Sunday, May 18, 2008

Working 101

Last month, the man who took a chance on a neophyte wannabe technical writer 28 years ago in Sierra Vista, Arizona, swung by the southeast Texas area with his wife in their recreational vehicle. Richard and Margie are full-time RVers, having sold their homestead and equestrian ranch in favor of criss-crossing the country in an RV towing a wood-carving shop, working at bed-and-breakfast one season, spending the summer at their secluded acreage the next.

Me, circa 1986 (left) in my badge photo. Richard today, in his RV (right).

They looked the same, truly. Richard, prematurely gray even back then, now white-haired, but with the same jovial sense of humor, same good heart. Margie, a horse wrangler, looking fit and trim and relaxed.

Reflecting about the three years I worked for Richard reminded me of the Mark Twain quotation: "When I was 16, I was shocked at how little my father knew; when I was 22, I was amazed how much he had learned in six years." At 22, I'm certain I was a difficult, opinionated, undiplomatic, awkward, unpoised recent college graduate. Like Twain's 16-year-old self, I thought perhaps not that I knew it all, but certainly more than the people I worked with. In retrospect, I would not have wanted to work for myself. I thought I knew a lot; I really knew nothing. I had no idea the difficulty of managing a technical writing section. Richard not only put up with a lot of stress induced by me—and several other of my motley bunch of coworkers—but, to his credit, held no hard feelings.

Thanks to the start Richard gave me more than a quarter-century ago, I've made all or part of my living as a technical writer since then. But even more important, after years in the graduate school of hard knocks, I view Richard's instruction in Working 101 as one of the best fundamental courses I have taken.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Original recipe for blackened tilapia Tajin

Tajin Fruit Seasoning, salsa en polvo. Powdered salsa. A seasoning for all seasons. It is intended to be sprinkled on fruit, but its piquant flavor is has much more potential.

As unlikely as it sounds, try--just try!--Tajin fruit seasoning sprinkled on strawberry ice cream. A synergistically phenomenal contrast of flavors.

Now, an original recipe from the kitchen of Waitress from Mensa:

Blackened Tilapia Tajin

4 tilapia fillets
3/4 cup flour
3 tablespoons Tajin fruit seasoning
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
pinch nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
enough oil for pan frying

Toss flour, Tajin fruit seasoning, Italian seasoning, nutmeg, salt, and pepper with a fork.

Dredge tilapia fillets, both sides, in flour mixture. Fry in hot oil in a skillet, both sides, until fish flakes easily with fork.

Lime + chile: The taste will explode on your tongue; not hot, just flavorful.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Breakin' up is a big to-do

My boyfriend, a wiry electrian (pun unintended), ended our our four-year relationship to pursue the fourth love of his life more than two years ago. (The first three partners did not work out.) Never could I have imagined that this decent, kind, forgiving, intelligent, analytical, and truthful man would treat me with such callousness. In that stationary moment, he became a stranger to me, full of lies and deceit and meanness. It was a messy thing, and he did not handle it well. Maybe I did not either.

Ultimately it is for the best, but my fundamental trust in my own perception of people is irreparably shaken.

Eventually, as one does, I came to terms with it, and moved on. In retrospect, it all makes sense now, but, of course, while in the relationship, in the moment, the signs are invisible.

Although marriage was never in the cards for us (in other words, in my tongue-in-cheek description, the relationship was not terminal, as in terminating in a marriage), he was the best and most respected of any beau in my 33 years of adult singlehood.

At this age, I feel relieved of the burden of worrying about marriage, or the fact that I've never been married. This is what it is. While in my earlier 30s, a dear friend said, "You might just be one of those people destined never to marry." Back then, I held out hope, but now I'm more "que sera" about it. (Thanks, Doris Day.)

Whenever I meet a lifelong bachelor of a certain age, though, I wonder what is wrong with him. But it does not occur to me that other people might be, understandably, raising the same questions about me. And are they right to wonder?

Even Jerry Seinfeld, before he was married, likened the idea of marriage to someone choosing a car, but with the imprimatur that you have to drive this one car for the rest of your life. Seinfeld is now married—to a possibly plagiarizing cookbook author—with whom he has three children. Of marriage, and alluding to the high divorce rate, someone wrote something to the effect that marriage was the triumph of hope prevailing over all rational thought and experience. We still do it, though.