Thursday, January 31, 2013

Gots Me.....

A couple pairs of jeans
Some T-shirts 
One cuddly sweater 
A fistful of underpants and...

Six bottles of home to share with my painfully missed and forever adored best friend Amy in Dallas....Texas. Never in a million years thought I would be this elated to be boarding a plane that will land in the country of Texas but if the shit eating grin, (and yes I'm using it but where the hell does that phrase come from?!) on my face is any indicator, pretty fucking happy right about now. Maybe it's the promise of brisket, honky-tonk, day-drunk in dive bars or byob strip clubs but I have the sinking suspicion that popping these corks, with an amazing woman that loves me for each and every annoying bit that makes me me, might be the cause of the thumping in my heart right now. To share these wines, with her, over a meal or while wiping away, "I miss you so much" tears, and knowing that when the pain of missing her gets to be a little too much, all I need is a corkscrew and one of these bottles to remind me.

 That tiny terror of a girl on the left there and I, only a bottle away from each box of home making it so.      

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Puddle Maker

In an effort to be like all the best bloggers this week, this is a repost. No I'm not down with the flu like my beloved HoseMaster of Wine nor off in New York going to fancy galas or award dinners or whatever like STEVE!, just behind the eight ball on deadline for work, which means I simply can't feel right about posting here while my boss waits for me to turn something in to him....that and I woke this morning with my Tyler on my mind as he is, as I type this, undergoing a surgery. Nothing major but it does involve a anesthesiologist and that right there is enough to give me flutter in my belly. 

This piece was written way back in 2009, at the very beginning of what has now become a full-blown love affair. Tyler is very much a part of my life now and simply cannot imagine things any other way. I am a very lucky woman indeed. Please enjoy the rerun, I think love stories are grand.
I'm thinking of you Ty and I love you.    

So I have noticed that the older I get the more I find that those short people that toddle around, spin until they get dizzy and get excited by the sprinklers, not only tolerable, they can be down-right adorable. I was one of those, “Not really a kid person…you know except for my own” but it seems that something is changing. Not sure if it started when my son became a young man, no longer finding it hilarious when I puffed my cheeks up and bugged my eyes at him. Could be that my “clock” is creating a shift in my space time continuum or it just be that 2 years ago the cutest kid, (again aside from my own) moved in across the way from my apartment. 
When they first moved in he was just a baby, so I gave him little or no attention other than the typical “Oh great…a baby” comment, complete with eye rolling and a snotty teeth sucking sound. I envisioned late nights having to endure that squealing, new baby cry, or worse, being face to face with the family on the way to my car, having to say, “Oh isn’t he cute” hoping to God that they wouldn’t respond, “Oh thank you. Do you want to hold him?”….because ya know…I didn’t. Wasn’t him, just not into babies, I find them texturally unsound, too soft. Don’t’ want to hold them too lightly and risk dropping them when they make those random jerky movements and don’t want to have a Lenny, (Of Mice and Men) moment…too much pressure for something I didn’t want to do in the first place. 

I was never rude, I would wave when I saw his parents, they are a very sweet couple…so sweet in fact I almost forgot the kid was there. Never heard him cry, or the once or twice I thought I heard something their front door would quietly shut and the flicker of baby sound was hushed. It was almost 9 months after they moved in that I really noticed him, noticed more bang-bang-banging, giggling and every once in a while I would peer out my window watching this tiny toe headed kid, hands gripped to his mother’s fingers for dear life while he was learning to walk. This was when I first noticed those little pangs of, “Awe”. 

Another couple months and he was teetering around pretty good on his own, although he still needed assistance getting up on the stoop….not much you can do with 4 inch legs and all, and he began to discover his voice. He would stand at the screen belting out these sounds from way down in his tiny little tummy, he would do it for like 40 minutes at a time. Deep grunting almost guttural sounds could be heard floating across into my apartment, but all I could see was the very top of his not so tiny head, and the outline of his bitty self standing there with his palms pressed against his chest, letting the vibration tickle his little digits. This began the chuckling on my part.

Well it has been all down-hill from there, he has learned my name, he yells across the courtyard at me, he re-named my husband, (Carl) Call-o….something we all call him now, and when I’m not home he yells to Call-o, “Hi-lo Call-o, where Sham iz?” and when he is told I am still at work he responds, “Okay, I tell her later den”….dude. Long time readers have heard me gush about him before, I’m a goner, he won me over; big blue eyes, white blonde hair atop his generous melon and a disposition that makes him irresistible….oh and he even has a little shirt that says, “ladies man” on it….seriously, this “one tough nut” has been cracked wide open and I am infinitely happy watching him putter around the courtyard and find that I am totally bummed when he is gone all day…..can you say, sucker? (Shaking my head)

So today….today he one upped himself in the book of cutest things ever department. I saw the screen open, I saw his mom with a paper plate in her hand and I saw him come bounding across the patch of grass that separates our apartments. He placed his lighty-up shoes on our stoop, to show us again….you know that they light up and his mom handed us the plate saying, “Tyler made these for you. Tell them what it is Tyler”. “I made Balen-times cuck-cakes” (Melting) he responded. “This one is yours Sam” his mother told me while pointing to the cupcake that had a little heart candy that said, “Cup Cake” on it….I stopped myself from snatching him up and giving him big ol’ hugs right then and there. “I use da mixer, put fwas-ting and sprinkles on dem” he beamed….it’s over, my hard as nails act is finished….big touch looking girl reduced to a pile of goo by a 2 ½ year old and pink cuck-cakes…..sigh


Friday, January 25, 2013

Takes A Village

To unleash the kind of virus that will swim into the nooks and crannies of their kingdom and eat away at the infrastructure until it all crumbles down upon itself leaving nothing but a huffing blast of once hot air and the stank of the truly rotten. The villagers yammering away about small portions, snooty service and lack of authenticity, (as if they knew a thing about it) while their Rome falls apart in heaping, smoldering hunks of noxious gassbagery and ego encrusted goo. Awe…sniff. 

Got a message in my inbox the other day, my much adored John Kelly posting a link on my Facebook page, one that carried with it a message, “Samantha Dugan would you please go up the road and administer a huge dope slap to this douchebag, and tell him it's from, oh, I don't know - EVERYONE?” not sure why John thought of me in the midst of his rant wherein he used choice phrases like “turd blossom” and was so irked and seething I could actually feel his spittle right through my laptop screen, but I was flattered that he thought of me and wanted me to unleash something on someone. I clicked the link, (this one here,0,2390332,full.column found myself irked as well but with the distractions of work and the catching up with my trash T.V. after my whirlwind trip to San Francisco, well I confess to letting this tiny huge story slip my mind. That was until this morning.

Woke this morning with this grinning prick on my mind. A smug crank yanking tool not only one of those self-impressed and imposed, assholes that fancies themselves a critic but one so over stuffed with self-gratification that he has gone ahead and deemed himself the King of Tards or whatever. So Mr. Entrepreneur here will take a break from his online reviewing…that no one is paying him for thus his opinion means nothing to anyone other than he and his mom who is likely hoping his little hobby here might help him find a partner so she can stop doing his extra quesadilla stained laundry, to go over your online reviewing and decide, (and come on now…like this jackhole is discriminating) if you are worthy of a ReviewerCard. One he will charge you $100 for that you can flip out at restaurants, retailers, wineries, rental car facilities and hotels that will assure them that you are just as big a jackass as your note pad, flashing camera phone and “So I have like a 54 Klout score” utterances infer. Doesn’t take Charlie Sheen to tell you, that, is, winning!

Found myself picturing the moment I actually saw one of those cards, either watching it happen while dining out or horrifically, if one should appear at The Wine Country and aside from laughing my ass off, I can’t imagine what I’d do. As a retailer I think about the fact that my instinctual reaction would be to tell anyone flashing The Card of Douche to go ye forth and procreate, and how that might not be exactly the kind of lavishly special treatment they had been banking on…how they might parlay their annoyance and pissed-offedness into a scathing one or maybe even zero star, (do they have those?) review over on Yelp which would bring our overall score down and make us look bad but…what happens when all those poor people that saw Yelp as a valuable online resource for unbiased, (never was folks, place has always been brimming with paid for reviews and sabotage by competitors, not to mention a venue for miserable fucks to go and vent about how badly they are treated…not because they’re dicks, because the place sucks. Um, huh) reviews by like-minded people, find out that the site is positively saturated with corruption and flat-out bribery? That right there is the part that bugs me the most. 

So a free quesadilla or a shaving of dollars can take a one star review to a five star one and this asshole doesn’t see the harm in that. Well, for him there is no harm, he got what he wanted and even has the added stroke of being made to feel as if his review makes any kind of difference. The problem is, for those reading his paid for, and it was paid for if free goods were given, (much like Total Wine tweeting that anyone giving them a good review should come by and get their gift, it is a paid for “review”) that review’s credibility is seriously in question. As it should be, I mean think about it, we are all busy people right? We have only so many hours to spend right? So now ask yourself whose reviews you’re reading and why they are cranking that information out? Is it to ensure you have a great experience or to ensure that they do? 

Creepy. These folks and their insidious bullshit are just creepy and I for one was thrilled to see this article in The Los Angeles Times calling out the people that are working the system of social media and taking advantage of everyone’s trust. Now I just wonder how many more will put money in this nozzle’s pocket, get their. “I’m a Giant Tool!” card and make asses of not only themselves, but those of us that might log onto a shared site that was originated to share information, outside of commercials and sales, to talk food, windshield wipers, hotel towels and goofy blonde French wine specialists…

I rarely used Yelp and now I know my interests aren’t being served there, so I won’t be traveling back anytime soon. Just makes me sad to think of the restaurants that weren’t down to be shooken down, weren’t willing to toss in a side salad or give a free dessert for some card flashing douche and now has a lesser rating thanks to the "Give me something free, I'm a very important" asswads. I think everyone, I mean those of us that would sooner die than be part of that set, should talk about this noise and help the King of Tards take down his village of idiots. Yelp had its run but it was, idealy, a site based on consumer reviews that has now been taken hostage by shake down artists and extortionists, and everyone needs to hear and know that. And just what is Yelp going to do to combat this? My guess is nothing and the poor unsuspecting schmoes that use their site are just blindly taking advice from pathetic wannabe critics and vengeful scam artists....

Business owners, we should all ban together here and speak up against these greedy douchebags, refuse them what they demand and make sure to call them out if they should try and hurt/destroy our businesses via social media because they didn't get something for nothing. I'm pretty sure we would be doing a public service.... 

Looks like a few people are already telling this jackhole what they think

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Soup & Sandwiches

“My lips hurt” a young Colin, one of our newer hires rubbing his thumb across his lips and giving us all a scrunched face full of discomfort. Nice kid young Colin, a sweet….almost too, disposition very eager to help and feel a part of the shop and what it is we do there. He handles shipping and general stocking duties part time for us while he tries to finish his degree at Cal State Long Beach. Colin and my son are the exact same age, Jeremy might have a couple months on him but to meet them you would swear there was easily a five year difference. Not sure why that is, I mean other than the fact that Jeremy moved his ass all the way across the country where he was out of reach, both good and bad, of his family and was pretty much on his own. That or it’s simply because Jeremy is my smart ass offspring but either way, Colin just comes off a touch more…in need of help as it were.

The sweetly scrunched face caused me to grab my backpack and plunge my pudgy paw deep into the cavernous belly of my, “Purse” fingers brushing over each crinkled receipt, dog-eared business card, dried out pen and wad of tissue like tiny little honing devices. Rummage, rummage, grunt and dig about until my fingers stopped upon the object they were looking for. I snagged a piece of tissue paper, gave the blue tube of medicated lip goo a crank before giving the tip a samurai like swipe. My cooties removed I extended my hand, little tube pointing in his direction to young Colin. “Here. Use your finger…but it should help” I said my own face now scrunched as I tried, fruitlessly, to act like I just so happened to have extra, didn’t care but was sick of looking at his sad face or whatever like attitude would assure him, or anyone else watching for that matter, that I was badass bothered by the whining rather than actually giving a shit. Sigh….

“Soup and sandwiches” hearing this when I was young as a response to, “What’s for dinner?” was one of those red flags. Soup and sandwiches meant we were running really low on cash and our dinner options were limited. For me the soup and sandwich option was a million miles away from pancakes and zero options so, well it was kind of a treat in a way. When I was about three my mother nicknamed me Mouse, this moniker was given not only for the stealthy way I moved about and spoke very little, it was for my nearly un-holy love of cheese. Had this cheese sickness since like birth so soup and sandwich night meant not only a warm bowl of brothy stuff, it meant a buttery rich sandwich of melted cheese…aka, fucking bliss. 

Happened the same way each time, my mother would come in, plastic bags draped across her arms and so loaded with goods it caused the thick flesh of her forearms to look like that weird cranberry sauce that you get out by cutting the ends off each side of the can before popping the gelatinous cylinder out onto a plate where it sits all swollen and riddled with creepy ridges. “So…what kind of soup did you get?” I would ask, always worried and full of skepticism. “Tomato of course” she would say with a self-satisfied grin as she unloaded the bags onto the counter and waited. Hated tomato soup, like with a passion and for some reason this tiny factiod was one of my mother’s weapons. She loved torturing me with the very idea of that weird pink soup swimming around in a bowl before me. She would set the can into the automatic can opener, (dude, remember those?! Does anyone still have one? To this day the sound of that werrr-rrrrurrr reminds me of calling the cat for her dinner) the lifting of the metal arm, the clicky thud as the fiercely tiny blade saw cut through the tin and freed our gross pink goo from its entrapment. My mother’s smirk as she sashayed smugly from the counter where the can opener resided to the counter beneath the cupboards that housed the pans. Torture….

“Can you hold on for a second?’ me putting my husband on hold during his customary, “What’s for dinner?” call. I had been watching a woman, older, blonde, thin and stylish tooling around our red tag section. Picking things up, studying them, spending lots of time considering them before plunking them into her red hand-held basket or depositing them back onto the paper covered sale tables. I noticed her first because it’s my job to notice anyone in the store, second for her Midwestern feel…warm eyes and understated presence but it was her struggle with a nagging cough that kept me paying attention. As someone recovering from that bullshit my own self I’ve been very conscientious of others suffering and this poor lady, she was spiraling. 

Once again in my backpack of a purse I found the big bag of Vick’s Honey Lemon drops that had been my saving grace just last week and well aware of the red blinky light that was my husband waiting for dinner directions/suggestions I snuck up all mouse like on the coughing lady, wide open bag of drops aimed in her direction. “Um, can I offer you a cough drop?” my voice a little sketchy as I realized how odd this might look. “It’s just the temperature change, its cold in here and it starts the nasal drip”…yeah, more info than I needed but I was sort of asking for it foisting drops on her and all. I stood still, bag poised in my hands like I was fucking Vanna White as if I needed to sell these to her I began to feel a tad irritated before suggesting that she maybe take a couple for later. Who was she kidding? That woman was three coughs away from gagging and I was just trying to help….argh. Marched my ass back to my call, “Soup and sandwiches” my answer to the “what’s for dinner?” question.

“Sam, why don’t you like this soup?” my mother spinning a can of whole milk into her pink chunky, texturally unsound glop that took far too long, in my young estimation, to break apart and become one gagtastic mass of sweet pink broth unsuitable for ingestion. “Its gross mom and I hate it” I would answer each and every time. She knew it and being the woman, the mother she was, flaws and mistakes notwithstanding, I would inevitably find a can of my favorite soup, (most often chicken noodle, Campbell’s, although I did have a brief but tumultuous affair with bean and bacon also from Campbell’s, it was chicken noodle that owned my soul and consistently bubbled away side by side with my mother’s creepy pink junk) in the pantry waiting for me. My breathing just a little more reasoned as I stuck my own can of soup on the “werrr-ruuurrrr” opening machine, bent down to pet the cat that came running every time we ran that blasted kitchen tool and flipped melty sandwiches full of gooey cheese in a frying pan bigger than my head. The hiss of melted butter as it bubbled against porous sour dough bread and the sexy as fuck aroma of melted cheddar cheese alerting me that it was indeed time to flip those packets of sublimity over to get toasty and browned on the other side. The smell of browning bread in melted butter and the sound of my mother’s thick, milk enhanced soup bubbling away on the stove top......comforting for me in a way that I’m just beginning to figure out.

My day coming to a close at the store I made my way to the front to shut down my computer and get ready to head home. As I turned right at the Champagne racks I saw her again, blonde coughing lady only this time, no cough. “That helped so much. Wiped it right away!” she effused in my direction with a big grin and a look in her eye a bunch more welcoming than when I had approached her twenty minutes before. She appreciated the gesture and knew I brought her the drops out of concern and mutual understanding of just how fucking irritating that nagging, sometimes gagging, cough can be. I smiled back and gave her a nod before grabbing the helpful bag of goodies that was my purse that day and began my trek home.

For the first time in weeks the inside of my car didn’t feel like an icebox when I climbed in it. No, in fact it was a tad warm from the nearly eighty degree day we had and about halfway home I found myself reaching for the button to roll my window down a little and that was when it hit me, a big, chest-filling blast of oyster shells….the ocean, I could smell the ocean wafting into the belly of my car and it was filling me with warm shivers and memories so delightful it made my eyes fill with tears. First time in months I had taken that smell in and much like a Christmas tree, baking cookies and certain colognes that smell is more than a smell, it’s a feeling. Cranked my music up just a little louder, rested my head against the seatback and took in aromatic spoonfuls of nostalgia.

“What kind of soup are you making?” my husband asked after I dropped off my bag and made my way to the kitchen and before I knew it the words came spilling from my mouth, “tomato of course”. Tomato soup?! What the hell? I’m the chicken soup lady, my dudes love my homemade chicken soup, where was I going with this tomato nonsense and why that soup now? Had no idea but began plucking things from my pantry and fridge. Canned San Marzano tomatoes, bacon, shallots, red pepper flakes, garlic, hunks of Pepper Jack and Fontina cheeses. All items splayed upon the counter I settled comfortably into cook mode…on auto pilot and with my own grinning sachet hip swinging dance thingie. 

One can of tomatoes drained, dusted with dried thyme and set in the oven to roast, thick cut bacon in the frying pan spitting and hissing, causing me to poke at it with my tongs while muttering, “Oh settle down you” before taking the crispy strips from the “bacon juice” (shhh sounds classier than fat doesn’t it. Let a girl dream dammit) and resting them upon quilted bits of paper towel to drain. Grilled cheese is a fantastically perfect food in my world but for my husband dinner isn’t dinner unless an animal has been sacrificed, so bacon and Pepper Jack grilled cheese sandwiches it would be. Another can of tomatoes in the blender with a handful of cilantro leaves, a half palm full of salt, two moist chipotle and several cranks of black pepper, a quick whirl and there it sat as I sautéed thin slices of shallot, garlic and pepper flakes in bacon juice. The house swimming with the smell of roasting veggies, thyme and bacon my heart wide open and just then I hear it…my wee boyfriend’s laugh as he and his brother play in their living room across the way from my open window. The day warm enough for their mom to leave the front door and most the windows open. Each high pitched cackle, tummy jiggling guffaw and deeply felt chortle pinging against my winter worn shell, chinking it off in in little pieces. Too long, it has been too long since I heard that steady stream of heart string pulling laughter. 

I left my pot of sweetly spiced, pureed tomatoes to bubble as I stood on my tippy toes and reached for a wine glass. Lips still burning a bit from the severity of spice in the soon to be soup I dug about in my cooler for a wine I thought might best handle my homey meal of melty cheese and bacon sandwiches and wickedly spicy soup. Passed by the sparkling wines knowing that the kind of heat my soup was bringing was just going to make those bubbles feel ten times bigger and aggressively stinging. White Burgundy had no place with its lavish body and vanilla rich oak and Sancerre or Loire Sauvignon Blanc just sounded mean. I had nearly given up and settled on some lightly hoppy beer but my eyes fell upon just the wine I was aching for, Vouvray. 

Played mother all day at the store, was enraptured by the smell of my beloved ocean on my way home, walked in to cook and feed my family and found myself melting like the butter in my pans as I heard Tyler and Drew’s laughter filter across the patch of grass that separates our front doors and fall upon my waiting ears and way the hell wide open heart. Mother. I was thinking of mine, remembering one of her least favorite, favorite meals and wearing the beaming badge of my own motherhood, proudly. No longer even trying that mothering thing just part of who I am and what makes and moves me. Not something I ever really thought about or strived for but now it is so woven into my every fiber that the mom trigger often reacts way before I even have time to think. This might be something I would cringe or shudder about….if it didn’t make me feel so damn proud. My mother hurt me, was cruel and selfish at times but she also taught me to laugh, know when I’m being fucked with and how to love and appreciate simple but beautifully prepared honest food. She was an example of both the woman I never wanted to be and the woman I find myself being now. Far, way fucking far, from perfect but honest, in love with the things I surround myself with, still searching and aching for more….

 When I opted to make that soup and reached for that wine it was done unintentionally but as I poured myself a tall glass of off dry, mineral-rich, sexily mushroom smelling wine I flashed on the last time my mother and I laughed, like Tyler and Drew, tummy splitting laughed together….she was in the same room I was sitting in, feet tucked in under her large frame on my couch, body, as always, awkward and posed but her laugh, her uncontrollable, too much Vouvray laugh, well it was genuine and the very thought of hearing it again filled my chest with laughter and eyes with tears. The last night we laughed like that together was here in my home and over a bottle of Fontainerie Vouvray Demi-Sec….I only wish I had made her

Tomato soup, of course.