Forgive the Marcel Proust act here, I am literally all over the place.
My mother used to say, every time winter hit, that my late January birthday would always fall on coldest day of the year.
It took me a long time to parse what she really meant, and I thought about that a lot when I went to Baltimore last month. The whole trip deserves a post or two of its own: favorite museum, soul searching conversations with the loved ones who invited me, cooking all of my favorite foods, a solid novel outline thanks to a productive day here, I had a blast.
There was even a funny private story about accents.
That said, I tried to keep hidden from my hosts is how agonizing the last few months have been for me. I mentioned how I broke up with Fake Boo and Rage-Quit my job after a panic attack drove me over the edge, right? I was never too many mental landmarks away from open tears, and I was to the point that for every little success I had on the piano , there would be two or three awkward moments where I broke down and whimpered in public. At this point it’s okay to snicker at my mawkishness, but… damn.
But a funny thing happened en route to our paella night, and in tracing the route that the connections take, I may have backstopped the hemorrhaging. Jen-nay and I were driving around all over the city on a Call-Me-Ishmail quest for Valencia Rice, and she drug me to “Her” wine shop so that we could serve something appropriate.
So this is the point where I have to draw a road map…
Last time I was in Portland, June of 2014, Rachel’s cousin really opened up her world to us. She took us out on a speedboat ride along the Columbia River, and lent us her car so that we could drive along the Oregon coast. She even hand-drew this little map of Western Oregon for us, replete with all of the wineries.
But we first met up with her at what I thought was just another bar along the waterfront, a place called Veritable Quandary (I always save matchbooks) It turned out that VQ had quite a history.
It was a shrine to all things Oregon Pinot Noir, You know, acid and not tannin, ripe stone fruits, a steady sweetness…
Quick mental detour for my Cincinnati friends. When I reviewed Dutch’s Larder, a sidenote came up relating to the full-sized Bocce court Dutch’s built in their open-backyard area,
So, again back to Baltimore. A gracious yet playful cut up quick with the stories and I got the feeling he was one of his own best customers. Forced us to blind-taste wine and form our own opinions, which is ALSO my favorite thing.
So them I told him about about my whole Portlandia – retire-early-and-move-to-portland-to-write-a-novel-no-wait-sorry-EPISTOLARY-novel-thing, and summarized that the grumpy main character has a best friend who is a sprite-like fake sommelier with all of these bizarre wine rules, like “If you like to SAY the wine’s name, you’ll like the wine itself…”
… and how the main character is an unfathomably surly restaurant critic who decides to take a break and write a cookbook called “Cook this because I hate you,” and then he just stops and and he sneers. Yeah, Portland, nice town and everything, but the wine is shit… with one exception.
His face lit up and he cracked a rather expensive bottle of wine while the three of us sat and quaffed it together, almost forgetting to buy the good rioja we needed.
Then of course THIS far of the story leads me back to Cincinnati, where I fess this all up to the guy at my OWN wine shop. The one 100 yards away from my house and right across the street from the surliest coffee house EVER?
Doug tells me that he’d been invited to a wine-trade-only tasting the next day, and that he, being a normal person with kids, didn’t really want to go to it, but, if *I* went, and just told him what was interesting,
So I track down my most wine-friendly friends, a married couple, both frequent restaurant-review companions and noted pinot noir enthusiasts, and we go to Dilly at EIGHT AM.
BTW. Who the fuck has a wine tasting at 8AM?
But I get to meet the guy running the tasting, who I instantly form a huge-man crush on. He says a couple of things that are really funny – like how most americans relate to wine in terms of flavor memories but he preferred to use metaphors of things that happened to his car.
And I tell him about the absurdist one-act play I want to write, two voices in the dark, clearly at a wine tasting and clearly offering opinions, but it becomes clear halfway in that the two taster are a bitterly divorced formerly married couple (“This wine is couquettish, unlike other joyless varieties,” versus, “This wine is something you buy after you go bald and start hitting on 20 year old waitresses.”)
People love me at wine tastings.
Then on the ride back I then tell her the Jesse Ventura story. (Yes, I have a highly personal connection to Jessie the Body Ventura) and it has to do with potato pancakes.
And I guess the point to all of this is that on that long trip back down Wooster pike, that was the “Birthday.” the point the bleeding maybe, kinda, sorta, start to feel better about almost dying a year ago and then missing somebody because I didn’t finish grieving for her the way I should have, and then, of course, the stuff with Colleen.
Fortunately THIS place has a day of the dead party this year. It’s right across the street from where I just yesterday signed a lease.