Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Well, it seems that there are actually a few of you still out there. Fabulous.

Apologies for my crappy lack of keeping up. I have only just published comments for the first time in months because for some reason they don't appear on my phone. Huh. I learn something new that makes me feel like an idiot every day.

Anyway, Christmas was fine. Christmas eve was ridiculous, with the store staying open until 7pm and us having to chase out customers at 7:20, but the b.h. and I managed still to get out to my aunt and uncle's house to spend some quality family time. I have no idea who these people are that wait until not only the last minute, but frankly way past the last acceptable minute to get their shit together for the holidays. The nice thing is that most people in a panic are fairly willing to trust my recommendation and just feel relieved that I am there to help. I did have one customer who asked me first if we had

"A wine called Chocolate, from California?" I replied that we did not, and she repeated the name, this time adding "Chocolate Rouge. It's from California. It is so Amazing. You won't believe it." I was sure that I wouldn't, I told her, but I had no such wine, nor anything with the word chocolate in the name (because honestly, who would?!). I asked her if she knew what kind of wine it was, or where in California it was from, thinking that perhaps I could perhaps help her find a suitable alternative. She had no idea, and she wanted that particular wine, so she was going to go top a competitor's store to find it. Okay, then, let me know if there's anything else blah blah blah, I was saying, as I walked away.

"Oh WAIT," she said, nearly shouting across the department. "Do you have one called Sexual Chocolate?!"

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Every two months we have a new Big Dumb Wine promotion, and at this time I am shipped a metric fuck ton of mostly shitty to mediocre wines which I am responsible for placing around the store on large displays. Often these wines are not popular with my clientele and so do not sell very quickly.
As an example, there was a promotion in June with a has-been band from the late nineties and early part of this century. This mediocre band named after a mode of transportation had a couple of catchy pop tunes that went high on the charts, prolonging what should have been a quick flash in the pan and adding to the general suffering of people with discerning musical taste who nonetheless fall victim to the constant repetition of shit and get it stuck in their heads - me, for example. Anyway, this band, having more money than sense, decided to get it the wine business. They therefore invested what was likely an assload of money into the production of crap wine and marketing to push it. My company, in all of it's hip, knowing what's "now" wisdom, signed a deal with the band to be the exclusive purveyor of said shit juice, and set about foisting large loads of it on every single store.
And so I found myself one morning in my first month of work last June staring down the barrel of fifty eight cases of it. Mine is a very small store with almost no area for backstock- I know people with walk-in clothing closets as large or larger- so I was really, really not happy. It was a day that I wished I could quit my job. But I didn't, and we put the wine out and there it sat. Even now, six months later, it haunts me still, mocking me from the discount bin, all flabby, buttery oak and sinister fruitiness.

Where was I? Oh yes, the Promotion. The current Promotion is called T0p Ten. We do this twice a year, apparently, the last time being just prior to my arrival at the store. There are, inexplicably, twelve wines in the TT Promo, and a couple of them are actually pretty good. So good, in fact, that sales have gone way beyond our original projections and supplies have run out. When this happens, I am left to figure out how to fill the holes at a moment's notice (sometimes less). The understanding is that whatever I use to fill said holes will immediately be pulled from the shelves when the TT wine is available again, regardless of how much I have, and it will be up to me find storage for it and eventually sell through it all. This week, in addition to being incredibly busy, I was forced to find a replacement for one if the TT wines. It would be at least January, I was told, before we would have access to more. So I found a great wine at a fabulous price to put in it's place. I jumped through hoops and plowed through red tape to get it in, put it on sale, and request proper signage. It would take until Friday for this to go through, because hey- we're a huge corporation! We can't get anything done in less than a week. Anyway, I have to explain to The Mustache, my Manager, that the display in question will be a bit thin until I can get all of the pieces in place. He is not happy but he understands.

The wine is delayed until Wednesday. I get in on Thursday and it is waiting. I have an order to put together so I plan to put it out in the afternoon. In the afternoon, I get an e-mail from a higher up saying that twelve cases of the TT wine will be sent to me automatically on Friday morning. I inform The Mustache, telling him that I don't want to waste time putting out the good wine only to take it back down on Friday when the TT wine comes in. The display looks terrible, but he agrees. Comb it over, he says, until the TT arrives.
When I get to work on Friday, the TT wine is nowhere to be found. It never arrives, in fact, and I end up building the display with the emergency wine that I ordered, which I am happy about, because the quality is better and the price double.
What I'd like to know is how could a distributor not know that a French wine was coming until the last possible moment? Shouldn't they at least have been aware of when the truck was leaving New York? Why do we reward this kind of fuckwittery by paying them for such shitty service?
And what do you want to bet the TT wine is waiting when I get to work today?

In other news, I sent out a résumé last night to a company I would really like to work for. Fingers crossed.

*UPDATE The TT wine was, in fact, waiting when I arrived at work on Monday. Of course, the special weekend sale pricing was over, as was the contest (with monetary rewards involved) to see who could sell the most, so I will probably still have some if any of you would like to holiday here this summer. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

In a stunning display of Corporate Assholery, Whore Foods rewarded us for our record breaking sales week by cutting our hours. Seriously.

Monday, November 26, 2012

What Fresh Hell is This?

Today began the cycle of Christmas music.

That is all.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

We sold almost seventeen thousand dollars worth of wine on Wednesday. I worked for nine and a half hours. Now I am very seriously looking into a bar job. I asked around and a friend of mine told me his brothers own a sports bar not too far from my house. Madness? Perhaps. A bad idea? Possibly. But I can't shake the feeling that I am being had at my current job. The corporate fuckwittery is bad and the pay is worse. I'm going to meet one of the guys on Wednesday and see what it looks like. If they will give me a shift or two a week to start I will take it. If I am forced to decide between knowing how much money I will make every paycheck and hoping for enough, I'm going to have to think very hard about it. Also, my health insurance just kicked in.
I don't know what to think. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The rules are very clear. There are a lot if them, and there are a lot of employees at my National Natural Grocery Chain, so everything is cut and dry: skirts, dresses, and shorts must be of a length that is no more than three fingers above the knee. This is an enormous relief to me after my last job, where young women (girls, really) would come to work wearing the equivalent of a diaper and scream to the union that they were being unfairly treated if anyone dared to suggest that they might want to cover themselves a bit more while working in food service.

I never really take much notice of what my co-workers wear. We have people from various ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, as well as all ages and levels of fashion sense, so it really takes something extraordinary to catch my eye.

The girl in question is not small. She is not short, nor thin, and she was nowhere *near* to fitting in the dress. Add to that the fact that her tights were sheer and purple, as opposed to a more sensible (and flattering) thick black pair, and my eyes could not help but be drawn downward when she walked past and bade me good morning. I bid her one also, and then immediately fired off a snarky text to Pat, the beer buyer, who was due in later that day.

"You might want to bring an extra pair of pants for your not girlfriend. She seems to have forgotten hers."
His response was a shudder. They had been out on two pseudo-dates some time ago, and he had since been keeping her at a polite arm's length. (He felt guilty about that and I occasionally had to remind him that on both occasions she had gotten drunk and loud and spent all of his money.)

Within ten minutes I saw her leaving the building in tears. Management had sent her home. I did feel slightly bad for her, but at the same time I think that by the time one is in their late twenties one ought to be able to dress oneself.
Pat came in an hour later. She had called him, crying, on her way home. So many ways in which she doesn't get it.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Cautiously optimistic as polls close in the East and results trickle in. That douchebag in Indiana lost his Senate seat, which is a relief. Aghast at how many co-workers did not bother to vote, but not surprised. I'm hoping this night doesn't turn into a nail biter. Scary to think what might happen if this thing is close. Fingers crossed, beer poured. Wish us well!

Sunday, November 04, 2012

The woman looked just like the bus driver from the first season of SOuth Park. She was wandering through the aisles like one of the zombie extras from a bad movie, shuffling along and sort of grunting to herself. Next thing she has taken a sample from a demo that my co-worker is doing, bites into the baguette smeared with onion jelly and cheese, and breaks a tooth.
First she says she doesn't need any help, doesn't want to talk to a manager.
Then she stands around with her fingers in her mouth for a few minutes, and then she charges back over to the demo table.
"You're going to have to pay for this. My modeling career is ruined."

A manager is summoned. A very long conversation ensues, during which the woman demands that he take a picture of the rotten stub of her tooth- he does, with his cell phone - and tells him that she is going to call the company that makes the jelly that was on the bread and tell them what we've done. I am on the periphery of this entire episode, trying to commit her words to memory while fantasizing about eavesdropping on that phone call. This kind of crazy doesn't happen every day. Not since we left Vermont.

Pardon my dust while I figure out how to make this blog look better. I actually kind of hate these templates, but I have neither the skill nor the time to deal with trying to customize right now. And apparently I can't even get the easy template right. Blah. Oh well- maybe I will come back to it when the election is over.
This may come as a shock to you, but sometimes I think I can be a little too nice to people. At my Big Stupid Corporate Store, there are over two hundred employees, with regular hiring and firing making getting to know people a bit difficult. I have, therefore, made it a habit to say hello to everyone that works there, every day, and to pay special attention to new people, making sure to introduce myself despite the fat that are all all required to wear name tags.
One woman in particular seemed very shy to me, and for some reason I just liked her, so I have been especially friendly. We don't have real conversations, mind you, because we work in very different departments and only cross paths at the time clock and in line for the ladies' room, but I usually try to at least remark on the weather, or how busy the store is, or whatever. I might be completely wrong, but she strikes me as rather isolated.She is probably in her late twenties, tattooed, cute, and very friendly. The other day she asked me if I would help her pick out a beer. I took her over to the cooler, asked her what she liked, and talked to her for probably five or so minutes about the various offerings I thought would suit her. She picked one and thanked me and I went back to work. A few minutes later I was in the back of the store and she approached me again.

"Actually, I had an ulterior motive for asking you about the beer," she said, smiling and looking at the floor. Then she looked up at me again. "Would you like to go out sometime?"

I was so stunned that it took me a second to figure out how to answer. Then I said

"Um... maybe? I mean, I guess that depends on what you mean. I'm married."

Which stunned her. It was hilarious. She looked so surprised. She apologized, and I said "Don't apologize. I mean, if you wanna go out for a beer, I'm all for it. But if you're looking for a date, I can't."

I can't even remember how we left it after that. It wasn't all that awkward, considering, and I'll have to admit it was quite flattering. She is much younger than I am, and much cooler, and very cute. If I were single and a lesbian, I would have jumped at the chance.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Added to the usual joys of working for a Giant Corporation is the fact that mine is prone to using meaningless titles for all of it's employees, making it very difficult to discern the pecking order. It's not that I find terms like Vice President or General Manager particularly meaningful, mind you, but calling employees "Team Members" and "Team Leaders" and ""Coordinators" is annoying in some cases and borderline patronizing (not to mention disingenuous) in others.
Hilariously, I have been thinking for the past couple of months that one guy that I report to is the assistant of another woman i report to, when in fact it turns out that he is her boss. Fortunately I didn't completely embarrass myself, but I have certainly included him on e-mails that I never, ever would have bothered him with had I been aware.
My enthusiasm for the job waxes and wanes, and I can already tell that this holiday season is probably going to kill it completely. The great thing is that I am racking up (literally) a whole lot of free wine. I have several stored in the basement, and the makeshift rack I made in the dining room is overflowing. When I know I won't finish something I've opened, I leave it in the back hall for the neighbors, who also happen to be our landlords. They appreciate it very much.
I went to a fabulous wine dinner the other night at Gr@ham Elli0t Bistr0, courtesy of a winemaker from Oregon. The woman that I buy his wine from is one of my favorite reps, and I can't remember having more fun with strangers in a long time. The other buyers all begged off at the last minute, which was so rude that I was embarrassed about it even though I didn't know any of them. When we arrived, the sommelier asked me what I wanted to start with and I told him to surprise me with any white he would like, so long as it wasn't an oaky California Chardonnay. He was pleased at that answer and poured me a very generous glass of something French that I had never heard of and therefore can't remember. When we sat down, The Winemaker ordered a bottle of white Burgundy for the table. I asked A, my sales rep, to help me out with my first glass since I had to drive. She gulped half of it obligingly. We giggled. The Burgundy was outstanding. I left myself in their hands for ordering, asking only that they get a few vegetarian options so I could soak up enough wine to stay sober. The food was remarkable, conversation flowed easily, and I kept wishing that there was somewhere I could dump my car legally so I could stay late, drink lots, and take a cab home. Instead i skipped the oaked Burgundy after just a sip, brushed off the Pinot Noir (which I have tasted plenty of times and already carry in my store), and focused on the Pinot Blanc, which was not only delicious but also conveniently low in alcohol. After dinner the others all had aperitifs. I tasted each of them while judiciously opting for water. I slept like a corpse and went back to work hating my job slightly less on Tuesday.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

I cannot fathom why I am awake right now, unless there is a full (or nearly full) moon out there above the thick rain clouds. I was nearly asleep on my feet at work, came home and had a fabulous glass of Vaqueyras while reading the day's news, then took a hot shower and turned in. The b.h. Is sound asleep, which is a good thing since he will be getting up for work on three hours, and I have been laying here listening to Derek Jacoby read The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes for hours.
I've made plays on all of my Scranble games, caught up on Twitter, Facebook, and blogs (yes, I'm still reading despite near total radio silence on my end), and I just can't fall asleep. If we didn't live above our landlords, I would be sweeping and mopping the whole house right now, since that was my plan for the morning that I will most likely sleep through now. This is so dumb.

Monday, September 24, 2012

More evidence of the healing power of rock and roll and old friends as the b.h. and I stayed up way past our bedtime last night and I still feel remarkably refreshed. Patterson Hood brought his Downtown Rumblers to a fancy new winery here in the Windy Shitty. The service was appalling and the food mediocre, and I couldn't have cared less. We saw old friends and great music and even met some nice folks along the way.
I'm still not comfortable with the passage of time. I find it nearly impossible to believe how long I've been seeing the Truckers in their various incarnations, and how many friends I have made thanks to my musical fanaticism. Not even shit traffic and a commute through the West Side this morning could dampen my spirits.

Next up: Will Johnson and Anders Parker on Friday at Schubas. It's gonna be a sleepless week in between, too. Can't wait.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Today we toured the home garden of Rick B@yless. The tour was led by his gardener- one of four, actually, who tend the thousand square foot paradise.
Absolutely stunning, needless to say. Also somewhat inspiring. Now we're on the couch watching the new season of Dexter.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

I got to see my old friend A today for a few hours. She was so hungover that she was green when I picked her up at her mom's house. We laughed about it of course, but I knew she wished she would die. We stopped for sandwiches on our way to running errands and shopping, and after she vomited copiously in the ladies she perked up considerably. I tried on twelve pairs of pants today and bought one. I also tried on many, many shoes, but since my current job is keeping me from wearing any of the great shoes I already have, it was easy to deny myself.
Mostly it was nice just to spend time with her and catch up and bullshit around. I dropped het at the airport this afternoon knowing full well that i wont see her again for months, but also taking comfort in the fact that when I do we will pick up right where we left off.
Tonight the b.h. And I took the dogs and went to my sister's for dinner. Other Sister was there as well. The weather was lovely and we drank and ate and enjoyed ourselves immensely. I just love the fall. It is so good to be home.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

I believe my phone has killed this blog. On the bright side, my photo blog is getting very regular posts, because the camera is so easy to use that I can take and post a picture while doing almost anything- including driving. But this tiny keyboard is not so eAsy to navigate.
We saw Springsteen last weekend at Wrigley Field. It was cold and we got rained on for over an hour, but it was absolutely transcendent- everything I hoped it would be, and more, thanks to the surprise appearance of Tom Morello and Eddie Vedder.

Work is getting progressively better. I will likely never be completely content working for a giant international corporation, but I am having more success at the day to day, and I am finding some enjoyment in the job.

Today we're going down to Lincoln Park to see J. Roddy Walston and the Business, after which I will head to work for the evening. Later, I might go see my friend Wes Hollywood's new band, and tomorrow I will visit my parents and an old friend who is in town for the weekend from California. So I guess you could say that I am doing everything I came home to do.

Now I just have to get my shit together and write about it more.

Monday, August 13, 2012

It probably says something about me that I would rather spend my lunch hour in a closet (storage room) full of wine, seated on a hard piece of plastic and leaning against a cardboard box, than sit with my co-workers on a leather couch in the break room, or worse, out with The Public in our "cafe" (which consists of a counter at a window facing the street).
Things have been better. Work is at least leveling off to a general stupid rather than a constant and grating horrible. The b.h. and I are having a great time. We saw The Afghan Whigs last weekend at The Metro, a club in which I spent many of my formative years as a live music fanatic. The band is one of his favorites. I have always enjoyed some of their stuff but remained relatively ambivalent about them in general. I even felt bad about not giving the ticket away to somebody who cares more than I do, as the show was sold out. Luckily I got over that. It happened about ten seconds into the first song, which you can experience yourself on the yew toob should you so choose. They are normally a four piece standard rock outfit, but since they've just reunited after many years, and they were in town for that silly Palooza thing, they had all kinds of extras. Three backup singers, three horns, and extra guitar. There were twelve people on stage and holy cow they blew my mind. Stupendous. We will be seeing them again in October.
There are other shows on the calendar as well. Lyle Lovett is next week at Ravinia, Wes Hollywood the following Tuesday, and upcoming fabulousness from Patterson Hood, The Whigs (no relation), Will Johnson and Anders Parker, Leonard Cohen, Springsteen... I'm like a kid in a candy store.
Been seeing plenty of family and old friends as well, which is good for the soul. Three visits from out of Townes already, each providing a good excuse to eat fantastically well.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Honestly, the ignorance that most people display on the subject of fresh food is beginning to make me wonder.

A woman in her twenties came up to me at work and asked
"Do you have, like, ears of corn? Like, corn on the cob?"
 "Yes, I'm sure we do. It's in season so it's probably local, too."
"Where would that be?"
Seriously. She said it as if it were so foreign to her that she couldn't even imagine where one might look for, you know, fresh corn. Quite exotic, especially here in the Midwest. I'd like to tell people to look in the rest room sometime, or perhaps with the feminine hygiene products. But I need to keep this job, at least for now.

Apparently I narrowly missed Lady G@g@ the other night. She came in after I had left already, and when I came in the next morning people were still talking about it. The funniest part is that she had this huge entourage with her, bodyguards and whatnot. If she had just walked in on her own, nobody would have recognized her. We have both strip clubs and modeling agencies within blocks of the store, so she wouldn't even have gotten a second look. But I suppose that's not the point, is it?

Friday, July 20, 2012

A well-dressed man of about fifty is walking through the cheese and wine department, obviously looking for something and obviously agitated. I approach cautiously, smiling and bracing myself.
"Is there something I can help you find?"
"Where would I find grapes?"
I paused momentarily, letting the question sink in. "Those are in the produce department, sir."
"All the way on the other side of the store?" he asked, incredulously.
"Yes sir. Back where you came in. Where all of the other fresh fruit and veg are."

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The bi-annual B.H. Family Reunion/Torture Fest is over. This year we spent it down on the coast in North Carolina. It was ridiculous for the b.h. and I to go, since I had just started a new job and he hadn't found one yet, but it was the first time the whole family had been together, every cousin and aunt and uncle, in over ten years, and we didn't want to disappoint his mom.
We left On Sunday morning, our flight having been delayed before we even got out of bed. Much confusion and a long wait at the airport (further delays), and then we finally arrived in Virginia to find that the bag we had checked had been left behind. Great. SO we spent an entire day traveling, basically, and finally arrived at the house in the late evening. We greeted everyone and had a couple beers before retiring to our room, which had two small beds, Lucy and Ricky Ricardo style. Ours was the floor with all of the boys ages four to twelve on it, which we only discovered the next morning at 6:20 am (5:20 our time) when they all got up.

Our car had been parked in by several others, so we walked to the grocery store about half a mile down the road and picked up fruit and beer and sandwich ingredients. It was about a million degrees outside, and there was no sidewalk anywhere along the curvy and crowded road, a fact which did not seem to bother the drivers in the least as they sped past. I spent the rest of that day in the pool or the air conditioning. There was, at one point, a group photo arranged on the beach. All thirty-six of us squinted into the sun while the photographer uncle admonished us not to wear hats or sunglasses from behind the camera.Evening meals were large productions with duties shared by a few. Cleanup took a lot longer, and that's where I usually managed to hide and avoid the awkwardness that is conversation between virtual strangers trying to seem familiar. I am genuinely fond of some of them, mind you, and I do make an effort to sit and chat. But the cousin's husband who seems like he's probably got his own militia? Not so much. Mostly it was short and sweet and we got through it without too much weirdness.

Work, on the other hand, is all kinds of weird. I haven't worked for a large corporation in many years, and the familiar bullshit is already starting to wear on me. We are required to wear no-slip safety shoes, which must be ordered from a catalog. No one, no matter what their job, is allowed to work without some kind of safety shoes on. While we wait for our shoes to arrive, we are given a standard-issue pair of what I can only call galoshes. The first day i worked they did not have a pair of galoshes that were small enough for my feet. No problem, said the Orientation Guy, you just wear your own shoes until your new ones arrive. we don't have what you need and that's our fault.
Less than an hour later I was approached by a very large and intimidating woman who told me that under no circumstances was I to work without the proper footwear.
"C.Y.A.", she smirked at another employee. "Imma cover my ass."
  "But the small ones are too big for my shoes. I need an extra small pair, and there are none. She reached into a bin and pulled out a pair of used shoes.
"What size are you?"
  "I usually wear a seven."
 "Try these." She gave me a pair of Cr0cs in size six.
  "They don't fit."
"Can you wear them just for now?"
  "I guess I could try," I said, trying to be cooperative.
I walked away and started to load up wine boxes onto a cart, every step I took bringing my heel down on the back of the shoe. I went back to the office.
  "These aren't going to work. They're too small."
She rolled her eyes at me and I took the galoshes back. I put them on and there was a quarter inch of material sticking past my toes. I'm not sure how wearing shoes that are too large is safer than wearing my own perfectly good tennis shoes, but I was clearly not hired to think. Sigh.

I have since been through four other pairs of shoes, and none of them fit. There is not a store anywhere where I can go try the shoes on before I buy them, so The Company is paying for these things to get shipped back and forth. The Shoe Lady  has no ideas for which shoes I should try, but would very much like it if I would just take another employees old shoes to wear so she could stop dealing with me. After suggesting that I choose at least three different pairs of shoes to try, she then told the GM that she didn't know what to do with me since I was refusing all of the shoes. His response was that "This is not Macy's. We're not a shoe store. Just pick something and let's quit fooling around." I have started showing up in my old Dansk0 kitchen shoes from a previous job which look remarkably like many of the safety shoes. They have a bit of a heel and are terrible to wear all day on a cement floor, but at least the Shoe Lady is off my back.

Monday, July 09, 2012

The good news is it shouldn't be over a hundred degrees at any point this week. The bad news is that Corporate Fuckwittery is making me a very angry person this week. At some point I will chronicle it all here on this blog with humor blended into the venom in a way that is more palatable for casual reading.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Ah, internet service.
Have jumped straight into new job and life with both feet. So far I like it pretty well, though the whole "Giant Corporation" thing will require some getting used to. Have quickly relearned to navigate my city, and overall feel good about the move. We have a small garden on our large balcony/porch thingie on the front of the house. There are more windows and cabinets than in our last two houses combined, which is marvelous. I am rediscovering art and dishes and photos that I had come rely forgotten about.
The dogs seem pretty happy. They finally got their summer haircuts, and they have cousins to play with here. We have yet to find a place for them to swim locally. There is a dog beach on the lake, but it's a long ride into the city and will require a full day off with good weather and no other obligations.
At present I am sitting on a beach in South Carolina, escaping the chaos that is the bh's biannual family reunion. We'll be home on Wednesday and then it's back to the grind, and hopefully more writing discipline.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

So, the eagle has landed and all that. We don't have an Internet connection yet, so I'm way behind on reading and writing, but I will catch up when I can. I do seem to manage to keep up the photo blog, so at least I might remember the sequence of events by the time I get around to updating.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

It took three full days, but we've managed to pack our belongings, send them ahead, and clean the whole house. We did a walk through this morning with the landlord, had the last two items of furniture picked up, stopped at Birch Grove Bakery for the standard road treats (which were generously given to us by our neighbors and friends the bakers), and finally hit the road. Now we're aboard a ferry crossing Lake Champlain to upstate New York, where we will star the right hour drive to Erie.

Monday, June 04, 2012

There is a moving truck in the driveway. Slightly guilty pangs as I sit typing while two Eagle Scouts load our entire house into a thirteen foot square space.
We leave on Wednesday, drive to Erie, and then in to Chicago on Thursday. We will see our house for the first time when we arrive. Hilariously, there are two shows we want to see Saturday night. Already got tickets for Kelly Hogan, so we are decided. It's like the universe telling us we are doing the right thing. I promise to be back more regularly when things calm down.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The last few days have been the idyllic sort that make me live this state. Warm to hot days, walking the dogs in the woods and then going to the river to swim. Freezing cold water that feels refreshing for the minute it takes for your body to start going numb, then standing up to get warm and skipping stones, wallowing in the joy of nature (and of dog joy).
Evenings are cool, nights are chilly, and sleep is heavy.
Drove to New Hampshire to pick my sister up from the airport today. We went to Portsmouth for a late lunch and walked around for an hour or so before heading home. Tomorrow I work early and Wednesday we're off to Montreal for a final visit. Very excited. I can already taste the date nut bar I will be buying first thing at the pastry shop in the Jean Talon market. Mmmm.
On that note, off to bed.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The rest of my Chicago trip was also fairly hectic. Did I mention that we're moving back? Oh, yeah- so we're moving back. In three weeks. I just gave my notice at work, so now I can officially talk about it without fear that I may have mentioned this sill blog to some random co-worker a year ago and they are out there, lurking, waiting for me to admit that I have been interviewing for jobs back home since January and that oh yeah- I'm out of here.
So there's that. I will be working at a Large Natural Foods Chain, also as Wine Buyer. The money is not great, but the benefits are, and there is no Oddfellows Local 151 and therefore room for growth and an opportunity for merit pay and some bleeding advancement, for the love of gods. Mostly there will be live music and ethnic food and non white people and friends and family. We are scrambling to find housing at present. It is not fun.
Kilgore has apparently lost his mind. He has broken through three window screens in the past month, the last one being the one in our 2nd floor bedroom. The b.h. got a call from our landlord while he was at work. The message said that the dog was on the roof of our porch. The b.h. ran home to find Kilgore lounging on the roof in the shade or our maple tree, without a care in the world. This does not bode well for our move. It's one thing if the five neighbors that we have known for three years have to deal with him, and entirely another when we're the new kids on the block. *Shudder*

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The conference I attended vacillated between mildly interesting and wildly annoying. My roommate was a woman in her late fifties or early sixties (going on a hundred, I'd say). When she walked into our hotel room, I was sitting on the bed sending text messages. I couldn't see the door from there, so when she said loudly
"Oh, she's here now," I was not aware that she was alone.
When she came around the corner, I stood up and stuck my hand out to shake hers.
"Hi, I'm Heybartender."
She looked at it as if I had offered her a wet turd and said
"Yeah, I put that together."
She ambled over to her side of the room, plopped into the chair, and asked what time I had gotten in.
"I got in last night at about one in the morning."
"Then where have you been all day?" she demanded. I wondered if I was about to be grounded. It seemed as if she hadn't noticed that I had dropped my suitcase off at noon before I went out with my tour group, and for some reason it made her suspicious. I answered her very curtly, and then her phone rang. I texted my sister saying I was going to need a place to stay and left the room without another word.

There were seminars and a dinner, and after everyone was going to one of three get-togethers, all of which promised expensive drinks and terrible company. At the end of dinner, I sprinted up to the room, packed a small bag of overnight essentials, and headed directly to the parking lot. I left my suitcase on the bed, hoping The Roommate would sleep fitfully without the chain lock on the door.
My sister hadn't answered my texts, so I got in touch with my friend T, and headed down into the city to crash with him. He made me some pizza rolls and other various frozen veggie fare (another lovely aspect of the Airport Hotel is the fact that there were exactly two places to eat, one very expensive sit down place and a sort of grab-and-go sandwich counter area that was also incredibly expensive, as well as having almost no vegetarian food and always, always a line thirty-odd people long) and we talked for an hour or so before I finally had to go to sleep. I was up very early the next morning, bright of eye and bushy of tail as I often am when I wake up in a city. I dressed and washed up quickly and tip-toed out so as not to wake T. I went to a bakery right near my old apartment and got a huge cup of delicious coffee, an egg and spinach and feta sandwich on a croissant, and a dessert pastry, all for the same price that I had paid for a small cup of coffee and a shitty bagel at the hotel. It was glorious. I drove back out to the airport feeling fabulous. The day went fairly quickly, and the seminars were interesting. The Roommate was in my second one, and slept through the bulk of it, at one point waking herself up when she started snoring too loudly. At the lunch break I left again and drove a couple miles down the road to an Italian place, where I bought a big bag of fries and Ravioli with marinara from a guy who looked like an extra from Goodfellas. I caught a couple people eying my greasy fry bag hungrily during the next seminar, and ate them slowly and smugly at the next break in front of a long line of people waiting for their seven dollar pizza slices. Saturday night I pulled the same trick with The Roommate, leaving for my sister's without a word and my suitcase still on the bed. I slept soundly again, and again woke up feeling refreshed. Sunday was a short day, with only one seminar and a longer presentation on the Global Economic Shitshow.

Monday, May 14, 2012

My flight was cancelled, and for some reason no one bothered to announce that fact an passengers were not alerted until we approached the desk at the gate fifteen minutes after we were supposed to begin boarding. I walked up just as the young lady in front of me was simultaneously bitching at the woman behind the counter and the person on the other end of her cell phone.
She was probably nineteen or twenty, and acting like a complete asshat. I went downstairs to the other desk and got in line. After several minutes, I got to the front of the line and the man behind the desk put me on a flight to D.C., where I would then hop another flight to Chicago. I would be landing four hours later than originally planned. Fine.
I killed forty-five minutes, then boarded without incident.
On the flight to DC, the nineteen-year-old sat behind me next to a British guy. She proceeded to talk at him for most of the flight, which is how I learned that she had been sent to Ohio, where her parents would drive five hours each way to pick her up.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

So I'm at the airport, waiting for a flight to Chicago. There is a conference there that I am attending as a member of Oddfellows Local 151.
I have other irons in other fires there as well, but more on that later. For the time being, I am focusing on beer and food and family waiting on the other side of this flight.
Work has been a bit trying lately. The weather has been mostly shit, too, so I haven't had much to say lately. Hopefully there will be fun stuff to report this weekend.

Monday, April 23, 2012

NOTE: I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THE HELL IS UP WITH NEW BLOGGER. I DID NOT COMPOSE THIS IN ONE LONG, STUPID, UNREADABLE PARAGRAPH, BUT THAT'S HOW IT IS PUBLISHING. IF ANYONE CAN HELP ME, I WOULD BE MUCH OBLIGED. Our friends from The Business were here last week. They played a show on Sunday night in Montreal and then had two days off before a show in Northampton, Mass., so they stopped and spent a night with us. I wanted very badly to see them in Montreal, but as usual I had no one to go with me and the b.h. doesn't actually get weekends, ever, so I stayed home and cleaned the entire house instead. I'm actually lucky, because the house was less than sanitary, and as you all know nothing forces a scrub down like impending house guests. One of the charming/alarming things about our hundred-plus year-old house is that it leans. It leans forward a lot and to the right (stage right, if you're facing it from the front) very slightly. Thus, if you drop or spill something on the floor, it generally races to one corner of the room. Our toilet seat is also a victim of the lean, and we always warn male guests not to lift the seat because it has a tendency to close itself unexpectedly (and yet the lid stays up- do not ask me how or why), and we don't want any... injuries. When the guys arrived, they were accompanied by C, their usual merch guy, as well as A, who is a professional photographer. Our house is approximately 800 square feet, so six house guests is pretty amusing, to say the least. Luckily the dogs are quite fond of them. The b.h. had made a big meal and I grabbed a twelve pack on my way home, so we all sat around eating, drinking, and catching up for a bit and then headed down to the b.h.'s bar. As we were getting ready to leave, Kilgore went over to S, the drummer, and lifted his leg as if to pee. I didn't see it immediately, so when I shouted at him I didn't know if he had already done it, and I was alarmed. S was unfazed. "Did he just pee on you?!" "If he did I probably deserved it." He didn't even look down, and I wasn't sure if that was a definite yes or a definite no, so I pulled Kilgore closer to me and kept trying to look without S noticing. We walked down the very precarious hill, R's boots slapping the pavement as he attempted to slow himself down. "I could drive some of us," I offered. "Then I can shuttle everyone in two groups on the way home." He said he was fine and joked about walking like a girl in her first pair of high heels. The bar was busy, but there were enough seats for most of us. The b.h.'s boss came over and talked for a few minutes, in the slightly too loud and slightly too cheerful manner of a man who has just finished a twelve hour shift. S has only recently discovered Truck Nuts(Lorry Bollocks for my British readers), a phenomenon which the rest of the country has been aware of for at least several years now, and he was eager to discuss said product with the guys. That subject, combined with his volume and enthusiasm, was weird bordering on creepy. He must have realized it, because he made an abrupt exit a few minutes later. I was relaying the story about Kilgore possibly peeing on S, and R shook his head, laughing. "He is just not very aware. You can say to him, "Hey S, watch out for this thing right here. Don't touch it because it's really fragile, okay?" And like, five minutes later you hear a crash and he's standing there in front of a pile of broken glass going, 'What? I didn't know!'" I felt better. I ended up getting a ride back to the house from our neighbor and going back to shuttle everyone to the top of the hill. I used them as an excuse, but really I didn't feel up to walking it either. We watched the end of the (crappy and disappointing) Blackhawks game, and then set about finding space for everyone to sleep in. They had air mattresses, and we have a guest bed and two couches, so we made it work. The b.h. was filling everyone in on the shower (another part of our house that is a bit finicky and dangerous), and I reminded him about the toilet seat. "We've been through that," he said. "I made sure to tell them about it as soon as they got here." "Yes, we don't want anyone slamming their dick in the seat," I laughed.
I had to be at work at 8am, so I turned in. Exhausted, I immediately fell sound asleep. I was awakened in the middle of the night by the sound of the toilet seat and the strangled cry of a drummer.
Why has Blogger gone and changed again? I hate this new system. I liked that before I could start a draft and regardless how long it took me to finish, the date would be the start date. This whole "publish date" nonsense is putting things out of whack. This will be of no use to me as a journal if I can't have proper dates. Crapcrapcrapcrapcrap.
Life at the Local Grocery has been irritating since I returned. Don't get me wrong- I am more enthusiastic than ever about wine, and I think my customers are responding. Sales have been great, tastings well-attended, and I have been feeling very good about my job and the future of the department.

My co-workers, though, have been really wearing on me. The constant whining and negativity is exhausting. It's like I work in a middle school, or an asylum. Ugh. There is a very entitled attitude from many of them, and many of our customers as well, and the combination isn't good.

I was able to attend a very nice dinner with a local couple who makes mead, though, and that was interesting. We first toured the meadery. It was my friend C and me (the b.h. had to work so he couldn't make it), and some people from another local winery. The Mead Makers had invited us because we all sell their mead and they wanted to thank us for being good customers. The Winemaker from the other winery interrupted the mead guy every third sentence to tell us how *he* did things differently in the winery. I wanted to punch him in the mouth at the three minute mark. Needless to say, dinner was long. I placed myself carefully at the opposite end of the table at the restaurant. Mead Guy and I had a fascinating conversation about how he and his wife sold all of their belongings, joined the Peace Corps, and wound up in South America, where they learned beekeeping. Honey led to mead, and now they have a pretty little shop in the middle of nowhere in Vermont, and they make mead and ice cream (in the summer) and have a great life. The Winemaker inserted himself into the conversation whenever possible, and actually tried to start an argument with me about Demeter certification, which was silly since I had just returned from Austria and was fairly well-versed on the subject. His wife was oblivious, but the two people who worked for him were clearly uncomfortable. I somehow managed to gracefully side-step his arguments, even though he was wrong on many levels and I would have loved to tell him what a twat he is. The best part? I carry his wines, I have always thought that they were mostly crap, and now I have even less motivation to recommend them. Bravo, sir. On that note, The Local Winemaker from Hell, whom you may remember from last year- you know, the guy that demanded that I carry all of his products and display them at eye level because he is the most local? Yeah. Charming, that one. So he came in and made a complete ass of himself again, this time not abusing me (thankfully, or I would likely be typing this from a jail cell)but rather several of my co-workers. I immediately pulled all of his product from the shelf and sent an e-mail to his distributor asking them to pick it up. Quite satisfying, that was. I can't wait to see what happens when he notices.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

"Paris is so full of shit. Can't the dogs use the pay toilets?"

This was my first "note to self" after a quick jaunt around the Latin Quarter. It was really my only complaint, and I think the reason it was so shocking was simply the stark contrast between the quantity of shit on the sidewalk and the comparative civility of everything else in Paris. The b.h. And I spent most of the first couple days walking- we did more than ten miles on our first day, plus whatever distance we walked in the Musee d'Orsay. We started out going through the grounds at the Palais du Luxembourg, walked up to the museum, then went up the road to the Grand Palais and the slightly less grant (Petit?) Palais across the road. We stopped for baguettes and cafe noir at a small stand, and when we saw the Arc, we decided to head toward it. A longng walk and 344 stairs later we found ourselves staring down at the French equivalent of Chicago's Miracle Mile, with all of the excess and douchebaggery and perfumed tourists behind us. It was beautiful, but we were glad to be above the fray.
After that we made the long trek to the Eiffel Tower, which we chose not to climb. The Tower was even more striking than I had expected, actually, which was great. We were embarrassed by how blasé we had become by the time we had finished the Impressionists in the d'Orsay, but we couldn't help it. There had been a feeling of overload, of "oh look, there's another world famous masterpiece- oh, and there's another. Are you hungry? I think I want coffee, too." I'm not sure that having such large collections of the same artists (Monet and Manet, in this case) is as impactful (is that a word?) as having just a few. Don't get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. It's just that each new thing kind of wipes out the wonder of the last, and by the end of the day I had barely held onto the morning's highlights. Luckily I took literally thousands of pictures.
We walked and walked and ate and looked around with our mouths open a lot. The first couple days we mostly got food from the market downstairs from our apartment and ate inside, collapsing from exhaustion on our couch/bed with a bottle of wine and some fresh bread and cheese after walking all over creation.
Then our friends from Sweden showed up.
You may remember our friend J(male) from the many dinner parties of the last two years, many of which involved more wine than food. He is living back in Sweden now, and he and his wife D joined us on Sunday. Thus began the Bacchanalia. We met for breakfast on the first day, then walked around taking in sights for a couple hours, then stopped for a drink, and then coffee, then more walking, and then a snack and another drink, after which we would find a place to have dinner and more drinks. Since both J and the b.h. are fond of eating feet and brains and rare meat and parts of animals that most Americans wouldn't go near, we were treated mostly very well by the members of staff at the restaurants and cafes. The language barrier was a challenge, but mostly we found it pretty easy to get what we needed. I think my favorite things were the outdoor markets. I was amazed at the array of food to be had right in the middle of any random street. Also, as expected, the fashion was fabulous. I was impressed by the colorful array of stockings and tights on women of every age in the City of Light. I did not, however, find anywhere to shop for the good stuff. I mean, I could have forked over a month's rent for some over-priced crap at one of the designer stores on the Champs Elysees, but that's the same over-priced crap available at the same stores in any city, so I didn't feel inclined. In fact, we couldn't really find much of anything to buy, which was slightly disappointing. I bought a copy of Christpher Hitchens' Blood, Class, and Empire at Shakespeare and Company, but more books wouldn't have been practical. There were stalls and stalls and stores and stores full of tacky garbage - striped "French" shirts that no one in their right mind would be caught dead in, berets bedazzled with the word Paris, and, perhaps most puzzlingly, many variations on an apron with a picture of a kitten wearing both the aforementioned "French" shirt and a beret, with the words "I (Heart) Paris". I am not sure what the market for these products is, but since we were there in the off season, I guess we were mostly spared the type of people who would purchase such things.
The Louvre was everything I expected it to be. We decided not to even try to see most of it, and instead went directly to the Etruscan, Roman, and Greek section. We also managed to see a bit of Ancient Egypt, and stopped by some of the more famous works (Mona and Venus), since we were already walking past. Everything was wonderful. Napoleon's apartments were also quite impressive- a monument to one man's outsized ego. Again I was relieved not to be there during the height of tourist season, since it was crowded enough already. We actually avoided talking in front of other English speakers as much as possible, since neither of us was particularly interested in getting stuck talking to other Americans. This strategy served us well until the last night in town.
The four of us went to dinner at a higher-end, highly regarded restaurant, and no sooner had we sat down and ordered than a couple sat down next to us at the banquette. They were big and loud and stereotypically American in a way that makes me cringe and want to claim Canadian citizenship. When our food started to arrive, the man would lean over, his face only inches from each of our arriving plates, and point and ask "What's that?!". We tried hard to be nice but avoid engaging him. It wasn't easy. At the end of the meal, he finally broke the imaginary wall between our tables completely to have a loud (this tiny, elegant restaurant seated maybe thirty people) conversation about tipping. It was horrible. My favorite was the part where he said, typically of a particular brand of self-important New Yorkers, that when he was younger, he used to live in "The City" (As if there is only one. See #9 on this Post from one of my favorite bloggers for an entertaining observation on the subject). I chose to think of that experience as a useful reminder of how little we had actually had to put up with while we were there.
So yes, we enjoyed Paris. we will probably be going back at some point. Here's a random smattering of photos:

fish at the market

An illicit photo I took inside Shakespeare and Company. The signs said not to take pictures "in order to respect readers", so I used my phone and took them when no one else was around.

This is a stained glass window in the Cluny Museum. I sent this picture as a post card with the caption "Ouch. Quit it." Medieval Christians were not a terribly upbeat bunch.

This was taken at a very touristy little spot next to the bookstore. That's a glass of 2003 Medoc in the foreground, and Notre Dame in the back. Best thirteen Euros I spent all day.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Our day at the Hillinger Winery started with a sunny walk up a windswept hill. The winery itself is built into the hillside in a tiny old town in Burgenland. It looks rather out of place, a sleek Bond Villain lair, all white and glass and modern, and the townspeople were apparently very upset when it was planned. Now that their hotels and restaurants are frequented by wine tourists, criticism has lessened considerably.
Not only does Hillinger make great wine, but their marketing savvy is apparent at every turn. Their packaging is gorgeous, the winemaker himself a larger than life Bond Villain/Viking whose visage can be seen on two large screen plasma TVs at all times in the tasting room/retail shop, in a video introduction to the winery that runs on a loop every twenty or so minutes. When he finally arrived at our tasting, he seemed comparatively small, despite the fact that he towered over everyone and his hands were each bigger than my head. After a lovely meal and a tasting of the entire portfolio, the night devolved into a dance party that once again reminded me how European gaydar is a technology far beyond my comprehension.

After checking my suitcases to be held at the airport (for 3 Euro each - a bargain, I spent several hours on Saturday walking around Vienna by myself. I spent some time walking through the touristy areas again, and then eventually made my way to a neighborhood where the regular people live. I walked through shops, took some pictures at a march against internet censorship, and basically wandered aimlessly, rarely speaking, trying to disappear into the crowd. After a week as a Guest of Honor/Tourist, it was a welcome relief.

The flight to Amsterdam was short, and the b.h. was waiting for me when I got off the plane. We went immediately to our hotel, where one foot high and three inch wide stairs carried us to our fourth floor room. One bag at a time we went, even then sometimes barely getting through doorways. It was hilarious. We went out right away to a Moroccan restaurant that the b.h. had found on the internet. Walking there down dark and mostly deserted streets was a surprise to me since it was Saturday night, and I was thinking that this was the first time since I had arrived in Europe that I felt a bit unsafe, like we might be mugged. I kept a brisk pace and maintained a full awareness of our surroundings. When we arrived at the restaurant, it was easy to see why no one was on the street. Apparently everyone and their very attractive mother was there, laughing and eating and drinking and having a great time. The service was iffy, and we thought it might have been our own confusion about whether to move around to the service part of the bar (in the States that space is reserved for waiters) to order a drink. We ended up waiting til we were seated to get one, which was fine. The food was excellent and the atmosphere lively, and had we not both been so exhausted we would likely have stayed there a long time. More confusion at bill-paying time, as we waited patiently at our table for the waitress to collect our credit card, only to be told ten minutes later to pay at the front. Ah. Cultural differences. No matter, as we were enjoying the scenery and just happy to be together again after a long six days.

We had breakfast at the hotel and lugged our six bags back down the stairs and left them in a closet while we walked around the city. The most striking thing to me was the sheer number of bicycles, which far outnumbered cars and were ridden by people of all ages and types. My favorite were the young men huffing and puffing at the pedals while their girlfriends rode side saddle on the back, smoking cigarettes and looking perfectly blase' about the whole thing. We walked around a bit, taking pictures and seeing sights, and then had coffee, lunch, and a beer at a small cafe across from the massive Heineken Brewery. We went to the State Museum, which was open during renovation and had the bonus of cramming a "best of" into a condensed tour. Both the Van Gogh and Rembrandt museums were closed, so we saw what we could see and then called our friends C and C over near Rotterdam to pick us up. We waited in a nearby pub with another coffee and another beer. I discovered that Amstel makes a delicious Bock beer. Of course they don't export it to the states, so I have always associated their name with the tasteless "light" swill that I have slung for so many years. No more.

C and C ("The Dutch") are looking fabulous. We hadn't all been together since Athfest of 2008, but we were all comfortable together immediately. We stopped on the way to their house at a renovated church that has been converted to a restaurant/organic produce shop. We took a quick tour, had a bite to eat and a drink, and then continued on to their place. They live on a very deep canal across from an old church whose bells are clearly audible on the half hour. Huge ships passed regularly, providing a lovely backdrop the the cozy warmth inside. We got more beer and spent the evening on their couches.
On Sunday we visited Delft. We walked all over, ate some traditional tiny pancakes, drank coffee, bought cheese, took a million pictures. Everything in Europe is so old that I was constantly amazed. The thing about growing up in Chicago is that there is very little history, since the whole city burned to the ground in 1871, and the one building that survived was only built to years prior. Because of this, virtually everything filled me with a sense of wonder, and being in places like Delft made me feel small. I loved it.

On Tuesday we drove to Brugge, Belgium. The only indications that we had passed a border were small signs on the highway and the gentleman who came up to the car window and offered us a handful of chocolate bars as we were entering town. Again everything was stunning, again we walked and walked and ate and drank and drank some more, and I took several hundred photos. We ate a Belgian waffle smothered in chocolate and drank beer in a pub on the square. We went to Gent in the afternoon and repeated the same pattern, changing it up slightly by visiting a Medieval castle. One of the great things about being with The Dutch is that there were always plenty of stops for food, coffee and beer.

Wednesday we went to Rotterdam. I adored it. It was easily the most comfortable I had felt anywhere since I had left home. We walked and walked again, sampling local food (Can we talk about the french fries with mayo and Thai peanut sauce? Whoever thought of that deserves a major award) and drinks, and generally soaking it all in. The Hotel New York was particularly enjoyable. We know that the b.h.'s grandparents were in Rotterdam while his grandfather was in the military, and The Dutch said that this was where his grandmother's ship would have arrived and likely where they would have stayed. Visually, little had changed since that time. The decor was beautiful.
On the way back to the car, I bought a tall, brown, gorgeous pair of D0c M@artens for a ridiculously low price (they were the last pair) at a shop where I could easily have outfitted myself for the next decade were it not for the lack of space in my bags.

That night we ate Indonesian food from a small take-out place near the house. The b.h. and I had never had Indonesian food before, and it was quite a happy discovery. Thursday we stayed at the house, packing and eating and being lazy while we waited to go to the train station.

Saying goodbye to The Dutch is always difficult, but we hope this time it won't be four years before we see them again.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

The next day, I got up early and went down to the outdoor heated swimming pool for half an hour before breakfast. It was chilly outside, which made the pool feel even better, and the fog was just lifting over the vineyards as I swam back and forth between them. Yet another moment of "Am I really here?" as I floated on my back in total silence.
Breakfast was odd. I walked up on another wine buyer from another state just as she was saying something about me. I know this because she was stupid enough to say "She's right there" as I walked up, and then she and the guy she was talking to both went very red and jerked around to face me. Huh. Had I possibly said something to offend them? I thought about it for about a minute and a half before remembering that she was the idiot who got so drunk on the first night that she announced to the entire table (winemakers, hosts, and all) that she and her husband slept with their two (four and six year old) boys in bed with them every night.

We went to Anton Bauer's vineyard for lunch. We hiked the vineyards a bit first, where we came across an octogenarian pruner that has worked for the family since before Tony was born. He was about five feet tall, and had a blade sticking out of his boot that ran all the way to his knee. I wish I had understood anything he was saying, because he greeted us all cordially and chatted with Klaus and Tony for several minutes, apparently about how the pruning was going. We eventually landed back at his tasting room, where Tony's wife Gudrun and his sister (I can't remember her name- crap) were waiting with homemade dumpling soup and their whole portfolio lined up on the table. Everything was outstanding. Orders were placed on the spot.

We drove to Burgenland that afternoon to meet the Netzl family. Franz and his daughter Christina, both winemakers, walked us fifty feet from the bus in a very cold wind to gaze momentarily at one of their vineyards, and then we drove a ways to see some of the others before going back to the winery for a full tour. After the tour we had dinner in their tasting room overlooking a vineyard and tasted their full lineup. Once again, post-dinner was a trip down to the cellar. Theirs was only a couple hundred years old, and very cozy, with wines dating back several decades. They opened several for us. One was a blend made as a surprise for Christina's wedding by her father and the groom's father, who also happens to be a winemaker. It was a beautiful story and a delicious wine, and we were honored that they shared it with us. At one point while we were down there, my phone, which was set to silent, vibrated in my pocket. It was an automated reminder that I set for myself that tells me when it is time to attend my weekly merchandising meeting at the Local Grocery. I took a (non-flash) picture of myself with my glass in the cellar and made a note to send it to the people stuck in that meeting when we got back upstairs.

The next day we went to Meinklang, a biodynamic, Demeter certified farm and winery in the middle of Burgenland. Werner, the winemaker, was very sick, but he dragged himself out of bed to talk to us and taste some wine. His presentation was great, his methods incredibly interesting, and his wine was tasty. After that we stopped for a dessert tasting with the Steindorfers. Ernst was ill and under doctor's orders not to get out of bed (the previous week's cold snap had apparently put half the country out of commission), but we were able to taste with his nephew. They had these donut-like rolls that were filled with apricot jam, which I could have eaten ten of and had to walk away from to avoid embarrassing myself.
We stopped at the Steininger tasting room on our way back to the hotel. Birgitta Steininger speaks English, so she sat with the four of us at a long table and chatted over a couple glasses of their fabulous Sekt. I think we had the Sauvignon Blanc and the Gruner. She was just delightful. After we drove the rest of the way to the hotel and I had a shower and a twenty minute nap before making my way back to the lobby. We were meeting at 5:30 to head to Anton Bauer's for dinner, but I went down twenty minutes early to try and send a quick message to the b.h. and my parents. I was greeted two minutes after sitting by K@rl Steininger, who handed me yet another glass of bubbly. I abandoned my iPh0ne and made some attempt at conversation. Soon his daughter Ava arrived, as well as some of my cohorts from the tour group. We tried the Pinot Noir Sekt and chatted for awhile before loading into cars and going to Wagram.
Ant0n Bauer sounds like Alan Richman in the first Die Hard movie. He is as sweet as can be, but he's a big guy and German always sounds angry anyway, so I found the whole night pretty comical. He and his wife Gudrun have a lovely house and a really nice tasting room, and they were generous enough to make dinner for all of us that had arrived early (which was most of us- 15 people, I think). Ant0n kept opening bottle after bottle and making rounds around the table. This was prior to the official start of the trip, you understand, so I was taking no notes and since I hadn't slept in around 30 hours, so I can't tell you most of what we had. What I can tell you is that I refused grappa (made from grapes from the Bauer vineyard) and was given a stern once-over. I did touch each of the three to my lips from the glass of a guy next to me, but I wasn't about to let them pour me two ounces of valuable liquor that I had no intention of drinking. Each of the three tasted distinctly like burning to me, which is also why it would have been wasted on me. After a few hours of this, many of the other people in the group were getting pretty tipsy. I was mostly dumping out my wine after tasting a few sips, due to the aforementioned lack of sleep.
We walked through the winery itself and tasted samples from barrels that were still aging. The room that had all the barrels in it smelled absolutely fantastic. I don't feel like my palate is sophisticated enough to determine whether or not the young wines would develop well or not (I'm sure they will- the guy is a genius), but it was a cool experience nonetheless.
Round about eleven o'clock (on the second day in a row that I was awake), Klaus rounded up most of the group to drive them back to the hotel. There was not enough room for all of us in the two vehicles that were available, so some of us would have to wait with the Bauers while he shuttled the others and then came back for us. That would be another forty minutes. I was in that group. I almost started crying. Klaus smirked as he was walking out the door and winked at me, saying
"You'll thank me tomorrow!"

I slept like a corpse, waking early and feeling pretty good. I popped down to the heated outdoor pool for a swim, then took a shower before going to breakfast, which was a giant and gorgeous buffet of everything I have ever dreamed of eating for breakfast. I ate heartily, drank some delicious and restorative coffee, and headed for the bus. The bus took us into Vienna, where we stopped for our first official tasting at a beautiful hotel downtown. We were joined there by the last three people to arrive. They were from Boston, and had chosen to spend the night in Vienna after arriving the day before. There was a thirtyish guy that I liked immediately, and a twenty-something gay guy wearing far too much cologne, plus a forty-something woman who was such an obvious fag hag (whoops- I believe the PC term for that is now "fruit fly") that it was weird and a trifle embarrassing. We tasted through eight wines from Strauss. They were outstanding. I remember specifically my notes on one of them were that I would like to wear it as perfume. After the tasting we walked around Vienna for an hour or two. I kept lagging behind, snapping pictures with my camera, and then jogging to catch up with the rest of the group. I got a lot of great photos, we saw a lot of cool things, and it was nice just to get out in the fresh air.

For lunch we went to the vineyard of Paul D, a winemaker who is half my age and doing impressive work. His mother looked nearly identical to Sar@h P@lin, and she went around the table quizzing all of us about what we do and where we are from. When the guy next to me said Denver, she said "Denver? Do you know J.R. Ewing?" He didn't miss a beat before responding "Yes I do," despite the fact that J.R was on a teevee show called Dallas, and for that I immediately liked him. Austrian Sarah Palin made her very own Apple Strudel for us, and I finished mine embarrassingly quickly and then helped Denver with his because she was chastising him for leaving some on his plate.

We got a brief respite at the hotel, followed by more glasses of Steininger Sekt in the lobby, followed by an incredible Sekt (bubbly, in case I didn't already explain that) dinner at the Steiningers. We toured the bottling plant, each disgorged our own bottle of Sekt which was then signed by Karl and given to us as a parting gift when we left. When dinner was over, we were brought down into the 800+ year-old cellar under the winery, where we drank our way through probably twenty bottles from various vintages dating back to the 1970s. I was amazed to find how well Gruner Veltliner can age. The whole experience was indescribable. Around once an hour during this trip I would think to myself "Holy shit- this is really happening." And it was. It did.
I was made well aware of this when I woke up the following morning wishing that I was dead. I had been out until two in the morning, and when my alarm went off at seven, I almost started to cry. instead I hit the snooze on my alarm repeatedly, leaving only enough time to get up, shower, dress, and go down to breakfast, which I couldn't possibly eat. I settled for several glasses of orange juice and water, trying desperately to rehydrate before the drinking was to start again.
After breakfast we took a long, cold, damp hike to the uppermost Steininger Riesling vineyard. I was lagging behind this time not for photo opportunities but in case I had to vomit behind a vine somewhere. By the time we reached our destination, I had sweated out most of the prior night's wine, and after a roll with farmer's cheese, I actually enjoyed the vertical tasting. We stood in the vineyard and tried six different vintages of the wine while surrounded by the vines it came from. Very cool. We hiked back to the winery and tasted through the entire still wine portfolio over lunch, which was again prepared by Brigitta and the Steininger daughters.
After lunch we got back in the bus for a journey to the Wachau, where we toured the Tegernseerh0f winery with sixth generation winemaker M@rtin Mittelbach. When we got out of the bus, Martin pointed to the top of an enormous hill and said "We'll walk up there". I laughed, thinking he was joking. He wasn't. We walked. This time I wasn't hung over, so it wasn't so bad. I was back to shutter bugging, and I laughed when I realized how far behind Boston was lagging, especially after I remembered the youngest guy calling me an amatuer for going to bed at two am. We had gluwein made from Gruner Veltliner grapes and these tasty little rolls that were everywhere in Austria that I can't remember the name of. They looked like Kaiser rolls, but they were crunchy on the outside and soft on the insde and way better than any Kaiser roll I have ever had. When we got to the winery, the family was in the courtyard waiting for us with glasses and wine, and Martin showed us a big chunk of dirt from the vineyard and explained that this was why his wines taste the way they do. I was distracted by one of the women (I use that term loosely- she was an immature little twat)hanging eagerly on every word Martin said, leaning close and wearing an unnaturally large grin, trying hard to get his attention. We'll call her Jeannie. All the while, Martin only had eyes for a different woman, who I will refer to as Kathy. Kathy is very cool, very unassuming, and cute as hell. Since Jeannie had been rather annoying up to this point, I was thoroughly enjoying myself watching her suffer. She and some of the other women from her area had a kind of Mean Girls vibe that I found confusing and irritating, and I had been doing my best to avoid them while at the same time wondering what I might have done to offend them since we had barely met. At dinner that night, I sat next to Kathy and discovered that she was having the same experience. Then I found out that the only other woman who was there from Vermont was also having this problem, and we all bonded. The trip got easier at that point. Dinner was in the actual home of the family, which is a building from the 1700's (Probably not that impressive to the British readership, but for me it was a new experience).
I did stay up a bit late that night drinking in the lobby, but I was much smarter about my consumption. Martin had his iPhone in an empty wineglass, blaring music while he cranked open yet another magnum of Gruner Veltliner, when I headed up to bed. I did manage to snag a booking with him to do a tasting at my store while he is in town next week.
So far this trip has been quite the whirlwind. I will attempt to recap a bit now, but since I am in a hotel room in Paris waiting for the b.h. to get out of the shower, I won't have time for much in the way of details.
I didn't sleep a wink on my flight to Geneva. I had a row to myself, and I was tired, and it should have been easy, but it wasn't. On the bright side I got to watch the sun come up over the Alps as we were flying in. The airport in Geneva was ridiculous. There were very few signs in any language, and the directions I got from the rude people that worked there were seriously unhelpful. I waited in line for three days waiting to get a cup of coffee, finally gave up when they shorted the British guy in front of me and then gave him a hard time about it, and wound up at another stand with what I can only assume was much better coffee and what they called a beignet, which was delicious and far more decadent than the ones I have enjoyed in New Orleans. Stuffed with some kind of cheese, it was, and raisins. (That was my first and hopefully last Yoda sentence).The caffeine and sugar combined to snap me sufficiently awake for my next flight. When I got to Vienna, everything was easy and all was right with the world, except for the part where I forgot where I was meeting my ride and I couldn't get the internet to work and my phone was running out of battery. Luckily I am incredibly resourceful and I managed to get in touch and then found the group just in time. Klaus, our leader for the week, met us at a hotel across from the airport with Karl Steininger, whose wine is so delicious that it has nearly brought me to tears on more than one occasion. I nearly hugged the man when we were introduced.
The ride back was quiet. Klaus had one with two of the other women from my area to the train station to pick up somebody else, and it turns out Karl speaks very little English. I didn't know any of the three women who were in the car with us, and I was dozing off (of course) in the front seat when I wasn't trying fruitlessly to engage him in a broken English conversation. He gamely pointed out landmarks at irregular intervals, and mostly we all just starred out the window in disbelief while we drove through beautiful countryside filled- I mean literally filled with vineyards.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Here I go!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

My friend P came up to me at the Local grocery, shaking his head and laughing.
"Oh, just another hilarious "seminar" going on in the conference room. They're all laying on the floor on yoga mats, banging on some hippie drums and chanting."
"You know, I always forget that stuff like that even happens up there, since I never actually see it. I'm almost always working on the floor during 'class' times."
"You should make it a point to check them out. I don't think anything will ever beat the candlelight bat vigil, but I'm keeping my eye out."
"The what?"
"Candle light vigil. For the bats. You know, because they're all dying from that fungus that gets in their noses?"
"And their solution was-"
So my coworker pages me to the sales floor, and I can see on her face when I arrive that she can't wait to pass of the idiot she's talking to. I have seen this guy before. He looks like he stepped off the set of The Lord of the Rings, but with boots and a plaid wool jacket. He has this terrible, ridiculously curled beard, too much jewelery, and a funny little accent.
"Heybartender, this is Padma."
("Really? Top Chef is really wearing on her!" was all I could think.)
"What can I help you find?"
"You don't have any Cotes du Rhone. I used to always be able to find Cotes du Rhone..."
"Sure we do! Come with me," I said, walking over to the French wines. I pointed out three that were on the shelf.
"Those are too expensive. I want one for under ten dollars."
I pointed to two more.
"Those aren't good."
"Well, there aren't a lot of good Cotes du Rhone out there for under ten dollars. If you want a good one, you should try this- or this." I gestured at two that were $11.99.
"You have to go out to Adamant (another Co Op). SHe has all kinds of Cotes du Rhone."
"Well, I'm not going to Adamant. If there's something specific you want, I will order it for you."
"She has this one for $7.99!" he continued, picking up one of the ten dollar bottles.
"Well, clearly she isn't interested in making money. Unfortunately, I have to or I will lose my job. If you want to save the two bucks, then I recommend that you drive out there to buy your wine, though I daresay the gas will cost you at least as much as you're saving."
"Okay, well, thank you for hearing me out."

This happens all the time.

Friday, February 10, 2012

There is nothing I hate like I hate the doctor's office. I hate the smell and feel of the waiting room, the fecking paperwork, which I have already filled out at the three doctors' offices that I had to visit before finally landing in this one (seriously, no computers?), and the waiting. I was required to be at this self-important douche hole twenty minutes prior to my appointment, presumably to fill out the metric fuck ton of repetitive paperwork. After I turned that in (with ten minutes to spare, I might add), I was kept waiting another ten minutes before being called into the examination room. The b.h. stayed in the waiting room. I was given a crappy useless gown and told to remove my sweater and t-shirt. Luckily I had layered, because it was about fifty degrees in that room. Another ten minutes went by and a very young woman came in to do the preliminary b.s. - hwy was I there (um... check the fucking referral?), what happened, etc. That was a two minute process. After that I waited forever consuming an entire issue of Smithsonian Magazine before finally putting my clothes back on and wandering out to find a bathroom. I woman in a doctor's coat called me by name and pointed the way. when I came back out she apologized for keeping me waiting and said she would be right in. She came in a several minutes later, we talked for a few minutes, she asked questions and got a model of the shoulder to show me where the problems were, etc. This lasted approximately five minutes. Only after all this did she say that the doctor would be in shortly. She disappeared, and I read another whole magazine. She poked her head in and said she was sorry again and that she would try to push the doctor along. Did I need to be anywhere?
"Does he need to reschedule?"
No, she reassured me, though if I needed to go she could certainly understand. I explained that I had already been waiting three months to get in, and that they had already failed to return my calls or get me an appointment on three other occasions, so I was not eager to try again. I asked her to fetch the b.h. When I found out that I had been in there for over an hour, I got furious.
I told him I was going to wait five more minutes and then walk out. He reminded me that I had been asked to pay in advance and that I should demand my money back. I stewed for several more minutes before finally getting dressed, grabbing my bag, and walking out, nearly bowling the doctor over in the process.
"Oh, do you have time to see me now?" I asked in the kind of quiet tone of voice that usually precedes a homicidal spree in the movies.
He looked genuinely confused. Did I dare question him? After he'd spent so many years in medical school? Who was I, a mere non-medical professional, to assume that my time was in any way equal in value to his? It was clear that he was not used to people reacting this way. I wanted to dick punch him.
We went back in the room, we ran through the bullshit, and I contained my anger as best I could. The end result was a cortisone shot and less pain, and my solemn promise to myself that I will suck it up and drive the fucking forty miles to Burlington the next time I need to see a doctor. Fuck that place. Seriously.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

I'll finally be getting to the orthopedist tomorrow. I have no idea what to expect, but am hoping they can tell me something definitive so I can make a plan for my stupid shoulder. It hurts quite a lot by the end of each day now, and I find myself much more tired than I should be, regardless of how much sleep I get. On the bright side, being so exhausted has helped me to sleep more heavily lately.

I got news that I am offered a special rate at the ludicrously luxurious hotel in Vienna for the night of my arrival. My only concern is that it may be a ways from the city and any potential sightseeing. On the other hand, after spending almost a whole day traveling, it seems like a heated pool and a fat drink might be all that I need. Any insight is appreciated, of course. Otherwise I'll wing it.
Things have been very busy at work, and I am trying to get Sven up to speed so he can do my job while I'm off gallivanting. I have been approved for six days of educational pay for the Austrian portion of my trip, which means that with the PTO I have saved, I will only be missing half a day's pay for my whole two and a half week trip. Sweet! In other news, our friend J(male, formerly of casa del J and J, where many a dinner party was had last year) and his wife will be flying from Sweden to meet us in Paris. Have I mentioned that I am really, really looking forward to this trip?

The b.h. and I have been talking a lot lately about "what's next". We have these conversations from time to time, trying to decide where to move and what we want to do. We both think that we'd like to be gone before the start of next winter. The fact that this one has been so cold and wet and miserable has only reinforced that. We have our eyes turned toward Chicago at the moment, though nothing is set in stone. I've been gone so long now that I can't even begin to imagine where we'd live. Still, we've formed an exploratory committee. I'll keep you posted, of course.
I may have mentioned before that there is a particular customer at the LG who everyone knows and almost everyone shies away from. She is one of our many examples of Vermont Parenting, with a son who is about three that she spoils and refuses to discipline at all. This is the woman who not only brought her child into a wine tasting, but then allowed him to handle every piece of food that was being sampled to my customers, watching disinterestedly while he shoved about half of it into his face before putting the rest back on the platter. The final straw occurred when she offered him the last few drops of wine in her glass.
"Here honey, wanna try it?"
"No!" I virtually shouted across the cafe. "Please don't do that. It's against the law and I could lose my liquor license."
She completely ignored me, so I went to get my manager. By the time we returned, she was gone. She has since come to around ten tastings, each time having to be reminded to stay within the roped off area (We're really quite Puritanical here in the Green Mountain State) and leave her son outside of it.
So the other day when she showed up sans child, hovering around a couple that I was consulting about wine for their wedding. She was making herself part of the conversation, asking questions and making comments about the things I said, so I assumed that she was actually with them until I had answered all of their questions and they had walked away, leaving her crazyship and I alone.
"You're so passionate about what you do. It's really great."
"Thanks. Yeah, well, when you love what you do..."
"Do you ever have tastings?"

Thursday, January 26, 2012

I started my day yesterday with two hours and fifteen minutes in the dentist's chair. I may or may not have mentioned this before, but I have a lot of silver fillings from my childhood, and as they get older the silver is expanding and breaking my teeth. Hence I am replacing all of said fillings slowly, as my insurance and bank account will allow. I am now on the third phase, the upper left quadrant of my mouth, and there is a lot of work being done. Making this third phase more interesting is the fact that while I wait for my gold onlay to be made, the temporary cover that I have been given for my naked teeth seems to be flavored with clove. I don't dislike the flavor of clove, thank the gods, but neither would I prefer to have the taste perpetually in my mouth, in the manner that it has been for the last thirty some odd hours. Wine is undrinkable, and so is the stingingly bitter hoppy beer that I usually enjoy. I am finding solace in Brooklyn Black Chocolate("Blackout")Stout, but the going is not easy.
The problem with my shoulder is still in limbo. I've had the stupid MRI, been to the clinic that i had to see in order to establish whether or not I have a potential workman's comp claim, and I am now waiting, waiting, waiting to hear back from the bloody Orthopedist. i finally got sick of waiting and called on Wednesday. "Hi, I have been waiting two weeks to hear from you. I was referred by Some Stupid Clinic and they said it would take seven days."

"Well, you had an appointment on January sixth and you didn't show up."
"You didn't call to tell me I had an appointment,and if you had I would have told you that I would be in Florida on the sixth and would not be able to make it."
"Well the Clinic should have called. We would only have called to confirm."
"Clearly neither of you did, or I wouldn't be calling you right now wondering what was going on now, would I? You'll excuse my tone, but I am in a lot of pain and I have been trying to get an appointment with you since the first of NOVEMBER, and I really need this dealt with."
She read me the phone number she had for me, which was wrong. "But you know where I work! Why would you not call if you didn't reach me?

"I don't know what happened. Now the problem is getting you in."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, we may not have an appointment for... we have an opening on February 6th. Can you come in then?"
I banged my head silently on my desk. "Yes. I'll be there."
What else can I do? I mean, I'm not going to accomplish anything by yelling at the poor receptionist, right? Curse this fucking town for it's smallness and lack of competition among providers. One more thing to add to the list of Why I Can't Stay in this Fucking Place.
In other WICSITFP news, the b.h. has his company holiday party last Sunday. The place he works is great. Run by benevolent geniuses, successful, warm, and an all-around good situation. For him. He has three bosses and one boss's brother, who is a kind of junior manager guy, who is also incredibly nice. All four of them have wives or significant others, and all of these women are completely shitty to me on a regular basis. I have no idea why or what the deal is, but I've been around for a couple years now, I get on well with all of their guys, and I am so married. Not possibly a threat, right? But only one of them deigns to acknowledge me at all, and only when the others aren't looking. It is bizarre. I thought at first that maybe I was being paranoid, but the b.h. confirmed that they are not easy to know. They have all finally warmed to him after all this time, but he basically told me not to bother and not to worry about it. Ugh. It brings to mind a saying:
"God made the country, Man made the city, and the Devil made small towns." I wish I could remember who said that. Anyway, the countdown to Austria is on, and upon our return I think I will start hatching an escape plan. I believe if I find myself here in a year I will lose my mind.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The rest of my vacation included a sunset dolphin watching cruise on the ocean; watching the Blackhawks lose in overtime to the Detroit Redwings (which also meant listening to my mom shout a stream of obscenities at their television- I think "dickface" was my favorite); and going on my uncle's boat down the canal at the condo complex into the Caloosahatchee River and then out onto the Gulf of Mexico. We turned around fairly quickly, and ran out of gas on the river on the way back. My uncle called the boater's equivalent of AAA, so we were unstuck in under an hour. We made a brief stop at a loud and horrible sports bar that served decent pizza, went to a nature preserve of Sanibel Island, and swan yet again in the pool. I have never been a big fan of Florida, and by no means would I ever want to live there, but I am glad that my folks have a place there. They love it and they're having a great time, have gotten younger-looking for the time they've spent, and have a great little community of friends. It's a place I look forward to visiting yearly, let's put it that way.
My flights home were unremarkable. I went back through Detroit again, this time with a much shorter layover and a less satisfying beer. My friend Anna was waiting for me at the airport, and I was whisked home in no time.
It has been bitterly cold since I returned, but we've spent a lot of time planning for our trip next month and thoughts of Europe are keeping me very warm and fuzzy. Even work has been relatively pleasant, Oddfellows Local 151 aside.