Monday, March 5, 2012

Day Changer.....

Been kind of a strange week for me. Getting back into the swing of things at work after having nearly a week off where I was tucked away in an uber luxurious resort, in the Napa Valley of all places, tasting wine and learning with some of the wine businesses finest. Wrapping my palate around wines that while from my home state, are a little foreign to me and adjusting to feeling like a bit of an outsider, not a California wine drinker and not really a writer. Walking into The Wine Country earlier this week was akin to sitting down at my mother’s dinner table, comfortable and soothing in a way that is unlike any other feeling I know. I rolled up my sleeves and dug in.

It’s been a slow couple weeks at the shop, and while that does make the catching up a bunch easier it’s just so freaking depressing for me. I spend my days feeling anxious, tasting wines that I would love to bring in but have to push back or even pass on because when it’s slow is not the time to bring in another geeky $35 wine. Saving my budget instead for things that people are already in love with and kind of depend on us having in stock, and while I love that people can depend on us having their favorite $8.99 bottle I do get a little bummed when I have to answer, “Not that much really” when asked by a fellow geeky wine lover, “So what do you have that’s new?” We all have to be sensible when money is tight and a wine buyer is no different. Stinks…..

I was very excited though when I saw that my Intro to French Wines class had sailed from six reservations to thirty-six in less than a week. Long time readers know that teaching classes is not my, um, specialty. I am a nervous wreck for two days before I have to stand before a group, have to literally force myself to stand there, trying to balance on my noodle-like legs and because I am a fucking low speaker I have to belt my words out at nearly screaming decibels, for me anyway, pulling them from the pit of my woozy tummy which always, always makes me feel even more nauseous than I already am. Not to mention the fact that I feel kind of silly standing there as the teacher when there is still so much for me to learn. So you have to know that if I’m excited about a wine class things have been pretty damn slow. We were turning people away all afternoon, such a good sign and then, a party of four canceled at the last minute and a party of two no showed. Fuck. I had stretched my budget to damn-near the last cent. Pouring fourteen wines, it is hard to leave anything out when you are doing an Intro class….well, I could have maybe skipped the Champagne and poured Bourgogne Rouge in place of Gevrey-Chambertin, but….how am I to make people fall in love with, and understand the majesty of France without some wow factor?!  Standing before that crowd Friday night and looking at those empty seats, seats I could have filled, knowing that I was starting out in the hole, well it not only pissed me off, it was kind of a kick in the anxious gut. 

“That’s a day changer” a somewhat awestruck customer tasting the 2009 Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet Meursault I had poured for him. Saturday was another slow creeper of a day. The weather was stunning, in the high eighties and it seemed that the last thing on people’s minds was shopping for wine. I was feeling miserable until I saw the handsome face of a fairly regular French wine drinking customer. He had some time to spend and I had all those open bottles left over from the night before. I whisked him off to the kitchen where we spent over thirty minutes talking and tasting. The kind of one-on-one that I not only love but seeing his face light up, nearly being able to hear the heart thumping around in his chest, that comment, “That’s a day changer” complete with raised eyebrows and cocked grin, those are the moments that feed and inspire me. Remind me that my job is more than stocking paper towels in the ladies room and sticking to budgets. Watching him fill his cart with Meursault and grower Champagne the kind of moment that keeps me fired up. Day changer indeed. Sailed on that shared high for the rest of the afternoon.

Yesterday, another nearly ninety degree day, I was once again bumping around in a nearly vacant store. The stream of, (slightly odd) customers just steady enough to keep me from getting any writing, shelf-talkers, or website updating done.  Lots of folks just killing time or looking to escape the heat in our cellar temperature shop. Not looking to buy, just looking and it took everything I had not to hop on our Facebook page and beg people to come on down. Instead I spent my time putting out samples of food items, for whom I have no idea, double facing a few wines on my racks, knowing that another slow week means more pushing back of orders and having to wait just a little longer to bring in wines that can give me more of those “feeding” moments like the one I had the day before. Not very inspiring I have to say and as I locked up the shop last night I felt a little helpless and like I was failing my bosses, my store and the customers I make my living trying to please and in turn inspire. Sunk into a deep funk on the long, dark drive home. In need of some serious perspective and true inspiration. 

Jumped right into dinner mode when I got home, didn’t even begin to think about wine. Just started chopping, searing and whipping olive oil and lemon juice into a viscous texture to coat my aggressively torn shreds of lettuce. Tossed some ice in a short glass, splash of gin, a glug of tonic and back to the compiling of a rather boring albeit tasty meal that much like the cocktail I drank with it, was more of a result of my lack of thought than anything else. Sat down at my laptop with the idea of writing a blog post, maybe one that would be fit to post on our Facebook page, (yeah right) that would trigger a mass of people to come through our front door. Empty word document and sweaty glass of gin and tonic…sigh.

Feeling the empty helpless feeling filling my chest I opted to stalk a few friends on Facebook. There are often things posted there that give me blog fodder, either in the form of a re-posting of something profoundly stupid or on occasion, something that makes me pull my head out of my whinny ass and think. That’s when I saw this picture posted by a customer and now through Facebook, friend, Raylene.

I was at first struck by the woman’s gorgeous skin and swath of salt and pepper hair but it was that smile, that beaming toothy smile that had me studying the picture far longer than I normally would of any picture posted of a complete stranger. Just looking at her, in a picture, I could feel her strength and confidence…I was craving that feeling for myself and I simply could not take my eyes off of her. I moved my cursor to the next posted photo of the same woman, this one

And my heart simply melted when I saw her grin even bigger and brighter posing for a photo with her adorable and hopeful faced son. I simply had to know the name of that sweet faced young man that wore his mother’s grin and bore the same kind of brightness of spirit so powerful I could feel it through the photo. I looked to the caption next to the photo and that was when I saw, “RIP Sonia”

Jordan, that little man’s name is Jordan and his life was forever changed yesterday when he lost his mother just days after his eighth birthday, which I can only imagine she fought tooth and nail to be there for. The tears streaming down my face, the knot in my throat choking the air out of me as I read about the 43 year old woman, with that gorgeous smile, a fighter for Cancer awareness, a mother taken away far too young, leaving behind a young man that shares her smile and will forever know what real courage looks like. I started sobbing as I thought about my own sweet faced and hopeful son, and I wanted nothing more than to scoop Jordan up, hold him tight to my chest and tell him how proud I feel just knowing that that woman, his mother, existed. Her smile in the face of Cancer, her fight to beat it and make others aware of it. She is a true testament to courage and hope and  will be an inspiration to me for years to come. I dumped my stupid cocktail down the drain, pulled out a bottle of Pierre Guillemot Savigny-les-Beaune Dessus les Gollardes, an inspirational white Burgundy if ever there was one, and sent my friend Raylene a message, “A toast to Sonia. Thank you for sharing her, and her story with me.”

A couple of slow weeks in a store that is thankfully still very much in business. An afternoon inspiring a customer and lighting him up with Meursault, a room full of people wanting to learn about the wines I spend my life preaching about and Friday morning I board a plane and will be met on the other end by my nearly 23 year old son that I will hug just a little tighter this visit…perspective.

Day changer indeed.
Thank you Sonia.


webb said...

Perspective, indeed.

Instead of wasting stupid time talking about contraceptives, our leaders [and leaders to be] need to be finding ways to support cancer research and medication for those who need it.

Lovely post, Sam. Enjoy your time with Jordan. You've inspired me, yet again.

Samantha Dugan said...

Thank you. Jordan is Sonia's son, Jeremy is mine and I will be holding on to my Jeremy a little tighter now, so grateful that I've been able to see him through each stage in his life so far...thinking about Sonia and Jordan and hoping he is being held extra tight too.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,

I am often reminded that behind every face, in photographs and in person, there's a story. Triumphant, poignant, funny, sad, tragic, hopeful, strange...there's always a story. And, in some sense, every story is an inspiration, as you point out here. Your life story, for example, My Love, has inspired many people who have visited your blog. As Sonia has inspired you.

One hopes that Jordan has inherited his mother's courage and passion. From that irrepressible smile, it appears he has.

You may have felt out of place in Napa, but you brought that to the party. Everyone who has read your work believes you belonged there. Saying you are "not really a writer" is nuts. You really are a writer, down to your toes.

I think my week was odd too--alone, a burned hand, a twisted ankle, and lots of folks hurling insults at me on my own blog (which I richly deserve). But you passed on the Sonia Day Changer to me, too. Perspective is slippery though, and the simplest distraction changes it, usually erases it. But for these few minutes, reading your post, I was able to touch that part of me that feels grateful for all the blessings I've been given. And that, in turn, makes Jordan's pain much more real to me. I wish I could give that kid some of my unwarranted good luck. Your post stopped me in my tracks and made me feel.

And you say you're not a real writer...

I love you!

Samantha Dugan said...

Ron My Love,
I wish I could capture some of the beautiful comments I've been reading over on Raylene's Facebook page where she posted a link to this. The people that knew her, were involved in her life and fight, their outpouring of love and admiration is now something that I am lucky enough to be a part of. I've been either in tears or smiling all day, all that just for letting them know how much her spirit moved much Jordan's face captured my heart. I'm still aching for him and I cannot wait to hold my baby in a couple days.

Writer or not, the one thing I know is I'm not afraid to feel, let things and people touch me, change me, and you my beloved man, are one of the ones that has changed me the most. Thank you for commenting Love, I don't expect many people to be able to find the words, or even really allow themselves to feel uncomfortable enough to try...I was hoping you would. I know very well that big sweet and gentle heart of yours and I was so hoping you would come here and stand beside me in honoring this beautiful, strong woman and let our hearts break a little for that young man. Thank you Sweet Ron. I love you.

Winey the Elder said...

"...not really a writer..." Then what, pray tell, are you missy? A gifted storyteller with an impeccable knack for imbuing words with life, passion and vitality, to the point that you leave many of us breathless, occasionally tearful, and always coming back for more? It may be that I am never fortunate enough to meet you, but I know that if I did, I would hang on your every word. That's the way of the storyteller and when the story's written, I'm thinking it makes you a writer.

This is a wonderful story of perspective, from beginning to end. Every day I look for something to keep my perspective in check and now I will add Sonia...because of you, not really a writer. And Sonia and her bright eyed Jordan will make my riesling a little crisper tonight. Please don't stop not really being a writer. The world needs all the soulfulness it can get and you, SSD, have it spades.


Samantha Dugan said...

Winey The Elder,
Damn, you wreck me. Cheers to you, Sonia, Jordan and your Riesling. I'll be contemplating your words as I am looking at being a handful of posts away from hitting the 600 mark and wondering if I should continue. You melted me with this, thank you.

Charlie Olken said...

Good morning, Sam.

I had to think about this overnight because we have been down this road of "To blog or not to blog" before, each on our own and with Ron, more than a few times.

My sense is that there is no single reason why people choose to blog, but lots of reasons. Wark and Heimoff blog because they have things to say about the wine biz and because blogging is good for their standings in it.

I blog because, like others who make a living in wine, I want to attract a few flies.

Ron blogs because he cannot help himself--and thank goodness for that.

You may blog because yo cannot help yourself as well, but whereas Ron's energy comes from weird spot in the back of his fertile mind, your wriuting comes from the heart.

And it that big heart of yours that makes your writings unique and irreplaceable to your loyal and loving band of followers.

Writing anything significant is work. It makes demands on our minds, on our time, on our souls. I know that I love it and hate it all the time and at the same time.

Six hundred posts from the heart is a lot to give. You add to our lives. Thank you for that.

Samantha Dugan said...

I've missed you....