PAGE SPRINGS, Ariz., March 2 -- If he loses the presidency, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) will have a career as a barbecue chef to fall back on.
At his weekend cabin just outside Sedona on Sunday afternoon, McCain took a break from campaigning and grilled ribs and chicken for three dozen reporters, some staff members and a few Republican friends from the Senate.
Dressed in jeans, an L.L. Bean baseball cap, sunglasses and a sweat shirt featuring a picture of his family, McCain held court the way he does almost daily aboard his "Straight Talk Express" bus.
While the afternoon barbecue for the media was technically on the record, tape recorders were prohibited, as was taking pictures for publication, and McCain aides repeatedly urged reporters to put away the notebooks.The idea, McCain said, was to allow reporters to get to know him and his staff under less stressful circumstances. (The fact that the media spent the weekend at a resort called Enchantment probably contributed to that feeling.)
SEDONA, Ariz., March 2 -- Crawford, Kennebunkport, Rancho del Cielo: These spots have acquired mythic status as places where America's presidents have chosen to vacation. The presidential retreat is heavy on symbolism, telling the nation how the commander in chief wants to be seen when not on the job -- which may explain why a number of them have opted for dusty ranches where they might engage in such Marlboro Man activities as chopping wood and riding horses.
Sedona's symbolism is a little more confusing. There are chakras involved.
John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, has for years spent weekends at his cabin not far from Sedona, the New Age capital of the country. Sunday, he hosted an afternoon of socializing at his homey ranch. He grilled ribs for reporters (dry rub and lots of lemon juice -- on the ribs, not the reporters) and briefly touched on the important issue of whether one can feel the "energy vortexes" of Sedona's red rocks all the way out on his property.
"I think we're a little away from Sedona," McCain said, grinning, and then playfully grumbled about the fact that "they" (the New Agers, presumably) chose to flock to one of the most beautiful places in the country instead of to, say, Brooklyn.
Wearing a pair of jeans and a sweat shirt with a family photo printed on it, McCain pointed out a hawk's nest on the property he's owned for 24 years, and explained how his bone-down slow-cook grilling technique virtually eliminates the fat from his ribs. (Several reporters, skeptical by trade, remained unconvinced.) McCain's springer spaniel, Sam, hovered near the tong-wielding senator, gnawing on a rib McCain had taken off the grill. McCain's friend Sen. Lindsay Graham also gnawed on a rib, albeit with more delicacy.