Rendered Fat Content



I rarely ‘eat out.’ I long ago grew weary of the blind man’s bluff game the so-called hospitality industry plays. What other industry demands that its customers choose from deliberately misleading lists of possibilities featuring the vaguest possible descriptions of their products, expecting their customer to select satisfying results? Who could possibly know what passes for hash browns here? Or home fries? Or even mashed potatoes? No way to know without sleuthing around to other customers’ plates, but even then, looks can be so deceiving.

Ask the poor (literally, slave-waged) server. Who knows what s/he might recommend? Just try and often fail to anticipate what the budding food artiste in the kitchen will produce from what the food accountant says he can spend. Even assuming the chef can cook (not a universally safe assumption), the result amounts to a crap shoot. Slip over here for more ...



John Gorka once noted that anyone living with their baggage packed, leaves more often than they ever come back. This spot-on observation describes the feeling for both the host and the visitor. However warm or cold any reception or stay, leavings never come easily. Nobody ever intended to stay beyond their welcome, but nobody welcomes leaving.

Leaving seems like grown up stuff, hard and ungratifying work requiring an almost inhuman discipline. I imagine that it must be good for somebody, but the repacking and the heading out cracks even hardened hearts. I seem to shrink from the backside of any adventure. Heading back’s no heading out experience, even when we take an unfamiliar route back home. Slip over here for more ...



I’ve been fortunate to visit several different countries and to live for short periods within different cultures. No master of my native tongue, I made no attempt to master the daily life phrases guide books phonetically describe, but relied instead upon what I labeled the point and click method, as if I were an enterprising two year old and the locals benevolent interpreters. We’d triangulate toward a rough understanding, language being only one of a wide variety of methods for comprehending. This technique turned out to be a humbling tactic, inhibiting most every pretense, and a gratefully humanizing one.

Had I stayed longer, I suppose verbal language might have emerged. Just visiting, I could at best observe and rather crudely adapt. Still, I managed to feed, transport, and house myself, albeit with a considerable measure of help from my new, temporary friends. I was, after all, a foreigner. Slip over here for more ...



I should be no stranger to being the stranger by now. I’ve spent much of my life shuttling between here and there, sometimes including somewhere else entirely. My normal state seems surrounded by strangers which I suppose qualifies me as a stranger in even most of my neighbors’ eyes. Curiously, it doesn’t feel terribly strange to me to feel like a stranger.

The first twenty or so years of my life was just the opposite, I knew many of the people I came in contact with, and they knew me. This might have been simply the result of growing up in a small city, living in the same house in the same neighborhood, never having to change schools. Understandably, I calibrated myself to recognize this state as normal, and that it must be somehow strange to be a stranger. That innocent level setting guaranteed that my next four decades would find me in exile, displaced, a stranger to almost everyone around me. Slip over here for more ...



The visitor seems to naturally fall into the role of confessor. Perhaps this transformation occurs because the visitor carries a certain anonymity. Unlike the town priest who will still be there tomorrow and the next day, and also unlike the trusted old friend who might know the history a bit too well, the visitor has neither history nor legacy in your space, and so serves as the perfect vessel for offloading troubling secrets.

As a consultant, I’ve grown to expect my client’s whispered confessions. I hear about a lot more than the business difficulty, that’s for sure, and this should not be surprising since the business no more lives in isolation from the rest of its principal’s existence than the principal does. Those admissions carry the patterns reinforcing all the client’s complaints as well as clues to their resolution. I often need to engage no more fully than lending an attentive ear for my client to hear themselves resolve their own trouble. Slip over here for more ...



I failed to persuade them to invest in the full three and a half days. They opted for two half day ‘over-views’ instead. I reluctantly agreed, knowing nothing was likely to change from such a quick, shallow dip. This was a world-class university, overflowing with smarts, confident that their people would be able to instantly absorb any information. Problem was, I wasn’t dealing in information.

I would be received as the visiting scholar, one who’d spent his life studying his specialty, one who had distilled whole libraries into a single simple meme. Sitting in my presence should transform something. Hearing me speak, however briefly, should spark enough understanding. I wasn’t really dealing in understanding, either.

The visiting scholar holds mythical stature, expected to not merely understand, but to instantly impart understanding. As if he’d done the leg work, proved the claim, mined the ore, smelted the precious metal, and stamped the coins he’ll just hand out to anyone attending his lecture. In fact, the scholar holds more questions than answers, and might be best understood as the inheritor of the unanswerable question. This query requires caretaking, a patient, persistent, and nurturing hand to hold; one that will, in time, pass it on to a following generation. Slip over here for more ...



Remember the satisfaction a hall pass could bring? It meant that I was special, released from the regular programming, on a formally sanctioned mission away from the ordinary. Whether a restroom or an extracurricular activity called, I was on my own, traversing otherwise no-man’s land, bullet-proofed for the duration. Even if that particularly hostile assistant principal noticed me and asked, I carried a guaranteed get out of jail free card, transforming this usual suspect into a Teflon® visitor.

Supposedly all grown up now, I gain a certain self-satisfaction wearing the badge of a visiting contractor. I have a desk drawer half-filled with used visitor badges, each a testament to my past temporarily special statuses. Security would welcome me, seek my signature, then pass me a custom-made credential before opening the gates to the compound. I’d usually require an escort as if a visiting dignitary, an envoy from the future. Slip over here for more ...



I should be a seasoned visitor by now, though I’ve squandered too many of my past comings and my goings judging my surroundings. Perhaps the journalists refighting the Cold War from atop those mis-installed toilet seats in Sochi remind me that the responsibilities of every visitor include suspending judgment. Of course you’re surrounded by difference. Harsh judgment, even generous judgment only blunts otherwise sharpening experiences.

Of course this world feels disordered; and no, I will not be eating on my normal schedule. I might well be poisoned, forced to settle for what I would never agree to swallow on home ground. My schedule might shred, commitments abandoned. I will lose sleep, time, money, and some of that precious dignity, all perfectly reasonable tariffs every visitor must pay. Oh, and I seem to be visiting much of the time these days. Slip over here for more ...


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