Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Like Sands Through the Hourglass...

'Member when you were a kid and old movies would have pages of a calendar flying off into the breeze to mark the passage of time? How you thought it was so hokey, until your life started to be like that? How you find yourself saying “a couple of months ago…” and you hesitate, think a bit and realize it was nearly a year ago and you’re wondering, “how the hell did that happen!!!”

Three months ago my grandson arrived from Washington for a visit of undetermined length. He stayed almost three months, which now seems like a flash bulb of time. A penultimate example of Catch 22, visiting grandchildren. Time seems to pass oh-so-slowly while their incessant questions come as surely as the next wave at tide’s edge. A four year old is like a Duracell bunny with no off switch. Then, as soon as they’re gone, the quiet that you longed for seems deafening, and you miss their wonder at bubbles, staples, and seed pods hanging from the wisteria bushes.

Someone in our small community two years my junior just passed from Cancer two months after diagnosis. A friend has a husband my age with a debilitating disease that has him hospitalized, likely permanently. A close family friend was killed by a drunk driver earlier this year at age 22. Still, Psycho kitty and Timex live on, like guests who just won’t leave the party.

Two kids (one still at home), 2 dogs, 2 cats, and one ex that I wish would just go away, often have me dreaming of an empty nest. Of the day when I can swing my leg over the back seat of a big bike and be somebody’s bitch for a summer. Of the day that I can drive across country, flitting about like a bee from flower to flower, landing where I’d like from time to time. I want to live in the country with some animals, want to identify birds and trees, want to have a pantry stocked with things I’ve canned, and a cozy spot for sewing next to a window looking out on a garden or stand of trees. The gripe is that I don’t want to be old as spit when I get around to it!

Feelings of your own mortality creep up around the half century mark. We all live as though we’ll reach 100, but there are no guarantees. This is no dress rehearsal. If I died coming down the stairs at work, I’d be really, super pissed, ‘cause I’ve so much life left to live, and yet I wait. For what? Diagnosis of a terminal condition? The glass is half full. Accentuate the positive. Love yourself. Carpe Diem!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

What’s Your Favorite Song? Mine’s Stardust.

You can tell a lot about a person by their favorite songs and music. I’ve always preferred minor chords. My first recollections of music appreciation at the onset of puberty were those hours spent singing along to Carol King’s ‘So Far Away’ and the Bee Gees ‘How Can You Mend a Broken Heart’ while my other sixth grade classmates sang along with Three Dog Knight’s ‘Joy to the World’ and Melanie’s ’Brand New Key.’ Take the Billboard Magazine’s Hot Pop Songs of 1971 list and give it to anyone my age to figure out if they’re a glass is half empty or a glass is half full person by nature. Believe me, ignorance is bliss, and if I had my druthers, I’d much rather be Pollyanna than Holden Caulfield. It’s not a choice, no matter what all those damn counselors tell you, it’s just how you’re wired.

The summer of ‘71 a bunch of my family went to some hell forsaken place along the Colorado River for a dune buggy trip. At that particular camp ground there sat afloat a bar at the edge of the river where a pack of looser drunkards continuously fed quarters into the juke box choosing either ’Joy to the World’, ’One Bad Apple’, or ’Proud Mary’ more times than was possible to count, enough to make me contemplate homicide for the first time in my short life. We could drown them in the river, I thought. The silent death. A pack of us strong, sober teens could easily take their sodden asses. I retreated with my angst ridden cousins behind the hillock of sand away from the offending songs traveling on the infrequent breezes where we all laid around getting sunburned drinking Orange Crush and listening to Janis Joplin’s ‘Pearl’ and Carol King’s ‘Tapestry’ on my new cassette player.

But we got bored. It was hot. The river called. We longed to drift down river in our inner tubes or lay atop our anchored rafts, but couldn’t bear the 3 song repetition. We begged our parents for quarters and coaxed a friendly old curmudgeon into beating the drunken river rats to the juke box to play alternate selections such as ‘Theme from Shaft‘, ‘Brown Sugar’ or ‘Indian Reservation’ whereupon we would sing loudly to patrons from the deck at the bar’s perimeter where we were allowed along with accompanying theatrics. When Donny Osmond and Jackson 5 songs were chosen we sang as loudly and most saccharin as was humanly possible without getting us evicted from the camp. If Rod Stewart’s ‘Maggie May’ or Dawn’s ‘Knock Three Times’ played, we all made gagging sounds and pretended to be vomiting into the river. Pretty soon people began making other choices on the jukebox, looking forward to our interpretations of the songs. We relished the attention, our dramatic exploits flourishing. Favorites folks in the bar chose were ‘Go Away Little Girl’, where one of us gals would pretend to be Donny in the song, garnishing lots of yucks or when we’d enact ‘Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey’ with the majority of kids participating for full impact.

Over 30 years later, I still find myself drawn to the minor chords. There are many days when I feel like Red Hot Chili Peppers’ ‘Dani California’ but when I listen to the news on the radio I end up feeling more like I’ve just listened to Beck’s ’Sea Change’ album. Like the hokey songs say, you have to “Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative, and don’t mess with Mr. In-Between,” ‘Keep Your Sunny Side Up‘, ‘On the Sunny Side of the Street‘, and all that kinda stuff. Carpe diem. This is not a dress rehersal. Look for the good. Your thoughts and words are the pebble in the pond that causes that ripple effect. At the same time, don't be like that dumb ass frog that sits in the water and doesn't realize the heat's rising and before he knows it his legs are covered in butter on a platter for someone's eatin'. Look alive!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Things That Have Pissed Me Off This Week

In First Place by a landslide is the Ex (a.k.a. A-hole) who missed his only daughter's High School Graduation because his drunk thieving ass was being arrested. I thought he'd hit rock bottom, but evidently he’s started to dig. The only help I'm willing to give him at this point is to drive him to a bridge AND push him off.

Runners Up:

A tee shirt in a store window downtown that read "Fuck the Art, Let's Rock and Roll." I'm against profanity of any sort on public display, be it bumper stickers, graffiti, t-shirts, etc. I'm not against heavy innuendo or a purposeful play on words like the one advertising the bar with 'Liquor in Front and Poker in the Rear,' or 'Shuck Me, Suck Me, Eat Me Raw' for that Oyster Joint, but I don’t believe that public displays of profanity deserve First Amendment protection. Am I just getting old?

Crying f*cking babies and bratty ass kids. It is my curse. If you don’t believe me, come hang out with me for just half a day. You will never hear so many whining, crying kids in your entire life as in one afternoon spent with me. It’s everything I can do not to approach them when a parent isn’t watching and whisper to them with a very intense, scary face “Shut Up!” As I am of a certain age, I think this is nature’s way of telling me that even though I still have eggs, they are rotten, just like the kids that would erupt from my nether regions once again should I ever be crazy enough to think that spawning more offspring might be a good idea. An unattended little boy at Target pushed an empty cart from the front of the store into oncoming cars driving by, quickly hiding behind a post. Oh how I resisted grabbing it, hopping on that back bottom bar with one leg and pushing myself with the other crazed foot, careening towards him as fast as humanly possible before crashing into the post he was hiding behind. This is how I remain sane. Just that fleeting thought brought a smile to my lips. Anyone watching would just think I was amused by the young boy’s antics.

Tourists who drive slowly to see all the sites. Summer is officially here. It's time for me to once again listen to Wayne Dyer or some such mumbo jumbo in the car so I don’t go postal and let Road Rage get the best of me. After all, I still remember the time several years ago I flipped someone off that was dilly dallying on the road, only to have them pull in behind me at the winery where I worked. D’oh!

Trashy people. Went to the movies this weekend. There was a large group of piggish people who spoke all together too loud, spilling popcorn and bobbing their heads back and forth to intentionally set off the beeper for the 3D glasses as we waited outside of the theatre to be let in. I weep for the future. Makes me want to never leave my house.I realize of course that this is all relative, and somewhere on another blog someone could be writing about the three gals who laughed too loud at jokes they didn't think were funny during the movie and who had looked at them cooly in the lobby.

Find a happy place, find a happy place! Accept the things you cannot change...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

39 days till I'm off the financial hook!

That's when my beautiful daughter turns 18 years old and I change the locks and put all the boxes of her shit out on the porch, including her cat in a cardboard carrier. Don't worry, I'll put a little dish of water in there with him, jeez! Oh Calgon, take me away! If only I were truly that cold!

My dear sweet angel was a late bloomer in the acting out department. Pretty darned wonderful until her junior year and then all the things that other people's kids do started to tick off on the teenage horror checklist one by one. Overall, she's still been pretty good, and I do have extremely high expectations for everyone and everything in my life, but... you know, I was SO much better than her when I was her age, weren't you?

I certainly wasn't as materialistic, I'll tell you that! Shit, my single mom couldn't even afford to buy me the pair of roller skates I wanted, I think I had two new bikes my whole life up to 25, but of course since I'm old as shit, there weren't anywhere near as many gizmos back then for kids to want! I was extrememly stoked by the cassette/recorder player that I got in 1970. I walked around with the microphone for weeks, recording everyone for my 'television' show.

In my darling's lifetime (and there's her 23 year old brother who's had plenty of stuff, too) she's had 4 or 5 bikes, 2 or 3 pairs of roller blades, an iPod, a digital camera, a couple of cell phones, a small menagerie of animals (guinea pigs, cats, mice, hamsters, dogs, chickens), and LOTS of clothes and accesories. She is always wanting something, or so it seems. I finally had her start a list, which hangs on the fridge, so that when she begins to ask for something, I just say "Put it on the list."

The latest items to be added to the list are: Prom dress, Grad Night Party outfit, Grad party, presents for graduating friends. Who the f*ck does she think I am, Leona Helmsley? Last Sunday we were all set to go out and shop for the first item, since that's occurring first. Now I HATE shopping, but I was actually looking forward to it. Thought we might do a little shopping, have a little lunch, do more shopping if we hadn't already been successful. I was into the idea, which shopping-wise, occurs about as often as when I want to clean the house from top to bottom or cook a week's worth of meals in one day = 3-4 times a year, MAX.

The night before I had spent the night at a friend's house. On my way home I get a phone call from my ex who has obviously fallen off the wagon in a BIG way, AGAIN. Great start to my morning. When I arrive at my house around 11:00 am, about half a dozen male and female kids come pouring out of the house. Nora said they came over for breakfast. Hmmm. She looks pretty tired, wearing shades. By the time we get to our first stop, about 20 minutes away, it becomes apparent to me that she is hung over. While she is looking in a store my ex's sister calls and asks if I can do anything to help ex. "Yeah," I tell her, "I can drive him to the bridge AND push him off." She is quiet. While I'm thinking of what to say to her next, my daughter comes out of the store quickly and runs to a nearby trash can where she proceeds to toss up cookies from the night before. Mmmmmm. Who wants lunch?

So on the way home, after I ream her for at least 10 minutes, she tells me to "seriously, stop talking" to which I answer "When are you moving out again?" to which she replies "as soon as possible" and to which I get in the final word "not soon enough."

Birthday present? How about a nice sleeping bag, a hefty Safeway gift card, a Target gift card and a nice duffle bag. Giving your 18 year old a gaggle of grown up gifts = $500. Having the house to yourself? Priceless.

Monday, May 11, 2009

So So Mutha's Day

Mother’s Day was a bit of a let down. Not because I’m a glass-is-half-empty person, but because I pine for the days when my children were young and made me cards, gave me presents, and attempted to pamper me the whole day, even if it was a result of direction from other adults. I mean, c’mon, one day out of the whole friggin' year? Okay there’s your birthday, but often that’s a let down, too.

I don’t know if it’s ‘cause I’m getting old and sentimental, or if it’s because the world is in fact going to hell in the proverbial hand basket, but I swear try not to dwell on how often I’m disappointed in things. I know it’s because my expectations are too high, driven by the fact that I'm both a person who strives for excellence and works in an industry where perfection is the unattainable ideal. Regardless, I find myself daydreaming more and more, dallying along in my imaginary world, interspersed with the niceties of this one, in other words, I am slowly slipping into dementia, and that’s okay. It keeps me from hurting people.

I’ve always had an inability to block out the depressing aspects of life. It’s one of the reasons I had to leave NYC. The daily viewings of the homeless sleeping in doorways or huddled on benches with their blistered, swollen fingers and bare legs baring open sores in the cold evoked an unshakable melancholy that no amount of all night partying at the clubs or Bloomingdale’s shopping could purge. Back then my defense was to think of spiking cheap jug wine with cyanide and going out with little paper cups to dispense to them all, thereby cleaning up the streets and allowing me to focus solely on the tulips and crocus backed by the cold bright, blue sky.

Now that I'm 'of a certain age' I’m more prone to look at my neighborhood crazies with more compassion than melancholy. In the current economic climate, I realize we all are but a handfull of paychecks away of possibly being one of them.

'Hummer Man' walks the streets all day long having two way conversations with presumably his ex-wife (if in fact there ever was one) who apparently left him because she no longer loved him. When the rote conversation runs its course, he hums while the tape rewinds to its beginning only to be enacted all over again in the continuous loop.

'Sucks Man' walks the streets declaring everything sucks. He obviously either reads the paper or watches TV, because what sucks is always current. Last summer it was gas prices suck, followed by Obama sucks, then Christmas sucks, New Year’s sucks, Valentines sucks, you name it, it sucks. Among the litany of all the things that sucks are many truths - medical sucks, the economoy sucks, dog shit sucks, cars suck, etc.

'Hitch-in-his-get-along Rapper Dude' raps loudly as he swaggers along to the corner market for what I presume is a cold beverage of some sort. I’ve never been close enough to him to see if he's listening to music through headphones or just singing along with his inner voices. I’ve never recognized any of the songs, but I appreciate his enthusiasm.

'Head-tilting Guy' walks slowly along the main drag, with his head severely tilted to the left as though it’s just about ready to drop off and roll down into the gutter where I imagine seeing it promptly get run over by a bus, ala squishy movie noises and all. He is stick thin and breathes laboriously.

What I couldn’t help thinking about all this weekend when I observed each and every one of them is how they were once some one’s baby - loved and swaddled, cooed and sung to, and here they are, living the rough life of the streets. I wonder if those mothers think the same as a friend of mine’s who on more than one occasion said to he and his brother (while brandishing a cigarette between her first two fingers, gesturing accusedly) “I shoulda had PUPPIES!”

As much as we love them, the disappointment we sometimes feel when we realize we have no control and they're growing into the fairy tale child we imagined when they were young can sometimes feel overwhelmingly sorrowful.
The inner tapes that play over and over in our heads. Are we to blame? Where did we go wrong? Maybe I shouldn't have had children because my best wasn't good enough.

…accept the things you cannot change, courage to change the things you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
My mantra, though it doesn’t always help.

Monday, April 13, 2009

What, me worry?

I gotta say, I’ve been diggin’ this non-working’ thing. Two of my best friends are more or less ‘retired’ and I always wondered what the hell they did to fill their damn days. In fact, one of them called me a couple of days ago and said ”what are you doing all day?” and I said “Hello pot, this is kettle, you’re black” which made him laugh.

Oh, the time you have to garden, to clean (and you want to!), to research blogs and websites, to cook, to read magazines and the paper leisurely in the back yard with a big sun hat on while watching the dogs and cats play and lay in the sun… good times.

HOWEVER, it’s been two weeks since I’ve been laid off, and now as I await an answer for a job I pitched four days ago to a great company, the novelty is wearing thin. I've enjoyed the luxury of being able to catch up on several industry publications, sites, and blogs. Though I feel re-energized, if I don’t start working again soon, that time of day which I consider late enough to have a tipple might just start creeping closer to noon than I would care to admit. It’s already been ratcheted back from 5 to 3. Every day is like your day off and that can be not so good.

Having downed two chicken, mushroom and cheese lean pockets and a glass of rose to accompany each, I now contemplate a cup of tea to perk me back up to complete the chore (note, singular) I guess I should do. Hell, in the last four days I’ve done my taxes, read a book in waiting, got the car smogged and washed, bathed the dogs, clipped coupons, did all the laundry, ironing, dishes, and gardening possible, and all that’s left is THE TABLE, and if I clear that off, what will I have left???

I’m now officially in love with Eric Asimov’s blog The Pour (the NY Times wine blog) as well as Dr. Vino’s wine blog, and have been fortunate to have enough time to read current posts from Blogger Queen, Petunia Face, The Circus Has Come to Town, and The Typing Makes Me Sound Busy. Weasel, we know you’re busy, but we desperately need a new Why Women Hate Men post. Chicas necessitas mas chuckles. Lastly, make sure to check out Imbibe, my new favorite mag out of Portland, OR which covers all liquid culture - coffee, beer, wine, spirits, etc. Kick ass design, minimal ads, and great articles. Meanwhile, I guess I'll have a cup of tea, tackle THE TABLE and take yet another bubble bath. Don't hate me.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

I Finally Got Laid! (Off)

I have a very strong work ethic and have never missed more than 2 weeks of work in my life (other than vacation or disability for my two pregnancies) since I was 15 and let me tell you, that was a while ago! Here I am possibly having to go on the dole for the first time in my near half century of life. Bummer.

When all the bad news about the economy started, what was it, 6-8 months ago? I started changing the channels on the radio again, just like when there was too much election coverage, or when they started talking about number of troops killed, suicide bombings, etc. and stuck to the 'nice' pages of the paper once again, the Travel section, Food & Wine, the Pink, etc. Is this the ostrich head in the sand approach, or is it simply trying to concentrate on the good things in life, thereby necessitating blocking out all the bad?

Last year when the economy started to tank, and after opening up 2-3 statements decrying the deteriorating state of my 401K, I started to tune all that out, too. Once again, like so many times before when news was bad, I felt so powerless. More than ever before, I tuned it out. I occasionally caught glimpses of news in papers or bits on the radio about increasing homelessness, lay offs, plummeting stocks, foreclosures, etc. (I had shut off the TV after 9/11 when I coudn't stand the replaying of those tapes over and over, the ugly racism it brought to the forefront, and the match that lit the fuse of the war machines again). The food bank that I volunteer at couldn't keep up with demand. Supplies were at an all time low, coupled with an increase in demand.

I don't think I'm alone when I say that by trying to block out the bad news, you're trying to make yourself immune. It's as though the problems with the economy are contagious, and if you're not careful it could creep into your life like the plague. Which is exactly how some people I worked with acted towards me when they learned of my plight as a casualty of the latest round of layoffs. It was as though if they got too close to me, it might happen to them next. I don't fault them for their behavior. Most of us feel awkward even though we're not culpable, because as regretful as we are of their situation, we breathe an inner sigh of relief that it was not us. We feel empathy yet can't find the right words to say. I know because I, too have felt that way when it happened to others in the waves that preceeded me.

My prayer for the planet this week is that all of this turns us inside out and exposes the humility deep inside all of us. Instead of posturing ourselves as though we're above reproach and are therefore safe, in spite of the powerlessness that the current situation creates, we have the opportunity to shed much of the bullshit and live our lives with integrity and grace.

I just saw 'Milk' recently. The single statement that struck me the most was in the beginning when Harvey says "40 years old and I haven't done a thing that I'm proud of." Perhaps this is a time of renewal, reflection and acknowledgement for things more important than just earning a paycheck.

But hey, gotta pay rent. Maybe after months of meditating I'll have to go sell dime bags in a park somewhere or service old dudes in retirement homes on SS check days. Girls gotta do what a girls gotta do!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ode to a Discontinued Facial Cleanser

Oh #904, *sigh*, alas, you, too have gone by the wayside! How I loved your faint perfume of weird white glue paste my fellow kindergartners used to eat that I enjoyed second hand whiffs of. Your heavenly aroma brought me back to that bittersweet time of finger painting, naps on mats, sand play and PB & J. You left my skin feeling youthful and dewy, like a baby's ass covered in rose petals. I'm left feeling as though my hair stylist has moved out of town, vulnerable and sad.

One of the suckiest things about being in the minority retail preference-wise is that often things I love are discontinued. I know this happens to everyone, and I am a little paranoid by nature (hey, even paranoid people have enemies) but to me it seems to happen a lot. Or maybe it's just my negative Nancy side popping up like an evil gopher, since of course MOST things I buy are still around, blah, blah, blah, SHUH'-dup!

Items in point - yummy smelling White Lilac scented Tide (although it still might be out there but I couldn't get an answer so far by trying to use their sucky site), the thicker-denim built-like-a-brick-shithouse Lucky jeans, Sensation Totale from Lancome, Aveda Hair Elixir, Gatorade Berry Blast and now the facial cleanser I REALLY loved from CO Bigelow is gone, too. Though I was laid off this week, I am more sad about losing one of my most valued creature comforts. (This of course is totally facetious, which comes naturally to me as an emotional defense mechanism to ward off the horrifying reality which might only serve to send me into a downward spiral, resulting in me putting my head in the oven, which, considering it's an electric oven, would not serve the purpose of ending my desperate life, but could quite possibly catch my hair on fire, but while we're on that subject, perhaps I should clear out the garage so I can pull into it and keep the car running - one good reason to get a jump on spring cleaning!)

While horrible attrocities plague the planet, I mourn for an extinct personal hygiene product. Man, does that make me sound vapid or what?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Annie - the Timex Canine

When my A-hole ex went off the deep end in April of '07 and went into rehab AGAIN, he left behind Annie, his 11 year old dog. Since the ex had exhausted all good will he could from his friends, it was either take her to a shelter or take her home, which of course I did, because being an animal lover, the shelter was not an option. I already had a dog and cat in my new life, but Annie and I had history.

Travel back in time with me to when about she was about 6 months old. A better time in life, when the family was still together and all were relatively happy. Annie kept getting out of the yard. On a routine visit for shots to the vet we brought up her escapes to him. "Well, she's like a teenager with a six pack right now. She just wants to get out and party. If I were you, I'd consider getting pet insurance." We ignored his advice and within a month she escaped from the yard once again and was run over by a car, requiring a titanium plate in her leg to the tune of about $1200. It was then that my mom nicknamed her Timex. Takes a licking...

Back to 2007. A week or so after I brought her home, I discovered something not quite right on her backside while giving her a bath. I asked A-hole ex about it when bringing some clothes to him in rehab and he said "Oh yeah, she's been like that for a while." I immediately took her to the vet. When they told me it had likely been going on for about a year based on the severity I cried silently, looking at the old gal sitting askew on her back haunches, gazing up at me lovingly. Not only did we start her on antibiotics, but we got her on some medicine for her arthritis as well.

Fast forward almost 2 years. Annie is now 13 and every one of her litter mates has croaked. I take her to the vet for some issues with incontinence. The vet recommends a medication to tighten her sphincter to the tune of about $30 a month. Let's see - $38 a month for arthritis meds + $20 a month for food + $20 a month to wash & dry her dog bed in the jumbo washer at the laundry mat = almost $80 a month for a sweet old bitch who I wish half the time would just go to sleep for good so I could be done with it. Hell, I'm gonna be 50 this year and likely I'll need sphincter meds soon, so I say thanks anyway for now.

This week I received news that changes my economic situation from stable to critical, to put it mildly. This when I already as a single mother with 4 pets and one teenager live pretty much hand to mouth. Bummer. So what happens? The old bitch decides to eat about 4 cups of an almost empty bag of organic fertilizer. Greeeeaaaat!

Had it not been for the inordinate reek of ammonia in her urine, I wouldn't have even suspected. That reek caused me to snoop around the garage where she had been hanging out a couple of days before on a rainy day. A couple of feet from the dog door, under the washroom sink, I found the telltale ripped up gallon freezer bag that the Dr. Earth Tree and Shrub had been in. How the hell that 13 year old arthritic dog got the bag off the top of the dryer I'll never know. One vet visit, one urine test and one blood test later = $215. How's the dog? Perfectly damn fine, that's how. Here's where perhaps a little Round Up would have come in handy. Better dying through chemicals! As I type that though, my sweet old bitch Annie stands looking at me, tail wagging, waiting for her evening walk. D'oh!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Drink Up! What are you waiting for?

Last night I dined with my best friends. I had forgotten to bring a bottle of wine as I had planned, so I announced I would pull one from the hallway.

In the hallway with an average mean temperature of about 70 degrees sits a large unfinished wood piece designed for a restaurant with 8 divided areas for wine on their sides below and slots for hanging upside down wine glasses in above, an area filled with half bottles of wine, books, etc. About every two years I go through the same exercise. I take out what's gone bad since I did this last, and rearrange the wines by order of recommended consumption.

After all was done, I put a bottle of Chalk Hill 1998 Pinot Gris in the freezer thinking with its 14.9% alcohol that it might still be good. I also uprighted and sat on the counter a bottle of Caymus 1992 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. I had just told them about tasting the 2006 a day ago, and how one winemaker on the panel had said it 'should be a drink at Starbucks' it was so chock full of black cherry/cocoa/coffee/coconutty deliciousness. Worth every penny.

When dinner rolled around, we found both wines to have held up remarkably well, considering. The Pinot Gris had darkened to amber, but like Judy Dench, though very mature, was still quite lovely. Beguiling aromas and flavors of toasted nuts, dried pear, hints of baking spice, burnt sugar, and a touch of fetid white flowers. Surprisingly, it paired perfectly with the kale, caramelized shallot mashed fingerling potatoes. The Caymus was a little nasty on opening, but with some air time opened up nicely to reveal layers of dried black cherry, old leather, faint cedar, damp earth and roasted meat. Tannins were practically nonexistent, making the acid a little dominant, but it was still holding together, albeit obviously past its prime. Both wines should have been consumed (with such storage conditions) about 6 or so years ago.

Due to the fact that the average American ages their wine about 20 minutes on the car seat, about 90% of all wine produced in the U.S. is meant to be consumed within 2 years of release. Approximately 8% is good for 2-4 years from release, leaving a mere 2% that is ageworthy beyond 4 years. And that's keeping the wines free from heat, light, and vibration. I store my wines under my bead. Ba-dumb-bum! But seriously folks, proper 'cellar' conditions means 55-60 degrees with about 70% humidity, so if you hold your wines in a space that's around 70-75 you have to cut that time in half. Please forget all together the two worst/popular spots for holding wine - on top of the fridge in the kitchen (heat rises) or in a display rack in your dining room with the afternoon sun beating down on it.

Which brings me to one point that often irritates me (a longlist) - What the hell are you people waiting for? A special occasion is usually the answer. Hey, any day where I come home from work to a roof over my head and can put good food and wine in my belly, that's something worth celebrating.

After having told a group once that storing your wine in the refrigerator for long periods of time wasn't good what with the humidifier drying out the cork and the vibrating and all, a woman asked me if that bottle of Dom Perignon she had in the fridge for six years would still be good. "Jeez lady" I wanted to tell her. "You've got worse problems than a bad bottle of champagne if you haven't had a reason to drink it in six years! What about your birthday, Christmas, Valentine's Day, Easter, New Year's, So Happy It's Thursday, for crying out loud! Anything!"

To sum up - it's better to drink a wine prematurely than posthumously. If you're doubly lucky to have friends to share it with, all the more reason to get to it! Remember, a great glass of wine elevates cheap food to gourmet standards. Be not ashamed to pair chardonnay with a Big Mac! Alas, the wine makes it seem like the world's finest sandwich!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Flat Coat Retriever Bitch Seeks Black and Tan Coonhound

un.mar.ried (un-mar¢-`ed) n. 1. a couple united legally, but not necessarily emotionally or in the same physical vicinity. 2. separated but not divorced –adj. 3. divorced, but constantly haunted by their ex, as in the undead.

Craig’s List Personals Listing under North Bay WOMEN SEEKING MEN - Divorced bitter white female late 40s of average build with superb sense of humor seeks mysterious, independent nature lover to share good laughs, movies, books, museums, camping, great food and wine and occasionally marginal sex. Must love dogs and kids and on general principle abhor cell phones and related PDA devices. Control freaks, married horn-dogs, and vegans need not apply. Ditto for those sporting pinkie rings, class rings, ridiculous mustaches or affected facial hair patterns, multiple piercings, visible tattoos, or tasseled loafers. Must possess good personal hygiene, including flossing and toenail clipping. No crystals, but a little yoga and herbal teas are okay. Limited interest in televised sports a plus.

People ask me if I’m happier being divorced. “You seem happier’, most of them say. Then again, whenever anyone overhears me singing or humming they always chirp “Somebody’s happy!” not realizing that often when I’m singing or humming, I’m on the verge of wanting to commit homicide, just a quick little beheading with a large machete, and humming’s my audio Thorazine, quieting my inside-of-the-head voices.

My answer to the question, is both yes and no. Yes I am happier not having to live with X’s bullshit, and no, I’m not really happy-er, for for that to be true, you had to have been happy in the first place.

The first year was pretty blissful (save an occasional crying jag when missing the kids, usually assuaged with KFC) - catching up on years of lost self-time. Mass amounts of books were read, mass amounts of movies were watched. Long, luxurious baths, manicures, pedicures, facials, journal writing, and long walks were common place, as well as social occasions of various kinds – lectures, wine tastings, trips to the city, etc.

Best Things about Living Without a Man:

You can bend over without inciting lust
You don’t have to cook if you don’t want to
You can sleep nude without being woken by a pole in your lower back
You get to decorate exactly how you want to
You can bend over and scrub the tub without inciting lust, even naked if you want
You don’t have to supply a running commentary on where you’re going or what you’re doing
You can go to the bathroom without interruption
You don't have to go find something in the fridge which was there all along

Worst Things About Living Without a Man:

You have to take out your own garbage
You have to call someone to come help you move heavy things
You have to watch scary movies in the daytime (and even then sleep with a blunt object next to the bed)
You rarely come home to an already cooked meal
There’s no one to take care of you when you’re sick

According to statistics (which I don’t believe are true) the average married person has sex about 2.5 times per week. I happen to like it about 2.5 times, too, but per month, about as often as I shave in winter. In summer, I can be a bit randier than usual, thanks to the regular consumption of cold alcoholic-laced beverages to quench my thirst. However, I’m bitchiest in extreme heat, in which case I lie around on the couch and swing at anything that comes near me.

Close to beating my old record of how long it had been since I’d last been laid, I decided to concentrate my self-time on getting out and meeting people of the opposite sex, because, even though I detest many men, it hadn’t yet reached the point as to get me to switch teams.

I had one date with a person I met off He was cute, but not a good match. I acted like a school girl, but he wasn’t much better, spitting his olive pits into the garden area adjoining our table, and having a discourse with the waitress over the quality of that establishment’s tap water that made Meg Ryan’s character in ‘When Harry Met Sally’ seem like a person who just points at the menu to order.

Months later at a wine tasting, going for ‘almost-a-virgin-again’ status, I got into a discussion with a group of folks about a Bay Area radio show with Jon Carroll that had ‘cats versus dogs’ as its premise. The group discussed pros and cons of each. I proudly and willingly came out on the side of the dog people. One gent I had found initially intriguing turned out to be not only a cat person, but also a total dickwad.

“You prefer dogs because they acquiesce”; the affected wine geek purported to me. “Truly confident people are cat people, who, like cats, value their independence.” This kind of rhetorical punditry fires me up. “You’re damn right they acquiesce!” I vehemently replied. “I’m buying their food, I take them to the vet, I let them shed all over everything… I take them for walks, I buy them toys (even after they’ve destroyed my sunglasses, headphones, my favorite Charles Jourdan handbag, three pairs of shoes and 12 Barbies), and I damn well expect a little unconditional love and loyalty in return! Dogs get that, that’s why they don’t call cats man’s best friend!”

Mr. Superior Cat Person sat smugly and sneered at me. “Well, all I’m saying is, I can love something without requiring it to love me in return in order to feel whole.” “Yeah, well that’s because you’re single and don’t have grown up kids! Talk to me in about 15 years!” I retorted, quaffed the last of my Pinot, set my glass down firmly on the table and left, seeing as how most in the group were cat people, so my prospects for ending my sexual fast didn’t look too good.

On the way home a thought came to me. Part of my problem in the relationship world is that other people see me as more of a cat, whereas I think of myself as more of a dog, with an inner cat. I liken myself to a mid-energy level dog from either the sporting or hound group – I am a loyal companion who likes to snuggle up on the couch at home, but also likes free run of the land. Relatively low maintenance, affectionate but not needy, like strangers, love other animals as well as kids, love the water and the entire great outdoors, and am an excellent watchdog, but have relatively low protection ability.

On the other hand, most men I meet are like dogs from either the working group – not that fond of strangers, but possessing great protection ability, or the terrier group – fun loving, but hard to train (this is why they’re not like the herding group, something that you gals might be thinking of, regarding those who try to fence you in). Kids generally start out like dogs, become cats during adolescence (also hard if not impossible to train), and with any luck from the infinite powers that be, turn out to be a mixture of both, though hopefully mostly dog (I am bias).

More months go by. Record is officially broken. A friend and I decide to try speed dating. The inner cat in me decides to be calculating and come up with a list of 10 can’t stands and 10 must haves to make the most of my 4-minute conversational interludes with 18 strange men. One that wasn’t on the list to begin with, but made the can’t stands count climb to 11 by the end of the night – men who come to a speed dating event totally unprepared, with seemingly little to say.

CAN’T STANDS (my son would say that by listing these first, it cements his accusation that I am a negative person, that my glass is half empty. I do it because it will likely draw the most laughs).

1. Arrogance – and don’t give me that ‘when you point a finger at someone there’s three fingers pointing back at you’ shit either!
2. Environmental disregard (litterers are the lowest of the low)
3. Anti-social behavior (as in - your ass is usually on the couch at home)
4. Control Freaks (see Arrogance)
5. Passive Aggressiveness (can you say - sneaking around the block to go next door?)
6. Low ambition/motivation (not to be confused with procrastination, a perfectly acceptable trait, to a point)
7. Jealousness (insecurity disguised)
8. Slovenliness (I’m no Joan Crawford, but c’mon, we’re adults)
9. Workaholism (got a life?)
10. Apathy (huh?)


1. Sense of humor (ala old Simpsons, Al Franken, original Ren & Stimpy, Michael Moore, Molly Ivins, David Sedaris, Ira Glass, Sarah Vowell, evened out with a little Garrison Keiler)
2. Left-leaning politics (see above)
3. Honesty & Integrity (are they exclusive of each other?)
4. Nature Lover (must included camping)
5. Culture Addict (all kinds, including trashy)
6. Independent Social life, complete with own friends and hobbies and trips away (maybe this should have come first)
7. Dog & kid lover (best judges of character)
8. Meat eater (yes, that’s right, I can't get down with someone who can’t dig into a BBQ’d rib!)
9. Social drinker (had enough of the friends of Bill W., but equally will not tolerate those who drink to excess)
10. Love of travel (not just out of your own county)

Fast forward. Record still holds, but I pray the end is near when I move to a much bigger pond with more fish! Sounds promising, right? Show me a large town where it seems everyone is already hooked up, too young, gay, or not a good fit and I’ll show you a town that does a booming adult video rental business and has a mail truck laden with silicone toys and plastic bagged magazines in plain brown paper wrapping. So what's a girl to do? Get more pets. Currently - two dogs and two cats. Thanks be to God for their unconditional love. Looks like I will be a crazy old celibate woman with a houseful of cats after all.


Obituary listing Nov 4, 2048 – Lara Maxwell, formerly of Salinas, beloved mother of Forest Zero (lead guitarist of the rock group ‘Bus Full of Asians’) and Claire Moots (actress, New York) died ALONE of cardiac arrest on Nov. 1st in Charlottesville, VA. Her coronary was brought on by swinging a broom wildly at a young boy who had ridden his bike through the sweat peas surrounding her mail box. Local animal shelter authorities are doing their best to find new homes for the 7 cats and 2 dogs she leaves behind.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

How may I provide you with excellent service?

Though not yet extinct, exemplary service is irrefutably waning. With less to spend than ever before, I find service more often than price to be my determining factor in where those greenbacks end up. Regardless of the great deals offered, I will not shop at a store that employs obtuse amotivated drones, standard issue for stores that make me feel as though I need to don a trench coat and sunglasses before entering, lest I bump into anyone I know. Though I like to think of myself as an egalitarian, I am decidedly snobbish on this issue. Wait, I guess that's issues, as I am dissing both obtuse amotivated drones and cheesy discount stores.

Working in hospitality my entire life so far, I'm critical when it comes to service expectations. My response to bad service is less based on the degree of the infraction, rather it varies greatly depending on fluctuating hormone levels, fiscal balances, and food and alcohol consumption. In most cases I'll look stern but keep my mouth shut, at least as long as I can. For example, a scenario which I encounter frequently is when a cashier of some sort does not greet you, nor sometimes even look at you, until it's time to announce the fees due. If I've managed to keep my mouth shut until that point, I'll pay up and with as much exaggerated saccharin sweetness as I can muster chirp off "Have a great day!" brandishing a wide, forced grin. I'm sure the lesson is lost on most, and I just end up looking look like a crazy person.

I've never been what you'd call an extremely patient person, but it wasn't until about 7-8 years ago that I began to inwardly boil on this issue. Though I'm sure it wasn't the first occurrence, I mark the beginning of my 'Albert Finney ala Network' exasperation with inferior service with 'that Burger King experience.' My two kids and I approached the counter. "Hello" I said. Still she said nothing. "Here's the part where you say hi back" I said. Still she said nothing, though she did shift her weight to her other hip. I placed my order and paid my money, but vowed to voice my displeasure with bad service going forward, much to my children's chagrin. I think that might have been the first time they murmured to me "we'll be in the car." Perhaps that's why it's my kind of poor service talisman.

My daughter says I care about such things because I'm turning into an old person. She offers as her evidence my recent mumbled whispering of an expletive rather than my characteristic firecracker volley. I tell her that it was because "it was only 7:30 in the morning and I really try to hold off on the F word until at least 9." I tell her that good service is a combination of courtesy, common sense and a true desire to want to help people, that it has nothing to do with my age. "Really mom, only people your age or older care." I go on a verbal rampage about the loss of civility, blaming it on a mulitude of things - cell phones, crackberries, drugs, guns, materialism, computers, trash TV, internet porn, your basic old person social diatribe. She rolls her eyes and leaves the room to go check her MySpace page for the third time in a day. Once again I'm reminded of my favorite line in Ferris Bueller's Day Off - I weep for the future.

For Your Consideration - my most recent brushes with horrific service.

A sale at PetCo went something like this. "Hi, how are you?" I said. "Well, I'm here, aren't I?" she replied, taking a long drag off her soda through a straw. "Well, at least you're working" I said. "Yeah, well I'd rather be somewhere else" she said. She dropped her soda. "Crap!" she cried and bent over a microphone to call for 'clean up up front' and went back to taking my money, looking more disgruntled than previously.

When shopping for jeans at Macy's I asked the girl if she had any recommendations. "I usually wear Lucky's, but would like to try another brand" I told her. "Not too low, not too high." She walked me over to a table laden with dark ring spun designer jeans. "Well this is a popular brand with ladies" (meaning old, I reckon). "They fall below the waist, but aren't real low, nobody will see your coin slot or anything." I stood silently trying to decipher what she had just said. Believe it or not, I hadn't heard the term, but now it made sense, the time I'd seen a gal sitting in the bleachers ahead of me at a basketball game displaying her butt crack when someone behind me had said "wish I had a quarter." The Macy's girl must have registered my look of shock as the realization of what she meant occurred to me. "Oh sorry" she said. "Yeah, you probably shouldn't use that kind of terminology with someone whose old enough to be your mother, it's not very professional."

I called the John Ash Restaurant to inquire about the dress code for some people I was making a reservation for. "Oh you know, it's wine country casual" the man who answered the phone said. "So long as the men aren't in sideways ball caps and the women in hoochie momma shorts or belly shirts, I'm sure they'll be fine." This is John Ash we're talking about. Not Tex-Wasabi, not Applebee's, John Ash. Mucho inappropriato.

I walked through Tiffany's San Francisco in search of their repair department. I came upon a solitary woman reading a ledger in what I surmised was the engagement ring arena. She took a full minute before she looked up to address me with haughty disdain. "Where is your repair department located?" I asked her nicely. "Up the stairs, to the back left" she replied brusquely and immediately went back to her ledger. As in The Two Mrs. Grenville's - NOCD, Not our class darling...

I'm not suggesting that all people who work in the service business use overtly obsequious albeit insincere pat phrases they've been coached into reflexively delivering such as 'my pleasure to connect you' when transferring a call, but for goodness sake, if you don't like people, go get a job where you don't need to be hospitable, like in some nice factory.

The antithesis of these experiences can be just as bad. While dining at the French Laundry every time I took a sip or two of water some neatly dressed man in the wings would quietly scuttle up, fill my glass again to the top, and scuttle back. Don't hover! I wanted to shout. If I want you to come to the table, I'll let you know. Meanwhile, buzz off busboy! Spoken like a true egalitarian.