Did You Just Eat a Frog?

I learned that the Marine Corps packs thrills. I didn't join expecting great food. However, after you force-march 15-miles, carrying a 70-pound pack on your 115-pound body, you want food. Any food. I'd tear into the tough, plastic Meal Ready To Eat pouch. I sucked out the compressed tuna using the sense memory of freshly shucked Louisiana oysters.

I didn't even pause to release my boot's death grip. My cracker broke as I dug it into stale peanut butter. Chomping sounded like marching. I looked up and scanned the area to see my brothers-in-arms frantically trading chocolate pudding for spaghettios. Affix neckties instead of bayonets and you'd have the trading floor of Wall Street.

"Bradley": A Play In Three Acts

My grandmother said I was born to entertain. When I took the stage, there was another actor already in place.

Curtain rises... A bare West Texas backyard. A curly haired toddler, Bradley, stands near the back door. He blinks into the sun.

My brother Brad has a strong mind. He can still picture his POV from the crib.  He recalls not understanding the words being spoken to him. Perhaps my parents had thick Southern drawls.

He remembers our father more clearly than I do. What if feels like to be a family. He witnesses two people he loves fall out of love. Understanding their decisions lurches him out of childhood. He is aware of what we have versus what we lose. He will always miss it.

A Gnocchi for Nicole

I love to celebrate an entire day preparing food. Some days I'm an old woman rocking on a porch, knitting dinner. I can be the pitcher of tea steeping in the sun for hours. Other times I'm an octopus -- reaching, chopping, grabbing, opening, rushing and plating in a blur.

When time is tight, I reach for prepared and fresh ingredients. In under an hour my Gnocchi with Cherry Tomatoes is ready to shake onto your plate -- with one hand tied behind your back.

Tie The Love Knot

man in fur hat
How do you know when you find the perfect mate?

My other half is so perfect that it seems, to those who haven't met him, that I've made him up. The fact that he lives in "Canada" makes him conveniently, possibly a legend in my own mind.

But like Teri Hatcher's rack, he's real and he's spectacular. Once we experienced the thrill of love at first sight, we settled down to get to know each other.

"Where do you see yourself living in five years?" He wanted to know. I was honest, "I'm in spring chicken's waning shadow sliding into tough old bird -- so, I'm hoping to just be living."

"What's your favorite vacation spot?" All of them. The world's an oyster, right?

"What's your favorite food?" he wondered. "There's not one food I don't like, that I've tried. Except fennel."

On our next date, he handed me a little cellophane bag of what looked like dried tortellini. I hoped he didn't expect me to cook on the spot, I was saving that for marriage.
"Love knots. Laced with fennel."

I cocked my head toward the sun, hoping to intensify my eye's blueness. I needed to distract him from the lunacy of offering me fennel.

"Wouldn't it be great to say you liked every food?" he slyly smiled.

And that's how I knew.

We constantly cross borders to see each other. We didn't anticipate our governments limiting our time in each other's countries. Mine spent a lot of money training me to be a Marine. They effectively taught me to conquer an objective, strategically, and emerge victorious.

I hate to fly, but it's easier for me to get into Montreal. America isn't as welcoming to Canadians as they are us. Our customs agents haul him away from the immigration line and interrogate him for hours, fearful he's coming into the US to take a job. If they'd let me go back with him I'd set them straight, "Don't worry, he doesn't want a job in Canada, much less here. He's only after a tan."

The Marines made me tireless but I get impatient. Canada and the US need to call a truce to their hundreds year old feud and merge. Invite Mexico and we create a super-continent that can defeat China.

Canada's freezing, but it's embraceable. I don't mind the cold. Because it gets warmer.

It gets better.

And I case you didn't know, love knots laced with fennel are delicious.

Camouflage Is The New Black

It's good to be alive.

Recently, as I boarded the bus to compete in the Spartan Race in Malibu, memories of arriving at Parris Island to join the Marine Corps popped into my head like mean drill instructors storming a bus. Bus transport held no appeal then and holds less now. They're great --  I'd much rather leave the driving to someone else -- but once you've been screamed off a bus, the gentility of being chauffeured is over. The Spartan Race is as challenging as any USMC event. There are some differences...

USMC Chow: The Tale of Shit-On-A-Shingle

Fairy tales burn life lessons deeply into our psyche, from which we freely draw. I used the adventures of Goldilocks to conclude that military food isn't doing anyone a flavor. 

That little blond girl sneaked in those Bear's house, much like I did the Marine Corps. Just as she sampled the entire family's porridge hoping to find one that was just right, I cut my Baby Bear military chow teeth on the fine cuisine of Parris Island.  This food's too wretched. 

Next, I continued my culinary tour with stints at Officer's Candidate School, brilliantly split into two summers to sample more basic training fare. At Mama Bear Camp Geiger, I shoved my pride down and my plate away.  This food died for my country. 

Then finally, for the giant Papa Bear bowl -- I trudged on to the tables of Quantico, VA, full of high hopes and in better boots only to be shocked and awed at their ill attempt at good taste.  This food's just not right.

For an amuse bouche some tough doc cupped my balls and told me to cough.  

Nude, Night, Illegal Bungee Jumping!

The best thing about having a best friend is having a best friend.

Whether imaginary, canine, spousal, or to thine own self be true, I highly recommend at least one. I treasure mine, Dale -- a live, in-the-flesh man who I met when we were boys on a school bus forty years ago.

Our friendship had the normal progression. We walked down the school halls talking about lunch, then sashayed down New Orleans' Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras with 15-year old Dale in most of a skimpy Aladdin costume, then enlisted together in the United States Marine Corps and jetted off to boot camp on Parris Island.

That one extra 'r" shape shifts Paris into an entirely different world.