Thursday, September 27, 2012

Roads Less Traveled

I have many friends that I cherish,  but just a handful or two are those I truly consider family, knowing them for many years of my life, through many life events. One is my friend "Fred" who tomorrow, leaves his job at International Sneaky Service for a new job, director level, at a multi billion dollar private firm.  It's easily in his skill set, but still a big change, with likely, a lot of international travel.

We've been friends for a lot of years though he now works far away from I. We chat regularly, trading photos of kids growing up too quick, crossing paths still,. a couple of times a year, getting to a gun range if we're in the same city and occasional meeting at some shindig where we are either speaking or visiting for other reasons.  In wishing him the best on his new job, I will relay a tale that may not mean a lot to you all, but it was a good memory of the very best kind of evenings, ones with people that become friends through the course of the things that drive us.

It was several years ago. I was attending a very large geek convention, while visiting some family in the local area, using up some annual leave to do that.  Fred was one of the many speakers, though the event was sponsored by others and I wanted to go hear him talk and catch up on some of the technology.  There were presenters from all over the world, civilian, military, government and booths that would make any geek hyperventilate. After everyone gave their presentations, we milled around with colleagues at the expo, picking up uber cheap but cool geek gadgets offered to everyone there and looking at the really cool stuff we couldn't take home (but T.!  I got you a Crypto Kids Coloring Book!)

The first night after the festivities there was a industry hosted cocktail reception for a handful of VIP's (and some of their sidekicks) where beautiful women kept coming by with little bits of food. One such things was what looked like plain beef on a stick. I figured I'd better taste one to be polite as I wasn't really hungry. At lunch we left convention food to wander the city for something a little more interesting.

Still full from lunch, I intended just to try a little one, just  to be sociable.

OMG. What manner of bovine divine IS this?

The tiny and drop dead gorgeous Japanese server, who looked like she could either -

(1) walk on my back or
(2) snap me like a twig, said . . .

"It's KOBE Beef", with great pride. Kobe beef refers to cuts of beef from the black Tajima-ushi breed of Wagyu cattle raised to strict tradition in Hyogo Prefecture, Japan. The meat is unbelievably expensive and prized as a delicacy, renowned for its flavour, tenderness, and fatty, well marbled texture. It is rumored that these cattle are fed beer and ice cream and massaged daily with sake (me, next! pick me!) Actually they are fed grain fodder and brushed sometimes for setting fur. There's a reason it tastes as it does and true Kobe not "kobe style" steaks can cost hundreds of dollars. As my food budget is more navy bean and venison it would probably be a while (as in when the sun implodes) before I had it again.

Let's just say I had more than one. That woman and her tray orbited around me like I was my own planet (which I would have been if I'd eaten more) and every time she made the rounds I'd have to try one before they were all gone.

The next night there was cocktail reception in a big ballroom for some of the presenters and their guests, hosted and paid for by one of the private  industry companies that were sponsoring the whole shindig. A former President was there so the security was ultra tight. But I had the special pass and was in though I had to leave my Ninja toys behind in my hotel room. I also had to dress up, meet some folks who wanted to chat geeky stuff with me, and promise not to T.P. any current or former Democrats.

Maybe I'm the only person who feels this way but I normally feel like I'm I'm just a little kid occupying a grown up's body. I'm not a female James Bond, I'm not comfy in crowds, and rarely get invited to fancy parties outside of work, and I don't want to. I'm comfy in my secret kid identity. The kid has no titles and isn't in any magazines or newspapers. I'm just B., Colonel H's little girl, baker of cookies, teller of bad jokes and science puns, owner of some cool toys, and I have some really cool playmates. I cry at Taps, Amazing Grace and the funeral scene in Star Trek II.  I can still cry when the mean girls are mean to me. I can still kick the snot out of a lot of the boys. So normally at these sort of events, I feel out of place, though I do a good job of blending in with the scenery. It's a science. But it's not my natural element, even if I can act like a grown up when required to protect and defend.

Yet also in the same flesh is an adult. One who can pull on my boots and in the middle of the darkest of nights, rise above slumbers respirations, and tackle the undefended throat of the unwary, tools in hand.

But most of the time, I just feel like a little kid.

So that night, Fred's in a tux, some colleagues who were here are engaged in tactical repartee's as they comment on the guests. I'm wandering around in full grown up mode, doing my best to not trip in my high heels, when something caught, not my eye, but my nose. "But what was that wonderful aroma, it's familiar but. . .?"

In addition to all sorts of fancy appetizers, they had, not just Kobe Beef, but Kobe Beef Sliders and a "mashed potato bar" where you got homemade mashed potatoes served in big wine glasses with a long spoon and everything you could imagine to put on them. Bacon, onions, roasted garlic, cheeses, sour cream, truffley mushroom things. They spared no expense but the Kobe beef on freshly baked buns still was the star, the smell alone standing out above the smell of expensive silk and perfume. But after a couple of Sliders, a sip of wine and several glasses of water, I had to find a ladies room. Unfortunately it was outside the super secret security, and my "pass" as it were, was in my little bag one of my colleagues was holding. Inside with my identification and cell phone. Damn.

They were NOT going to let me back in.

I said "But I'm Dr.  B." I'm on the list". No ID, no way, green eyes, and cocktail dress notwithstanding. Look I understand. It's their job whether I agree or not. Finally I gave the security fellow the full green eye wattage and said "There's a clipboard there with my name and title on it and it will show I initially checked in at  6:45.  I have ID at my table you can see if you want to send someone in to get it. And to prove I just came from inside, I'm going to breathe on you. You'll understand".

He smiled and looked at me, puzzled at that last statement as he picked up the clipboard where yes, my name was. I gently leaned in towards him, two inches from his lips and gently released my breath. He exclaimed "KOBE BEEF SLIDERS!!:

I was so in.

Look, the world is full of fast food, and easy decisions and safe adventures. You can walk the path most traveled, safely and with predictable tastes and textures. and the acceptance of mainstream society. Or you can fuel up with Kobe Beef or just Amish Bacon and see where life takes you. Sometimes you get the stuffing knocked out of you, roads change course, guns gets scuffed, yet you often find some things that are  truly unique and wonderful along the way.

photo by our friend Oleg Volk

Fred  - to the many years you and I shared squirrel-y adventures, when sweating and tired and unflagging we'd just look at one another and in your face I'd see something a little reserved, a little amazed, with a humility that is not often seen in such as men as yourself, as if you were realizing that for this moment you were a little stronger, a little purer, than you thought or expected you'd be under adversity.  And you led me, led so many, to be better and stronger in your example.

My  friend, here's a toast to a great opportunity, and one well deserved. I know your whole family is proud of you, as am I.

- your buddy "Briquette"


Ed Bonderenka said...

Perfect. Never saw it coming.

Rev. Paul said...

It's so wonderful to have memories like that, linked with such a good friend. You're a very fortunate woman.

Roscoe said...

You need to take a bigger purse next time to snag the Enigma. :)

One of the other students in my grad program who is roughly half my age looked at me the other day and said, "You're brave to do this (the Masters program) at forty-[omitted]."

I responded, "It really is the most interesting/challenging thing for me to do living here right now, and I have a tuition waiver in exchange for grading chores. Why be bored at some corporate job that barely covers the taxes and requisite daycare for my kids?"

Old NFO said...

LOL, great story, and I hope "Fred" enjoys the new position! :-)

armedlaughing said...

Now I'm thinking of Kobe Beef Sliders topped with Amish Bacon!

...and you didn't warn me!


Cond0011 said...

"Maybe I'm the only person who feels this way but I normally feel like I'm I'm just a little kid occupying a grown up's body. "

I'm a bit too open to be considered and adult. :)

I have a tendency to say the darndest things.

I think being an adult is over-rated - especially since there are no grown ups around to watch over all the adults in the officeplace.

(Yea... that would be great... yea...)

BePrepared said...

"That woman and her tray orbited around me like I was my own planet (which I would have been if I'd eaten more)"


One of the reasons I've not gone on another pleasure cruise in the past few years is that I'm still trying to loose weight from the last one. I'm like John Pinette at the buffet (not the formal dress-up dinners, did that the first year... never again) and had the servers bring more shrimp, Prime Rib and King Crab.

"You go NOW!"

Ed Rasimus said...

Kobe beef sliders are almost a sin. Kobe beef is so rare in the US (despite a lot of mis-labeled stuff) that an American who has the exposure is a special person indeed.

My first round in SE Asia, I spent a few days in Tokyo and got a lead to a special beef place. Took a taxi with a friend down a dark narrow residential street. Knocked at door, got escorted upstairs to a neat teppan-table room with space for about 16 diners at four tables. The menu choice was "small, medium or large" and the experience was incredible.

There are so many wonderful experiences to be had in this glorious world. Just not enough time to experience them all.

BJ Miller said...

Congrats to Fred... and to you...well said.

Sherry said...

Yeah, I don't like crowds and formal attire, either. But if that Kobe Beef is as you described, I could pretend to like crowds! I'm home this week with the new puppy - Morgan. I really miss conversation above the level of "Good potty" or "Does Morgan need to go potty?"

Borepatch said...

Cryptokids is fun but a little creepy - you're giving an *NSA* coloring book to your kids? ;-)

And +5 to your comment about being a kid in a grown up's body. One of the most terrifying moments of my professional career was when I realized that this applies to *everyone*. Now think on the electric power grid ...

Brigid said...

Borepatch - but they were free (remember, I'm part Scot)

Sherry - I loved the puppy pictures. Thanks for sharing!

BJ - thanks, and I will pass that on.

Ed - good to hear from you. Some of the best meals are in such places. Best Italian meal I ever had was in this tiny little place over a garage.