Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dark Spots

Rainy. It's rainy out. I have an hour's drive and the Kiss CD I've been listening to for the last 8 days won't cut it. It's too exuberant, somehow and not appropriate for this morning's commute. I need something more in keeping with the weather.

Jim Morrison. Yes.

I spent $50 on The Best of The Doors. 2-disc CD package. It rankles that I still don't have my favorite Doors song. Instead of genius, the powers that be put in "People Are Strange" instead...but it's an old irritant. iTunes, I remind myself as I nudge the CD into the slot. I could have "Backdoor Man" if I really wanted it. "Soul Kitchen," too, for that matter. Both of them are there, if only I thought to buy them more often than when I pull this CD out from the dregs.

When the Music's Over. It's the perfect anthem for a day that clearly signals the end of the summer, and fall's imminent arrival. The minimal, instantly recognizable intro that lasts a full minute before Jim croons into the microphone is fitting. Comforting.

I drive out into the night. It looks and feels exactly like it did 9 hours earlier when I came home.

Friday Night Special

"I'll have a glass of whiskey, please."


"Yes. Do you have Jameson's?"

"No! We don't have that kind here."

"What kind do you have?"

"Crown Royal."

"Oh. Okay. I'll take that."

"You want Crown Royal?"


"In a glass?"


"Do you want anything in the glass besides the whiskey?"

"No. You'll ruin it...but I would like to have a glass of lemonade on the side, please."

"Uhh...okaaaay....so you want a glass of whiskey, neat, and a glass of lemonade?"


Jeez. You would've thought I wanted poodles playing the merengue.

He brought my glass of whiskey. In a stemless wineglass. A pint glass full of iced lemonade. I wasn't going to quibble, but for fuck's sake. A stemless wineglass? Really? For whiskey?

I sighed, thanked the waiter and took a long swallow from my fruity stemless wineglass. Canadian whiskey. Blended. Eh, well. The familiar burn down my throat cleared away the last of the hoarseness. When the fiery liquid hit my stomach, I felt warmer already. I set my glass down and glanced up. The folks around me, including the waiter, had been watching me in disbelief.

Apparently, they didn't believe that a woman could drink whiskey. I gave my best Jim Belushi shrug and waited for the conversation around me to begin again before I took another sip.

I finished it and ordered another, but with a side of freshly chopped basil. The restaurant owners, friends of ours, came over and wanted to see what I was making...blending Crown Royal, lemonade and basil...and they were intrigued, so I gave them the real recipe:

Crown Royal, simple syrup made from raw sugar (turbinado), the freshly squeezed lemon juice and freshly chopped basil make for an incredible whiskey sour.

"That'll be next week's drink special," the wife crowed. "What do you call it?"

"A Friday Night Special," I answered with a wink as I took a big sip from my pint glass.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Power of Lard

When I was in grade school, Susie P. was fatter than me...but she always tried to tell me that she weighed less. "I only weigh 80," she'd boast and then cheat the scale in some crafty way when she'd try to prove it to me. I used to catch her dangling her foot off the edge. She'd deny it...but we both knew that she weighed 80 only when she'd lost a leg.

In fifth grade, I remember getting measured and weighed in front of the whole class. It was mortifying. I waited until almost the last kid to take my turn, and the nurse even whispered it to me, but she had to mark it on my chart. Everyone around could read it. She had impeccable handwriting. There it was in black and white: 5 foot tall and 112 pounds.

I could feel the shame of it roll over me as if I were dipped in oil and then set to dry somewhere.


It's been a few years since fifth grade, but I still felt the familiar roil of shame as I climbed on the scale. I watched the digital numbers fight as they tumbled over each other.

When they settled for a steady weight, I had a bitter realization: I regained in two days what it took me two weeks to lose.

I fought hard to lose it. I fought hard to keep it off. But the taste of travel food and the allure of a new brewery? I thought for sure I'd walked it off. I walked for HOURS all over that town, up and down stairs and I didn't even sit down until late in the afternoon. I ate sparingly all day Sunday, except for this one small slice of carrot cake that I didn't even finish.

It's very hard to walk away from carrot cake. But I did. I swear I did. The husband happily finished what I'd left behind.

"It's made with lard," the woman confided to me as she whisked the empty plate away. "None of that fake shortening stuff; this is the real deal."

Ah, I answered with a knowing glance. The power of lard.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

You Need This If You Want To Live!

I write automotive training materials. First of all, I'm a total car nerd. I like knowing how stuff works, and I like being able to tell people how it works and why it's important. This also makes me a control freak...but that's another story.

In any case, whenever I think that I'm not saving lives or finding cures for cancer, I remind myself that I failed math three times and all of the science programs required math. That's why I settled on English. That and the fact that I wanted to have a reason to read so much. The downside of English was Shakespeare, but luckily, I caught on to how the class was taught. Any passage the prof read aloud was going to be on the test. I underlined it in my book, paperclipped the page and then wrote notes in the gutters.

We could use our books on the tests.

But I always liked science, and always wanted to do something scientific. Technical writing is English and Science mixed together.

I get my science fix by studying products, and then explaining how they work. My job is perfect because it lets me teach people stuff, but it eliminates those pesky and irritating face-to-face relations. And so I teach sales people about cars. And they want to know how to sell more cars. They want to know more about the competition so they can shoot it down and make it look like the hero car is a thinking person's best choice. And when they need to look stuff up, they want to know where to find it. FAST.

I write a lot of statistics, and try to present them in an organized fashion. I also write blurbs about how stuff works in layperson's terms, but merely informing people isn't enough. I have to motivate them. Fear is a huge motivator. A lot of automotive safety stuff exploits this knowledge, so I get to write content with this flavor: YOU HAVE TO HAVE IT IF YOU WANT TO LIVE.

It's in all caps because it's that important.

Scaring people into buying stuff works, by the way. Some manufacturers are still talking about Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems. They were mandated back in 2008, so they're on EVERY vehicle. It's the law. But it bears mentioning on spec sheets because people are afraid that if some cars list it as a feature and others don't, then that means THAT ONE ISN'T AS SAFE.

It's the same with airbags. How many airbags? As many as a manufacturer can fit into a vehicle. More airbags = safer vehicle...but that's not necessarily true. More airbags help compensate for a lighter vehicle construction. For example, your car will still crumple like a pinata if a semi hits you at more than 30 mph...but boy-oh-boy, those 37 airbags will inflate and then explode on impact. And that'll be something to see. If you're still conscious. But you've got 37 airbags. And that's 27 more than the leading competitor, earning the hero car a five-star safety rating from NHTSA. Lah-ti-friggin-dah....and nyah, nyah, nyah.

I don't save lives and I'm not finding cures for cancer...but I look forward to going to work every day and learning new ways to think about what people do, how they do it, why they do it, and how I can help them do it better while they pay me.

It's science without math....and it's English without Shakespeare.