But there was more to his life. Part of it was rocket science. As a young engineer working for Hughes Aircraft, TJ contributed to Neil Armstrong's "one giant leap for mankind" walk on the moon. Hughes paid TJ's tuition at UCLA, but after the moonwalk, the company laid off its moonshot staff. TJ, who'd been ailing but misdiagnosed for years, was finally diagnosed with terminal Hodgkin's disease. He joined an experimental program of draconian chemotherapy and massive radiation. The experiment bought him another 35 years of life -- and then death a few weeks ago by slow-acting radiation poisoning that seeded his lungs with fast-growing cancer.
In remission, he moved to Canyon Country, bought a bar, built his own house from scratch on leased government land, married his barmaid, and raised three of her children, along with a young son of his own from his first marriage. (In those days, divorced fathers rarely obtained custody, or wanted it.) He fed his family on the free-range ducks, squabs, pigs, and dairy goats that he raised lovingly on his own subsistence ranch. (What I know about organic livestock, I know firsthand from him.)
Meanwhile, he took up writing. Although his illness forced him to drop out of UCLA a couple of semesters short of a degree (taking only the hard-science courses and skipping the language and social sciences requirements), he went on to write 12 published college-level engineering textbooks for a major educational publisher. He also wrote for numerous technical magazines. We met after he moved to San Francisco to set up PC World's computer-testing laboratory. They offered him the job of managing the lab, but he didn't want to be anybody's boss and returned to freelance work. His then-wife hated San Francisco and left it and him. Soon after, he and I transited from a long-standing friendship to become a team for his final 13 years.
One of my friends says he was a "Dickensian character." He was indeed "a character," a bit eccentric and quirky, but always true to himself. His Native American grandfather was his mentor, teaching him to speak softly, walk silently, and never hit anybody weaker than himself unless it was to save his life, or someone else's. He was confident enough of his masculinity to treat a woman well. He could build or fix anything, although he rarely finished the fixes before moving on to the next project. He was brilliant, messy, sweet, funny. He was truly a man.
Please forgive me for substituting this personal note in place of a chef interview. The last restaurant we went to together could not have been more appropriate to TJ's vast enthusiasms -- for Japanese cuisine, for venturing into the unknown, for life itself. Reader, I never married him. (As refugees from long, troubled marriages, we didn't want to do anything that might change or jeopardize our extraordinary relationship.) But I can wish each of you no greater boon than a partnership like ours.