Saturday, December 31, 2005

New Year's F*ck-All

Thank the Christ Child, I'm emerging from my Fuct Up Holiday Funk. I woke up this morning, and some of the heretofore sticky wickets that threatened to delay or complicate my Cork and Demon Wine Tour, March, 2006 suddenly seem to have several possible answers. I feel like cleaning the whole house, top to bottom, and while that probably won't happen, at least I'll get the living room done.

Ah, the obligatory New Year's Rezzies. I never make them, because I know that I'm going to pick some silly shit like 'Get back to yoga twice a week' and 'stop smoking pot forever'. And why do that to yourself? Some people remedy the situation by making less specific goals like 'get more exercise', but come on---go to the gym once a month and they've fulfilled that one. I am already predisposed to debilitating guilt, so I try not to set myself up for it. The only way to go with resolutions, I've decided, is to resolve to do what you already know you're gonna do. So screw resolutions. Here are my 2006 promises:

1) I promise to take baths instead of showers at least 85% of the time.

2) I promise to buy the best Beck seats I can, just as soon as the little shit finally makes his little way down to Austin.

3) I promise to keep up with all of my favorite HBO shows faithfully.

4) I promise to occassionally eat toast.

5) I vow not to become a vegetarian.

6) I swear to drink only tasty wine.

7) I commit to reading Princess Sparkle Pony every day.

8) I pledge to spend hours with Stumble Upon, at night in bed, until I pass out.

9) I promise to fart whenever necessary.

10) I resolve to drive my car through no less than six states, and while on that trip, I will write every single day. I will publish blog entries for the Cork and Demon for each winery I visit, and for this Cocktails blog every day to chronicle my trip. I will strive to make these entries interesting enough to actually read.

There, now. I have set myself up for success, and I feel terrific.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Xmas, Schmexmas

I'm not like this every December. I'm usually the one who demands a tree be put up and each of us contributes to the library of Kickass Christmas Music every year. I've kept my grandmother's handmade ornaments through many moves, even the ones that are so freaking huge that the tree required to hang them is too big for any house I'll ever own.

This year is my exception. Things are a challenge right now. You know how it is: you let something traumatic happen in the End-of-the-year Holiday Run, and the season becomes a great pit of winter despair for years afterwards. The hell with that. I need to take this one off, let all these changes happen, then save up the spirit for next year. For me, it's less of a War on Christmas and more of a Refusing to Return Christmas' Phone Calls.

This means minimal exposure to grocery and retail stores, no tree, and sticking my fingers in my ears to reduce potentially damaging exposure to Jose Feliciano. I've done all my shopping online, and refuse to sweat the fact that amazon still has not shipped my stuff. If it doesn't show up for the 25th, then they're freaking New Years Day gifts. Deal.

I went to North Fort Worth with Jer to see his family last weekend. I insisted he tell them about our impending divorce. He didn't want to lay the news down so close to Christmas. I didn't want to go up there and play Nothing's Wrong. After an exchange that was more about venting than our options, he called his sisters and told them. Each, in their own special way, let me know that I would still be considered part of the family.

His oldest sister called me immediately and told me not to worry, divorce was a regular pasttime with the family, and there were hangers on to the clan from marriages long, long gone. Another assured me that her influence with the family would be sufficient to bind me. Uh, thanks, I think.

The oldest sister's daughter is Sara, who I've watched go from household to household trying to take root. She's a smart, curious young woman now, just 21 with no taste yet for dry wine. I'll have to fix that, especially since she's into cooking. I wanted to give her something with meaning. So I got her a knife.

It wasn't the Wustoff; I wanted Wustoff but as Jer and I had only just finalized the trip hours before, my best hope was to hit the Ace Mart Restaurant Supply. They had Forschners, a step down but still really good knives. I got the 7" Santoku with the Granton edge. It's the perfect all-purpose chef tool with some weight. Some gravitas. That onion knows it's being chopped with a bad-ass knife. This feeling is important for the young chef.

I wanted to get her a cookbook, too, and here began my dilema: she's a devotee of Rachel Ray, and I'd love nothing better than to jump her up a few notches from 365 Fifteen Minute Meals. I thought about giving her my copy of The Way to Cook. It'd be a special gift because it was mine, and she could say it was from her Auntie Taj when she totes it to culinary school. But then I realized that was quite a jump, and wasn't the most important thing to encourage her from where she was? So I opted for the Food Network Something-Or-Other Cookbook with her hero, Rachael Ray right on the cover. Besides--wtf am I thinking?--that little shit's not getting my Julia Child.

Fred and Austin, my two little monkey boys, got a boxed set of The Chronicles of Narnia, which I bought despite the clerk's rolling eyes. Never mind the whole movie hooptie-doo, these were my favorite stories when I was their age, and I vowed to hand them down to my children when I finished the whole set (I really did, isn't that cute? I was so serious as a child). Kids are out for me, so I gave the set to my nephews instead. It was fun to watch them fuss over them; I wasn't sure how they'd react to getting books. But they couldn't wait to read them. I was deeply gratified. Later, I pulled myself up into the tree where Fred had wedged himself and was sounding out the first sentence of The Magician's Nephew. He's a charmer, that one. I asked him if he wanted me to read to him, and he said yes. About halfway into the third page, remembered what a dull storyteller Lewis can be. God, I thought, I hope these books won't bore them, then end up in a box of mismatched robot parts. But hey, anyway, I fulfilled a childhood vow.

Baby Sammy got Where the Wild Things Are, of course, and his mother reminded me to sign it. I'm not sure what I wrote now. I'd drunk a bottle of Cava by then.

My moments:

Introducing Sara and her boyfriend to a lovely Italian Dolce Rose. Now, that, my dear, is proper sweet wine.

Redheaded Austin, marching up to me with an enormous grin and his neck adorned with wrestling medals.

Watching Grandpa's face while he told me about the kind of woman his wife had been.

Fred giggling and pulling me head over heels into the neighbor's grass.

Colleen sitting in my lap. Sydney telling me she loves to write.

Teaching the kids how to play Exquisite Corpse.

Breakfast the next day with Ryan, at the 290 East Cafe.

All that happened last weekend. So who gives a rat's ass what goes on the 25th?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Lousy Wednesday

It's all dreary and windy outside, and between that, my sake hangover, and the fact that my oranda is sick, AGAIN, this day has sucked. I don't even know what to blog about, my head is so shorted-out. I keep thinking about ice cream, and whether I can actually figure out how to change the filter on the water tap, and how I'm a shit for letting all my plants die in this last freeze. It's a drawback to unemployment: too much time to think.

The not-yet-ex Hub and I are driving up to Fort Worth over the weekend to see his family. This is a double-whammy for me; Fort Worth is for me just one big fat memory-scape for my dead mother, and seeing his family is going to be weird, especially since most of them don't know we've separated. How will I deal with that? No matter how I slice it in my head, it comes up this-a-way: we divorce, I never see them again.

I know, the Hub says, oh pshaw, they love you, they'd always be there for you, blah, blah. But it's the little things, the cards at Christmas addressed to 'Mr. and Mrs.', the Birthday greetings, the invitations to football rivalry gatherings in Dallas, that won't happen anymore.

I try to view loss as door closed, door opened elsewhere sort of thing. It usually works, and would've worked all Holiday season long, if I hadn't volunteered to actually go see them. Now I have to go up there, buck up, and not speak of anything hurtful. I feel like it's a secret I have to keep. I hate it.

I keep thinking of those little boys that Hub's sister adopted, and how they hung all over me at his cousin's wedding. I took them down to the pond next to the event center and told them, that if they were very quiet, they could get really close to the sleeping ducks. I told them that I, too, had been adopted, and that it meant you were very special. It was the same lie that I got at their age, and it made me feel better then. I feel like I'm on the verge of losing the right to tell them anything again.

Wow. Somebody needs some ice cream. Seriously.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Preparing to take the Leap

The encouragement for my trip, henceforth known as The Cork and Demon Western Wine Tour Hootenany 2006 (C&D Wine Tour, for short), has been overwhelming. To know that others do not think I've gone absolutely batshite is a tremendous comfort. Especially since I'm not sure myself that I haven't.

One clue that I'm still on the sane side of the fence is my timetable for departure. The meticulous planning for such a trip on it's own is a load; beginning the process during the holidays and smack-dab in the middle of a marital separation is, as the French say, le fardeau du merde.

The French don't really say that. But you get what I mean.

The official departure date is March 1st, 2006. By that time, I will have acheived the following:

1) Spent a weekend with my husband's family. Maybe the last visit for a very long time. If I ever see them again.

2) Spent the first Christmas day away from him since we were married.

3) Settled the issue of our house, and who will live in it while I'm gone. Who will take care of my cats while I'm gone.

4)Made a list of the wineries, wine shops, and other enotech destinations, and plotted a route, and rooms, accordingly, from West Texas to Vancouver.

5) Put my financial affairs in order. Not like I'm dying or anything, but it's a load of my mind if everything's squared away.

6) Buy Pepper Spray, to defend myself. I was gonna get one of those little pearl-handled guns a lady can put in her garter belt, but garters make me look fat.

God, why can't I be 21 again? I could just pile a bunch of wadded up clothes into the banana yellow Vanagon and be on my way? Delayed gratification is so bogus!

And then again, it's not. Planning for this trip is part of the journey, part of the whole point of doing this: to see once and for all that, if I take the helm of my own life, I will not run aground. This hasn't always been the easiest thing for me to trust. Beyond the writing experience, the people I meet, the opportunities I discover, the stuff I learn and the country I see, this excursion is most of all about my trusting myself.

So, aren't you dying to know if I can pull it off?

Here's the way I'll set it up: this site, Cocktails with the Noonday Demon, will be my place to chronicle how this trip (and until then, it's preparation) is going for me, the things I figure out along the way about myself and the world, and any catty shit I have to say about people I meet. The Cork and Demon will house all the wine reviews, interviews, winery info and photos of vineyard dogs with big, cute eyes. That way, you can stick to one side of the story or another. I, of course, recommend keeping up with both.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Great American Road Trip

I quit my job.

Oh, yeah, I did. And it was either the silliest or most brilliant decision I've ever made. Fortunately, I'm inclined to believe the latter.

I was able to resign only because I have a safety net, and am grateful for it. But believe me, I worked for it. When my mother was diagnosed with a particularly cruel and quick form of ALS (one in which things happen fast, and the first to go is the ability to swallow and speak) I resigned from the job I had at the time and became her full-time caregiver for just under two years. It was fucking brutal, for both of us and for my then-new husband. ALS is a disease for which more than one doctor has advocated Kevorkian-style measures. It is horrible. Watching a loved one die of it is heartbreaking.

Since her death in 2002, I've received annuity payments, and have been able to live rather nicely with their added income. I've saved some of it, thinking I'd put it towards a house or whatnot. But I've also been very restless. At the same time I longed to use most of the cash for future security, there was another plan for it brewing in the back of my head.

How old were you when you first thought about ditching parents/school/relationship/job and hitting the road? I dwelt on this fantasy at several times in my life.

At sixteen, I imagined myself peeling off in my little beater Oldsmobile with only a general driving direction as a plan. I'd head West. Or north. I'd live off my wits. I'd sit, looking intense and brimming with literary vision, smoking in some coffee shop while everyone wondered: who was this totally hot, totally deep chick who'd just hit town? I'd meet like-minded tune-in-and-drop-outers, and we'd drop LSD together and talk about Sartre. Then someday, someone would find me in the gutter, gripping a tattered manuscript that was destined to become the Greatest Memoir Ever Written. That'd be sooo cool. And wouldn't my parents feel like assholes for mistreating me?

At seventeen, I hated Catholic school, and planned to form a roving Commedia dell' Arte revivalist troupe. Gawd, those were the days---young, innocent, and unaware that 'Renaissance Festival' was a euphemism for Ye Olde Commune of Reeking Hippies.

By early twenties, Herman Hesse's Demian had convinced me that my quest for orderly bourgeoise existence was antithetical to the possibility of true happiness. All that stuff about the sensual world, and how "each man's life represents a road to himself". How can you resist that, drinking a beer at a coffee shop, chain smoking, and desperately avoiding your term paper? It so moved me to pack up, get in the car, and go forth in search of Humanity that I had anxiety attacks for a week that were only ameliorated by heavy dosages of Lone Star Beer.

A couple of main things kept me from realizing this dream. The first, of course, was cash. I couldn't save money for diddlysquat, but then again, I never made more than diddlysquat. The second was fear from deviating from what was expected. I was chickenshit to abandon the path that allowed me to appear legitimate despite my utter lack of self-esteem. I was a college student. I had held down a full-time job. These things kept me from being a complete waste of space. Or so I believed.

I also feared the voices in my head that condemned such a trip as frivolous. I had only a vague idea of a plan: to observe American life and write about it, blah, blah, blah, and my inner critic said: Hell, sister, you don't have to leave town to do that. Besides: borrrr-ring! Already been done.

The truth was, the whole idea lacked structure, and seemed more like an excuse to get away from whatever crappy situation I'd gotten myself into: bad relationship, soul-sucking job, meaningless theater degree.

My original intention in quitting was to spend time with family and friends during what is a difficult holiday season. My husband and I are separated, and although we're the best of friends, we may not be able to pull off the married thing anymore. I planned on looking for another wine job, one that payed more, and was putting out feelers for a wholesale gig.

And then it occurred to me: I could do that, but what if I did something else instead?

Everything, I realized, was in perfect place for my Great American Road Trip.

Money: Got it.

Time: Got it.

Purpose: To blog as I drive west, stopping at as many of the lesser known wineries as I can. Drive all the way up the coast, through California, Oregon, Washington, and into Vancouver. Meet winemakers. Meet owners. Meet everyone. Interview them. Stay away from the Big Darlings, and give small production vintners a spot. In the big hub cities, I'll do the podcasts on a weekly basis, as much as possible. I'll hit local wine shops, wine bars, and restaurants.
I'll learn to write better. I'll learn to organize better. I'll learn all about the American Appellations. I might even find myself a job.

Am I nuts? Most people I've laid this on think not. They know I can do this. And for the first time in my life, so do I.

Holy shit. I'm really going to do this. Wish me luck.