Tag Archives: drinking

Four corners and three sheets to the wind

Weddings, I’ve discovered over the years, are as varied as anything—wildflowers, thumbprints, coffee stains. In my life, I’ve been to many, many weddings, including:

  • An actual shotgun wedding in which the bride’s father really had a rifle nearby
  • A last-minute wedding of two friends whose parents had discerned were about to elope
  • A wedding for a friend who had very recently converted to Jehovah’s Witness—still my personal record holder for longest sermon ever
  • A Minnesota wedding in which a few of the guests showed up in sweatpants
  • A wedding in which my siblings and I got so rip-roaring drunk the maitre’d asked if he could cut us off
  • A lesbian wedding held at the infamous Salahi’s Oasis vineyard in Virginia—yes, those Salahis

Then of course there’s my wedding, and we all know what happened there. In case we don’t know, it was a splendid, oppressively hot day and in the middle of the reception, I blew out my left ACL. Apparently, this is a common event, so don’t mock me too badly.

We received word that our friends were going to get married this summer and immediately, reflexively, my mind ran through all of my prior nuptials experiences, culminating, unsurprisingly, with the Why I No Longer Dance to Billie Jean moment. I was ready to move on, as I’m sure everyone else who knows me is, too.

These good friends fall solidly in the “hippie” category of person. What kind of wedding would we see?

We heard from the bride-to-be, who is, among other things, an interpretive dancer, that there would be interpretive dancing. I remarked that their wedding may be the gayest ever we’d seen, even gayer than the gay ones. But the dancing turned out to be lovely. Choreographed by the bride, it highlighted what we were about to experience from the ceremony itself, which also had an original song written by the bride’s father, burning sage and a pagan-lite blessing, a communal turning to the four corners, and a linked touching thing or other, in which we all put a hand on the person next to us, all the way to and including the couple. This would have been a sweeter activity were it not for the 97-degree daylight beating down on us and making the majority of our skin sweaty and damp. The bride and groom accepted our love and support even if it came with some measure of perspiration. We were touched by the sentiment, nonetheless.

The ceremony took only about 40 minutes, meaning that it failed to beat the time of the longest ceremony I’ve experienced, which went for more than 2 hours. People would have died of heat stroke if we’d had to sit out there that long. We made our way to a cocktail hour, sipped at some cool beer, and then seated ourselves for dinner, which was a tasty barbeque buffet. This meant that Susanne ate three pulled pork sandwiches in two days. Suffice it to say she won’t go anywhere near a pig product for a while.

One guest ran up to us, half-drunk, asking if we could locate any empty tin cans so she could attach them to the couple’s car. I looked over and saw that there were already six balloons taped to the windows. I smiled and made a note not to let intoxicated people decorate my car.

After the sun set it wasn’t long until Susanne noticed a bright light at the top of the Blue Ridge Mountains. How obnoxious, she exclaimed. Then we realized it was the moonrise. Score 2,000 points for this wedding, the first I’ve attended with its own moonfreakingrise. Our friends stood outside, watching it and feeling whatever overwhelming emotion they must have noticed at that moment.

Their friends who are in a zydeco band struck up a set and people danced and drank, danced and drank, until the guests, en masse, were snockered. There came a point at which my own level of sobriety became incompatible with theirs—I could see that they were having fun, but we were on different planes of existence. We hugged our friends and wished them well. They were getting ready to settle in for a few days at a resort in Mexico. We were headed back to our B&B and a nice bath with water jets. Same difference, I’m sure.

No wine before its time

I’ve seen more wineries in the last week than in all of the previous weeks I’ve been in Walla Walla. It wasn’t a lack of interest in drinking wine, really, so much as a lack of interest in standing around feeling like a fraud who knows nothing about wine. And I’m pretty sure that I know more than nothing about it—I know some of the vintages out there, I know which are my favorites, like Malbec and Pinot Noir, and which I can’t even pretend to drink, like Riesling. I even know I like California styled Pinots better than French style ones, but my intermediate knowledge pretty much ends there. For living in a winery town, I’m betting I fall in the bottom third of the resident population, somewhere above Bud Light with Lime drinker, but well, well below somineler. I’m a second or third floor tenant in the wine-consuming office tower.

So it was with a jaundiced eye—get it, cirrhosis of the liver after drinking too much—that I traipsed out to a few wineries with our friend Jody, of the beer boot fame. When I say a “few,” I mean 12. One dozen wineries in one week. There was no, unfortunately for us, baker’s dozen “bonus” winery. I suppose we could have gone to more, but Jody’s wine shipper boxes had filled up and she became loathe to entertain the notion of buying a quarter of 100 bottles. Twenty-four bottles she was fine with, but twenty-five was just right out, apparently. I appreciate a woman with good boundaries.

The wine buying experience, for me at least, is a strange combination of luxury and annoyance, pleasure and pretension. I can’t think of anything else that comes close, except playing a round of golf after vying for a decent tee time. At least I think that experience is comparable, I’ve only done the latter once, when I was 15. My point is that while I like wine, I don’t necessarily like it standing next to strangers who are also there to taste wine and who are incontrovertibly better at getting the wine pourer’s attention than I am. So I wind up standing around with an empty glass, obviously not looking Seattleish enough to convince the staff that I’m ready to buy a case of their best red table wine. This leaves me wanting for something to distract me, like pretending to see the Winery Dogs of Walla Walla book for the first time ever, or clearing out my glass with the perfect tiny dab of water.

It reminds me a wee bit of high school in that jockeying for position to be cool enough way, that complete concern about one’s image that is really about insecurity and being frightened the wrong person will notice one’s lack of coolness. Because then it will be broadcast to all of one’s peers, and then one is simply Done For. I keep waiting for the moment when the Porsche-driving older guy with his rather young friends will turn to me and laugh in my face. It hasn’t happened yet, but I think I’ve dodged a bullet or two.

One winery on the Oregon side of the Walla Walla Valley line absolutely ignored Susanne and me several months ago, starting from one iota after they realized that we were locals. It was the snub at the dance; I could see the other patrons laughing it up, throwing their heads back, tiny tastes of wine rattling in their glasses, calling in orders for two and three cases, while I stood at the bar on the other side of the room, wondering how to make the quietest exit. As revenge, I tell people not to bother going to Zerba winery.

Walking through the wine industry with Jody, however, I had the best strategy. The girl can talk some wine. With her as the main distraction, we didn’t have any trouble making it through the flights of bottles. They could smell the money on her; it smoldered in her pocket and wafted to their wine-selling noses. Everywhere we went—L’Ecole and Cougar Crest, K, Spring Valley, Trust, I mean everywhere—she marched right in and started asking questions, started tasting, started exclaiming. There was no shrinking to this flower, and they ate it up.

I witnessed a number of excited exchanges and disagreements about wine. Whether there was a cherry on the finish, whether this beat the 2007 Dom. du Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape (note: it did not. Very little beats the 2007 Dom. du Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape, according to Jody). These were conversations 40 feet over my head. But who cared, I was getting pours! I tasted and spit, savoring when I could and moving on quickly when the wine didn’t suit me. Jody would become more and more excitable over the course of the day, until we all noted that we could use a nap.

I realized that walking into a winery with insecurity was like mounting a stallion cloaked in one’s own sense of fear. Neither experience would go well from that point. I didn’t need to worry about my class status in the winery, nor what I was projecting, I just needed to engage with the staff and enjoy the experience.

This is why having visitors from out of town is a good thing. Jody was just keeping it real.

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