When traversing your local wine shop, how's about NOT saying these.....
“I’m not a wine connoisseur” (Always said with an exaggerated
emphasis on the word connoisseur) ~ I think it is that exaggerated, mocking, nasal-rich tone with which this often delivered that bothers me the most.
As if being into wine makes you a snob? Do car collectors, stamp
collectors or art collectors have to deal with that? I think getting rid
of the word connoisseur might help. I think wine lovers are some of the
most generous and least snobby people I know, they share their wine and
knowledge freely and want to teach others about this thing they love.
There are those “wine snobs” and those are the people that think Sliver
Oak is the only wine worth drinking….they are not wine connoisseurs
All real wine is red” ~ Tell that to a bottle of Montrachet you twat.
This type of dismissal of all things white is not only ignorant but
tells me that the one that utters such a comment, doesn’t drink as much
or as richly as the rest of us. Saying you don’t care for white wine
bothers me less, that's a preference, (and I will be asking which white
wines you have tried..they don’t all taste alike you know, and if they do to you,
your palate might be a bit,damaged.) and doesn’t belittle or make white
wine seem lesser. I hear it all the time from those comb-over guys or the aging chicks in the sparkling "Mommy's Sippy Cup" shirt, the ones with a glass of red wine made out of sequins, (aren't those a fucking hoot...sigh) "I started with white wine, I've moved on". Oh you've evolved have you? Moved right on up to stupid and closed minded. Always baffles me that the ones with the closed minds are almost always the ones with the wide open flapping mouths. Shut it Benjamin Buttons.
“It’s for a woman so probably something sweet” ~ Again, it might be the
tone with which this delivered, that little pang of condescension. First
of all some of the greatest wines in the world, the most expensive and
sought after are in fact sweet, so if the “little lady” is into that,
her palate may be better than yours, so watch the tone there tough guy.
Secondly as a woman that drinks dry, crisp, “sour” wines I have to
say….don’t make assumptions based on gender, you could very well be
wrong and it makes you look like an unenlightened tool. “It tastes Burgundian” ~ No it doesn’t.
“Price doesn’t really matter does it? That is all just hype right?” ~
This is a tough one because there are wines out there that are sporting
super inflated price tags, bloated to cartoonian laugh ability but when someone asks me to find them a wine
that tastes like Meursault for $10? I'm really sorry but it can’t be done. In some cases you do
get what you pay for. Dropping fruit, (low yields
for you connoisseurs) so the vines don’t over produce, time spent in barrel, the barrels themselves, replanting, harvest, labeling, staffing, these things all cost money, so that
cost is passed on to the consumer. Sometimes grossly, I guess but for the most part, I think wineries are honest folks looking to get a fair price for their out of pocket, and make enough money to take care of the people they employ. They aren't looking to screw you over, (well maybe Caymus, now...you might just be paying for what they "gave away" for years) and there isn't a crazy margin on most wine. I can happily find you a tasty as hell $10 wine but I assure you, won't taste like Meursault. “I don’t drink anything rated less than 90 points” ~ Party on (insert
snobby sounding voice here) connoisseur. But you might want to pull your
head out of your…errr..magazine long enough to taste something and
evaluate it yourself. If I tell you that I gave a little Quincy, (region
in the Loire that has some fantastic Sauvignon Blanc that almost NEVER
gets rated) my personal 96 points, (I never use points but for this
argument I might) would you drink/try it? Whose 90 points are you
drinking….does it matter or is it just the number? If you are so numbers driven how's about I pull out a giant Sharpie marker and draw a big 0 on your forehead. Buttwad.
“The bubbles in Champagne give me a headache” ~ Do you get a headache
from the bubbles in your soda? No? Well, then it is probably not the
bubbles that are giving you a headache, it's the cheap stuff that can give you a
headache. It is poorly made, from crap quality grapes and usually has a
butt load of sugar, that could contribute to the, “After free
“Champagne” brunch” headache. If you are drinking the real deal followed
by two bottles of Paso Zinfandel….well, that too could give you a
headache my friend, don’t go blaming the bubbles right off K?
“Friends don’t let friends drink White Zinfandel” ~ Friends don’t judge, let them drink what they want. Dammit.
“Red Burgundy is thin” ~ Argh!! Just typing that one out pisses me off! Pisses me off and ties into the earlier, "It tastes Burgundian" bullshit.
They are NOT thin, they are as they should be, light, elegant and loaded
with tremendous flavor. If you have made up your mind about the amount
of flavor by looking at the color then you will never get it, which is
fine but don’t go throwing derogatory words, like thin around. Those
wines are not opaque, or richly extracted and that is not a flaw, they
don’t go around saying things like, “It’s very Oregon in style” or "Sonomacoastian" right?
There is something to those wines, if you don’t dig it, right on more
for us but stop trying to compare New World Pinot Noir to Burgundy. This ones seems to be getting worse among some "wine writing" circles but thankfully I hear fewer domestic wine makers saying it, which is so refreshing to me as those hard working folks should be touting and bragging about their own wines, of their place. Comparing Pinot Noir from Burgundy to Pinot Noir from anywhere else is not only crusty as fuck, it's apples and Oreos. Just quit it. Be proud of the wines and their specific place...and just want to point out one thing, when you hold one up as the "model" it's actually you that put one wine above another. Just sayin'
“I need a recommendation, where are the wine guys?” ~ My favorite
response to this one is, “Being their boss, I gave them the day off”. I
have to say in the last 10-ish years or so this has happened less and less
but it still happens. Having breasts does not impair one’s sense of
smell or taste, in fact there are some people that believe that women
have a more sensitive sense of smell. I’m not sure about that but I do
know that there are lots of women in the wine business now and they have
laser sharp palates. I cannot tell you how many times I have been
helping a male customer and someone will come up, interrupt us and begin
asking him questions. The worst offenders…and I hate to admit this,
older women! Come on ladies, where’s the solidarity? People that shop at
The Wine Country on a regular basis are used to “wine girls” at one
time we had 7 females and only 2 males, a fact that prompted the worst
customer exchange I have ever encountered. An overly tan, cologne saturated, shirt unbuttoned...way too low, wanker in his mid to late sixties, total Florida by way of Jersey dude, comes in and after watching my mostly female staff hustle about, paying just a little too much attention if you get my drift, this cheese dick says, "Hey, looks like you could use a few more swinging cocks in this hen house." No shortage of dicks that day that's for sure. Ugh.
"I'd like something buttery, with a smooth taste." ~ Smooth is a texture or feeling not a flavor! Holy shit does this one feel like fucking Chinese water torture to me now. It may be a small thing, the whole smooth flavor thing but fuck all does it get my feathers all fluffed. Now buttery? This is just a hot mess of confusion. We get people that instinctively ask for a "Buttery Chardonnay" or the other end of it, "I just don't want a buttery Chardonnay" and even, "I'd like a Merlot, a buttery one." Took some contemplation and lots of, "So you want a wine that tastes like actual butter or?" to figure out that most of them mean one of two things. They are talking about a richness and caramel note which does in fact make a little sense in terms of butter, you know, seeing as caramel is like made from actual butter and junk. The other, and the one that I've found most often to be the desired "butter flavor" is creaminess. Again the texture being the important component for the customer standing in front of me. So while it makes me flinch like someone has a rubber band outstretched and pointed at my face, this one has in fact been a fairly valuable lesson, one that has, over the years, shaped the way I talk and write about wine. Flavors can be highly subjective, I mean it is taste which it takes only one trip to a music store, restaurant, movie, play, to prove that it is in fact all that, "in the beholder's" stuff. But just try telling that to the "I only drink 90 points" zero.
Retail man, it has its massive ups and crazy-ass lows. For the most part, even after 17 years I have to say, I can't think of another job I'd want or be as good at. Oh I'm a few light years away from having any kind of real handle on things but more often than not I can smile, clinch, and even put up with the...swinging cocks that feel the need to pipe up and offer their unsolicited suggestions. The holidays are slamming down upon us, I'm feeling it that's for sure, (why the fuck is it when I need the most sleep is precisely the time I stop doing just that?! Ughh) and today was sodden with people that are beginning to freak out, just a little. Have you ever watched a 93 year old try and pick a shade of free tissue paper that perfectly matches the two gift bags she's buying? For the bottles she bought somewhere else? After about 10 minutes watching me and my very readable face turn all bright read and scrunch, one of my coworkers, one that deals with seniors, stepped in and relieved me. Ever watched a God-fearing, church-goin, sweet angel of a woman (not me if you couldn't guess) grab one sheet each of fifteen different colored tissues and practically beg an old lady to, "Just take them home, they're free" because she too was red and scrunching after 15 minutes, (yes, a total of like 25 minutes for gift bag tissue)? It's a hoot I assure you.
The holiday topper on my day yesterday?
I walk up to an older woman and ask, "Can I help you?" Her- "Is the lady with the short hair here? Me- "Laurie? No, I'm sorry, she's off today" Her- "She's the one I normally work with" The whole time I'm thinking, "Can't be that often if you can't remember her name, she offers it at nearly every greeting" Me- "Well, I'm sorry. She will be back in tomorrow, or I can help you if you'd like"
Her face gets sort of pinched, she huffs a few times while shifting back and forth in that kind of way that lets you know, this lady is not a fan of not getting her way.
Her- "Well, (sigh) can you help me then?" with a painfully dissatisfied look. Playing the scene back in my head I seemed to recall offering to help her twice now but lets go for lucky number three...
Me- "Of course. What can I do for you?"
She goes on to tell me that she is having a large party, maybe 100 guests over a three hour period. She would have two kinds of punch, some spirits and soda but needed some wine, maybe in the under $15.00 price range. Not a problem, in fact a generous price range for a large function, and I set forth into domestic land, Laurie's department, to pick wines for her. I can feel her huffing behind me and at this point, were I able to pull Laurie from the spot in my ass where this huffster thought I was hiding her, I would have done so, gladly.
I wasn't sure why she was so suspicious or uneasy with me but, well these things just happen and sometimes for no other reason than off chemistry. But seeing as I am never going to be one of those, "You know, I have been doing this for (however) many years longer than ________" people, I just let it go. Until... She rises a bit stiffer, brows arched in that, "Don't you know who I am dear" fashion and that is when she says, "You know, she (still not remembering her name huh?) gives me 15% off my purchases, do you have the power to do that?" in a tone that was dripping with condescension and....what do they call that again? Oh, that's right, bullshit.
Me- "She does? That's odd, that has never been our policy and seeing as I am her boss, this should have come through me"
She was instantly thrown off. I looked at me with shocked, almost childish looking sheepishness, placed her hand over her mouth like she just spilled a silly little secret, and began to try and untangle.
Her- "Well, it's because I run a non-profit. This party wasn't for that but I thought it was worth a shot."
I assured her that even for non-profit it is not our policy to give discounts. We make donations in the form or baskets and tickets to our tastings but being a small, independent, family owned retailer we just couldn't afford to lose that much profit ourselves. She sort of nodded and the whole time I stood there thinking, "You just tried to use your non-profit, whatever it is, to get a discount on your party wines, by lying, at Christmas time. Maybe you are too full of yourself to be ashamed, that's okay, I'm ashamed for you.
Of course I confirmed with "The Short Haired Lady" that it was a total lie. She had never received any discounting, ever. Nice. Real nice.
Much as this stuff bugs, here I sit, 1:30 AM, shaking my head and chuckling about it all. Bring it last week before Christmas.... I'm ready and waiting for you.
I find myself trying to collect my thoughts, plan my
next move and pull myself together in between a series of increasingly deep
Almost like in those seconds when I’m standing
still, that warm bubble of air stretching my chest, all the noise around me is
hushed by the sucking in and letting go and that’s my time to steady my legs, hear
myself…try and feel like myself until I have to exhale and react to the next
thing that needs me.
I’m tired of thinking
Tired of over thinking
Tired of feeling like if I just did a little more
thinking I could figure it all out….
Tired of waiting
Tired of wanting
Tired, really fucking tired of the sound of my own
Can you, be here with me tonight?
I’m aching to let myself slip just a little. Feel
the rush as my feet stumble from the tightrope. Lose my breath as I twist in
the splendor of heart racing, exhilaration, anticipation and probable regret.
Hear only the thump of my own wildly beating heart in my ears as I try to
balance again. Feel the fleshy bits of my face pull high and tight as my eyes
settle in on you, hone in on you and the buried scraps of my own personal wicked, the way both
cause the sides of my mouth to turn up and pry all my bits apart. Ask myself what a good girl would do
and wait for that hissing voice with its forked tongue to whisper, “Who the
Hold me too tight
I’m ready, tonight. Ready to meet you. Meet you in
that place that you and I go. Away from the stage we are asked to preform upon.
Away from the eyes and expectations. Hours away from the accusations and guilt.
Ready to feel your curious hands and
fingertips. Ready to have you hold me down and make me hear and feel you….only
you. Your power pressed against my chest, the most captivating and riveting quiet
there is. Ready to fold into your palms, have the air sucked from my lungs, the
power of my limbs surrender and succumb to the weight of Us.
Can you quiet me
Make me scream
Cause me to rethink my position
Make me crave a new one
Inspire me to not give a shit….
My mouth sweet and ready. Lips like my desire,
swollen and open. Skin exposed and aching. Head too fractured to fight, until
you need or want me to. Soul pliable, craving, cavernous, longing to be spread
and exposed even further. My eyes looking to you for the next slide of a player
across the board…
Are you ready to check me? Study my game, my next
move…do you understand that the deep grooves imbedded in my bottom lip are my
tell? My readiness to let myself get lost in your touch causing my teeth to
bare down and try to restrain the tongue that craves exploring you, discovering
Can you be here, with me tonight?
Can you hear my breath calling you
I’m diving in
Head first into a night of my own blissful
I’ve always been baffled when people say
they don’t like or don’t drink Champagne,"I don’t really drink much
Champagne” I know what each word means, but put together that way…just
sounds like jibberish to me. How could a beverage that inspires such
passion in me be so easily dismissed by so many people?! Sadly, I think I know why, "The Fancy".
to be out with the (Insert Giant Champagne Conglomerate Here) rep this week, can we come by and taste you
on a couple things?” the email read, I’d had the wines before and never
thought that much of them, didn’t hate them, matter of fact, they
didn’t even inspire enough intrigue for me to hate them. “I’ve tasted
them before and didn’t really care for them and I don’t want to waste your
time” was how I responded. Got another email saying “doesn’t hurt to try
again” so I agreed to sit and taste with them, one sniff and I
Now I’m pretty reserved when I’m tasting
with a sales rep, even more so when they have a supplier with them. I
don’t dig hurting people’s feelings and don’t feel the need to tell
these people what I think is “wrong” with their wines, I know other
buyers that do but that aint me, I taste, take notes and “it’s not my
favorite” is the worst you will ever hear come out of my mouth, (unless pressed which has happened. They regretted it). When I
got up from the table I said, “Not my favorite” but walking away I was
kinda pissed that I caved and that we wasted each other’s time. I knew what was going to happen but I am always waiting for someone to change my mind. The tasting was an absolute bust and as the day progressed I found myself even more annoyed that
wines like that have the marketing budget to get their bottles on lists
all over town, which when tasted, leave consumers saying, “I don’t
really like Champagne”…well, with overpriced, boring, tired, lifeless bubbles like that,
it’s no wonder!
fell in love with great Champagne 16 years ago, it was a bottle of 1989
Billecart-Salmon Nicolas Francois, it was more than I would have
normally spent, $89.99 at the time, but I was talked into it
and I have never been the same, that being said I feel that the wines
from that estate have been creeping beyond what the bottle delivers…but
Nicolas Francois will always have a special place in my heart, who knows if Champagne would have ever stolen my heart, crept into my soul and
yanked me deeper into this world of wine that I love so much. So yes, a special place in my heart but with the quality it has now, and a much higher price tag, no place on my racks.
Before that fateful night, that rich mouth coating wine prying my eyes and heart wide open, I'd had plenty of bubbles but they were the mass market brands
that grace every supermarket shelf…the ones that most people drink, and
while I never turned down a glass of one of those, I rarely asked for a second one and almost never thought about buying them. Then I was drinking the idea or feeling of
Champagne, now I drink the flavor.
While I put one after the other of those "Fancy" brands in my mouth, gave them a swish, felt the sizzle of raspy bubbles and tasted flavors that reminded me of stale butter cookies I kept asking myself, "What would
inspire anyone to buy this wine a second time?” which of course had me
taking a pass on bringing them in…I’m not in the business of selling one
bottle, one at a time to one customer, 12 times, over. Shit that's what the grocery stores are for. I want you to love them like I do,
crave them like I do, dream about them like I do and come back over and over again to fall in love all over again. If I
sold anyone wines like the ones I was tasting that day, not only would I be unispired, (in fact if that were all there was I would flatly give up drinking Champagne, honestly. Rather spend that money drinking a nice Sancerre or white Burgundy) I would be contributing to that, "I don't really like Champagne" thing that bums me so.
I try not to spend too much time shit
talking on the top Champagne houses, they do have some good wines, maybe
a tad too pricey, but some solid wines to be sure but for the most
part, their basic or non vintage bottles are really freaking BORING…that
and they make so damn much of the crap that it often sits in
warehouses, (of the distributor) for God knows how long, getting tanky
and stale tasting…ewe. I can honestly say I have had more off bottles of
Veuve Clicqout. Moet and Taittinger than any other Champagne I have ever
had….really harsh when you think about the fact that I try those maybe
twice a year…if that, stuck at a trade event, handed a glass at someone's house, or in a restaurant with a friend in the middle of a serious Champagne
jones…that’s a pretty crappy average if you ask me. So I won’t go so far
as to say I hate them, but I will say that I don’t trust them…and there
are just so many better bottles to be had. So if you don’t like
Champagne or don’t drink it often, maybe it’s just that you haven’t had
some really good ones, and by good ones I mean wines made from special little plots of land, created by a person and not some recipe handed out by the marketing moguls….don’t go thinking Perrier Jouet flower bottle when I say
good because it costs a lot. I’ve had it, it’s fine…not great, not that exciting, but fine. The thing is, for that kind of coin you can get two bottles of exceptional grower Champagne and discover what greatness truly is.
Last night I had the very real privilege of hosting and pouring some outrageously cool, tiny production, somewhat geeky grower bubbles, even some from right here in Cali-for-ni-a. It was a last minute tasting that I sort of begged Randy to let me do. We like to plan our events way in advance, gives us time to promote them and fill the seats, that was why I had to do my little "Pop Up" event on a Wednesday, calender was full for the rest of the year. I was watching all these wicked cool wines come in, was stocking them on the racks and I found myself grinning like a fucking idiot and petting the damn things. I knew I had to get these wines in front of people. Not just talk about them but pour them, stand there and explain the salty, brininess in the Blanc de Blancs from Jacques Lassaigne. Let my pudgy arms flail as I groaned over the exotic spicing in the Laherte Freres Brut Rose. Lean over people's shoulders and purr, "How fucking sexy is that?" after pouring them a glass of Coessens Blanc de Noir.
Had to be done, if for no other reason than to settle my soul. Wines like those, they haunt me. They make me think of them long after, sometimes months after, I have tasted them. I knew there were others, (thank Gawd for you people!) and I knew they would get it. As I watched the reservations come in fast and furious, for a geeky little sparkling wine, midweek event and there are still a bunch of seats available for Our Best Cabernet Sauvignons of 2013, on a Friday night? Well I was, am, so goddamn proud of that. We were among the very first stores to walk away from the easy sale of Grand Marques Champagnes, to kick Clicquot and Moet out and instead offer Agrapart, H. Billiot, Jose Dhondt, R.H. Coutier and now many, many others in their place. Never and easy road and we talked and talked and talked some more...but that blue in the face, well it worked. Here we are, the morning after an event that we didn't even plan, me glowing like a idiot and getting message after message from the people that were in attendance, gushing and thanking us. Thanking us.... Unreal.
So do this old bird a favor, before you
utter phrases like, “I don’t really like Champagne” or just write the
marvelous, frothy beverage off as something you toast with, get your
hands on a couple of really serious grower Champagnes, really taste
them,we're waiting for you. Maybe let me...tickle your fancy....
On my way to work Saturday afternoon, my mood high
enough, ish. Nothing plaguing me other than some residual work anxiety, not anything
out of the realm of manageability, just your typical pre-holiday freak out along
with residual panting. Some of the little bits of my ever changing personal
life slipping into spots that while not totally comfortable just yet, have been
making me feel, which is just about as welcoming as anything I can think of. Least
in my current state. I was rolling in my badass ride, (Camry) about forty-five
minutes late, (the only thing I love about the closing shift, don’t have to
open so I can slither in a bit late) speeding a touch and with my music about
five clicks louder than it should have been.
are words that should be whispered gently
evidently the way to start
I tell you what my dreams have been demanding
call a heart a heart
you would call a true confession
indiscretion on someone's part
if I'm to say how madly I adore you
call a heart a heart”
Billie’s voice sticky with pain and saturated with her
preferred medication. I heard the smoke bouncing off her vocal cords and
flinched with each heroin soaked slur. The tin can sounding recording filling
the cavernous emptiness of my car, the pop and scratch of a tiny needle being
pulled across vinyl, the faint hiss and soft sputter of a disc spinning, the
sadness and begging of a tragically gifted soul. The words surged against me
like a giant wave taking me under. I held my breath, heard her, like actually
heard her, and pictured what kind of woman I might think I’d have been had I
been there, hearing her sing this song for the first time.
Fingers strumming the steering wheel, my own bruised
and smoke damaged vocal cords expanding in my throat as I crooned along with
the Lady Day. Visions of myself, in the early 40s, one of those women uncomfortable
in the days clothes, choosing instead to lounge about my, assuredly messy, and
tiny apartment in Harlem, (oh you can bet your ass that would be me) in some
sort of silky slip or sturdy bra and oversized panties, garters and a cigarette
hanging from my gin soaked lips. Feeling Billie and aching to contribute the
way she did. Maybe messy, maybe ornery, maybe sad and longing, but making
people tremble and want the way she was making me.
we are in a friendly situation
conversation may not be smart
if we've to have a perfect understanding
call a heart a heart”
The song ended and I reached for the car stereo
remote. A red light afforded me the time fondle and flip, settle on some
mindless and soulless piece of pop music that made me bounce a bit and think
just a wee bit less. Light change and I began my travels again. On my way to
the start of our store’s 18th holiday season. Coast, snarl at the
jackhole that cut me off, bop to the industrial and somewhat insipid music and
that was when I happened to catch a glimpse of a wonderfully familiar sight. A
vintage car resting in the driveway of a house I pass twice a day, nearly every
day. Saw big loopy burgundy colored
bows, fake green shrubbery, the subtle white lights dangling and while it was
daylight and they were not lit I knew, white icicle lights….always. I instinctively
reached for the knob on my stereo and turned the volume of whatever asshole bit
of senseless music I had thundering, down, rested my foot a bit on the brake pedal,
took a second to look and had tears in my eyes when I saw, “18 Years Cancer
Free” on a proud and noble banner that stretched across the garage door….of a
house that I pass twice a day nearly every day, and have for almost 18 years.
Got home that night, the day a bit slower than I had
hoped but still full of new faces, people coming in to rent our new wine
storage lockers, seeing Dale’s face beam each and every time we went back to
the office and told her, “There is someone here that would like to rent one of
your lockers”. Her bit of the business that doesn’t require tasting notes or
recommendations. A place for her, beyond gift baskets and accessories, a place
that she and her brother worked on to make happen, a place she had to finish on
her own. Her beloved brother sadly, and shockingly passing away before he got
to see the space, smell the “wood stained” metal, before the first lock was
clicked. I couldn’t stop watching her all day. Marking the angle of her
gorgeous smile, the height of her eyebrows when her eyes would expand with excitement.
I felt her missing him. Felt our store growing and changing because of what
My dance with Billie that morning still on my mind I
popped in my earbuds and spun the little turnie thing on my ipod. Shifted from
Dave to James Taylor. From Alison Krauss to Amy Winehouse and while I can
always find some sort of ease in music it was Billie that was on my mind. I pressed
the spinner again, hovered over her name and selected that dope soaked groan
and shallow, hard metallic stabs of vintage music to thump around in my noggin
while the number 18 swam about in my subconscious.
The Wine Country is now 18, my drive by cancer survivor
an 18 year reminder of courage and hope. 18, a number that seems so small when
I think of it in terms of age but when a more sane me thinks in chunks of time,
well that number is sort of a big one…
I had been 18 all of thirty eight days when I gave
birth to my son, two months early and with a mother that dropped me off at the
emergency room talking to the nurses but not me. I was seven months pregnant,
terrified, not working, not with the man that assisted in my situation and
assuming I would have to give my son up for adoption, to save us both. That wee
soul and his tiny fingers, three pound body that showed up without heartbeat or
breathing, he struggled to be here, fought for air, battled to feed, wiggled
closer to the incubator wall whenever I would awkwardly coo at him through the
thick plastic. The second those bitty digits bent around mine I knew, he fought
for me so I would do the same for him. Forever. From that day at 18 years old
until the day they had me plugged up to machines that helped me breathe…
“It doesn’t look good. I hope you make it” the late
night call that made me the matriarch of our little family. My sister had been
18 all of nineteen days when an embolism would change her life. Change our
lives in ways we weren’t even close to being ready for. She was 18 when she
came to live with us and while I would never, in a million years, give us any
credit for the woman that she has become, coming here was the start of a
journey for her that would lead to her life now. Meeting the man she would fall
madly in love with and marry. Her drive and resolve, astounding intellect and
compassion to help others that has her now a speech pathologist with a legion
of adoring wees that love her. How could they not? She’s amazingly strong,
beautiful, funny, and brilliant and has one of those laughs that make the
entire world within earshot laugh right along with her. Just being the tiniest
fraction of her 18, well as hard as it was on all of us, probably her most of
all, I am proud to have shared in it just as she did mine…
“Welp, here are the keys. We are going to head over
to the hotel and wash this humid off us” me making light and pretending that
the smudges of black eyeliner that had melted into my cracked face were due
solely to the humidity there in Louisville. Jeremy was 18 and moving into the
dorms, the ones that were a trillion miles away from me. I faked humid face
melting but I had been crying for weeks. I was barely formed when this tiny
person came into my life, tugged at my heart and boot straps, made me whole
enough to be there…saying goodbye to him. We grew up together he and I and
standing there, handing over the keys to his 1993 Camry before climbing into
the rental car that would take me away from that most crushing spot of land on
the planet, the one where I would leave my baby to make his own 18 year old
mistakes and triumphs, well it assured me that no matter how old we can still
have that 18 year old fear, and optimism.
ain't nothin' I can do or nothin' I can say
That folks don't criticize me but I'm going to do
Just as I want to anyway
And don't care just what people say
I should take a notion, to jump into the ocean
Ain't nobody's business if I do
If I go to church on Sunday, then cabaret all day Monday
Ain't nobody's business if I do”
Billie still in my ears as I swayed back and forth
in my kitchen making dinner. I made my mother’s Thanksgiving dinner that night.
The stuffing with way too much butter and plump raisins, the pan I would “over-cook”
to perfect crispiness. The super crunchy turkey skin and dried white flesh
beneath it. The sweet pickles, black olives, chunky un-whipped mashed potatoes.
Found myself adding a little jalapeno cream cheese to those chunky spuds,
reduced the gravy rather than adding Wondra flour, had picked out a Vouvray and
Bourgogne Rouge to serve with the meal, something that I’d never seen, wine, at
the Thanksgiving table until I started at The Wine Country, and didn’t bother with the tiny rolls that she
used to sweep with salted butter and sprinkle with sugar. My mother’s influence
there but with all the little bits of, 18, flavoring and seasoning me, my
family and our meal just as much as she did.
Did a tiny bit of internet scanning and found that
much like my sister, my son and myself, Billie Holiday started her life, no matter
how tragically, when she turned 18 and cut her first album. I sat here this
evening listening to garbled and sloppy sounding old recordings from her.
Melting under lyrics like, “I’ve got it bad and that aint good” and “Lord above
me, make him love me” and laughing as I picked at leftovers and slurped at
glass after glass of Vouvray, (the last wine I shared with my mom, it made her
toot which always, always made her laugh uncontrollably….which also made her
toot) when I heard a recording of her
from 1955 where she grumbled, “They kept telling me I had to sing up tempo. Pop
songs. I told him, fuck you, I wanna sing what I wanna sing”….
She sang what she wanted
The store continues to grow
I swallowed spoonful after spoonful of blood and