open up the latch, and wouldn't you know it, a piece of it BROKE off. Jason and I looked at eachother and thought "OH NO!". Jason did the best he could to try to fix it while I watched to make sure Lon wasn't coming downstairs. We whispered as quietly as we could as we (two engineers) did our best to fix it. But it was to no avail. The part that had broken off was an integral piece that held the spring which then held the rest of it together, forming the "juice seal". We tried but it was no use. The Grill Express was done.

I have a picture somewhere of Jason giving Lon an apologetic hug, but somehow I think that Lon's Grill Express dream had died way before it had broken.

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