Jun 12, 2008

A-B-C. Always Be Closing.


Fellow cottage-revelers, it's time to take stock of our summer. When I say "revelers", I mean those of us who have perfected the art of mortgage-free cottage living. (our charitable group is the Muskoka Organization for Opportunistic Cottage Habitation, or MOOCH.)

By autumn, you've either earned your wings as an esteemed guest or you've been blackballed for life. Let's assume the former. That means you have one opportunity left to seal the deal for next year. It's called "closing the cottage".

The good - and bad - news about this event is that there is some work involved. Good, because it's the only time of year you can even think about inviting yourself - under the guise of "offering to help". The bad news is, well... who wants to shingle an outhouse, right?

Remember Glengarry Glen Ross. "Always Be Closing". Closing involves a bunch of stuff that I won't bore you with. The owner usually sweats the important stuff - like water pipes and propane tanks - the botching of which could conceivably burn the place down or flood it some time in November. For better or worse, you'll be stuck with the mundane stuff.

Your other mantra should be: "What can I do before someone finds something for me to do?" Hey, there's no sense ducking the easy jobs if you're going to end up steam-cleaning the fish-gutting table by default. Personally, I hate vacuuming, so I'll plead migraine or tinnitus or something, and grab a can of WD-40, looking for squeaks in the boathouse. But whatever you pick, make sure it's visible or loud. That way, the owner will remember that you were busy as a beaver with ADHD.

Here's a better angle: take advantage of the guaranteed kudos involved with cooking a memorable meal. Many people close their cottage in October, so you might suggest a lakeside Thanksgiving dinner. The cottage Thanksgiving is win-win. It allows you to skip Aunt Ruby's turnip-rhubarb pie and instead, have a kegger with people who don't think Beyonce is a fabric softener.

Do ten minutes of Googling and put together a solid plan for a Sunday feast. Tip: don't trust any recipes from www.makeitwithbologna.com and avoid the chipotle chili-con-carnage you normally bring to the Guys Weekend. No one wants sleep in the same room as some gaseous gastronome who's going to be firing off bunkie-busters all night.

Bring all the ingredients and delegate side-dishes. The best part about cooking is that under Geneva convention, you're not required to clean up. After you've wowed everyone by barbecuing a 35-pound bird on a Heineken Mini Keg, guess who now gets to sip brandy by the fire as everyone else discovers there's no dishwasher?

Once you've taken the mantle of Kitchen King, you might notice increased respect from the opposite sex. This is a good thing. The late George Carlin once observed that people don't usually get any action on Thanksgiving - all the coats are on the bed. George obviously never hit an Ontario cottage in October. Cool air, warm beds and no grown-ups. Where do I sign?

Remember, closing a cottage is kind of like closing a bar. It's a fun milestone to enjoy with your friends, but when the clock chimes, they really just want you to go home. Find your date and try to leave before the lights come on.