Friday, July 16, 2010

Le singe et sur le branche.....

Well,we did it. In the third week of May of this year, the Husband and I left Big and Little in the care of someone very responsible and went to a wedding in France for six days. It was amazing. Aside from the usual annoyances of traveling via aircraft, I experienced so many moments of gratitude that my children were safely tucked in bed at home and not shrieking like rare birds for eleven hours across the Atlantic, like so many of the smaller passengers on my outgoing flight. Even earplugs couldn't cut the high notes of the macaw who sat four rows ahead of me.I missed critical parts of the four movies I watched due to his/her inability to get with the program. I had to physically restrain myself from walking up to the bulkhead and insisting they dose their kid with Benadryl or one of the Valium I had in my purse. Instead, I drank lots of the complimentary (if you are reading this, United, that means free) red wine and dozed,my head bobbing about like a bladder on a stick (thanks, Patsy).

Upon arrival, everything went ridiculously smoothly considering our complete lack of French language skills.The rendezvous with Husband, who had survived a serious automobile collision a block from our
house on the way to the airport the weekend before, and been in France for five days, was seamless.The acquisition of the rental car was a little too casual-they never did the exam for damage,so we had to do our own.The trip to the hotel on the French highway, with GPS that had us headed for Poland, was a small hiccup, and we spent an extra thirty euros going through random toll booths to get directions.The police pulled over to assist once, a weapon was brandished-giving us new found respect for Le Gendarmerie Nationale. We eventually made it to the secluded chateau, tucked away in many acres of woods, in time to have a very French dinner experience at a local pizzeria. The day trip into Paris was marvelous-an hour on the train and the subsequent miles of walking amongst incredible monuments and stylishly dressed Parisians en route to fabulous outdoor cafes was exhausting and exhilarating,culminating in a river boat trip up and down the Seine where the original Statue of Liberty resides and the Eiffel Tower flickered with a million little strobe lights( a little overkill,though, I mean, it is the Eiffel Tower).The next day was the lovely chateau wedding with the three hour cocktail "hour" and wonderful magical party to follow, with excellent company,wine and dancing until two a.m.I really have nothing bad to say about our trip.It was a romantic, adventurous, civilized, cultured,perfect getaway where we met interesting people from other lands and did whatever we wanted to do whenever we wanted to do it.Who could want more from a vacation? I haven't slept through the night in five and a half years,so it was quite strange to awaken with the sun and not the yowling of a small child.

I realize in writing this, that the lack of issues on the trip makes for a much less interesting story. Yes, we had a few language issues-one of the winemakers we met,who runs the place by herself, was describing, in broken English, about her daughter's blood test earlier in the day.She struggled with the English word for blood,which I figured couldn't be far off from the Spanish word sangre,so I nodded empathetically and said "sange?", which,when pronounced the way I said it, means monkey.I thought she looked at me oddly, but I didn't realize my mistake until we had gone, and the Eddie Izzard bit about French "le singe est sur la branche" started playing in my head.Oh well....

That little faux pas occurred during our scenic two day post wedding excursion to Beaune in Burgundy, where we stayed with a wine maker at his B and B and drank wine from his barrels and endlessly discussed the differences between regional and village appellations. My husband is a bit of a savant with his wine.He can remember the name of every single bottle we have consumed in the last fourteen years and where it was drunk. He rarely remembers what I said five minutes ago,but ask him what we drank back in 1997 on that weekend trip to Laguna where the waiter gave us the free appetizers, and he will know what we drank. It's a little bizarre, actually,since I can't even remember taking the trip.

Wine is fascinating stuff, but after awhile I couldn't help but think "BLAH BLAH BLAH, just pour the fucking wine already",but I nodded politely and oohhed and aahhhed when it seemed appropriate. We drove out in to the villages that we have seen on the labels of bottles in years past-Puligny-Montrachet, Meursault-and saw the plots where the best wine of its kind is grown on soil that has been handed down for centuries.The part that blew my mind was how two plots could have the same grape varietal and be five feet from each other,but one is at a slightly higher elevation and the finished wines are worlds apart. I see how people become obsessed with the process,and the hows and whys of it all.It has tremendous historic and national relevance in France, and they take it very seriously. California, on the other hand, being full of Americans, tends to do things the cowboy way- they ride in to town, throw some money on the table for the land, toss the seeds over their shoulder on the way back to town and voila- Au Bon Climat, for example, produces some of the most delicious white wine I have ever had. Obviously, I am being a little facetious about Au Bon Climat's random success. The winemaker did learn about wine  before embarking on his journey, but not that much. He was not born into it and did not have to struggle for decades to produce something that was good (and please don't call and harass me, Mr. Clendenen).It seems to be the opposite in France, and I think it makes them like us even less than they already do.

I personally don't really care about the process all that much.The whole "culture of wine" thing is a bit effete for me, with everyone sniffing and swirling and slurping. I just like wine and actually prefer California wines, in general. They lack the "elegance"- a word that we heard an awful lot with respect to white wines of France- of the rich buttery, oaked Chardonnay that I happen to adore. The French reds in that region aren't as bold and "fruit forward" as we grow in California.

My step mother reminded me of a song that goes perfectly with the theme of this post:

It is all so subjective that analysis seems pointless. Who is to say what product is better if it is all subject to someones opinion? To declare a winner with wine is a bit like saying that Thai food is better than Chinese Food. You just can't say that. Both cuisines are equally delicious and each offers flavors,aromas and subtleties that the other doesn't. The same can be said for wine, though the "chef" has a much longer shift and his product has a lot more variables. I never met a Pad Thai Noodle that was ruined by bad weather, or a Slippery Shrimp that had sediment issues.
Anyway, since our return, we have attended a fancy wine dinner and gone to Los Olivos to taste wine for the fourth time this year.We definitely suffer from oenophilia,which sounds more like a Who album than an affliction, but certainly are not wine snobs. I will drink 99 Cents store wine as readily as the decanted, massaged, coddled, rolfed Chateaux Lafite that someone has had in their cellar for a hundred and sixty years. It all tastes pretty good to me, and if it doesn't, add some Seven -Up and call it Sangria.
 I know, you can take the girl out of the trailer park.....

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


My television mocks me every single day, and it isn't the programming. Exactly three hundred and seventy one days ago, after a month with no home phone and spotty cable reception (thanks to AT and T), we decided to go digital. Time Warner came out and took us to the next level. We couldn't be happier but,because we had been DirectTV customers since 2001 and had a TIVO loaded with kids programming, we decided not to get the cable part changed. The system still works fine. However,because DirectTV uses the phone lines to update their system and there is no longer a phone line, every time I turn on the tv, I get a message telling me to have the receiver make the call for the update.

It started out with " It has been 3 days since your receiver has placed a call for updates.Please make the call as soon as possible" or something to that effect. In the beginning it was sort of interesting.I would think,
 " oh, wow, has it been a week since we switched from AT and T?" Then the message would read " It has been 14 days..", and I would think, " wow, time sure flies- I could have read at least one those books that are staring me down on my night stand". At " It has been 31 days..." and I would think, "God, have I still not cleaned out the garage? After a month?". You get the idea. The TV,which used to be the ultimate escapist experience I could have at home, exclusive of psychedelic drugs, is now a daily reminder of my procrastination. For the last year,I have found myself at night, settling in on the couch with a full glass of wine in hand,ready to watch something. The kids are in bed.My pajamas are cottony comfy. The room is "neat enough". Something marvelous is awaiting me on Tivo. Then the blue screen pops up -"It's been 89 days", "It's been 97" days, "It's been 114" days, "It's been 164"days. Fucking technology....

Well, it hit the year mark six days ago, and I almost assaulted the screen.It really got me thinking about what exactly I have accomplished this year. This time last year, I was in Scotland.I was lucky enough to marry someone who loves to celebrate everything, and he planned a trip for my fortieth birthday,surprising me with both sisters who came along (one flew from Africa) and helped with the kids. It was an amazing trip, such that Little tells her teacher that we go to Scotland almost every weekend. Her teacher must think we have our own jet -or that our child is a pathological liar.

Aside from a few weekend trips here and there, some family getaways, some birthday parties and one or two lunches with girlfriends, I can't figure out what I did with my time. I am exactly the same size as I was last year,which really annoys me considering that I could be 120 pounds lighter given the time allotted and factoring in my age. I hiked here and there and made some excellent new friends, but we don't have time to hang out very much because we are all so, you know, busy doing stuff. What stuff I am not exactly sure, but there is,evidently,a lot of stuff to do.I just wish I could have something to show for the stuff I was supposedly doing.

I could have been ready for the Missoula, TN marathon that was this past weekend. Maybe flown in for the weekend and run my first marathon? I had enough time to train, but I didn't run outdoors once. I could have written my book, which continues to hover at the 18,000 word mark as I add and then remove stuff that simply can't be viewed by anyone,including me. I have been diligent enough with this blog, but it's gotten a little Andy Rooney for my taste, and I don't really like Andy Rooney all that much ( see what I mean?).

I realize that the issue is about commitment, which is an elusive state of mind. I am capable of it, I think. In high school, only twenty five years ago,I loved  doing plays.My "commitment" to the character was often held up as an example by my teacher of how one should approach a scene. But I could never translate that to practical use.With the exception of my  relationship with my husband, which hit the fourteen year mark in June, the minute someone tells me that I have to do something over and over and over again for weeks on end to achieve "results", I run. I always wrote my book reports and English papers the night before they were due. It could be considered a kind of self confidence, the assumption that I was a talented enough writer to pull it off. But I wasn't. I usually got a B minus or sometimes a C, but I always had the excuse that I hadn't really tried to back it up.I had a similar experience during the birth of my first child, when the expected epidural didn't come until I was six centimeters dilated. I imagined all of the women who had attended those Lamaze classes I'd snickered at, serenely breathing through their pain in some other birth room nearby while I cursed and writhed and gnashed my teeth.

I think the quality I am referring to is called "stick-to-it-ivenesse". Perseverance, tenacity,persistence. The ability to make a choice and stick with it. I know my kids have it because, when they want to watch television, they exhibit the kind of tenacity that drives most parents mad. I am not sure I have it. I really do admire people like Jared, who can eat Subway sandwiches for an entire year and not go ballistic one afternoon when they don't put enough pepperoncinis on his lite six inch dinner sub. Or Diana Nyad, who can swim from Florida to Cuba for 41.5 hours in her attempt to make history, only to fail and return thirty years later to try again. Or my friend Dotty, who,along with her husband, has been diligently doing the dreaded pX90 work out routine at home, every day for three weeks and for the next sixty nine days to come. I was so embarrassed at my solo attempt to complete the AB Ripper dvd on day one that I have yet to return to it.

Well, today is my birthday, and I am ready to make some changes. I began the day with an excruciating Bar Method class,which consists of constantly squeezing various muscles until they shake violently.I followed with a one hundred twenty minute relaxation deep tissue massage where a very large and solicitous woman caused me great pain on pretty much every part of my body. I am now home with the kids and awaiting an auntie who is coming to babysit so we can go out to dinner with some of the finest people we know. It has been a great day and I hope my warm and fuzzy feelings are a side effect of my emergent "stick-to-it-iveness".

In closing, since I have to find something to wear tonight that reflects the new me, I will mention this: According to the psychic Helga Stern, who I met in Ojai in 1994, I will publish a best seller when I am forty two.I have known this information for sixteen years and, as usual, I have waited until the eleventh hour. I have begun, but have miles to go and two very short years in which to complete the task. In an ideal world, I will go on my book tour eighteen months from now with the body of a teenager and the energy of a five year old. How will I do it? I guess I just I'll have to keep watching television for motivation.