Sunday, March 7, 2010

This Beholder's Eye

“There’s just something about you”

I’ve never known what this means, sure I know what the words mean but I have never been all that sure whether this is a compliment or an accusation…maybe it’s a little of both. But it is the thing I most hear from others when they are talking about me. I always sit there and smile, search their face for more information but in the end I end up letting it slip away as quickly as it was uttered and giving it just as much thought as it was delivered with, not much. Always kind of struck me as the anti “If you don’t have anything nice to say” like they are trying to think of something nice but nothing really stands out.

Maybe I’ve been lucky to avoid the constraints of traditional beauty; it was never going to be me so I never really spent much time thinking about it or trying to be. I went from being the ugly girl that was taunted by my brother’s father, to being told I was “unusual looking” which when you’re sixteen means freakish to being whatever it is I look like, or people read or see in my face and my body now. I learned long ago to not put much validity into what is basically the luck of genetics……..and has a shelf life. I’ll take interesting, funny, sweet or even annoying over pretty any day, those things are more real and sustainable…to me anyway.

There are times when I feel beautiful but again, probably not in the traditional sense. I was alone this afternoon, the hubby off cleaning out a storage unit full of dusty bits of a life that we had both packed up, affixed a lock on and pretty much forgotten about for years. Old books, games, pieces of my mother’s furniture, Jeremy’s old bookcase and boxes and boxes of old papers. When my husband first asked what I wanted to do with it all the first thing I said was, “Toss it. We haven’t even thought about that stuff in years” I think we were both a bit taken aback by my willingness to just throw away or give away those bits of my history but I’m just not nostalgic or romantic in that way. My life, my mother’s life, they don’t live with those dusty and broken bits of furniture, not in faded art projects or yearbooks. Our life, our history is beneath the skin of anyone we were or are able to touch, move or make feel loved.

My son, my Amy, my sister, the people that still tell me how much they loved my mother, all you people that find something compelling in my words. These things are the things of true value and far too powerful to pack away in a box and be tossed in a storage unit. I feel something when I see that some sentence I strung together, some story I shared, some expression of passion for wine…something I said spoke to someone enough to make them leave a comment or has them coming back over and over again to read more. To know that my words, my fingertips, my thoughts….my heart, my life…when I share them they seem to matter to some of you. That, well that makes me feel more beautiful than any genetic jackpot ever could.

My idea of beauty has always been more of a feeling then something I see or something that is detectable right away. Maybe I am just to protective of my heart but I just never have my head spun by “Hot” or “Pretty” it takes more than flash to make my heart thump and my girlie parts tingle…substance is beauty, a story is beauty, selflessness is beauty…courage, resolve, talent these things make my heart pound, make my eyes water and inspire my want.

A perfect rendition of Someone to Watch Over Me, a voice that grabs at my heart, makes me feel like I am being lifted off the ground…..pulled in and feeling her ache….

There’s a somebody I am longing to see
I hope that he
Turns out to be
Someone to watch
Over me

Fills my eyes with tears for her as her voice, her desire, her need to be cared for fall upon my ears…make me visit that secret spot inside of me where I too am wishing for someone to watch over me. Crisp and clean like Alison Krauss or raw and soulful like Lauren Hill, (Never heard either of them sing this particular song but it is the stuff of my dreams) doesn’t matter…a pure expression of femininity that is truly beautiful to me. Fuck Beyonce and her, “If you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it”….it?! If you are willing to reduce your importance or worth to “it” you are so missing the point and your shelf live is showing.

Stepping out of Wrigley Field on a steamy September afternoon and hearing the “thump-thump thump-crack-one-two-three” and having my eyes fall upon a group of kids across the street. All black males sitting on and banging away on five gallon plastic cans…except for one. My eyes landed upon a man…a young man, maybe nineteen or twenty years old that was not sitting on one of the plastic cans and wore the face of a lifetime of hardship. He was sitting in a wheelchair, missing a leg and his dark black skin that was stretched across his high cheekbones and broad nose, bore these little skips….these raised glossy scars that assured me that this young man had suffered a multitude of hardships, the likes of which I could not possibly fathom. But there he was drumsticks firing away in perfect unison…big grin on his face, making my whole body vibrate. The thumping, the scars, the missing leg…the flailing arms, his music moving my feet, my hips, my shoulders…my heart. He was truly beautiful in a way I shall never forget.

Watching a man kiss his son. A man willing to drop the bullshit “be a man” crap and give himself over to true love in its purest form. Putting his big man lips on the face of his little man. Beautiful.

Smelling history in a glass. To feel where a wine came from, who it came from and the year it came from…feel it all through my nose and tongue. To taste the aroma of a specific place in a glass, to feel a winemaker’s shyness or larger than life personality and to taste what each year bestowed upon the vines…good or bad, in each glass, fucking beautiful. I think those that proclaim vintage superiority or deficiency are also missing the point. Missing the point and missing out on the beauty that is a hand crafted expression of each harvest. I don’t think any vintage should be affixed with a lock and forgotten about, each one should be celebrated for the bits of history they hold…beautiful.


Amy said...

Although I loved food before, loved smelling it, touching it, and cooking it, I now appreciate the food more. Like wine, I think about where it came from, how it got to my hands, and the family behind the food and how it was produced. I look at food now and say "Isn't that beautiful." When I am at Central Market here in Dallas, I just wander the isles and gasp at all the beautiful food, much grown here locally. Well, we still get our strawberries from California.

Thomas said...


One of my fondest paternal memories is my father kissing me when I was a boy. I can still feel the sharp stubble, which I called pins, and I can still smell the day's work that was on him when he came home.

stephanie said...

there is something about you sam, and that is a compliment. your writing continues to floor me. thanks for being so open and unfiltered.

Samantha Dugan said...


See that's what I am talking about, produce is a great example. Some years the cherries are just sweeter and more abundant...others not so much, but we should still eat them in the "not so much" years. First of all for the taste memory of a season and secondly to support the farmers that did all they could with what they were given.


You sharing that....beautiful.


Dammit lady, (insert grin here). Well coming from a woman that is truly beautiful both traditionally and in all the ways I find beauty...that inner stuff, I take your comment as a true compliment.

Charlie Olken said...

When I was a kid growing up in Boston a few centuries ago, there were two special crops that came as real treats. We used to get locally grown sweet corn for a few weeks each summer, right at the height of the summer. Man, cook those babies in the husk, peel and butter them. Nothing better. Now, sweet corn is a 24/7 thing. I still love it, but it is a little less special.

Same for apples. Our best apples back in Boston where MacIntoshes picked late in the season and so full of zesty, tart/sweet goodness that our mouths would water just thinking about having one. The world has more and better apples now and we store them better or get them from other places when ours are not in season.

Yes, we ate whatever we could get our hands on. Corn that was less than sweet (cork it in a little milk), apples that came across country in hot railroad cars and where a little mushy.

Yes, we ate them all. But like great vintages, there is something special about being "mouthwateringly good". Sure we do not stop drinking if the current choices are bit less than ideal, but my love of wine is more than about drinking, it is about enjoyment of quality, and while context still ranks first for wine, quality truly turns me on as well. And vintage difference has a lot to do with that.

Oh, and I kiss my kids even now and my grandkids always. I cannot imagine not.

Samantha Dugan said...


I was being tasted on a 2007 Chateauneuf-du-Pape the other day and one of my coworkers came up and said, "07 huh? Well I know that's good" and walked away. I finished with my appointment and that same coworker said, "well how much did you buy?" my answer, "None" he looked at me like I was nuts. I told him the wine was shit, steamy...out of balance and shrill, again giving me the "nuts" face. "2007 is a fantastic vintage you should have bought some"! Whatever the vintage and no matter what someone says about the vintage this wine was awful. It is that kind of lemming attitude with regard to vintages that drives me batshit.

Charlie Olken said...

Sam, you are singing my song. We wine drinkers drink individual wines, not vintages.

I still run into Napa Valley winemakers who are angry at Jim Laube for excoriating the 98 vintage. It was certainly not as ripe as 97 or 99, and it made its share of insipid wines, but his comments killed the vintage for everybody, when, in fact, some of the 98s were among the most elegant and polished Napa Cabs of the entire decade.

Moral of the your story: drink wine, not vintages. Amen to that.

BTW, nice picture of you at the top of the article.

John M. Kelly said...

"Although I loved food before… I now appreciate the food more." Amy you said a mouthful. We have to eat the sour cherries to appreciate the sweet ones.

I'm lucky enough to live in Sonoma County where, as Chris Sawyer points out, we don't just make wine - we can feed ourselves (unlike some other counties). Even so, it is a dead time of year for produce here. Even in our local family-owned markets I see a lot of "Produce of Chile."

I'm not a fan of food grown to be transported halfway across the globe - it can never taste as "right" as food grown locally. But I buy it anyway, because 1) I know that even if it is a corporate product ultimately there are families whose livelihood depends on it being sold, and 2) its very flaws allow me to better appreciate the perfection of the local stuff in season.

Same thing about buying wines. Someone "in authority" says the vintage is not so great? Yes, this is important if you are buying first-growth Bordeaux as an investment, but for the average consumer? I did not sell out my 2000 vintage Pinot production at the time, because so-and-so said - correctly - that it was not a great vintage. So we are running a bin-end special on it now. When we first pour it for people we still hear some "wasn't 2000 a bad vintage?" Surprise - our customers are a savvy bunch.

Anyway. The wine is light. It's never had great color. And it's cloudy. Its' probably not going to hold up for another 10 years. But it's beautiful. We've got people coming back for more,a dn it looks like I will sell it out after all. Adn that's just my one example - I've had similar experiences with so many other vintages and producers.

But Sam, good on you for passing on wines that taste bad - despite the vintage hype. Our 1994 Pinot? I mean, it was OK, but not one of our best vintages - overblown, out of balance, non-varietal. I never had a good thing to say about it, but people bought it anyway because the vintage had been annointed.

And Charlie - nice. When I was kissing my little boy this morning he sadi something about my beard, as he often does. I hope he retains the same kind of fond memories.

John M. Kelly said...

Sorry - it was Thomas with the fond beard memories. Charlie - right on about the 1998's - some fabulous wines there. I seem to remember the same about the 79's compared to the 78's.

Charlie Olken said...


Re 78 v 79. Recent 78s have surprised with their longevity. 79 was a very wet vintage, but CS can stand the rain, and many 79s have done quite well. I think I prefer the 78s, whereas I am not sure that my favorite late 90s Cabs are not 98s from folks like Portfolio, Valla Dalle, etc.

There was a time, growing up back east, when there was almost no produce in the markets during the off season. And whatever got shipped in was old and not very good by the time it arrived.

So, the first thing I like about living in CA is the produce here, and I willingly eat whatever comes from Mexico or Chile these days because it is a heck of a lot better than whatever it was we had, or did not have, when I was a kid in Boston.

As for the wide range of Sonoma products, I have to tell you that I was at the Winewriters Symposium at Meadowood recently, and they were bragging (nicely, of course) about all their local produce--that came from Sonoma. Apparently, when it comes to food stuffs, Sonoma is now part of Napa. I am going to claim Sonoma as local down here in the Bay Area. I don't much feature the ducks that live out back. Liberty Farms does much better than my backyard.

The Woo said...

I have had the good fortune to have lived in many places and travel to many, many more. I have to tell you that I absolutely love eating what I call "indeginous food" - the stuff that the locals eat. The stuff that is made there. The stuff that is "ABOUT" the local place. In my mind there is no better way to get a sense of the locality than to experience what the locals, grow, eat and drink on a daily basis.

I love walking around street vendors in Hong Kong or Shanghai and seeing all those great snacks, smelling them and tasting them. Truly beautiful. Yes, some of this stuff is FAR from what is normally considered "mainstream" in the West... in fact many of my friends think it's crazy that I eat this stuff... This is beautiful food, too bad that they can't get that.

The "bad or good vintage" thing also drives me batty. 1998 in California is a great example. There were some great wines that year. The only silver lining is that this means more of that wine for me, but I completely understand the anger of the winemakers.

Another example is that of the birth year vintage for Tammy and I (1967). Considered by many to be a fairly mediocre vintage in Bordeaux (with the exception of the highly regarded d'Yquem that year). Let me tell you, for several years, Tammy and I have opened a first growth from '67 and enjoyed them immensely. Were they the best wines from Bordeaux we've had? No, they weren't. But guess what? The place that they occupy and the fact that they still drink pretty well makes them REALLY beautiful in my mind. And we still remember them fondly.

Also - there is seriously nothing I love better than kissing our son and daughter. Feeling their soft cheeks and nuzzling their necks to hear them giggle and laugh about daddy's "prickly whiskers" is my slice of heaven. I am sure I will continue to do this long after they feel embarrassed by it.

Lastly - I have to tell you Sam, Tammy (me too, but don't tell Call-o) has always said you were one of the prettiest girls she knew. She keeps saying how beautiful you were. Seriously. And you know what? She's right.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,

I can't recall my father ever kissing me as a child. This probably explains a lot about me. Like why I kiss my face in the mirror every morning, though my beard tickles me and my tongue leaves the mirror dirty.

Love and beauty are all mixed up in how we feel about wine. We struggle with the words to express the love, to describe why we love a wine, or don't, but we love the wine, like we love our friends and lovers, for reasons too mysterious and complicated to adequately explain with our meager vocabularies. I can no more explain why I love Rayas in just about any vintage than I can explain my love for you, a woman I've never met--yet I love both of you and would gladly lock you in my cellar. And I, by your own definition of beautiful, know that you are very beautiful.

You won't find a knowledgeable wine person who drinks wine by vintages. They're just signposts, short hand, akin to 100 point scales, and but marginally useful. Laube was too harsh on the '98 vintage in Napa Valley, but he gets paid to sell magazines, not be right. I'm always wary when a magazine or a pundit declares a vintage "great," there have been far too many false postives. But when a reputable (Charlie) critic calls a wine "great," I sit down, write the winery a letter, remind them that I'm a famous wine blogger, then await the UPS truck with my sample.

This never works.

I love you!

Your HoseMaster

Samantha Dugan said...

We are so never meeting now. If you think I have an ass like that picture Ron posted and look ANYTHING like that first picture, well I will be a massive disappointment and I've grown to adore your flirty little comments...would make me sad to lose them.

Dude....dude, I would so be there with you hitting up those street vendors, I fucking love that kind of exploration and palate development. I'm sure your kids will forever have the memory of you kisses and nuzzles...don't stop, someday they will ache for them. You and Tammy are too kind and thankfully half blind but I love you for it.

Ron My Love,
Dammit, Amy told me to watch you. Lock me in your cellar? Howz about we just run off to Chinon after you win the Wine Blog Awards? You know I love you and you Sir make me feel beautiful each and every day...thank you for that. Shit, maybe you and I should not meet either!

You are freaking adorable dude and every time you talk about your family you completely melt me...

Marcia Macomber said...

Ditto to all the other prior comments on vintages, food, Wrigley Field and what not. ...Yeah, Beyonce just doesn’t do it for me. Here’s one you may not know to add to your fondness of Someone to Watch Over Me:

Marcia Macomber said...

Ditto to all the other prior comments on vintages, food, Wrigley Field and what not. ...Yeah, Beyonce just doesn’t do it for me. Here’s one you may not know to add to your fondness of Someone to Watch Over Me:

Marcia Macomber said...

Sorry! Keep getting a Google 502 Error saying my comment won't post. :-(

ValOTB said...

Sam - I just came across your blog - it is so beautifully written! I look forward to reading more.

Alfonso Cevola said...

My son, now 33, when we finish a phone talk , often tell each other "I love you". And we still hug and kiss, even though he now towers over me. Maybe it's our Italianism, who knows?

Again, a deep pondering post. If you keep this up I might just have to go back to writing wine tasting notes ;)

Grazie 1000!

Samantha Dugan said...


Don't worry darlin' I don't mind a commenter with a stutter, makes me look like I have more readers! Thank you for sharing that, I kept picturing a couple dancing on a rooftop next to a table of empty plates and wine the rain.


Welcome my dear and thank you for the compliment. Not sure what you tripped on to wind up here but I am very glad you did. Just when I go and tell my husband that I think this blog as run its course you show up with the paddles and revive me a I can say I have 17 readers!


Yeah, you and I kid...we share a love of the introspective posting. You do it far better so maybe I should be the one doing crusty wine write ups. My son and husband still say I love you after each call or text and when we are visiting (Him here or Us there) it's all hugs and kisses. We always joke that when they go out to lunch or dinner without me they look like they are on a date. Thank you for commenting, always nice to see you here.

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