I’m not, nor have I ever been, one to really look back and daydream or play the “What if” game. What if I had not gone to college? What if I had not moved to D.C.? What if I had never become an engineer? Today, for some insane reason, I couldn’t help myself.
This picture was taken nearly a decade ago by the girl who became my wife and the mother of my child. That shy girl would likely be unrecognizable in personality to those that know her now. She had the same grit and backbone then that she does today, it had just not yet had the opportunity to manifest itself.
I asked her out on a date when she told me she’d love to see Pitch Black. Since I owned about three copies of it, that wasn’t much of a date, so we went to see Dodgeball instead. How romantic. She was completely confused by me, as I was to myself at that time. I was an engineer for a large and wildly successful firm, was great friends with the CEO and had nowhere to go but up in my career. I’d had my share of adventures, more than some people, less than others and should have been happy.
The thing is, I was never content working in an office or being an engineer/geologist. I didn’t like traffic, didn’t like D.C., didn’t like my ex-girlfriend who was, at the time, constantly trying to worm her way back into my life without letting me into hers. In retrospect, she was actually a good person, we had just simply grown apart over the years and she never really cared very much for my spontaneity and tendency to jump on whatever train was leaving the station in my thought patterns at the time. That likely didn’t make a lot of sense to a lot of people, but some of you will get it.
Side note: Day old biscuits that were baked with duck fat in a cast iron skillet really aren’t all that great cold. They leave a very distinctive duck taste in your mouth that isn’t as good as you would think. I’m debating eating another one. They’re horrible for you, so I’m keeping a careful eye on the sneaky suckers. If they make any sudden moves I’ll eat them.
The only job that I consistently enjoyed was cooking. I loved the camaraderie, the inherent danger, all the cute waitresses and adoring customers. The pay sucked, especially for someone who put themselves through college by working as an assistant foreman in a coal mine, but I never really cared all that much about money anyway. Chalk it up to never having any, but I found money to be irritating and draining. What to do with it? Do I freeze it? Bury it? I have a pair of camo shorts, a pair of board shorts, a surfboard, a tent, a truck that’s paid for and some t-shirts along with a small grill, duck tape, super glue and a bottle of antibiotics, just in case. Cell phone? What’s that? Rich people have those.
My first real gig cooking was at Southwest Virginia Community College. They were having a catered dinner and the cook/chef didn’t show. Someone finally had the brains to call the jail, where he was sleeping off a three day binge. I was yanked out of the darkroom, where I was happily working by those funky lights that dimly lit the room with a smoking hot underage girl with an astonishing rack. What do you know? Ron can cook! I split my four years of community college between mining and cooking, with either job offering a better than average chance of being blown up by gas build up.
To make a long story shorter, I cooked (nothing ever complicated, more often than not breakfast), deep fried nearly everything under the sun, washed dishes and stored deliveries off an on for years.
Last year, still reeling from a stint in rehab and still in the throes of DT’s, my wife insisted that I interview with Chef Rork at Mountain Lake. I was so out of shape and in so much pain that I had to rest twice going up the steps to the kitchen and ducked into the restroom to catch my breath, wipe the sweat off my face and stop shaking. I did not pretend. For once in my life, I didn’t sugarcoat my abilities, or harp on my so called kitchen experience which was really nothing more than frying frozen shit at various beaches and towns during my wandering years. He asked what I did and I shrugged. A geologist. He hired me on the spot. He didn’t know it, or maybe he did, but he helped save my life. I was so eager to work and so thankful to be in a real kitchen that I lived for a few months in fear that I would screw up. Alcohol never crossed my mind.
So, the morning of this picture, I was actually contemplating not going back to my job. The surf was flat and I had sneaked out of the tent (I thought) to enjoy the sunrise and the peace and thinking – fuck it. I’m not going back. I heard the sound of a camera shutter and my future wife, complete with one hell of a tan, tangled sun bleached hair, dressed in a bikini – grinned at me over the camera with her board stuck in the sand beside her. She is silent as a ghost when she wants to be.
I went back home to D.C. Less than a year later, we set sail to the New River Valley and a life that stretched so far in front of us that we dared not think of it.
If you have a dream, a passion, a desire to DO something else – then for fucks sake, do it. Life is really, really short. Let’s go throw these god-awful biscuits away before I eat another one. Peace.
P.S. What living at the beach does to you.