Tag Archives: humor

An Epic Wine

27 Feb

[I]t is the wine that leads me on,
the wild wine
that sets the wisest man to sing
at the top of his lungs,
laugh like a fool – it drives the
man to dancing… it even
tempts him to blurt out stories
better never told.

– Homer, The Odyssey

When I found The Map, it was like discovering a dusty worn parchment inking out the elusive burial spot of Blackbeard’s famous hoard. The Virginia Wine Board produces a free detailed map of the wineries, cideries and meaderies of the entire state of Virginia. It’s big. . . . really big. The sheer number of vintners, brewers, apple and honey fermenters in this state proves one thing. Virginians, like their forefather Thomas Jefferson, love the fruit of the vine. I had been to a few wineries in the past, but I had no idea of the literal explosion of vineyards and variety of wines produced in this state over the last twenty years. So when I stumbled upon the Virginia Wine Expo at the Richmond Convention Center, I bought my ticket more than a month in advance. Nearly all of the state wineries in one place? I imagined walking up to heavy double doors and then the treasure trove of bottled liquid ambrosia piled within awaiting my plunder.

The actual experience was a little different.

As I strode in to the main exhibition hall of the Richmond Convention Center, and luckily found a floor map, I quickly realized that this event was definitely not what I had anticipated. Imagine a home show, wine replacing the flooring and faux rock siding samples. I queued into a line in which I was promptly barcode bleeped and herded toward the branding and tagging area. Then, rounded up through the rotating gates into the main pasture where I could use my nifty ticket to gain my Riedel crystal trough. Coat check and wine check areas lined the perimeter of the pen, erhm…. I mean, “wine garden”, large round tables where we might enjoy our Circean feast. I had imagined most incorrectly, that such a venue would attract fine wine lovers, those who taste wine for its nuances, to know it, to understand it in an organic and personal way. My imagination also allowed for those who may not be so introspective, but yet, enjoy drinking Virginia wine and appreciating it for more than its ethereal properties. Those types may have been there, but I didn’t really encounter them…at least on my side of the vendor table.

Herds of wine swillers (say that three times fast), or flocks of sweet sipping sirens, are mostly what I navigated my tiny ship through, around and in between. The main group were the swillers…these were folks who mainly came to the event to drink ….and drink ….and drink a lot. Tastings were basically shots.

Slurp…that’s okay…(extend glass)…

Slurp…that’s okay…(extend glass)…

Slurp…that’s okay…(extend glass)…

I take at least q few minutes  to fully examine a wine, and I make notes. I do not taste it a second time if it isn’t to my liking, pouring it out into the waste bucket. And if I have had more than a glass or two in total over the course of the day…I taste and spit. This doesn’t seem to be the case with anybody else and by the looks, I had suddenly sprouted a second and third head at the tables from which I was able to actually get a tasting. The crowds were HUGE. And wine was literally being tossed at times into glasses over people heads in Baccanalian frenzy. Every time one of the drunken herd would drop a crystal glass on the concrete convention floor the crowd would roar in approval of the shattering like the crowds at a coliseum lion fight.

The other group was the sweet sirens, mainly women hovering about the tables who would not taste anything that didn’t have residual sugars of 2% or more. They would try a viognier or semi dry white blend and their little noses would crinkle up like little hummingbirds inserting their probosci into an allium. They flitted about the backs of tables luring pourers to hurry us toward our sugary demise.

The most humorous moment of the day was standing en masse at the Narmada Winery table, waiting for a chance at a flight. A small group had moved in beside me and one of the ladies, another tall red head, began to regale her group with the tale of finding out her teenage son was beginning to “manscape” and how proud she was of his responsibility and consideration for his girlfriend. Intimate details about their budding physical liaisons ensued. Oh…Holy…Night… I didn’t know whether to laugh, or simply stand there in excruciating empathy for her absent son who had no idea that the entire queue now knew way too much about his beloved and her reaction to his denuded state.

But there were some bright moments of the day, like when the pourer at the Gabriele Rausse table could tell I knew, or at least cared, about the wine I was tasting. We had a nice chat about the delicate differences in the varietals involved in their offerings. Or when my eyes rolled back over nearly every wine King Family Vineyards sells. Even when I tasted the foods offered alongside the wines such as amazing chocolates by Gearharts (tequila lime white chocolate truffles), roasted almonds and cashews, and delicious cheese by Emmi Roth, I began to enjoy the day’s course.

After tasting seven different wineries’ wares, my favorites were predominantly white and rose’…I need more whites in my cellar. Of course my wine conscience texted me. “Are we being good?” Surprisingly, I did not buy one bottle. I made notes instead. I’m really trying to hold onto my bag.

Top Picks from The Wayfarin’ Lass: Wine Expo 2013

King Family Vineyards: Crozet, VA

  • Roseland 2012: Chardonnay/ Viognier
  • Cabernet Franc 2011
  • Merlot 2011

Rosemont Vineyards: LaCrosse, VA

  • Rose’ 2011
  • Lake Country Red
  • Cabernet Franc 2010

Gabriele Rausse: Charlottesville, VA

  • Vin Gris de Pinot Noir 2012

Cedar Creek: Star Tannery, VA

  • Chardonnay 2011 (one of the best Chardonnays I have ever had)

Potomac Point: Stafford, VA

  • Chardonnay 2011
  • La Belle Vie: Vidal, Viognier, Chardonnay, Petit Manseng
  • La Belle Vie Rose 2012 (so pretty)
  • Cabernet Franc 2010

Narmada: Amissville, VA

  • Primita 2010 (dessert wine)

Truth be told, at the end of the day I was glad to have survived the journey generally unscathed. I learned more about why I like wine, especially Virginia wine and it has more to do with focusing on mindfulness and the senses, especially in the service of the written word, more than the drinking. For wherever there is treasure, the search is really more about the seeker than the sought. In the search, our truest desires are revealed and where we eventually find our fortunes.

A Reelin’ and A Rockin’

25 Feb

Now all of the sudden, she started to knockin’
And down in a dips, she started to rockin’
I looked in the mirror, a red light was blinkin’
The cops was after my Hot Rod Lincoln. . .

In my quest for some high octane fun this weekend, snowy weather created an on the fly change of venue. However, a quick search led me to Fridays at The Ellington right down the block and a chance at danceable fun: the Bopcats, a rockabilly group from Richmond. Rockabilly is one of those musical forms that I began to love in college with the Stray Cats and then revisited this past summer in listening to Imelda May and JD McPherson. It’s revived itself as a genre among the vintage~tattoo~pinup crowd, and sparked my re-interest as well. So I was all kinds of excited to get dolled up starlet style and go boogie daddy-o.

About 5:50pm, I strolled into the Ellington, beaded, neck scarved, and carmine lipsticked ready to go. Almost immediately, I realized the atmosphere was not going to be the 40’s/50’s greaser~pin up gal crowd I had anticipated. First, upon a quick survey of the audience seated at their tables, clearly the youngest hepcat in the room was me. But I revved up my “let ‘er rip tater chip” determination and swore to have fun no matter what.




The atmosphere of the Ellington is actually quite open and laid back. The bar in the foyer is small, but offers beer, wine and mixed drinks at a fair price.The black and white parquet dance floor is huge and the stage, centrally located. This place is made for music and dance. Lights are lowered, but not so much people fall over each other and sound levels are kept at a tolerable decibel so that one’s ears don’t ring for days after a concert. Wait…that doesn’t make me old, does it?

The Bopcats began to play about 6:05 and the boogie- woogie beat was instantaneous. Dancing was desperately needed and not being shy, I have no problem wiggling with the band all by myself. Dying to get out there, I waited through the first song; however, the smattering of half claps from the audience induced a sudden dread. Uh oh, this is not going to be pretty.The music was fan-freakin’-tastic, but the audience was dead…stone dead…maybe even sleeping upright needing a large dose of Geritol dead. I felt so sorry for the band. Suddenly, they had been plunked down into Cocoon with no watery recourse. After song three, I couldn’t take it any longer and launched onto the dance floor, thinking to myself, “Dammit, someone has to get this party started . . . may as well be me”. So, I danced by myself on the totally empty dance floor for several songs and became quite possibly the ridiculous entertainment for nearly the whole first set. I’d had a little liquid courage and I figured “go big or go home”.

The Bopcats repertorie is standard rockabilly: Elvis, Johnny Cash, Stray Cats, Ricky Nelson, Chuck Berry. . . anything with swingin’, rockin’, and rollin’. It’s hard NOT to dance to Rock Around the Clock, You Never Can Tell, and a hot rendition of Little Sister (Don’t You Do What Your Big Sister Done). Praying all the while for Blue Suede Shoes, wiggling away having a grand time, I suddenly see everyone stand up and start to move toward the dance floor. “Hallelujah! I’ve started a general trend to merriment! The night is saved!”, I rejoice.

Wrong Mary Lou…good-bye heart.

Ever had a sixty something year old almost knock you down for chicken parmesan appetizers while you were dancing to rockabilly? It was like coupon day at the K&W cafeteria. I had known there were appetizers included with admission and thought it was a nice touch until the herd almost ran this little hot rod Lincoln off the road on the way to the drive-in.

During the first set break, I sat for a bit and tried to gather my thoughts. For a moment, I almost lost heart. “My god, these folks have already died. What happens to people?”, I thought. And I do realize that I’m making judgments here, but all apologies aside, it just seemed at that moment that the room had given up. Despite one older couple that I always see at festivals and such who are quite active, fun, and love to dance together, most of the couples I met seemed complacent to sit and watch, settled into their coupledom, content to listen…not even move a foot or tap a toe. Just sit. Why come only to sit and stare? For the first time I saw what I never ever want to be….old.

Do not misunderstand me here, I am not one of those gals who will have surgery after surgery to escape the effects of aging. I want to grow older…to mature, to become wise. I think though there is a huge difference in being old and being aged. Aged means seasoned, shaped by oak or salt or sugar, left to develop, to grow from the inside outward, to become better over time. Aging is the waiting, the keeping till the peak of ripeness and of fruitfulness and then the long enjoyment. Even after harvest, the fruit keeps and ripens further, becomes useful and creative before disintegration, before returning to the dust. This oldness I saw was a belief…not a reality. In the past was the best, now gone over, maybe ever a little soured, embittered.

The band members were all older than I and loving every second of the music, winding it up and lettin‘er loose. They reminded me of the great rock and rollers still alive and kicking it: Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Robert Plant. Yoko Ono even turned 80 last week…80. There is no reason to accept the complacency of a boring existence, to not try and learn or grab life with both hands and squeeze it for all its worth. I understand about health, about being tired. Rest is necessary and the body does slow down even in the most prime athletes. But, I think it’s the mind that determines the attitude of doing EXACTLY what makes one happy no matter what anyone thinks. It’s as if there is this role that one has to play at a certain age…a way to be in one’s 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and beyond. Not in my world.

So during the second set, I boogied my little vintagey butt off, wiggling around in a half twist-pony-New Wave dive fusion and my new friend Mary, with whom I had talked in the lobby came out on the floor to dance too. Mary volunteers for the Ellington and she’s right about the change that will need to happen. The Ellington is maintained through community support and right now, all the supporters are older. A younger crowd will need to come to keep it going, ones that are willing to take a few more chances on music that’s a little different. That’s the only way it will survive.

As I danced more, people did make their way to the floor. The gift of the evening came when I felt a light touch on my shoulder. A gentleman, probably in his late 60’s in a vintage car shirt, asked me to dance. “Oh no”, I thought. “I can’t follow and he wants to dance old school. Sigh…do I really have to dance with someone, especially someone my mom’s age?” Something interesting happened, though. As we began to dance, he just let me do my thing at first, and watched me. Then, ever so slowly, he started to direct my movements. He only said one thing, very casually, “Watch me”. That’s it and somehow, I don’t know how, but somehow, I learned to follow. Within two songs, we were turning and twisting and I began to laugh. He was a crafty ole devil, a gleam in his eye as he laughed at me. I had denied his request at first, especially to a slow blues tune. But he taught me a lot about allowing and about what age can give a person. He wasn’t old…aged…not old. And still had those moves…like Jagger. That gleam said, “I haven’t lost it baby…don’t ever underestimate a coolcat”. He was the coolest cat and schooled me in more ways than one about dancing. As the night wore on, I twisted till I was aching and out of breath, but felt amazingly alive, and I have needed that for a long while now. The floor was never packed, but there were a few who had decided that the night and especially we were still young.

Chicken Fried and Unsanctified

1 Feb

Sunday morning in Roanoke, I ventured downtown in search of a coffee shop. We have Starbucks in Lynchburg, but I somehow feel it doesn’t qualify. Not that I dislike my local Starbucks. I visit it daily. Coffee is sacred to me. I’m a night person who has risen pre-dawn against her will for the last quarter century, ten months out of the year. They know me well.

Venti Bold

Monday through Wednesday, red eye

For the rest of the blurred week, black eye.

At my mom’s house its raspberry decaf? Right.


That morning was also about trying to find a little peacefulness once again. My mom cannot connect with me without verbal communication. It’s impossible for her to just be in the same room with me in silence. It drives me insane. I can’t think. And as a non morning person for ALL of my life, I wonder what kind of “eye” four shots of espresso to a cup is.

So, I trekked down to Mill Mountain Coffee as early as I could manage. Once again, I couldn’t find a “Ryan cafe au lait”. He is the king of the baristas and no one can touch him. If I want a proper cafe au lait, I’ll have to drive nine hours to Ocraocoke to get it. Believe me, I’ve contemplated the drive.

Ending up at Mill Mountain with high expectations was a mistake; the morning went south from there. While I am able to excuse the poor cafe au lait making, I really can’t tolerate abrasively loud screeching laughter among late teen-aged baristas. It was early,on a Sunday, and they were waaaaay too happy and loud. She had one of those laughs that just crawls down into a person’s ear like those creatures from the Wrath of Khan, the ones that drove the crew of the Enterprise into automatonic murderous rages. I stayed for an hour and then I just couldn’t take it any longer. I even threw away the poor excuse for a red eye cafe au lait without finishing it. Mistake one. Bad coffee is better than no coffee, in the grand scheme of things.

So I searched for a new coffee place and drove around downtown Roanoke for literally 45 minutes. Nothing. Not any sort of a comfortable spot with wifi and a decent cuppa joe. On the fly then, I decided to just go eat breakfast. I had seen Thelma’s Chicken and Waffles the night before with my mom and had attempted to look up the brunch menu on the Internet. When I found an empty page, that should have been my first clue to turn back…but I didn’t.


What occurred at Thelma’s has to be the most hilariously pathetic excuse for a brunch I have ever encountered. I almost don’t want to write about it, but because I care about my possible readership’s palates, pocketbooks, and their health I will venture on into the abyss that is Thelma’s.

Let me preface this soapbox review by saying I know that what modern Americans regularly ingest as “food” is in direct opposition to my definition of edible substance. But I grew up with a granny that could cook and I know what home style food is. Freshly made southern home cooking and that is definitely NOT what Thelma’s serves.

I entered the bar area and ordered “the largest coffee you can muster”. I’m sorry.When a customer says that to you, you find the largest cup the kitchen has even if it’s a bowl. He brings me a diner mug, ignoring the twice as large Irish glass coffee mug hanging behind him and nothing else. I had asked for cream and artificial sweetener. He plunks down two plastic cuplets of creamer and a sugar shaker.

Okay… Strike one.

I ask him for a menu. This brilliant lad responds with, “You wanna eat here?” Even though he probably questioned whether I truly wanted to eat at the bar, I should have taken him seriously.

“Um…yeah”, I say. “That’s why I’m here at a bar at 10:30 on a Sunday morning.”

So I gaze at the menu and everything includes waffles on the side. I just want waffles, maybe with some eggs but just waffles. What kind of a restaurant that has waffles in the name does not serve waffles unless it’s a side? They serve pancakes solo. Why not (eureka moment) waffles?

I had to order the country ham platter with waffle on the side. Apples, not hash browns came next and no toast nor a biscuit, just a waffle.

He says, “No substitutions …I’ll have to charge you extra for the waffle.”

“Okay”, I say. I start a slow boil as I think, just bring me a damn waffle.

After three cups of watery coffee, for which I had to ask for cream three times, I finally get a platter.

Eggs, check.

Why is there a biscuit? strike two.

Why are there hash browns instead of apples? ball one.

And what the heck is this, I think in horror as I spy something that looks like onion rings.

“Excuse me”, I ask. “What is this?”

“That’s ham”, he says like I’m an idiot. “That’s good ham.”

“What? “I say incredulously, “It’s breaded. Why is my country ham … breaded?”

From the look of irritation on his face, I could tell that my question was a completely foreign concept to his mind. Why wouldn’t country ham be chicken fried? Jeez, lady aren’t you from the south? That’s what his look said to me as he turned around and walked away.

Strike Three. I’m outta here.

I began to laugh because I wanted to cry. I have spent my entire life in Virginia. I know cuisine better than 95 % of most Americans and I can cook it as well and you are trying to tell me that Smithfield country ham is meant to be chicken fried like a Walmart tater?

Riiiiiiighhht…Okay mon garçon.

I sent the hash browns back for the apples I ordered.

“Here”, he says. “Just keep them; it was the kitchen’s mistake.”

“No, you don’t understand”, I say. “I’m not going to eat them. I didn’t order them so that means I don’t want to eat them.”

He glares at me. “Eh, suit yourself”, he says.

I left the pre-frozen Pillsbury/ Sam’s Club biscuit on my plate, too. The eggs were real, I think, and the waffle I did eat with the margarine on top. It was the same kind of waffle you’d make yourself at the Hampton Inn when the continental breakfast is included with the 60 dollar a night room. But then, I tried the chicken fried ham… shudder. I’ll not regale you with details.

I paid eleven dollars for a meal I didn’t eat and then asked to use the restroom. All that coffee. Another nightmare awaited me because someone had become sick the night before and it had not been dealt with. The other stall had no locking mechanism; it swung open freely. As I exited with full bladder, I greeted the girl coming in behind me.

“Good luck.”

The only thing that could save the day was walking, a lot of it. And trying not to lose my cool that I had spent money in a place that wasn’t worthy to call itself anything beyond a glorified Waffle House, which shockingly serves waffles as a main course. I mean, Cracker Barrel even does that though crackers aren’t on the menu. But, I walked downtown Roanoke and took plenty of pictures, and went into the newly renovated market building. Next time I will go to Firefly Fare. Locally sourced, freshly made, hot and real, it was where I ought to have gone all along.

So you may say, Well, home cooking is like that Cyndi. What did you expect?

I’ll tell you what I expected. I expected something like my granny’s gently fried country ham with red eye gravy nestled beside two scrambled eggs cooked in the same pan as the ham. Then, a Belgian waffle (made with egg whites whipped until stiff, but not dry and folded into the batter) lightly laced with syrup and cinnamon. It doesn’t have to be real maple but the kind that doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup as the main ingredient. I even may have expected an angel biscuit like Granny’s with damson or cherry preserves, that little bit of summer in a jar. Alongside it should be a coffee; even the kind Granny used a percolator to make would have done fine. Strong, clear and brisk with cream. That is what I expected. And although the morning did not give me the gift of a great coffee and stunning brunch, it did give me a memory of my granny’s hands, her blue rose apron, her warm kitchen and comforting table, and a memory of what home cooking ought to be. Maybe next time, I’ll just go to Granny’s and make her coffee and breakfast instead.

Losing Yer Knickers…an Irish Story

24 Dec

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What would Christmas Eve be without a story, loves? And so,

This is the story of about how there’s nothing like almost losing yer knickers when walkin’ into an Irish pub

One Christmas Sunday (about a day ago), I almost lost my knickers in front of a right handsome lad in the best Irish pub in Washington D.C.

I planned to go to the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to mass the night before Christmas Eve. ‘Twas on the bucket list and what does an Irish lass do after mass? Go to the pub for fish and a pint, that is a given. Transportation was becoming a bit expensive over the weekend. Average taxi rides less than a mile or two were nine to ten dollars and a trip all the way to CUA would be outrageous, I had imagined. So, I decided to ride the Metro. I could walk to the station as long as I had the time and conceivably, I could go anywhere. Only four blocks to the McPherson station, then green line to red line, two blocks to the cathedral. Easy.

So I set out in my navy cashmere sweater, dark red scarf with Celtic pin, flirty short blue kilt, navy tights and high heel black oxfords. Demure, but sporty church/ pub attire. After one block, I knew I should have gone back. Firstly, the kilt flirts a bit too much when I walk in those shoes and a kilt wearin’ red headed lass walkin’ down 14th street at a fair clip is an attention getting thing apparently. I nearly caused two fender benders and had a few interesting proposals from homeless men.

I began to walk faster. That’s when I realized I had brought THOSE navy tights, the ones I had meant to throw away because the panty portion was too loose and would fall ever so slowly with movement all the way down to my ankles. But I was obviously pressed for time and for my own safety. Certainly I couldn’t miss mass nor take the dreaded expensive taxi. “I’ll be fine”, I thought. I had put on a pair of silk knickers over top of the tights because I had forgot to bring a slip and they had plenty of elastic so they’d hold the tights up. That was Christmas wish that Santa just didn’t seem to get wind of.

By the time I had walked to the McPherson metro stop, a third of my bare hips could feel the scratchy wool of my kilt, but I knew no one could see it. So, I ducked into the restroom before I boarded the metro, yanked the trunk portion up high and went onward. The trip took much longer than anticipated with all the high heeled walking and when I finally reached CUA, I had more than two blocks to walk uphill to the Shrine in ten minutes. I wanted to take pictures of the beautiful exterior with all the gorgeous lights in the evening sunset, but by the time I jaunted up the marble steps to the door, I knew I’d have to find a bathroom to yank up my tights again. They were further down than before and almost half of my rear was bare to the kilt.

Yikes. It wasn’t intolerable, though and no one really noticed, but it was becoming an issue and I realized then, “Jeez, I have to walk BACK to the metro stop at CUA and then all the way to Fado from Chinatown metro. This isn’t looking good.”

After spending time at the Shrine, I set out again for the metro stop. It was later in the evening and dark; the entire CUA campus was deserted. Warning thoughts were shooting across every portion of my brain and I seriously thought, “Lass, how stupid can you be? You can’t run in them heels nor those damned tights and not a soul will hear you scream. Get to the metro and get there quick!”

When I sat down, breathless in my orange pleather metro seat, a full three quarters of my bottom was without coverage and then it hit me. Feck, I have three blocks to walk to Fado in Chinatown. Jesus, Joseph, and Mary, they won’t drop…will they? So I tried to inch them up casually. I squirmed and tried to nonchalantly pull them up by stretching my legs, but to no avail. They were coming down and I had no option but to pray they didn’t fall before I could get to the restroom inside Fado.

Exiting the Chinatown metro station, I began to notice a looseness that I had not sensed before. Oh holy Father, the knickers were falling too! That’s when I panicked. I kept walking though, small strides, then large strides to try to stretch them up somehow. Nothing worked.

I saw a McDonalds.

Customers only bathroom.


So I kept walking and then I began to pray. “Mother Mary, please don’t let me lose my black silk knickers on 7th street in Chinatown. Dear Mother of God, I can’t lose my knickers in front of the saints and world of men on a street corner.” I stopped to cross the street over to the 700 block of 7th and I saw the sign for Fado. I have never been more happy to see a place in my life and with effort and stealth, I snuck my hand under my coat to grab the front of my knickers and tights to keep them up. For my entire derriere was now bare to the kilt and the under current wind and I knew if I had to walk more than to the door of the pub, I’d be bare as the day I was born with navy tights around my knees.

I made it in the door and made to shuffle to the back toward the restroom. Thankfully, it was pretty empty the night before Christmas Eve and then. . .

There he was, a green eyed Irish waiter with black hair and an apron to match. “Good even’ lass”, he said, “Where’d you like to place yourself?”

At that precise moment, the knickers gave way and I knew they were going to fall right then to the floor in front of this gorgeous waiter and I would be mortified beyond belief. But, I knocked my knees together and leaned into the bar . Casually flipping my hair I squeaked, ”Well, I’m not sure yet, lad. May I use your restroom and then seat myself?”

“Aye”, he said “Tis over there. I’ll get you something for your return?”

“Oh yes” I said. “Make it a Guinness and pour it slow…I’ll be back.”

So when he turned, I grabbed my knickers from the front through the kilt and hobbled quickly back to the restroom. Thank goodness no one else was there to see me and then standing in the stall, they fell like feathers from a duck. I stretched and pulled, rearranged and then slipped the knickers back on and knew I’d be okay. However, I’d better take a taxi home.

So there you have it…

The wisdoms in this?

Listen to your knickers, loves. Underneath everything there is a sureness which is necessary to being. The best experiences can be marred when flexibility gives way. If it means being late, or it costs more money, it matters not. To build upon anything one needs to attend to foundations. It’s most important to life, to love, to anything.


It Takes a Village

17 Dec

Yesterday afternoon, I went down to Zillie’s to write about my shopping demise and after finishing my thoughts, I ran into Dolores and John, ex FBI agents. They are a lovely couple, and after quite a few glasses of wine, they began to tell story after story. Their experiences are so intense, so heart wrenching, so inspiring. I’m coming to know everyone by name, and this transition of being accepted by the community as if I actually live here is pretty amazing. Scott, the long term substitute teacher was there along with quite a few other O’cockers, as they are called. There is a delicate balance between transplants to this community and those born and bred here, the native accent is unmistakable.

I listen here much more than I do at home. Their stories fascinate me; I feel included in a way that I haven’t since childhood family dinners. The narratives roll out and I think, where have I been all these years? Dolores told me about arresting a man in a crack house in DC; small frightened children in rooms were screaming while they tried to clear them to find a suspect. And then of finding a pit bull puppy locked in one of the rooms, collar grown into its neck. She cuddled it only to find that when the animal warden arrived, the pup would have to be euthanized. No pit bulls allowed in D.C. As she told the story, the pain of having to let this puppy go, knowing that it would be killed, began to bloom in her spirit. I sat and simply listened in acknowledgment of her experience. The brutal removal of the one bit of innocence in a corrupt dysfunctional world of drugs and crime had to be re-negotiated in her understanding. But she told me and in my listening, we connected.

I met an older man, Kenny, who was so funny and friendly. Later, I ran into him at the Topless Oyster where the community gathers for its annual Christmas party. And I’m pretty sure I was the only tourist in attendance, taking photos, listening to stories. Mr Rogers was right. Everyone has a story and they are all so important to acknowledge. I don’t know really how to explain the party except that everyone comes, brings a dish, and then the owner puts out a keg. After that’s gone, people start buying drinks and that’s when the real party starts. As the only outsider, everyone is quite curious about what I’m doing here, who I am. I have become the English teacher, who is writing a travel blog, and working on some historical fiction and taking care of Annie in the Fulcher cemetery. I’m Cyndi, the writer, the gal in the coffee shop in the mornings. I am not Miss Kelley. You have no idea how beautiful it is to hear your first name, over and over. As if it were so obvious that’s who you always were. Most people don’t realize what its like to be called by a formal name for 18 years. Miss Kelley is not . . .me.

And so I have met all these amazing people this week. I had already met Marcus, Kenny’s godson at Trivia Night on Tuesday; he’s so sweet. He rode past me Tuesday night on his bicycle while I was taking Clarence to potty and he yelled, ” H’lo! Cyndi! There’s the dog!” Peter, who works for the local realty company is so delightful; he talked with me liked he’d always known me. As I photographed him sharing a shot with Brooke and Finkle,  I could see the strands that hold this place together. I haven’t seen ties like these since college. It’s as if the whole town is one large senior class. One older fisherman, who had attempted to chat me up despite the fact that, combined with his inebriation and his O’cocker accent, I had no idea what he was saying, floated around me all evening.

At one point, he asked one of my new friends, “Is she yer wu-man?”

I had to tell him, “No, dear, I belong to me…”. That was a brilliant moment.

“I luv an in-dee-pendunt..wuman” His response was just priceless.

If there was any doubt that the Universe was leading me here, there is NO doubt in my mind now. Sometimes, a friend arrives at just the right time. And that friend was another Kenny. Friday night at the Jazz show at Gaffer’s , I was grafted into a conversation with several ladies and we chatted in group for a bit. He seemed so nice and genuinely fun. After our conversation at the Christmas party for over an hour, I discovered that he left a corporate job to move to the Hatteras area to seek authenticity in his life. To “be”. He quit a successful career to seek a more fulfilling life of simplicity. Every sentiment I have been contemplating this week  about learning that the value of life comes from connection to others, about giving to oneself first and then to the world, about authenticity and deep inner peace, he repeated, sometimes with the very same phrasings. We even discussed a love of Rumi and at that moment I knew without a doubt that we were destined to meet and to be friends. He said to me, “You know, when I saw you sitting there at the bar by yourself, enjoying the jazz, I thought…that’s a woman who owns herself, who is complete. I thought, I have to talk to her.” I know we will keep in touch, even though he lives far away. He is ahead of me on this journey, and his encouraging words meant so much. At the end of the conversation he looked at me and said, “So, when are you moving here?” I can’t tell you how much I want to do that. How confused, in a good way, I am about the way my life is changing. When Kenny had to go catch the ferry, we hugged and he said, “Namaste, my friend” How I found him, I’ll never know.

Then, as I enjoyed watching and then dancing to the Rockers a local band, I met another man. This connection was definitely one that reaffirmed that indeed I may not be solo for the rest of my life. It was grand to chat, to dance and even to be affectionate. Our meeting was quite sweet, respectful, and unencumbered by expectations, but brief like the old image of two ships. I loved the way his eyes crinkled at the corners when he smiled, and there was a real tenderness there. This morning, when I went to the coffee shop, he was already there. He engaged me in conversation and asked me for my contact info. And then, even though I didn’t assume anything from the previous night’s dancing and chatting, he came over to where I was writing, smiled, opened his arms, and gave me a genuine hug. I’ll probably not ever see him again, but it matters not. The moment was what was most important. That night, in conversation with everyone, and in holding hands and quiet connection with a kind man, I felt a part of this community. I felt as if I belonged somehow. The possibility of place. I began to fall in love with a new me.

So in coming to love this community, I have learned how to listen and to love myself all over again. I will strive to be my most authentic self everyday. It is what keeps me grounded, alive. For love is simple. Principle One.

The Sassy Ass Sportscar

28 Jun

062712185830     062712202644

“Just hold yourself in your core”, Laura said.

Yesterday, I accomplished another item on my bucket list, riding a motorcycle. I have always been frightened of them. Not because of their sound nor the speed, simply for the fact that I know you have to ride them correctly as a passenger or you will crash, scrape every bit of skin off your natural body, and possibly break every bone and die if you don’t lean correctly. Jesus Christmas, I have to learn to lean.

Anyway, my friend was being so supportive and her husband has ridden and motored forever, so I think, “If I don’t do it now, I never will. It’s my last day in the Vineyard. Stop being a baby and do it.” So, here I go as a passenger on a Repsol. I had no idea how unstable riding a motorcycle was and how much I’d have to use my thighs to balance myself. I told Laura, “I feel unstable. I’m not sure”, as I sat there in my helmet, engine roaring, while her husband waited for the order to go. “You’ll geddit”, she shouted and gave him the order to take off. I scrunched down behind him and held on for dear life, overly attentive to my leaning. My thighs were killing me two minutes in and I am really fit. It’s as hard as TRX hamstring bicycles. Even though the ride was short, not even ten minutes, it was enough to count. Up to 35 mph I went, and then I needed to stop. All the while I just thought, “Breathe…just breathe…you are doing this. Just be here…let go.”

After the exhilaration of the ride, I needed to be ready to go on the Fast Ferry out of the Vineyard. I had pre-planned to pick up the rental car at the ferry office and then follow my Google maps, all neatly folded and prepared, to the South Kingston Amtrak station to pick up Mom. That’s when the first call came. “Cyndi, its Mom. There were some branches on the tracks and we blew an engine, so the train is delayed in Washington DC. We’ll be a bit later to Kingston, maybe 8 to 9pm.”

Okay, I think…that’s cool. I just have extra time. Then, the text came about an hour later; high winds cancelled the Fast Ferry service. I would now have to take the state ferry to Wood’s Hole, then they would bus us to the ferry office in North Kingston, Rhode Island.

Wait.  Crap! That puts me in later than the rental office’s hours. Uh oh.

So I call the rental office and they begin to give me all sorts of grief. Without going into the minor breakdown that almost occurred at my friend’s kitchen table, she says in her fine Massachusett’s accent, “Gimmetha phone”. She calls up the rental office manager.

“Yeah, this is Laura . .I’m caullin’ for Cyndi. We need to werk out sumthin’ about this cah situation because it won’t do foar her to not have transpoartation.

No, I’m not her mutha….I’m her pursonul assistant and she’s a vehry impoartant and busy lady so lets taulk about what YOU are gunna do to to get her a cah!”

At the end of that conversation, ahem rant, all I needed to do was fax them a copy of my driver’s license, and credit card and the car would be waiting for me in the parking lot at the ferry office, keys in the possession of the Fast Ferry clerk inside. I could have kissed her. I actually think I did.

So I board the state ferry and endure the 90 minute bus ride, maneuvering myself at last to the office of the Fast Ferry in North Kingston. That is where the fun really began. I roll off the bus, go into the office and get the keys and back out into the gravel lot I go looking for the mild mannered Honda Civic that Mom had rented for us.

Nothing. The sole car was a gorgeous sporty silver and black souped up Ford something or other. Uh, really? Did Laura make them THAT nervous?

I went back in to check and the clerk replied, “Yes, that’s your car.”

I almost dropped the keys. I actually think I squeaked a tiny bit.

As a driver of an oh so practical soccer mom Matrix that I traded by new VW bug for,  I opened the door of a brand new 2012 silver badass sportscar and sqeeed for at least a minute straight. “Wonder how she’ll handle at 120?….THIS IS FREAKIN’ AWESOME!”.

I have an hour to kill since Mom’s train is delayed, but I have plenty of time. I make a command decision. Get car phone charger. My phone did not charge properly the night before and it was on its last bar, problem number 50. So, I see a Kohls nearby and I roll in and ask. No luck, BUT the Verizon store is right beside it. They hook me up with a charger and a ten dollar discount just because I’m nice. I’m thinking, “Wow, thanks Universe for helping once again!” Then, I see a Dave’s Fresh Market next door and the Verizon folks assure me they have cool deli case takeout, nice salads and such and the bonus is a package store right up the block. I think,”I’ll get dinner and wine for Mom so we won’t have to worry about eating late in Mystic, roll into the Amtrak station on time, and be the best daughter in the Universe. We’ll relax at 9 and it will be a golden evening. Yes!”

So, I’m rollin’ with my Google directions, listening to the pre-set pop/rap station. The car is so technologically advanced, I have no idea how to change the radio station or even find a new channel. I have GPS, but have no idea how to use it. No manual is there.

I am:  on. my. own.

But….it made me feel totally cool to listen to Whiz Kalifa, Rhianna, and Maroon 5 driving in that car. “Call Me Maybe” comes on for the gajillionth time and even though the music isn’t my normal listening pleasure, I start to feel, well, pretty young and sexy. And the car just seems to be the expression of something rising within me. I start to feel like I really never felt in high school: awesome. I begin to drive and wiggle and sing.

Take me by the tongue
And I’ll know you
Kiss me till you’re drunk
And I’ll show you
all them moves like Jagger
I’ve got the moves like Jagger
I’ve got the mooooooves, like Jagger

I mean my 2005 Matrix doesn’t exactly put a wiggle in my shaker if you catch my drift. And I start to feel really SAS-SAY. I take my new silver girl up to the limit, and a tiny bit beyond.

Speeding along,  I cross a huge expansion bridge and come to a toll booth. This is when I start to realize something isn’t right. I ask the attendant if I’m going the right way to the South Kingston Amtrak station. She says, no. I’m over 30 minutes in the wrong direction!  I pay a double toll ($4) and get a pass to turn around. Crossing back over the bridge, irritated and anxious I am suddenly witness to one of the most miraculous sunsets over water I have ever seen. Its been years. The sight stunned me out of my teen pop imaginative world and pushed me into a place altogether different. Flying into a sunset of pure freedom in a silver bird,  I had a moment, one of those  “this is my life and its absolutely perfect right this second” moments. Maybe this whole thing will turn out for the best. I’m feeling like it might. I want more of those moments.

Soon, however, that changes. I take the wrong exit off of the bridge and begin a drive through the BF backwoods of Rhode Island for over 90 minutes. I ask six different people at six different places how to get to the train station, including a pizza delivery joint and each gives me some rambling mess of instructions none of which get me anywhere nearer to Mom who is now at the station sitting in the lobby. I’m on the phone with her, practically yelling in frustration. The rap is now turned off and I’m getting low on gas in a high tech vehicle that I have no idea how to even put gas into.

There was one moment where I thought, Do I call the police? Will they even know where they are? Does anyone in Rhode Island know how to get anywhere?

Finally, I get on the right road and magically end up at the station. Bless my saint of a mom. She had real instructions to Old Mystic Inn from the owner. We roll into Mystic at ten, and the sportscar-sassy-ass woman feeling is all gone. I crack open the bottle of Relax Riesling, which I bought mainly for the name, and we finally eat our picnic at the bed and breakfast room coffee table.

It struck me at that moment that being on my own can have its great parts and its not so great parts. But I’m learning.

I’m learning.

Upon Having Arrived

20 Jun

So today, I rode Amtrak all the way to South Kingston Rhode Island from Lynchburg. With intermittant WiFi and a dumb phone, the only way to adequately describe my train riding experience is to share my Facebook stati as the day rolled on, and my wisdoms gained on a train trip:

8a.m. Pardon me boy….is that the Chattanooga Choo Choo?……..

12:00 Eating on Amtrak is like eating out of the fast food case at Sheetz, except 3x more expensive….note to self always pack a lunch…..

4:00 Eyeing the monster Fosters this elderly gentleman has beside me…..can’t.wait.to get.off.this.train.so bored….ack!

10:00  Things I learned on a train:

  1. Amtrak food sucks
  2.  Every woman on the train seems to be reading 50 Shades
  3.  Get a window seat or be prepared to barf
  4. Amtrak wifi does not work and I need a better cell phone
  5. Train and bus bathrooms are practice for a night in a country bar riding the mechanical bull
  6.  It takes just as many hours to get off the vertigo as it does the train…jeez I have ferry tomorrow.
  7. I love traveling solo..but having the phone helps

More adventures tomorrow…I love my life 🙂

The point of real departure to adventure was marked by arriving a bit later at the South Kingston Amtrak Station than I had expected and as I quickly muscled my suitcases to the platform, I began to search for a taxi. The host at the King’s Rose Bed and Breakfast assured me that there would be taxis out in front of the station to bring me to the accommodation, but when I surveyed the front of the station however, nope…not a taxi in sight. As a matter of fact, nothing was in sight. So I sat on my luggage and attempt to dial the host. Before I could finish, though, a taxi drives up and an elderly lady begins to load her luggage into the back.

I shout, “Will there be any more taxis?”

He shouts back, “Uh, heyas a numbuh…cooawl them” and some rambling mess of numbers comes out before I can even get my fingers to begin to dial. But I plug them in and call.

Finally, I get someone on the phone and he tells me, “Eh, I can be theya in a haf an ow-ah.”

Oh, okay Mr. Taxi guy, I’ll just sit here for 30 minutes and wait to go two miles up the road…sure.

Finally, he shows up and takes me to the bed and breakfast where I meet the lovely lady who is host at the King’s Rose. She has put me into one of the most lovely feminine rooms I have ever seen. Pink floral and calico, it’s filled with antiques and pictures from the twenties and thirties. And the bed is one of those high New England jobs. And I had to, I took off from the bathroom and leapt over onto the fluffy feather top and then jumped on the bed at least three times.But the real adventure was securing my first solo vacation dinner.

I ask the kind host where I might go eat.. It is already 8:00, and I ‘m hot, tired, and frankly I need a very cold beer. So, she tells me I’ll have to walk down to the University of Rhode Island campus about a mile away. There will be a food court with some choices and I can get dinner there. As I began the trip, I was tired, but feeling really sort of free, brave to the point of almost being, as Granny calls it, ornery. This is the first trip I have ever taken completely solo.  Sometimes it strikes me that I am a living lesson of sorts, as if others are sort of vicariously living in my adventure. Its a big reason to keep going and to be brave, to do what I’ve always wanted to do.

As I walked,  the heat came rolling off the pavement in waves. It was soooooo sweltering hot today. This has been the worst heat wave ever. The host told me that she had to put my air conditioning unit in the window yesterday.That usually doesn’t happen until July, she said.Upon rounding the corner onto the back part of campus, I see the International Slice Pizza Company. I’m not the world’s biggest pizza fan, especially since I have been training so heavily, but at that point I didn’t really care. Pizza has a companion: BEER and it’s cold and my God, I’m drinking the largest one I can find.

So I waltz into the shop, a perky blonde gal is behind the counter, and I say to her, “Please tell me that you have beer and that its cold and that you will give me the largest one you can muster.” She looks back at me and says “Oh, I’m sorry. This is the UR campus. Its dry” At that moment, a feeling mixed between murderous rage and hopeless despair wells up in me and the inevitable Valkyrie yell of “CRAP!” comes rolling out of my filter free Sagittarius mouth. What I hadn’t noticed was that a guy had come in behind me in line and the minute my whining began he says,

“Ay, I gotta beeyah out in the cah, ya want one?”

I whip around and look him straight in the face and with all the conviction of a freight train I utter my response.”YES……YES…. I …..DO.”

So I follow this guy to his late model Pontiac in front of the pizza place.

He says to me, “Its a Busch, hope ya don’t cayah”

I say, “No, thank you so much. Please let me give you a buck or two for it”

“Nah,  no prahblem…its cold” he says, as he rummages through a cooler in his back seat for a can of beer.

So he hands me this icy can of Busch beer and I slip it into my purse. I walk back into the pizza place and order two slices from perky pizza gal, BBQ chicken and pineapple ham. I request an extra styrofoam cup for the beer and then mosey out to the picnic table for my first solo feast. It strikes me. Of all the times in the past I have eaten out alone, this meal, THIS ONE is the best I can think of.

God Bless the State of Rhode Island.

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