“How many bottles are we bringing?” My husband’s tone sweet but mildly concerned with just a dash of annoyed. The suitcase unzipped and resting on the guest bed with piles of possible clothing options at either side, “Um, guess I’ll be bringing home a shipper” my response. A suitcase, a slightly irked husband and a sticky note on my purse, a reminder to purchase a shipper from work, this combination can only mean one thing….vacation.
Been a rough year on everyone. The economy beating us all down and trust me, this wine slinger is feeling it as well. Seems like there is this somewhat fanciful cloud of delusion around many when they think of the wine business, as if it is impervious to the whims of Wall Street and the suffocating choke of purse strings being pulled extra tight. Aint true. Aint true at all and to all of those that shrug and say things like, “Well I’m sure you’re still doing okay, people probably drink more in this kind of economy” I can only say, “If that’s true they are hitting up the extra-large bottles of Vodka from Costco”. Before anyone gets too worried, the store is doing okay. Not great mind you, but we are hanging in there, still able to buy wine, cheese, put on our events and pay our somewhat shoestring staff but trust me, we are all feeling the crunch, small business are especially dry in this “trickle down” bullshit….
We all make concessions at times like these and my household is doing the same. As the manager of a small independent store my eye is always on ways to chip in as it were and the easiest way to help shave costs at the store is to….well be there less. I always worry that my bosses see my leaving early, coming in late or taking off when there are four people there on a slow day as me just not giving a shit, couldn’t be further from the truth. I cost the most and if I can shave a few hours off a week to save them some money, well I’m going to do it. The other side to that coin, well let’s just say that I have been doing some string tightening of my own.
“So here’s what we can do” my husband and I talking travel over a plate of steak and eggs at my favorite coffee shop/bar, (damn do I love me a place where I can get breakfast at 9:00 PM with a martini). The only trip we have taken this year, together, was to Louisville for our son’s graduation, (fuck, I love saying that…our son’s graduation) he has been gone a ton and I did have that wonderful trip to Friuli but much like everyone else, we’ve been hanging around the pad more this year than ever before. The proposition on the table, along with the steak, eggs and martini, “Do you want to go spend a week in Paris with Amy?”
He had just returned from a trip to Dallas where he was able to spend time with our dear exiled friends and had been listening to Amy talk about her upcoming trip to France, took heed to her urging him to “Make this go for her” and here he was, across a dark table offering up our one vacation for me to get away and spend some time with my dearest friend in the city she and I are both madly in love with. I pulled the fork tines from my lips, big wad of eggy steak flopping against the side of my mouth as I attempted to place the fork on the side of my plate….the weight of pleasure, guilt, the store, my best friend and I wreaking havoc in wine bar after wine bar along the streets of the most beautiful city in the world…..the sweet face of someone that loves me, willing to sacrifice, whatever he needed to, in order to make me happy….all of it making that fork one hundred times heavier than it was when I hoisted the animal bits into my grill. Didn’t feel broke, felt enormously wealthy.
I ran through the logistics in my mind, (and this was before my other best friend left The Wine Country, leaving a ginormous void) what we could really afford, what I was willing to do without to make it happen, how sexy and beautiful I felt knowing that my happiness was all my husband needed to be willing to spend his vacation fondling an X-Box controller and visiting the oh-so exotic….guest room. I was choking back tears when I remembered a message I received from another friend, “If Kelly and I had a ceremony, you think you and Call-o would come?” Michael Hughes asking if we would be able to come out to Memphis to celebrate 10 years of devotion with he and his boyfriend as they exchanged vows…in a city they both adore but, as of yet, does not allow or recognize their partnership as valid. Something about sitting there, in a place I love, being offered what was basically our entire vacation fund, the power of that gesture and the absolute honor of being invited to share in such a moment with two people that love each other so much they wish for the world to know. Well, I pulled out my cell and sent a text, the action alone letting me know my decision.
Amy and I, we’ve got years of Paris stomping ahead of us, in fact I have this sinking suspicion that there might even be books written full of the boozy retelling of stories of two older blondes closing wine bars and restaurants. Tales of trouble makers told through the smoky haze of late night ramblings and “one more” glass of Champagne. She and I? Well we are in this for the long haul and that opportunity shall arise again, you can bet your ass it will but this invite, it was too sweet and quite frankly, too amazing to pass up.
Michael Hughes is a fellow wine blogger and (insert very pink face here) long time reader and supporter of this here silly blog. Not sure when or how Michael started reading but I felt an instant connection to him and our relationship, much like many of you, has evolved over the three years that I’ve been doing whatever it is I do here. He is blogging less, commenting less but he and I have moved well beyond the wobbly legged fumblings of blogger friendships into something so real that I ended up extending my trip to Louisville last year to spend time with he and his Kelly in Tennessee where I would also finally meet Ben Carter of Benito’s Wine Reviews. Ben was one of the first wine blogger to respond to this grumbling, effusive and oft off her rocker wine blogger when I first started writing. He encouraged me to keep going, was open and shared any tips he had learned along the way….very rare that, and even went so far as to design the header that you all see at the top of this blog, for no reason other than he wanted to help me. Where Michael responds to my chest pumping, “Rawr” posts, Ben…Ben puddles over posts about my sweet son and my wee cupcake making neighbor. Two very gentle men that wrapped their loving arms around me way early on and two people that I find it a very real honor to call my friends. All that, just for unzipping my heart and sending my thoughts and stories out over the internets? Feeling kinda wealthy…
“So when are you going to be in Memphis?” Joe aka, Ed as renamed by my beloved HoseMaster that to this day insists that Joe’s (Ed’s) parents must have been mistaken when they named him as he clearly looks like an Ed. Joe hooked me on the very first post of his I read. He was funny, snarky, self-deprecating and completely devoid of all the stuffy, “Yer dumb” shit that tends to ooze from so many wine blogs. Met the Atlanta based blogger last year when we both just so happened to be visiting Sonoma in the same week. Been feeding and watering our relationship ever since and now, well now he is making the drive from Atlanta to Memphis, a few bottles of our shared obsession and the reason we all met in his bag. Simply cannot believe my good fortune…
We’ve made plans to meet up twice, (Not Michael as he will be all tied up with his big day and all) once for a casual meal and drinks, the other when Ben will make us one of the feasts he is always posting about and where we will be popping corks and getting our Wine Nerd on. I walked the shop over and over again trying to think of what to bring. Seven thousand square foot shop full of wines from the world over and I couldn’t settle on a few bottles?! Was starting to get a little anxious until I thought about what I was going to be doing there in Memphis and the people I was going to see. “Bring what you love” came slamming into my head and I began grabbing bottles left and right. Sure I could bring some high-end, rare and culty wines along with me but….well I opted instead to pack away the bottles that inspire me. Made me love wine in the first place. The wines that keep me company while I pound away at my keyboard, sharing the stories and passion that in turn inspired these lovely people to want to get closer to me in the first place. Francois Chidaine, Andre Ostertag, Pascal Agrapart, Didier Dagueneau, (okay there might be a couple more, I am a geek I remind you) all people that I’ve met, shared wine with and fallen madly in love with, they too will be boarding that Memphis bound flight with me this morning.
I skipped Paris for Memphis. When you say it like that I sound crazier than usual but when I say, “I’m going on vacation, with my husband, to spend a few days soaking in wine, friendship and true love” well it makes me feel like I’m in that 1% that everyone is constantly grumbling about. Feeling very wealthy indeed…
One more thing, speaking of feeling rich and all, I would like to wish a very happy birthday to a man that also found me through this blog and whose entrance in my life has changed it so much for the better. His talent never ceases to amaze me, his humor a gift I feel lucky to get to share in and his boundless love and support something I simply could not and will not imagine living without. Ron Washam, you are a rare and beautiful gift to me and I love you, I love you with all of my silly heart. Have a wonderful birthday Love, no one I know deserves it more and just so you know, you have made and continue to make, me feel like the richest woman alive.
Box of wine and bags packed
Memphis, here I come.