Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Going Backwards To Move Forward

Back on the train, facing backward, the lush green of the Normandy we were just exploring passing on my left like framed pictures in a photo album. The pages separated from each other by the panes of the train window and not unlike flipping the pages of an old family album. The pictures evoking emotion and triggering my toggles, switches that brought racing back the aromas and flavors of each moment spent slowly roaming the countryside.

My body swaying gently to and fro, sort of rocking as that Paris bound train extruded me from the quiet and tranquil, apple skin and moss scented region where I drank gallons of semi-sweet cider alongside delicate but pungent crepes filled with cheese, stinging mustard, foreign spiced sausages and nearly alarmingly orange colored egg yolks that burst with the slightest brush of a fork tine. Sweating glasses of Menetou-Salon covered in oceanic scented finger smudges as we plopped slippery bivalves unto our palates and dug into the tiny spiral shells of various sea creatures to extract their briny meat. Meltingly creamy, salty and rich caramels d’Isigny expanding in a soft blanket across the palate before being washed away with the heady, sultry apple caressed Calvados that left my chest swollen and sweetly stinging with fire. 


As the train rolled on I caught a glimpse on the other side of the tracks. One of the many simple roadside signs, flat brown with rudimentary drawings of attractions awaiting those sliding past us going the other way. The drawing a little seaside town with boats tied up at the docks. The sign now out of direct sight but my mouth began to water as I flashed on an afternoon spent on a bench in the town of Saint-Vaast-La-Houge. The sun heavy and proud in the perfectly blue sky, the villagers taking a post lunch stroll along the marina. The pink-cheeked, well fed children tucked into perfectly draped scarves and lapping away at tiny waffle cones piled high with various colored and flavored ice cream you just knew had to be the best you would have ever tasted if you could negotiate yourself a taste. Parents looking about, nodding at passers by while investigating who was working on their boats and who was just returning from one of the oyster farms that were stacked just beyond the marina, whistling and “tisk-tisk” tisking at their small dogs that were running beneath my bench to retrieve any dropped bits of my thrown together bench picnic, goodies found at a funky Maison Gosselin market in town. 

Oily, thinly sliced cured meats, butter cookies that shattered delicately when you took a bite, the crumbs that made it upon your palate melting pure butter and just the proper amount of cooked sugar. Cheeses washed with Calvados, funky, stinky, and sticky and just the kind of thing I love to scrape from my thumb with my teeth, feeling the fatty texture roll about in my mouth. Olive oil potato chips, yeasty, flaky, petit baguette ripped off in hunks, (get those crumbs wee puppies) dunked in tarragon mustard before we piled ribbons of salty meat on top. Washing it all down with not cold enough smuggled cups of Ricard and water…the ocean, the oyster shells, the croaking of being repaired boat engines, reprimanded doggie sounds, sea birds above, black licorice and aggressive cheese hanging from my lips.

As the train continued to rock me I felt something come over me. Something so very familiar and for so many reasons. One of the most primal, desired and hated feelings I can remember from my childhood. I was hungry. It came over me so fast and so powerfully that I couldn’t tell if I were truly needing food, if the memories of Normandy were fucking with my head or if it was a whole other kind of hunger gnawing and clawing at me from the inside and demanding I pay attention. I took a sip from my water bottle and the answer was becoming clearer by the second. Oh sure, I could have used a quick bite before our planned 9:00 PM dinner in Paris but it was not food I needed to fill me. I took a moment to truly reflect about where I was, in my second week of a month long trip to France. There for family, friends and getting swallowed up by new sights, but it was wine I was on my way to reconnect with and my hunger pains were growing ferocious. 

I felt my chest inflating, almost as if my breath and excitement were rushing over me too fast for me to catch up. It had been too long since I felt this level of want and it was deliciously devouring me. I heard the announcement come over the speaker in our nearly empty car on the train, less than ten minutes and we would be back in Paris. I thought of the years I would sit on the porch of whatever place my mother could afford to rent, blowing bubbles which I would emotionally fill with my hopes and wishes for the future, watching them float down the block and disappear like I wished that I could. The nights escaping to the silence of an empty pool. The sneaking out of my bedroom window to head to parts of town full of its own saturated sadness where longing souls stood around in groups on the street corners, their own hunger, of every kind, inspiring rash decisions and unwise grabbing. The clumsy fumbling of young hands, fingers, lips and inhibition ….I had dreamed myself out of a million ugly places but never could I have ever imagined my hunger would bring me here. To this place in my life. To this place on the planet. To this place where I could literally feel myself spreading open my hungry heart to wine all over again. 

It’s stirring

I’m vibrating

Ready to feed…..

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Plunging Back In

I pulled the thick black iron gate closed just as the security guard was walking up to kick any hangers on out and close the pool for the night. Jeremy’s old dolphin beach towel draped over my shoulders, hair slicked back with fat droplets of pool water swinging from the ends and dropping cold and refreshing on my neck. The skirt along the bottom of my bathing suit swaying back and forth, dispensing drops of water behind me, a trail of proverbial breadcrumbs for me to find my way back when I need it. 

A slight breeze hitting my still wet skin making it pull taught and covering me in a rash of tiny thrill bumps. I wriggled out of my wet suit, no easy feat I assure you, at one point I got my hair and left arm tangled it my soaked suit and actually contemplated just lying on the bathroom floor and waiting for the paramedics that would eventually be sent when I didn’t show up for work for a couple days. I huffed, wiggled and puffed and eventually freed my Willie like frame from my wet swimsuit. Still a little tacky with wet I slipped into my jammies, opting to not wash the pool water off me, and slowly walked into the living room and settled into the corner of my couch. Settled is too rigid a word, I melted into the corner of my couch, my skin chilly and perfumed with chlorine, the smell of my childhood hideout….deep under water and away from all the ugly that banged and barked inside the big fancy house my mother and I hid from our poverty in.

To this day I can dunk my head under water, feel my ears fill with gently sloshing silence, feel the water wrap around my flesh in that sensual way that reminds me of running my tongue along the inside of my cheek, and I can recall how it felt to run to that pool and wash off all the filth, anger, rage, pain and utter humiliation that was the cost of admission to live in that fancy place. The way I would hold my breath as long as I could, maybe longer than I should, and hope all the hate and ugly would just rumble by. I’d take some of the hits, I could handle the emotional bruises but on the nights when my brother’s father came looking for blood I’d scurry outside and hide in the silky mouth feel of the pool. 

Last night I slowly slipped my 45 year old head, full of all its own trauma, confusion, anxiety and sadness, under the cool crisp water. The blur of my vision, the act of filling my chest with as much oxygen as I could possibly suck in, the slow swaying of my hair as it drags behind me when I move….the achingly soft water wrapping around my thick body, lifting me and making me float in a manner of elegance I could never atain stomping about with my clunky frame on dry land. The thugish tone of the world around me quiet for as long as I could hold my breath. No Trump, no mass shootings, no murderous crushing of bodies beneath the wheels of a truck, no black men shot while lying on the ground, no police officers murdered, no Cancer and no heart attacks. Just the float of my weary body, the slosh, the smell, the me alone in the dark waiting for someone to come tell me it was time to get out. I only wish I could have spent another hour…or four.

I quietly closed my windows, already concerned that I’d been too exposed, my scented flesh smelling like a rare form of timeout, one it had been years since I’d been, sent to, I made my way to my fridge, more seeking and longing for quiet, hiding and an elegant float. 

It was late, my fingers were just beginning to reconstitute and plump up, my hair less drippy but still slicked back and clinging to my skull, I debated what to open to end this evening. Beer, well it’s inexpensive and refreshing. I love it and something about it makes me slunk into a deep comfort that makes me sleep like the truly stoned. No. Not what I wanted. Rose? I’ve consumed gallons of it already this season. The crispness and uncomplicated nature could easily have soothed me into that sexy quiet hum that sends me off to bed, likely seeking the next distracting float. Nope. Not what I was feeling. The politics of the day, the loss of not one, but two dear friends in less than a week, the memory of both…..their laughs, their fierce passion, recklessness and willingness to jump directly in the deep end guiding me, asking me to have one for them, I went for it.

At 10:30 on a “school night” I popped the cork on a bottle of N.V. H. Billiot Cuvee Laetitia. Fuck it, I’m all in. The chlorine still streaming from my pores I pulled back the foil, unhurriedly gave the gate of the cage a few twists, my thumb holding the cork in place as my wrist tilted the bottle and begged the cork to escape, for me. “Hissss” the whisper of relief as the wine spun past the cork and filled my nostrils and hopes with things to come. I could feel my heart thumping around in my chest and the sides of my tongue grow even wetter with anticipation.

Shuffling back to the couch I could smell the layers unfolding in the glass. The brioche, the graham cracker, the apples bubbling away in a hot pan full of brown butter. The narrative of the wine almost like a love letter from a never before touched love, full of promise, hope, sensual intensity and heart-ripping desire. I let the wine sit and wait for me. Grow warmer and more open as I slathered thick and luscious lotion on my skin. Felt the last couple week’s plagues of death, strife, angry words, confusion and frustration take a back seat to the ultimate inclination to choose pleasure over wallowing and regret. I even took a bit of masochistic joy in making myself bobble head in the rich heady aromatics for half an hour before I took the wine between my lips 

Body now dewy and wet from oily lotion, mind free of all the ugly, I reached for the glass and let the expansive, rich, chewy Champagne fill my entire head, from the very tip of my wanting tongue to the little switches that  flick on and off taking snap shots and taking mental notes. The Laetitia literally spread herself across my palate leaving my nose and tongue longing and plunging, searching and handcuffed to her next exposed layer. That wine, in that moment, well it owned me and I swear I have the lashings to prove it. Fuck, what a monster of a soul possessing wine. Exactly what I wanted. Moreover, exactly what I needed. You win. I’m most happily yours.....

Rest quietly and floating Tim Flynn and Steven Tualemoso, you will be missed and envied for your teeth sinking of this here life...and I will miss you so. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Nice To Know- Repost

Reposting in honor of Kim Dugan, the uncle that found me and filled in a bunch of missing pages. The ones that I flipped past with wavering indignation, hostility, bruised soft spots and the occasional anger. He let me know I was indeed wanted, adored, remembered and ached for. Thank you sweet angel, Rest In Peace. I love you..... 

“They gave me a dozen yellow roses the day you were born. You were their first grandchild and they were really hoping for a girl so they were very happy when you showed up, a tiny little girl that looked just like her father.” All my mother would say and pretty much all I really knew of my grandparents on my father’s side, I mean aside from some really grainy and not so deep memories of them and awkward visits that were somewhat forced and always fraught with a weird kind of sadness that I was far too young to understand at the time.  

When I was older more stories would come, ones that carried with them an even darker and bloated sense of sadness than I used to feel watching my mother’s big blue eyes fill with tears as climbed back in her VW Bug and left me for visits with my father’s parents. The older me was granted inside access to the stories of rage, sadness, fear and abandonment in foreign countries. Stories of a tyrannical and absentee father that in turn raised a son that, at least in my estimation, abandoned his child as well. Through all the odd and fragmented telling of these events I found myself feeling about my paternal grandparents much as I did about my deceased father at the time, “If they didn’t care enough, well neither do I” Cynical and cold? Maybe but it was part of the protective armor that had been forming over my heart, that barrier that kept most people at lengths far enough that I had hoped they wouldn’t be able to thump away even harder, or even sweeter,  at what was in fact, a rather bruised heart. A thick layer of “Don’t you dare” that would serve me well at a time when I needed it most, and in some strange way I now find myself feeling grateful for….that old, “without knowing pain you can know no pleasure” or whatever, well there is real truth in that. 

So icy cold grandparents on one side and none on the other, like one side loathed me…or worse, ignored me with such venom that it stung and the other just vanished. I learned  that my father’s father died and felt nothing, absolutely nothing. I remember crying the night my mother told me my father had overdosed but I’m still not sure if it were my heart breaking or if I was feeling hers do so. Hard to miss or feel pain for that you don’t know or really understand, males in my life in the form of father or grandfather? Never meant much….but when I would allow myself a fleeting second of wonder, just a few moments of “How come?” I never quite understood how any woman could just write off a granddaughter she was once so thrilled about that she laid yellow roses at my side. Like most things one can’t answer I would just shrug it off and ignore that nagging little twitch, spend my time thinking about and working on the things that did in fact matter like work and the raising of my own child. 

“If you are the Samantha Dugan I am looking for” the letter that arrived in my inbox at work nearly two years ago now, a letter from my father’s brother telling me that he had been looking for me. I once again found myself buckling into the armor, forthcoming but not willing to open up, expose myself to people that had left me nearly 35 years ago. Why would I? Why should I? I’m a happy woman now, living in a life I love and wouldn’t change for anything and that all came about without any help or hugs, any knowledge or involvement from them other than leaving me with a hole or missing half and the occasional sense of wonder. As I heard these things flitting about in my head and sometimes coming out of my mouth, well it became pretty clear, I wasn’t as over it as I thought. 

So began a conversation, one between my uncle and I that would answer lots of questions, sort of and fill me with many more. “I thought I had found you when I went to The Wine Country’s bio page, but when I read that you were married I assumed Dugan was your married name so you couldn’t be the Samantha I was looking for.” His words were slipping past the crust and his dedication to writing me long letters and pages of stories about his family…or our family, I felt myself slipping out of that armor and aching for more. “After your father died your mother was supposed to go to your grandmother’s for a visit, she never showed. My mother waited days, called and even went by where you were living, you guys had just vanished. She sent cards for years but they always came back. We had no idea where you had gone. We learned not to speak of you later in her life because it always made her cry.” 

I read the pages of history my uncle sent, the stories so unlike those my mother told that I would swear I was hearing about two different families. Even now I’m not sure if my uncle is sugar coating things, my mother just made things up or if my father had filled my mother’s head with lies and crazy delusion, thing is, doesn’t matter. None of that matters now, nearly everyone is gone and I can’t even ask my mother why she ran with me, shunned them if that is what really happened. The here and now is all that truly matters and now I have this uncle and the knowing that my paternal grandmother didn’t just vanish, that she wondered and ached for me…can’t say as that changes the way I feel about them or myself for that matter but I must confess, it’s nice to know.

Grandma Jane,

I’m sorry. I’m sorry we didn’t get to know one another. I’m sorry I never got to partake of a meal in your kitchen, one that I can remember anyway. I’m sorry if you were hurt by my mother or her family. I’m sorry you never got to meet your great-grandson. I’m sorry for the times I was angry and worse, apathetic. I’m sorry I never thought to look for you. I’m sorry you and my mother never found peace in each other, you both suffered a life changing blow,  began a new life of loneliness the day that lethal dose ran through my father’s, her husband’s, your son’s veins. Things were far from easy but I’m now a happy and strong woman very much in love with my life. As soon as I send this note off into the ether I will be stepping into my jeans that are way too big for me and I like them that way, buttoning up my Wine Country shirt, also too big and again, the way I like it, to go into work where I have been given some of the greatest moments of my life….where I discovered there is something besides angry that I am good at, to teach and share with people my beloved Champagnes. A second class we had to add because the first one filled up so quickly. Seventy plus people wanting to come taste and learn with me. I’m not alone, Grandmother Jane, not even close and I hope that if there is anything beyond this life we live here, that you can see and feel that….

I’m not perfect

Not beautiful

Not brilliant


I’m not angry

Not resentful

Full of laughter

Sort of funny at times

Fiercely loyal


Very forgiving

Rest peaceful dear lady….and thanks for the roses, and the tears.