I’m a heck of a cook and often make up my own recipes, especially for meats on the grill with real wood smoke. I have an imaginary dog (alter ego, if you will) named Ranger Wordsmith. And I’m quite adept at living alone and enjoy it very much because I don’t need permission to have a weird schedule or make a dramatic change in climate or scenery on a whim. One particular summer recipe for the grill that I enjoy is a pork roast stuffed with mushrooms, spinach, and cream cheese, wrapped in bacon (of course). I use oak and pecan dried woods and slow smoke it ‘til it falls apart and the bacon is crispy crunchy. In the winter, my made-from-scratch Chinese Five Spice/Tamarind fish soup really warms up the kitchen, body, and soul with a savory aroma and sumptuous flavor. I have friends who request it every time they visit because the shrimp, tilapia, scallops, muscles, catfish, squid, octopus, grilled beef, chicken and pork, along with all the smoke-seasoned veggies and German venison/pork sausage give a gathering something hearty to gather around. As with all great recipes, a healthy portion of a favorite adult beverage is not an option, but rather a necessity for the chef. Ranger is my yappy, feisty Yorkie with an attitude. He monitors sapient vocabulary, and can communicate better than most people. His interests include soiled socks and ham bones. He says he would use sign language, but he doesn’t have thumbs so he gets his message out on his own Facebook and Twitter accounts. He makes linguistic additions to the modern lexicon and vernacular through Urban Dictionary and is credited with numerous words that he made up on his own. According to himself, Ranger is a “comediotic cynoptimist.” Comediotic being: comedic, funny, laughable—but idiotic, stupid, ignorant, imbecilic or silly in a funny, odd way... and cynoptimist—a pessimist who is driven by hopes and a paradoxical balance between being a skeptic and a utopian idealist. Ranger is wishfully wary with a guarded viewpoint and no tangible protection. His mantra is “Reckless prudence, circumspect with abandon.” Ranger does not believe in God, but he hopes there is one, making him a cynoptimist about faith in a higher power. Comediotic is to say the least a fundamental Ranger trait. Although Ranger Wordsmith is a male dog, he blames “Bob Barker for a rash of spaying and neutering cases” and his “ultimate confusion on the matter.” Sometimes I think Ranger gets more attention on social media than I do, but I’m not jealous because I do have thumbs and Ranger can’t smoke meats. The smoke makes him run in circles around the pit which gets him drunk and causes him to burn dinner. Of women and children, I’ve paid my dues. I love them all and spend much of my time vying for their attentions. I would rather sleep well at night than have any of them stay over for long, though. Now that I’m past sixty years old my aspirations for constant attention or the need to dole it out continually have greatly diminished. With that said, I don’t want to give the idea that I’m a loner. I love good company, but I also subscribe to the philosophy that “guests and fish smell after three days…” I pride myself on never overstaying my welcome... I have loved being married, and I’ve loved being single. If I had to choose one or the other as a permanent arrangement, I would choose an isolate mountain top or palm-treed island with just a Wi-Fi uplink and the hope that someone out there cares about something I have to say on paper. I can always do a rewrite, if you know what I mean. People are forgiving, but the paper forgets. I never went to college. Perhaps that contributes to my lack of conventional structure, but I don’t feel like I missed much. By the time I was fifteen years old I had a job on the radio and knew (for the time being) what my career plans were. I did study most of the RTF (Radio, TV, Film) books my friends at UT-Austin were assigned to read and I was forced to absorb a lot of news and historical information by my position as a news reporter. My lack of formal education is (I believe) very well counter-balanced with an uncommon awareness of the vast variety of things that you can’t possibly learn in any school. One example of that is based in the large amount of time I’ve spent surrounding myself in friendships with diverse individuals like Willie Nelson, Kinky Friedman, Jerry Jeff Walker, and a host of politicians, public figures, singers, musicians, comedians, artists, and just plain common folks on the street. I feel like I’ve learned a great deal about how to be a person with a motif. So what is my motif, you may ask? For writing, I aspire to bring to the table an assault on injustice, a passion for beauty and kindness, and a drive for longevity and legacy. For my personal life and for my friends and family, I cynoptimistically hope and pray for the same things. __________________________________________ Ray Palla is by his own account, “an antiquated juvenile delinquent” and frequent contributor to the Alzheimer’s Foundation and Texas Books for the Blind . His website is http://RPalla.com . — Back to the Top —