Rube clowns around at the barbecue

Boswick the clown entertains unit chair Michelle Devera (in stripes) and children of Chronicle employees, including the Kepkas, the Bulwas, the Tafurs, the Chun-Lees, and the Stones. Photo by Jon Ferguson.

Offer journalists a free cheeseburger and a beer and they’ll show up, which is what happened at Lake Temescal in Oakland for the annual Chronicle barbecue, presided over by soulmates Boswick the Clown and Carl T. Hall.

Hall denied that the T. stands for “tartare” even though he somehow forgot that charcoal works better when ignited. Boswick shrewdly declined the offer of one of Hall’s cheeseburgers.

“In my line of work, I get offered a lot of junk food and I think I’ll pass,” said Boswick, hustling from the premises after skillfully inflating a dozen balloons into the shape of toy poodles.

Successfully avoiding food poisoning were such guests as former foreign editor Mike Bigelow, now a naturalist at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in Southern California, former reporter Don Lattin, whose new book “Distilled Spirits” is not available used for a penny on Amazon just yet, and former reporter Mike Taylor, forlorn that barbecue organizers had provided no pool table for him to hustle some walking around money.

Youngest member of the guest list was Audrey Cooper’s infant son, Cole, who slept through much of the assignment like reporters 100 times his age. Contributing to the potluck were such semi-distinguished alums as Lynn Ludlow (baby carrots), Margo Freistadt (ginger snaps),  Jan Goben (salsa) and me (cookies). Allen Matthews was on hand to make sure the affair came in under budget. Michelle Devera did her usual masterful job of stage managing the whole thing.

Demian Bulwa was there, pointing out that there were only slightly fewer folks in attendance than at the Giants last home “sellout.” Andy “Andybear” Behr was eating healthy food but having a good time anyway. Al Saracevic, who opted for the barbecue over the 49er game, showed up in the company of the amazing Molly, a distinguished dog with a noble bearing who was seeking out free food every bit as earnestly as the humans. Mike Kepka and John Wildermuth were swatting yellowjackets.

Management scum Allen Matthews and union goon Mike Taylor joined the Chronicle extended happy family for BBQ.  Photo by Carl T. Hall.

After Hall remembered how to strike a match, the food was terrific. For a while, while the soy burgers were being hunted down, Hall tried to persuade guests that a turkey burger — “A turkey is basically a turnip with wattles,” Hall said — counted as a vegetarian option, but in that effort, as others, he was well-intentioned but unsuccessful. A passing freeloader on his way to the lake asked if he could please have a cheeseburger and, in the spirit of free food so familiar to all in our endangered trade, was accommodated with a double double.

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Michael Applegate

Pacific Media Workers Executive Officer