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.


Friday, April 29, 2016

The View From Up There

 “Mommy, Up” my tiny voice barely audible as I tugged on my mother’s below the knee knitted beige and orange sweater. My neck straining and pudgy finger pointing to another little girl, one about my age, perched a world above me as she sat atop her father’s shoulders, chin rested on his thinning head of curly hair, the sparkle of the Disneyland Main Street Parade played out before me better in the reflection of her eyes than what I was actually able to see by desperately trying to shove my pin head through the throng of long, to me anyway, legs that lined the curb. The night sky swollen and heavy with the smell of cotton candy, fireworks, sour pickles, sweat, lemonade and hard candy suckers. My once a year visit to see the happiest place on earth. “Sam, I can’t. Come stand in front of me, maybe you can see better” her painful to the both of us response as my agonizingly single mother tussled my already messy hair and looked, just as longingly at the family beside us. The parade I could see in her eyes then made me sort of glad I couldn’t see…..much.

 Years later I was able to see the whole light parade on my own two feet. The loud music, the twinkle lights of Cinderella’s pumpkin inspired carriage, the painted grinning princess graciously waving her silken white glove covered slender arm in our direction as Jiminy Cricket skipped along behind her dodging piles of horse poo and the occasional three year old that came darting out from the curb. The whole of the ordeal looking, feeling, so much more exciting and enthralling when I was watching it play out on the face of a little girl whose legs were dented by her father’s thick fingers, him holding her tight as he bounced up and down and told her who was coming next. Never really suffered from that whole grass is greener thing, just sort of accepted that everyone’s view can make a massive impact on how you see and feel things. I never quite got the worship and adoration of the whole shiny, polished, white gloved show, Disney or otherwise, but I very early on found my desire, inspiration and place canonizing the tiny details. The face before the paint. The reflections and reactions. The genuine. To this day I’m not content to not see but I follow the faces, the scents, the thick fingers and storied ridges more than the twinkle lights and horse poo covered main streets. 

Our first full day in Caen was spent listening to the waves lap and splash upon the sand and monuments at Omaha Beach. The sun just splitting the clouds as we stepped out of the car and without words or enough breath in our lungs we tiptoed upon the grains of real, and agonizing history. I heard nothing but the thump of my heart in my ears and the slosh and pull of utterly wrenching water scraping, cleaning but never erasing what had happened there. The cold air slapping against my cheeks couldn’t even begin to sting as much as feeling of loss, and pride, one feels standing there.

 From there it was on to the American Cemetery and there simply are not words big enough to explain or express what it is like to walk the gorgeous tree-lined, achingly silent path, make a slight bend left in the road and see before you the stark white, crossed bones, an ocean of them laid before you, your freedom to be there because of their courage and sacrifice. The sun once again pulling the clouds aside, a warm beam of sun splashing upon my icy cold pink cheeks and there was but one thing to do and I did it, I wept.

 Randomly walking the rows, reading the names, seeing slightly wilted flowers left by loved ones, the children or grandchildren of loved ones, sort of nestled between the green lawn and the severity of the blazingly white crosses….I couldn’t stay silent for fear that the knot in my throat would overtake me. Instead I whispered their names aloud as I passed, my fingertips tracing the etched letters as the warm bits of air stamped with their names left my lips. The day was a gift. An honor and a gift. 

Big heavy powerful day behind us and day two was all about exploration. Caen is sort of centrally located enough in Normandy that we were able to just pop into the rental car, wiz about in the round abouts and be spun out in a direction that was sure to give me something to devour. Aesthetically, emotionally or as per my favorite, the kind of treasures that part my lips, fill my palate and warm me from throat to tummy. The sun triumphantly high, the air engorged with mossy, wet, green aromas that reeked, in that come-get-me way, of wet woods and new life. Our bright orange rental car spit out on what just so happened to be the cider trail. I felt my legs get just a touch longer in the passenger seat, the fact that I was there, in that place so far from my own history and reality, feeling like thick fingers holding me tight as I soaked in the entire view. 

There is something sort of isolating about riding through tiny towns in Europe, or France anyway, midday in early spring. The weather not yet welcoming of families sitting alfresco for or after a meal, and there are few, if any, people taking unhurried walks on the side of the road. Windows are shuttered and closed and the loudest sound we heard was the rubber of our own tires taking in dirt and petite clay soaked pebbles. No radio, no outside noise, no idle chit-chat and nothing but the stillness of post lunch resting, and the click-click-clicking of my eyes taking in each and every layer of it I could. 


The tight tiny road/trail allegedly built for two way traffic, our built for this Euro car, taking up two thirds of the road which would have caused me severe angst if I weren’t so fucking engrossed in the utter lusciousness of the garden-like splendor that was spinning around my head so fast I was punch drunk and tingling. The vibrant colors, grand naked trees, two or three hundred of them in each patch, standing erect and tall, leaves months ago shriveled up and fallen to the cold wet earth providing a plushy blanket of decomposition of feed for the next season. There they all stood, these massive skeletal frames like upright witches brooms standing in bunches shoulder to shoulder, brothers in arms, proud but not one too proud as to stand even an inch taller than its brethren. Perfectly aligned as if the universe knew I was coming and gave them all the uniform buzz cut.   

Whipping around each corner there was new feast for me to devour. A tuff of white smoke huffing from the slightly crumbling brick chimney of a century’s old home, the shutters closed revealing sincere shades of lavender and white, a tricycle left at the front steps and an open sign with an arrow pointing to an open, empty, barn offering cider samples. I pictured a family entertaining the three or four year old tricycler, coaxing her to finish her bowl of lentils before taking her nap, the men of the family talking about rebuilding fences, maybe fixing that crumbling fireplace when the weather is better and the ladies taking a few deep tokes of a cigarette between sips of dry cider and collecting the lunch dishes for washing. Would they see us, sure but did I want to bust into the picture and require them to slip on the silken white gloves?

I shook my head, snuggled into my voyeurism and nodded for us to move forward. I was feeling my own pangs. Pangs of isolation, pangs of hunger, those pangs that make your mouth and throat loosen and water, as your body readies for the warm hum and tingle of fruity and boozy satiation. My pangs aside I couldn’t bring myself to disrupt the screaming silence, so we just weaved about the snaking roads, feasted on the way the moisture from the morning rain clung to the thick and statuesque blades of grass making the field shimmer as if it were sprinkled with silver glitter. If I could capture the vibrancy and colors of that ride that day and feast from it for the rest of my days I would never grow tired or underwhelmed. I’m here now, just weeks from my last nibble as it were and I feel like I might be detoxing….might be in need of, just, one, more, hit. Until the next. 

We gorged on history, beauty, the relative serenity after Paris. The apple and pear based cider and booze, diversity of the wine shops in a French region where they don’t actually make wine, ate sick amounts of ocean treats, savory crepes stuffed with cheese, sausage and runny eggs, each other’s cold air stained cheeks, quiet, perfectly manicured un-manicured scenery and the knowing that there were still weeks of wine ahead of us.