It’s a feeling of deep discomfort … Being in the center of a room that becomes abruptly still.
Your stomach muscles tighten like a hangman’s noose. You’re overcome with the feeling that time were standing still. The air coming from the vent pierces through the uncomfortable silence like a jet plane on take-off. If only that slight wind were enough to mute the thumping sound of your own increasingly fast heartbeat. Or the gasps of others.
And it’s all because of something you said.
With every crowd, there’s a line that’s not to be crossed. Unfortunately, someone has to test that boundary in order to determine its whereabouts.
An old friend of mine once stopped at a day spa to buy his wife a gift certificate.
‘This includes a massage, yes?’ my friend asked the clerk.
‘Absolutely,’ she responded. ‘Mani and pedi … an anti-aging mask … and a massage.’
‘Is it done in the nude?’ he inquired. At this point, other customers began looking his way.
‘Oh. We’ll drape a towel over her,’ the woman said.
‘No. I mean, is the masseuse going to be nude?’
As a guy — and a fan of old-school comedy, including the crude stuff seen in Heaven Help Us, Caddyshack and Animal House — I found my friend’s little joke to be most funny. The clerk wasn’t so amused. Neither were the bystanders, all of whom wound up with feathers so ruffled it was as if he’d summoned a hurricane.
I summoned my own hurricane on my very first day at a Toms River, NJ daily newspaper.
‘I’d like to introduce everyone to our newest reporter, Adam Holland,’ the city editor told the staff gathered around the copy desk. ‘Adam is going to get his first taste of newspaper reporting at tonight’s local school board meeting. Does anyone have any suggestions or words of wisdom for him?’
Now, before I go on with this story, know that I’d come into that job already having covered dozens upon dozens of school boards — in two different states. While many of these reporters had just come out of school, I already had a wall of hardware in the form of Associated Press Broadcasters awards for news reporting. I also owned a few national scoops by then, including a story about a man who was being held hostage in a so-called Iraqi baby milk factory. (This was before the first Gulf War.) But none of that mattered to these folks.
‘They aren’t going to want to give you details on their school improvement plan, but you have to use your journalistic muscle and demand answers,’ a recent Penn State University graduate said to me.
‘Also, you need to learn some of their jargon before you go,’ the city editor chimed back in. ‘They try to confuse and it’s by design.’
‘And it’s all for the children,’ I interjected with a sarcastic laugh.
I’d found the line.
‘Adam, we take our beats very seriously,’ the city editor snapped.
‘I’ll report it … if you don’t think he’s ready,’ the young graduate smugly added.
As it went, I covered the story and avoided any corrections or lawsuits. But I rarely again left the security of my silence. Even when I thought I had a comic gem to share.
And that in itself is very awkward. For me, anyway.
If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. I’d also love for you to join me on Facebook (click the ‘like’ button), Pinterest and Google+. — Special thanks to Megan E. Hawkins at The Underground Writer for editing this piece.
We’re fans of fusion cooking here at Casa de Holland. But some cuisine-combining experiments are better than others. Much better. I can never forget the time my beautiful young wife, a newly converted cilantro lover, used the citrusy herb (instead of basil) in a pot of slow-cooked spaghetti sauce. Or the time I decided that ultra-sweet Moscato would be a great addition to a piccata sauce. Both were great efforts, and even greater fails.
Combining ingredients in a non-traditional way is much easier when it comes to Thai and Mexican. The herbs and spices tend to mesh very well, if only because both cuisines commonly include several of the same ingredients. Thai-Mex Wings are an excellent introduction to fusion cooking, and they are great for watching the big game next Sunday.
3 lbs – Chicken wings, split
1 TB – Mexican Oregano
2 tsp – Ground Coriander
2 tsp – Chile powder (preferably Ancho)
1 tsp – Black pepper
1 bunch – Fresh Cilantro
1/4 cup – Vegetable oil
3 – Garlic cloves
1 Recipe – Thai Sweet & Hot Dipping Sauce
Prepare dipping sauce and refrigerate (the day before), or make it while wings are on the grill.
Rinse wings and pat dry. Season with oregano, ground coriander and black pepper, making sure to coat all pieces. Place seasoned chicken in large zip-close bag.
In a blender, liquefy cilantro, vegetable oil and garlic. Add mixture to chicken. Seal bag, squeezing out as much air as possible. Lightly squeeze sealed bag to make certain that the marinade is distributed throughout.
Refrigerate for at least 5-6 hours, or overnight.
Grill over medium-low heat for about 15-18 minutes, turning occasionally. Toss cooked wings in warmed Thai Sweet & Hot Dipping Sauce.