Thursday, April 26, 2012


So as many of you already know I try to keep politics to a minimum here on this blog, be they the politics of the nation or the political rumblings within the wine business. It’s not that I don’t have opinions, hell I have loads of them, just not so arrogant that I assume everyone cares what they are, or that my rants here are going to do anything to change anyone else’s mind. In the earlier stages of this blog I would climb atop my soapbox more, sling some mud around or cheer when my political party had a victory but, well I began to see there was really no point, nor did politics have any place on a blog where the focus has always been to bring people closer, make them more comfortable, showing the more personal side of wine and the people involved in it. The more political pieces I wrote simply didn’t fit or belong here. Now that being said….

“Can I buy you a drink?”

My husband was out of town a couple weeks ago and after a long 9 hour shift I found myself hungry, tired and not in the mood to head to the market let alone cook, so I did something I had only done a couple of times before, have dinner out and alone Headed to a local place my husband and I go to at least once a week, good food, servers that know us and that has a great little backroom bar that’s quiet and if anyone there is “on the make” they are the 80 year olds from the senior living center down the road. As safe a place as I could think of to have a drink and quick bite to eat. Walked through the front door and gave the usual smile and point to the hostess, letting her know that I was heading to the bar and would not need her to seat me, made my way down the hall and stood at the podium at the entrance of the low-lit bar until a busser gave me a nod to pick whichever of the ten open tables I wanted.  Slid into a booth and gave the server, (not my usual one but it was a Tuesday and I rarely go on Tuesdays) my drink order, pulled out my phone, a book and a small notepad I keep for taking notes. Things to busy myself while I waited for my food.

My drink arrived, icy and exactly what I was needing, after one sip I gave the server my order before going back to my cell phone to read and answer emails. “Can I buy you a drink” I looked up from my phone, past my still half full cocktail to see a man that looked to be in his mid-fifties standing at the edge of my booth, a glass filled with ice and some sort of brown spirit. “Oh, that’s sweet, thank you so much but I have one” I said with a fairly warm but firm tone. “You might be in need of another one plus it breaks my heart to see a beautiful woman sitting alone in a bar” I could feel my face going a little hot but stood firm. “I’ve already told her” pointing at the server across the room, “that I will have another when my dinner comes. Just popped in here for a quick bite and some quiet since my husband and his friends are playing cards at home” total lie but I wanted to make it very clear that I was married and in fact there to have dinner and some peace and quiet.” “I would never let my wife eat out alone” the getting-less-attractive-by-the-second guy responded, “Yeah? Well I can’t imagine why” I lobbed back, this time less warm and with the smirk that tends to make others back down pretty quickly. This dude, relentless. 

The banter continued and after a few minutes I was pretty damn blunt, not easy for me as I know it takes some courage to walk up to a stranger and I never want to hurt anyone’s feelings but, “I really do appreciate the gesture, I’m flattered but I honestly did just come in for dinner and to be alone” which was met with, “Oh you work at The Wine Country? That’s the place on Redondo, in Signal Hill right?” fucking uniform. So now I was not only me I was a spokesperson for the store which makes being mean even trickier. This began a short conversation as to why I was having a martini rather than glass of wine, “Well the wine list here is pretty dreadful, plus there’s just something about steak and eggs with a cold martini that works for me” still in store mode and grateful to see my server heading to the table with my dinner and second drink. Plates placed before me, my tummy rumbling both from hunger and anxiety but knowing this would be the end of my little unwanted chat with a stranger.

I slipped the silverware off the paper  napkin, laid the napkin in my lap and took a little bite of buttery, crunchy and still warm hashbrowns. Surely this would be an indicator that it was time for my pesky intruder to go away, “Hey I need to use the restroom, you mind if I leave this here?” the asshole now placing his sweaty drink on my table. “Dude, the bar is right there and that’s kind of what they do right? Watch your drink?” to which the cat chuckled and waltzed off to the “Little boy’s room”….fuck. I start eating, finished off my now too warm first martini and took a sip of the second for refreshment and a bit of liquid courage, time to be rude dammit. I was slightly distracted by how perfectly my meal was cooked, steak had a nice seer and was delightfully reddish-pink inside, eggs just set and yolks still oozy, just the way I like ‘em, and those damn hashbrowns the best I’d had there in months. Could have been a wonderful meal….

My fork and knife in hand I start to cut another piece of steak, had nearly cut a piece off when I feel the cushy bench seat beneath me tremor a little, look up to see that smarmy grin and flat brown eyes staring back at me, this time across from me….at my table. The aggressive prick had taken it upon himself to have a seat, at my table, while I was trying to have dinner, alone. He picked up his drink, wet wad of cocktail napkin still stuck to the bottom, leaned back against the back of the booth and shot me what I’m sure was his, “No chick can pass this up” smile. I pushed my plate to the side, laced my fingers, my back rigid and face now twisted into a fierce glare. “Look dude, I’ve tried to be polite, tried to be compassionate, I’m really not a bitch but you don’t seem to be hearing me. I came here to be alone, I’ve said that over and over again, not looking for a dinner….or any other kind of companion. You’ve gone well past being annoying and are teetering on the edge of pissing me way the fuck off. If you don’t get up now I will have to ask these people throw you out” I said through teeth so tight I could feel an ache in my jaw. 

A long stare, my eyes filled with anger and the tears that tend to come with that as I watch the goofy, flirty face across from me go from hopeful to full of rage. “Fuck You!” he screamed at me, “You should feel lucky I was even hitting on you in the first place!” bits of spit gathering in the corners of his snarling mouth, arm now raised in a backhand position and with an extremely violent swipe he knocked over not only my glass but the condiments on the table, everything crashing around me in a series of clinks and thuds. Startled by the noise and the pool of gin that was now gathering into a little river and was headed straight for my lap, I leapt from my booth to my feet just to hear the clatter of more noise as he slammed his fist against the table. My head reeling, heart pounding so hard it was making my ears ring, my hands curled into fists, nails digging into my palms as the prick slowly rose from the table, “Ma’am are you alright?” followed by, “Sir, is there a problem here?” two Long Beach police officers that just so happened to be on dinner break a couple of booths behind mine, now standing between the asshole and myself. Guy taken outside, table cleared, a fresh new cocktail and the offer of another meal to replace the now cold one. Dinner was already ruined and my stomach wound into such tight knots that any appetite I had was long gone, I sat with the officer and relayed my side of the rather unbelievable story, my hands shaking almost too much to even bring the martini to my lips. The gin steadying my nerves a bit as soft-spoken officer tried to calm me down and assured me that I had in fact done everything correctly…. 

“You didn’t sit at the bar, you had reading material, you aren’t dressed provocatively” those words swimming around in my head as I made the drive home, incident behind me as well as two very well meaning officers that insisted on tailing me to make sure I got home safely. As well-meaning and correct as the officer’s comments were I found that I was even more enraged by the time I got home. “You did everything correctly”? Is there a laundry list of shit that men have to consider before dinning out alone? Complete and utter bullshit, a sad fact but still bullshit.

The whole incident too much of a glimpse back into a part of my history that I’ve spent a long time trying to distance myself from. The locking of my front door and closing of all the windows in my apartment, that uneasy feeling with each and every noise from outside, the fear that I’d rid myself of back, a least for a little bit, leaving me feeling deflated and by morning, severely pissed off. I knew that guy wasn’t coming for me, in fact the police told me he was extremely embarrassed by his behavior and while I felt threatened for that moment at the table I wasn’t even really afraid to drive home alone but….. that look in his eye, that trigger temper, that, “who the fuck do you think you are” face, that loss of control on his part….wasn’t the first time he’d gone after a woman, sadly probably won’t be the last either. 

Tuesday night The Wine Country hosted a fundraiser; one Randy has been doing for years and one that I find too difficult to work, simply due to the fact that I find it damn near impossible to hold my shit together long enough to make it through it. An event to raise funds for a cause that far too often goes swept under the rug. A cause that infected my family for a decade and that to this day finds little pockets of infestation that flare up, cause suspicion and leave me…in the face of questions and “Why didn’t you tell us all of it?” longing for the faceless, nameless moments of peace found in that bloody bathroom stall. Last year I wrote this post,  sharing my story, the nightmare I went through, for over 10 years and while I never lived with the man that stalked, tormented, tortured and haunted me I can say, without hesitation, or apology, I was a victim of domestic violence. Bats against my skin, broken teeth, running up the stairs of my complex, my shirt hanging in rags in front of me, back exposed, bleeding and raw from a beating, the cold tip of a knife digging into my flesh as my monster slashed at me. I ran, I hid, I fought long enough to make it into the safety of my home. Did what I had to, needed to, to make everyone believe I was on top of a bubbling situation that could have cost me my life.  Thing is, I had a place to go….

I was lucky. Didn’t feel so lucky when I splashed cold water on my face, held the cotton balls saturated with peroxide, to my split open and enflamed skin. I felt lost, afraid and like a fool for ever falling into a web of suffocation and brutality in the first place. Like it was my fault, for being blind or stupid or so alone that I would let a monster close enough to do irreparable damage to me or my family. Owned that long after the slashes and bruises were gone. The event our store hosted raised money for the people that didn’t….don’t, have anywhere else to run. Think about every woman you have ever truly loved…now click on this Help them. Help them assure all of us that there is indeed a place to go, to feel protected and cared for….a little bit of peace and quiet not filled with shame, rolls of tissue paper collecting blood or in the grease scented stalls of a fast food restaurant. Help them.

I woke this morning, the buzz of good doing and hope pushing at the balls of my feet and making me feel light and strong as I made my way to my morning coffee. Poured the blackish liquid onto my mug. Clink of metal as my spoonful of sugar clunked and bumped along the side of my mug, the “sploosh” of cold milk  added and I had my milky coffee, cigarettes and it was time for the reading of all things important.

So the GOP is all up in arms now that the Violence Against Women Act now includes same sex partners and the ever unsavory, undocumented immigrants. They are trying to kill the bill this week, because of the addition of gays and thought to all the good the bill has done. So let’s forget the fact that that since 1994, when this act was passed, that domestic violence abuse has decreased by 54 percent and the number of women, being killed, killed, by intimate partners had dropped 34 percent. We are seriously considering throwing this baby out with the bathwater?!Don’t let this happen. 

The girl that nursed those sores, stood in the face of pure evil, tried her best to raise a family…bruises, cuts, sores and all is now asking for the help that I never did way back then….help me, help us, please. I was lucky, many women aren't.

I won’t ever forget, nor will I surrender...
Take a half second..
End of political rant.....


Anonymous said...

Well done, Sam. Thanks for giving a voice to those who are afraid to.

Love you (and all that junk).

webb said...

You're so very right, Sam. I doubt that there's a woman in this country over the age of 35 who hasn't been hassled in some way - from the not-so-awful (touching, bad words, sexual innuendo) to the worst (like you have experienced and even worse than that).

I will never understand why just being women allows others to treat us with disrespect.

The least we can do is contact our elected leaders and ask tell them that we think this is stupid policy. It IS stupid policy. I'm in.

Sara Louise said...

I'll definitely take the half of second.
I vividly remember your post from last year and how proud of you I was for you sharing it :)
And can I just say about that man in the bar... actually I don't even have words for him because I'm scared that I'd end up in some downward spiral into Tourettes.

Samantha Dugan said...

Sweet girl, you know you were in my thoughts when I wrote this. I love you and junk too.

Right on lady! I will have you know that I just checked and the senate voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, brought tears to my eyes when I read that. They are still trying to fight the inclusion of gays and people that are not citizens but for now, the bill is remaining. Not about party politics, this is about the fact that no matter how far we have come, there are still men out there that don't see women as equals, or worse, as chattel. It's not right, period. Thanks for being in lady, means so much to me.

That post last year was not hard for me to write, in fact I think it was harder for you folks to read. Always uncomfortable when you hear things so horrible about people you know, even if it is only an online friend. I appreciate your being proud but I have to say, I'm more proud of those of you that took the time to shove the discomfort aside and support me. The only part about sharing that stuff that bothers me is the fact that so many people think I was involved with an abusive man. Not the case. He hit me once when we were a couple, that's all it took for me to get the fuck out but he spent the next ten years running me off the road, putting tracking devices on my car, breaking into my home....torturing me but I never took him back. Would never take him back. That's the one thing I wish I had made more clear but that is all about ego, doesn't matter in the context of trying to explain how important the cause is to me.

That asshole in the bar/restaurant was the same kind of animal....just couldn't believe my luck being face to face with one of them again. Strange and unsettling but as I said above, the bill is safe and tonight I will sleep easier knowing that.

The Passionate Palate said...

Thanks for sharing that Sam. It's interesting how we have to face things again that we thought we left in the past, but this time, with the asshole in the bar, you stood your ground, spoke your mind, stayed firm in your space and truth. That is not easy for so many women to do, unfortunately. We're taught what we feel counts for less than what a man feels. You proved to yourself, again, how far you have come. The guy still pisses me off just thinking about him...but then those type of men will never cease to exist.

What the cops said made me mad, too. They are only one step away from the asshole. You would have had every right to sit at the bar and wear something sexy if you wanted to, without asking to be harassed. That thinking has to change.

This kind of dialogue, and the sharing of your abuse story, helps other women, and men. THANK YOU.

Samantha Dugan said...

Passionate Palate,
Well thank you for understanding why I've shared this rather humiliating, (and yes, it is even though I know it isn't my fault) part of my history. For knowing that it is to help inform others what it feels like, to show anyone out there reading that there are others who know exactly how they feel. It's important and needs to be talked about more....

That guy was an absolute asshole and his feelings about women were clear really early on. "I wouldn't let my wife eat out alone"...let?! Fuck you. Wasn't about to let him impose his will on me, come too far for that bullshit. As to, "That kind of thinking needs to change" well we can only hope....talking about it helps, least for me. Thanks for the comment and moreover, the getting why I do this from time to time.

Winey the Elder said...

In 1987 I became an Emergency Nurse and my intellectual disdain for the death penalty collided with the emotional "reality" of caring for the first of far too many women who have been abducted, beaten and/or tortured by some twisted ex-husband/boyfriend fuck. I'd have killed many of those fuckers, if given half the chance.

I have never been the victim of domestic violence and won't pretend to know how that feels, but I have looked into the eyes of those who have and nothing has ever chilled my soul so deeply.

I see less victims these days, but zero tolerance is the only acceptable "number". The fact that the VAWA act is even being debated says to me that tolerance for violence against women is still too prevalent. When will you "x" chromosomes please cease the reins?

I'm glad you are a survivor, Samantha and I'm sorry that you have to be one. Yours is not a political rant, it's a humanity rant. Bless you.


Samantha Dugan said...

Man, am I glad to hear from a male reader, and such a compassionate and wonderful one. Please don't feel sorry for me, a was far luckier than most and much of what happened to me could have been solved had I not been so secretive....which is why I'm speaking out now. Not taking blame mind you, but not looking for sympathy as much as support for others that have had it far worse, (as you have seen first hand) and need help. As I said earlier here in the comments, the senate voted to reauthorize the bill so it's safe...for now but they are still looking to exclude gays and undocumented immigrants. Yet another thing to admire about Su Casa as an organization, they welcome and protect ALL victims of domestic violence, regardless of gender or race/nationality. True heroes in my book. Thanks for sharing your experience sweetheart.

Thomas said...

I come back from a one-week trip and am faced with a Sam post that is simultaneously right on and depressing.

All the way through the encounter with that man, I had a clenched fist. It is hard to imagine that we have come so far and yet so little has been achieved.

Samantha Dugan said...

Well welcome back darlin' and thank you so much for unfolding that fist and lending your voice of support here.

That exchange seems almost like a dream at this point, or nightmare is a better way to describe it I guess. Not the first time I've been hit on, or hit on aggressively, but it was the first time, in a very long time, that I felt that ringing in my hears from a combination of fear and rage. Hated it but I do believe we have come a long way and since starting this blog I have the most amazingly supportive, loving and respectful men in my life....and you sir are one of them. Thanks again for chiming in love, I know this was not an easy post to read, for women or men, so I cannot tell you how touching it was to see your name here.

Samantha Dugan said...

Ears, ringing in my ears. Lets add "before coffee" to the list of times I shouldn't be posting comments!