Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Can't Say It Enough

“Hop & Scotch”

Not sure when I first noticed them. Maybe a couple years ago. Two men in their late sixties to mid-seventies, if I had to guess, taking a late morning stroll on one of the streets that make up my morning drive. One a full head taller, both barrel chested and sturdy, the tall one hefting a good fifty pounds more than the other, all of it up front. I’d noticed them but had not paid much attention at first but when you see the same faces day in and day out, you start to take comfort in the repetition and solidarity of us all being there, at that time of the day, on our way to whichever thing is next. 

At first they were just shapes, much the same way certain cars parked along the street and trees are. You see them but you don’t really invest in more than that. After a few months, seeing them every day, same stride, same spot and same time, I began to take an interest in them and even gave them the nicknames, Hop & Scotch. Hop the shorter gentleman, face a bit pinker than Scotch but I suspected it was because Hop had to take double the amount of steps in order to keep up. Scotch, big, six foot five if not taller looked like a giant cask walking about on twigs. Burly, hairline starting about at his temples, always wearing jeans, a blue shirt, sometimes with a flannel long-sleeved shirt over it, bowed and straining suspenders and never, ever, without his big meaty hand grasping a large walking stick. I started looking for them every morning, smiled when I saw Scotch’s mouth open presumably telling some richly textured joke or story, with Hop and his quickly flailing legs nearly…well, hopping, to keep up with a warm toothy grin spread across his pink face. The shape of their faces so similar, the lift at the sides of their eyes, couldn’t decide if they were brothers or a couple that has been together so long they take on each other’s characteristics. Didn’t matter, they were some sort of partners and I found myself nodding in their direction each morning. 

A couple of weeks ago I made it to work and as I put my car in park it hit me, “No Hop & Scotch today” didn’t think too much about it and in all honesty, as much as I found comfort in the sameness of seeing them each day, I didn’t let it plague me again until the other morning. I’m sailing (read flying, I was running late) down the street and as I turned to give the slow ass driver, that I swerved around, the, “Um, dude?! What the hell?!” face I saw him. Just him. Just Hop, no Scotch. Threw me off at first, it was as if I couldn’t see one without the other and it startled me enough to let my foot rest softly on the brake pedal, slow it all so I could process it. That was when I saw it, in Hop’s hand, Scotch’s walking stick. No twinkle, no pink face and no smile this time for Hop and my heart sank as I realized why I hadn’t seen them in a while. Scotch there in stick and likely in the heart that was walking their path and missing him, then in my car as the tears pooled in my eyes…..I was missing him too. 

“You mind if I call Shaggy?” my son in my face when I got to work the same morning. Shaggy his college roommate whose real name is Daniel but due to his resemblance to the Scooby Doo character earned him the nickname Shaggy,  the one he met that  first day of school and whose wedding Jeremy will be going back to Louisville to be a part of later this year. They are that close. I could sense something in his tone but being frazzled myself, unsettled and sad, I chalked it up to me being off and not him. I said, “Of course” punched in, got my late ass in gear, ten minutes later my sweet son came up to me, his face seemingly 20 years younger. 

Something inside made me stand as tall as Scotch, “What’s up kid?” I asked, “Pointer died” he responded. My mind raced as I tried my best to run through the faces of all the kids I met back in Louisville, the mouths we cooked for and laughs we shared, couldn’t place Pointer right away but I saw in my baby’s face the kind of heartache and loss that assured me, this was a life jarring hit. I instantly grabbed him, pulled him as close to me as we’ve been since I used to carry him around. The move as instinctual as his melting into my chest and letting the tears fall as his mother tried to soak up some of his pain. We just stood there with our arms around each other, silent until Jeremy pulled back, wiped his face and filled me in. He lost a friend to the same addiction that robbed me of a father. Fucking heroin kicking at my ribcage and breaking our hearts, again. 

Found tremendous relief in the sheer volume of emails, text messages and calls I got. People checking in on the kid and making sure, without bothering or intruding on him, that he was doing okay. Never thought much about legacy before but seeing the absolute outpouring of concern and love for him, well I know 99% of that is because of him but if I can own 1% of that, I’ll proudly take it. We spent the next couple days close to one another and those we love. Nothing too heavy and again, people waiting until he was out of earshot to ask me how he was doing, but around and letting ourselves feel saturated with honest and true love. Nothing can ever really heal a bruised heart or make loss any easier, sure we can, and do, move on but having the distraction of laughter and feeling loved, well, it makes the walk forward that much easier. 

Sitting here tonight thinking about it all, Jeremy, Shaggy, Pointer and the pain his family must be soaked in, Hop and his walking tribute to Scotch, moving on while clutching the big walking stick….I find myself amazed at how lucky I feel. Sounds fucking insane right? In the face of all that loss I find some demented way to feel lucky. Can’t help it, I do. I feel profoundly fortunate to have let enough things touch me for me to feel it all. I know far too many people that just float through, keep things at arm’s length and try not to let things move them too much….too much, not sure, for me, there is such a thing when it comes to feeling and love. For that there I’m grateful. I ache for Jeremy to be able to tell his lost friend to hold on, I sincerely hope that Hop was near Scotch when he…passed his walking stick and I can only crave making my eyes and heart even more open to those people, things, flavors, sights, textures and souls that desire being felt. 

To those of you that read my silly ramblings
I love you

To those of you that come here looking for passion
I love you

To those of you that forgive me my fourth grader grammar and spelling errors
Thank you, and I love you

For those of you that miss me when I take too long to post
You humble me and for that…I love you

For those of you that come here to get lifted upon my tongue and desire tasting what I do
You keep my head in the glass and seeing as that is one of my most favorite places to be…I love you

Get out there people. Feel more, touch more, love and laugh more. Don’t be too afraid of losing to let yourself get lost.

Drink more Chablis and Champagne
Eat more salty and gooey cheese
Emote over bacon without shame
Kiss full on the mouth
Hug with your whole body
Laugh until you snort
Bite...just a little
Remember how many people adore you
Dazzle someone with kindness
Bury your nose in a glass of something intriguing
Curse while making love
Let wines stain you
Embrace it all….

It is all too often too short, don't miss out. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Moon Dust

Was driving home the other night with my head predictably clicking away, closing the still open tabs of my day. “Okay, be sure to write Chuck from Beaune Imports when you get home and add a case of Manciat-Poncet Macon-Charnay to that order” and “I wonder if stocking some cool local bacon might be worth our time” along with, “I hope that lady likes that Cotes du Rhone with her grilled lamb chops” and “I wish I wasn’t going home to an empty pad, I feel like cooking, spoiling someone” you know, the regular schizophrenia of the working wine woman. 

I pulled into the parking structure of my (between you and I) horrible local Vons, grabbed the canvas sack from the backseat of the car, the one that weirdly smells of cigarettes even though it was purchased at least a year after I quit smoking….must be the years of smoker gunk that has saturated the porous fabric of the seats and carpet of my car. Sack in hand, no real idea or passion for what I was to grab for dinner, I lumbered through the sliding doors, past the ever-present display of Cutie clementines and stack of out of season avocados.  With the plasto-fanstasco stank of fake ass cinnamon that haunts those “This will make them buy apples” commercial markets, I managed to toss a cool, crisp head of barely green iceberg lettuce, a wrinkly red onion, some GMO’d tiny tomatoes and a silver box of Philadelphia Cream Cheese for whateverthefuckreason into my bag with dinner as the end goal.  

Feeling, oddly enough, not all that optimistic, weird stinking sack of ingredients in hand I emerged from the yuckiness of “The Vons” all the while ticking away at those tabs, trying with all my will to close the ones that didn’t need me that evening. “Fuck” my comment as I saw that in the ten minutes I was in the valley of discontent that is my Vons, a moist band of cool air had moved through and doused my still warm windows with dew. Using my bent paw I scraped the wet off the windows in order to make my one fifth of a mile drive, home from the Vons a safe one. Tossed the pathetic sack of gathered, “goods” in the backseat and swung my thick ass into the driver’s seat and that was when it filled the entire landscape of my eye slits, “that moon"

A big, swollen, butter colored moon hung overflowing and so close that I feared we were on some tragic path of implosion, one that my too many open tabs kept me from knowing was imminent.  I rested my round chin on the top of the steering wheel and let it soak in and saturate me like cigarette smoke in the fabric of a 2007 Camry….that moon. 

Made some bullshit salad for dinner, one that didn’t distract me from running outside every fifteen minutes, face all scrunched as I spread and pushed at the tiny screen of my android phone trying to get a shot of that moon. I even went so far as to ask folks on Facebook if they were able to capture a picture that might speak to the power of it but alas, no one was quite as obsessed as I was. They were busy like having a life and junk while I toiled away slicing at wads of water filled lettuce and slap-slap-slapped out to the un buried patches of my complex looking for a window, any tiny bit of space that I could let, that moon, fill me. Wasn’t too long before more wetness moved in and the fog took away any hope I had of feeling or capturing much more heart-pounding from that engorged globe of muscle. Legs swinging like a twelve year old pouting on their way home from yet another awful day of middle school, I flounced down upon the squish of my couch and closed my eyes trying to think of the last time, that moon, moved me…

“Sam, are you ready? This salon is straight out of the 1800s and Jean-Francois, he is something of an incorrigible flirt.” Aline’s words floating across the table. Her left hand cupped around a steaming white teacup, her right gracefully maneuvering a silver spoon, a deep dunk into a milky looking jar of honey before her slender fingers spun the thick and oily spoonful into the pale colored cauldron of liquid she embraced, secreting its sweetness in a way that occupied more than the cup….it seemed to slip across the table along with her words in a way that scented the deep breaths that were tugging in and out of me. We were on our way to visit the Champagne house of A. Chauvet, a tiny producer whose wines I’d been scarily intimate with but produced on grounds I’d never seen and by hands I’d never touched. I pulled the soft beige colored napkin from my lap, took in a deep reassuring tug of Aline’s sweet, honey-scented lyrics and brushed the remnants of my (not-so-good) onion soup lunch from the corners of my mouth before saying, “Yup. We got this lady. Let’s go”.

Our mini-ish van pulled onto a small by our standards street, barely room for cars going in two directions to share the narrow bend, I saw the big looping letters of the winery sign, “Perrier Jouet” and just as my head spun to utter the, “What the hell?!” Aline pulled our car into a tiny lot, across the street. Before I could even open my door there stood Jean-Francois, smaller than I expected, (but he somehow managed to triple in size the more he spoke) dressed dapper and ready for receiving guests. Little tuffs of white curly hair bending out above his ears and not quite covering the span of his whole head. He wore the mischievous grin of a man half his age and with a quarter of his vigor, so it was sort of love at first sight, for me. 

We walked the chalky cellar and Jean-Francois relished in showing me how they worked the lights on slender bits of wire that ran through the moist chalky underground of where they stored their tremendous Champagnes. A smell that I can’t quite yet define slipped into my chest, this damp, sweet, ghostly but warm smell that reminds me of scrapping my nails along the walls of the cellar, the way the wet stones would cave and bend beneath my nails…the way my lips spread when I thought of the fact that one of the next people that came to visit and walk those same steps, they could see the thin, hollowed out swipe of my thumb nail that now runs along the walls of that cellar. I marveled in the vulnerability of that soil and the tenacity of it surviving my digs along with those of time and war. This place, these people, those wines, that grin….these were things by far more powerful than I.

“Samantha, I have to tell you, we are very proud to be in your store and I want to thank you for including us in your selection for your customer” Jean-Francois’ words as he stood from the centuries old chair from which he had been pouring us wine, in glasses that were over 100 years old, “If you would be open for another glass, might I share something from our cellar with you?”…now that was just swoon inducing but also, wicked smart, Aline and I drank deep from that flirty, adorable distinguished man’s old glasses and begged him to let us import, (well that was her part, I just got to reap the benefits of my flirting back and pleading) the last few cases of the 2005 Grand Cru Blanc de Noir he had left. I’d have thought the so-called flirt was a hustler if it had not been for the fact that his sister in-law ran and retrieved the wine from the family’s private stock, and sort of grumbled at him, in French of course, for sharing it and even considering selling off such a rare family treat.  Wasn’t about that wine for him, it was about us having a moment, one that would follow us back to Southern California, one that we could sing with honey scented voices that explained them, their family, to all of you. Found my own little bit of honey saturated verbiage as I cooed and engaged her and she nodded and let us buy all they had left….

I thought of Jean-Francois’ sweet face, effusive energy and sweetly soaked passion as we piled into our car and headed out, the way he too lit up when I playfully asked, “You gonna kiss me or what?!” this time beneath a dark sky before packing up to leave, the whole of the tiny city seemingly asleep as Aline and I bumped along the narrow road back to Reims from Tours-sur-Marne. We couldn’t stop giggling and chatting about how and to whom we were going to sell the A. Chauvet wines, especially that 2005 Blanc de Noirs, (just a note, I have like 4 bottles left. It is as rich, dense, and sensual…..more like wine in its depth and corseted restraint  than any Tete de Cuvee from 98% of the Grand Marques I’ve had) and how we could easily teach grower Champagne with wines like this, people like this resting in our back pocket. The bright sky we rode in on a lifetime behind us as we made plans, spoke in terms of bubbly wines that wore the embossed texture of noble Burgundy, bubbles or not. 

“There is no going back from here” the whisper to myself as we made our way back to the hotel to rest before a quick brasserie meal, falling into bed and starting again the next morning. More faces, more wines, more raised brows. Lots more wine at the ready to taste but not all of them with the sweet saturation, warming passion and unabashed personality of those from A. Chauvet. I’m a better wine person for having been there, a pinker cheeked woman for having met Jean-Francois, a more complete Champagne specialist for having tasted so many wines but knowing that these, these are wines worth sinking your palate into. 


That moon

That dark red moon…..

A warm spoonful of honey that spins around my cup

Opens my tight jaw

Makes me flirt and sing….

N.V. A. Chauvet Carte Blanche ($45.99)
A stunningly balanced Champagne that rides that sensual line of sweet, textural fruit and biscuity yeastiness. Full and curvy on the palate the roasted breadcrumbs and nuts push right up against the sides of your mouth before the succulent green apple notes come through like a river of freshness. 

N. V. A. Chauvet Grand Cru Brut Rose ($48.99)
You find a buttoned up bit of saucy red cherry fruit in this understated and wicked valued Brut Rose. Lusty weight on the palate but with those nibbles of acidity on the sides of your tongue that keep you coming back, aching for, more. Far more wine here than you get with anything from a big house at this price point and the finish, it defies you to quit...

2005 A. Chauvet Grand Cru Blanc de Noirs ($74.99)
If you don't try this limited and voluptuous wine, let it stain and soak into your palate, well then you might just be dumb. If Burgundy had a bubbly and effervescent, curved and compelling cousin, this wine is it. Wanna we wrecked by wine...let me help you and pop the cork on one of my last 4 bottles of this.