Addiction in wine country

Monday, December 11, 2006

Week 16 - Revised

See a glimpse of a far off part of the world in an evening
Experience a season long past in an hour
Relive a year of your life or someone else’s in a glass
It is ever changing, ever evolving, and it ages like we do
Some age gracefully…others turn sour with too much time left alone in the dark
It can mark a special occasion
Or submerge your sorrows
Wine is what you make of it
Just like your life


Here it is…much shorter than the original, but who said writing had to be long and drawn out. I think I’ve found some focus in what was lost or muddled from before. Below is the first piece.


Wine, it’s been here longer than any of us.

It’s been there through all of our history...

In one taste you can
Feel it
Seduce you like a low cut satin gown
See it
Shine like a fine gem
Smell it
As the world opens to you an your senses
Taste it
Precision is a victory few conquer
Share it
Experiences are best with those who mean the most to us

See a glimpse of the world in a minute
Experience a growing season in an hour
Relive a year of your life or someone else’s in an evening
It is ever changing, ever evolving
It ages like we do
Some gracefully, and others turn sour
It can mark a special occasion
Or wallow with you in sorrow
It is what you make of it
Just like your life

Week 16 Writing Faults

Week 16 Journal – My Faults

Every writer has their week points…and I’m no different. The problem with my weakness in my writing is I have never managed to figure out how to fix it. I have tried everything from taking writing intensive courses in college…like this one. I have even tried to change what I am writing about for topics, and it still comes out the same. My work is bland, almost diluted if I am not under some sort of deadline. Through out this course and the others I have had to write papers for in the last two years of school it never changes. I get back the papers that I spent weeks researching, writing, and honing into what I thought was a good piece of work, only to get a B- or worse…a re-write. It isn’t until the Nth hour that my focus seems to kick in. It isn’t until the pucker factor is so tight that I have no choice BUT to write that my abilities as a writer shine though. In the end I have learned to time all of my papers so that I have just enough time to write them and turn them in…usually with about 9 hours to spare. The more I write the more I think that my focus is not really focus at all…just fear. Fear of failing, or worse…getting a medial grade that isn’t enough for credit, but can’t be called a failure either. So here I am…throwing myself at the mercy of any of you who have read my writing. Let me know where you see the faults & fissures in my works. For I have climbed the mountain and looked into the beast of the belly only to see a mirror in his eyes and my fear staring me strait in the face.

Week 16 Journal - Key Bank

Every college student who pays their own way through school knows what college life is like. Its buying chicken when it’s on the manager’s special, one day away from spoiling just because it’s $ .69 and you can freeze enough to feed yourself for the next week. It’s also running a tight bank book…or at least it is for me. I left the Army with a little over $16,000 in March of 2005; and somehow managed to find my bank account down to $834.21 at the start of this semester. I have always run a tight ship since starting school, that’s how I manage to keep myself living the life I love while going to school. However something happened to me this week that put my panties in a bind.

I have been banking with Key Bank for the better part of two years with no overdrafts on my account. All this time I have always had enough money to pay the bills on time and keep everything in order. About a week ago I found out my landlord was laid off, so I thought the nice thing to do would be to send out my rent check a few weeks early. I logged onto the net, filled out the web information and sent her off a check. This is where I got confused. I didn’t realize that they take the money out of your account the MOMENT you file a bill pay on the net. What this did to me was set me up for a string of about 3 over draft notices and about $81 if fees from Key bank.

Looking at my account about a week after I got the notices I finally saw that they had removed the money the day I sent the check. NOT the day it was cashed. My landlord is a friend of the family, and knows that I get my money from the VA for school around the 10th. She has always instinctually held my checks until the 10th. This time was no different. When I took in the information to show the bank the day I sent the check via the net and the day it was cashed the response I got was shocking. It was something akin to “Yes, we see that if you had written the check by hand the money would have stayed there, and no…we don’t feel the need to refund these overdraft fees. You should have seen the withdrawal from your account that day and adjusted accordingly.”

As you read this you should know I have already found my way over to Bank of America to establish a new account there. If this is how Key Bank is running their programs, and they can see cases like mine from someone with a clean track record and still treat me this way…then I guess it’s good they got that $81 from me. It will be the last amount of any money they see from me for the rest of my life.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Week 15 The Basement

With a 5 foot ceiling there aren’t many people who can stand fully erect in this basement. Looking around the room you get a sense, almost a whisper of bad thoughts. This is the sort of basement that looks like it was an alternate for the one used in the movie “Silence of the Lambs”.

A cool floor of damp chocolate colored earth and a few random rocks break through as far as the eye will take you before the shadows block your vision. The walls are not smooth cement as most cellars have these day’s, they are granite rocks and coarse cement that have been sloppily placed together. In some spaces you can actually feel a breeze that runs through and around these bulky stones. The support beams that run from the floor to the frame of the house are old and covered with mildew & rusted out nails that look like they had a use “back in the day”. In the far corner is a rusted out 175 gallon fuel tank that has been used to heat the behemoth of a house that is above for many years. At the center of the room is something half of what it used to be. One can only assume that it used to be the old chimney; bricks placed in a square formation that goes up clear to the floor above…and then stops about 6 inches shy of the floor. Walking around the old chimney I see the newer one; I call it the newer one…because it doesn’t look as if it is in much better condition than the old one. There are cracks and holes on all sides of this chimney; and the port at the bottom is home to a rusted out door meant to clean out the ashes. No, this chimney isn’t much better…and I seriously doubt if it’s even to code. Moving farther around I come to the stairs leading up. Like everything else in this house they look like they are beyond their prime. Old wood held together with shiny new nails. It looks as if these stairs may have lost a board or two over the years and might have been replaced shortly before I rented this house.

Moving up the stairs I hear them groan from my weight as I climb each step. It isn’t until the top of the stairs that we return to the look of a home. At the top of the stairs on the left is a new shelf, with new nails, and solid braces. I know, because I built it when I moved. On this shelf sits one of my three places to store the wine in my house, to the immediate right is a little pine shelf to store flour, sugar, soup, and all the other pantry items you find in a house. Looking back down into the darkness I can’t help but feel it reaching up to pull me down. I turn my head, but not my back; and open the door into the kitchen.

Week 15 Writing Assignments

It's sort of like the excitement and anticipation before having sex with someone for the first time. You want to be good, you certainly think you ARE good, but you hope that they will think that you are better than "just good enough".

It’s fumbling hands and drinking to much water with your dinner on the first date.

It’s taking your first drivers test when your grandfather works at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

It’s every time in your life that you haven’t had the confidence in yourself.

It’s this writing assignment, and the fear I feel as I type these words into my laptop.

Have I done enough?

This inner turmoil and fear climbs my back are wraps its poisonous tentacles around my mind and drives the barbs of self doubt deep within my spine. They tear at me as I write & re-write the assignment over the course of the week. It isn’t until the end…when the piece is finally written that I feel vindicated. When I look at my work and say, ”That’s fu@kin’ slick!”

Friday, December 01, 2006

Week 13 Vignette take two...

It’s the day before Thanksgiving; I crack the seal on the bottle that I have lovingly stored in my cellar for the past two years. There is no real way that I can explain the draw & pull that wine holds over me, yet it doesn’t stop me from trying. Today I open my first Chateauneuf du Pape I have ever bought for myself. Coming from the south of France, this wine exhibits everything that it should; it exudes elegance, power, and finesse without overpowering the experience with harsh tannins.

Looking at the glass I swirl around my wine and gaze into my glass with anticipation. As I study the inky, almost amethyst hued wine slowly slides down the side of my glass. In doing this the tell tale signs of a young wine appear. With firm “legs”, like that of a well defined dancer; the wine speaks of the years of potential age ability. Lifting it to my nose I can almost smell the gravely terrain and lime stone bedding. Scents of black fruit, plums, blackberries, oak, and herbs crawl in through my nose and invade my mind as I lift the glass to my mouth.

There is no drinking experience that can parallel that of wine. From the moment it enters your mouth to as much as a minute after you swallow; wine lives and whispers of days past, sun, soil, and love. The wine fills my mouth, flowing over and around my tongue before I swallow. The initial hedonistic flavors of plum, fig, berries, and new oak assault my palate. However, it is what happens next that intrigues me the most about great wines. After I have swallowed my wine flavors open up and expand throughout my mouth. For the next 30-40 seconds these transformations expound what this wine is really about. Subtle floral notes and light hints of tobacco evolve in my mouth. This long and glorious finish is what truly amazing wine is all about.

My father, stepmother, and I stand around the kitchen preparing for the following days feast sharing this glorious experience…together. The stress of work, school, and the daily grind are behind us all; as someone else’s work makes our time together more enjoyable while we talk, laugh, and live in this moment…together as a family.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Week 14 Risky

Closing the door behind me she pulled me close. A passionate kiss leads to heavy breathing & we began to tug at one another's clothes, then I remembered that the last time I got one of her emails she was in control, now it's my turn. I pinned her gently, yet firmly against the wall & raised her arms above her head. Holding her hands with one of my own I use the other to slowly undress her....buttons & zippers pop & slide until she was left in nothing but her panties & bra. I whispered quietly in her ear to lie back on the bed with her hands above her head.

I slowly started kissing & licking up the inside of her thighs and began to part her legs. She felt my hot breath penetrating the thin fabric of her panties, the pressure & moisture of my tongue as I lick and pressed my way around her G-string. Then I whisper, "Do you want me to take this off?" as she felt my fingers slide in & around her G-string. "Yes," she murmured..."Say please." I heard a soft whimper escape, "Please..." With that I slowly started sliding them down over her hips and peel them off past her toes. My hands braced behind her knees, I slowly raised your ass into the air and slide my head down the inside of her thighs. She felt the soft touch of my hair as it brushed against her thighs ever so lightly, offering a promise of ecstasy to come. Hot breath and facial hair could be felt all over; yet all of my kisses are falling just short of where her body was moistening...and then my tongue find their target. It's firm & warm, She feels a taught tongue as it races and flicked over the inside of her thigh; slowly tracing it's way down underneath her...with intensity & pressure like She has yet to feel before. My tongue starts to move up from just below her ass. Stopping, swirling, pressing, and attempting to penetrate every part of her body…it’s as if she can feel every taste bud slowly slide up to her clit. I lightly lock my lips over her clit and begin to suck softly while sliding my tongue from side to side & in counterclockwise motions around it. A finger penetrates searching for the cervix. Having located that, the pressure & intensity increase as she feels my finger moving in the opposite direction of my tongue that is dancing across her tight pink button.

Through breaths & moans I hear her ask me to enter her...pleading for the increased pressure of the head of my cock stretching its way to get inside her. It is not time for that yet as I inform her, "I have other plans for you." Suddenly a third finger slides its was back farther. Applying slight pressure yet not really trying to penetrate she realizes that what she thought was a finger was not a finger at all. It was a knuckle! And boy! It was probing, pressing, and hitting more nerves, providing a dimension of sexual pleasure she not expected. After a few minutes of this I suddenly command, "Roll over and get on all four's." not wanting this to stop she acquiesces as she feels my hands guide her ass up in the air and slowly climb behind her. She feels the head of my cock as it traces its way down over & past her tight ass and slowly penetrates her moistening body. The feeling of being filled completely rocks her body as she reaches underneath and begins to stroke herself while I slide in & out of her. Her breathing gets heavier as her climax comes closer & closer to peaking. Rocking, bucking, and writhing we fall into each other in climax as I explode inside her…panting, out of breath, and too sensitive to the touch we fall together on the bed a sweaty, tangled mess of passion, flesh, & sex.

Week 13 Vignettes

As she holds it to the light I can see every color in the spectrum. Polished to perfection I watch her look at it with love. My friend Sarah has waited her whole life for this moment; and she’s not afraid to admit that. The golden hue sparkles in her eyes, and for a split moment I think I see saliva forming at the sides of her mouth; likened to that of a dog waiting in anticipation of a fresh T-Bone. Laughter, crying, stories, and a special bond unfolds as we few, share this special evening. Todd the bearer of this gift is gracious and open about his feelings throughout the evening’s celebration and conversations. As the evening winds down to an end; she has the glow of a prom queen. Looking around the room she stares down into her crystal vessel at the last few drops of the golden nectar from her birth year. She almost sighs, almost whispers, “I think I can die a happy woman now.” Having shared this experience as well I can easily agree; it’s no wonder that a $1,200.00 of wine could evoke so much emotion from the people who are graced with such an experience.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Wine (revised)

Wine, it’s been here longer than any of us.
It’s been there through all of our history...

In one taste you can
Feel it
Seduce you like a low cut satin gown
See it
Shine like a fine gem
Smell it
As the world opens to you an your senses
Taste it
Precision is a victory few conquer
Share it
Experiences are best with those who mean the most to us

See a glimpse of the world in a minute
Experience a growing season in an hour
Relive a year of your life or someone else’s in an evening
It is ever changing, ever evolving
It ages like we do
Some gracefully, and others turn sour
It can mark a special occasion
Or wallow with you in sorrow
It is what you make of it
Just like your life

Week 12: The four types of wine collectors

Type #1: The Collector

This wine drinker looks to fill their vertical collections (The same wine with different vintages like a 1991, 92, 93, 94, 95 Grange from Penfolds). They can be spotted a mile away at an auction. They are only interested in the bottles that fill the holes in their collection and rare gems…and they will pay ANY price to complete a collection. Two collectors can get locked in a battle for one bottle and sometimes can drive the price of a certain bottle up to 10+ times the value of the bottle being bid on.

Type #2: The Investor

These are some of the most interesting wine buyers. They are there to plan for the future. They know the good wines, producers, and vintages, and plan their way around the bidding accordingly. They are there to spend as little money as possible, on some of the most expensive wines. Most of the time they buy what is called “futures”. This is a process of paying for the wine before it is even bottled. It can be extremely risky, but when it pays off it can almost be as good as winning the lottery. These business minded people rarely battle in an auction. They place their bid; if they get out bid they will re-raise to the max they are willing to pay, and hope to win that way.

Type #3: The Cash Cow

These are some of the funniest people at the auction. They are fun to be around and usually a high spirited person. They seem to have “more money than God” As you watch them buy wines that only the super rich can afford. They buy bottles that sell for thousands of dollars and don’t hesitate to share with you the other “great buys” they’ve had. After all…do you really have a half million dollars to pay for one bottle of wine? These guys do!

Type #4: The Savvy Shopper

These are what I like to refer to as the “common folk”. They are there at the auction because something has caught their mind. They will wait until the last lots are being bid on to place their bids. Hoping that the big guns have already had their fill of bidding, or better yet, left the bid altogether. They bid on small lots from unknown producers and most of the time if they find themselves in a battle for the win, they will back out in hopes of winning another bid.

Which one are you?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Week 12: What is it?

Embrace it
Ponder the cosmos
Some will die for it
Look at the world through someone else’s eyes
Some will lie for it
It’s an offense for which there is no excuse

Feel it
Seduce you like a low cut satin gown
See it
Shine like a fine gem
Smell it
The world opens to you an your senses
Taste it
Precision is a victory few conquer
Share it
Experiences are best with those who mean the most to us

A glimpse in a minute
A season in an hour
A year in an evening

Week 12: 79 Years

Seventy Nine years ago...people moved around.
Seventy Nine years ago...people worked.
Seventy Nine years ago...people had passion.
Seventy Nine years ago...people had stress.
Seventy Nine years ago...Pedro Ximenez started a masterpiece.
Seventy Nine years ago...Alvear Solera was born.

Today...people still move around.
Today...people still work.
Today...people still have passion.
Today...people still have stress.
Today...Pedro Ximenez's 1927 Alvear Solera is the perfect ending to a stressful day.
Today...something started over 79 years ago shows the work, passion, and stress of one man from days long gone.

Tonight...ponder what people will think of you in 79 years.
Tonight...ponder what your work will be to people in 79 years.
Tonight...start the life you want to live and be remembered for.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Week 11 Distance, Frame, and Alienation

I guess the first thing you should know is that I have no clue how many women I have slept with. At best guess I would say somewhere between 200 and 500. Ok, ok, I’m sure that sounds far fetched. However, think about it this way. I lost my virginity in a threesome with two women, I lived in Europe for the better part of four years and there were multiple days where I would sleep with someone I came home with from the club the night before and then take someone new home later that night when I went to another club. I’ve been borderline paranoid about using condoms; I can count the people I haven’t worn condoms with on one hand. I’ve been tested regularly every 6 months since 1996; that’s the full “rod” and blood tests and, so far so good.

I’ve never had more than 3 relationships last past 6 months…and I think that’s important for you to know. It’s not that I don’t want to share feelings, or share my life with someone. I think it’s mostly a defensive mechanism that I have. Push away before they can push me away. I’ve always had a low self esteem, and my divorce only acted as a catalyst to my downward spiral right before my cross country drive. I can honestly say that most of my “numbers come from Europe, Washington, and my cross country drive. Shit…18 women in two months. I slept with seven women in New Orleans alone, and I was only there for 10 days. All of them, every last one of them was only a glimpse of what I want and what I need in life. I believe as Casanova said, “Can you not love someone in more ways than one?” that I was using these chances to hold myself over until I found what I was looking for. I realize that there is no romanticism in this letter. I realize that there is absolutely nothing here that would make you want to give me a chance with you. I guess I just needed to put this out there to you for myself. I needed to take a chance and share what I consider to be my biggest flaw with the one person I trust, the one person I want to share more with…you.

I think I may feel something special for you; how do I avoid screwing this one up like I’ve done so many times before? I guess the easiest way is to tell you everything. This could be dangerous…why would I do such a thing? I guess it’s because the only other person in my life I have ever selflessly loved was someone that I felt safe enough to share all of this information with…and later I married her. I hope you can look past these faults from my past that I have laid out before you, and realize that I am trying to be as open with you as possible. I guess we’ll see in a few days.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Week 10 The Irony of it All

It’s no secret that I love wine…everyone knows. It’s also no secret that I buy too many wines. At the present time I have just over 100 wines in my cellar, under my bed, and in my temperature controlled storage unit. All summer long people have told me, “Kirk, don’t buy so many wines. There will always be more to buy later.” All summer long I smiled and nodded, and bought the wines anyway. All told, I think I bought close to $2,000 worth of wine (about 24 bottles) from May to November in 2006.
I decided about a month ago to move to California in pursuit of my career in wine sales. However I can’t afford a U-haul trailer because it’s close to $2,000. That means I can only bring what will fit in my car. From my last X-Country trip I can tell you that all of my clothes and my stereo barely fit in my little Honda Civic. Do you know what that means? My wine will be going into storage at both my father’s house, and my mother’s apartment. For all of my love of wine, I will only be able to fit about 24 of the 100 + bottles in my car…and that’s stretching it. If only I hadn’t bought all that wine this summer…I would have the money to get a trailer and bring all of my wine, the storage unit, and some other key items…like my stemware. It’s times like these that I love that my family doesn’t say “I told you so”, however my best friend is laughing his ass off and rubbing it in every time we are on the phone. I think I hung up last time.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Week 9 "What do you think now?"

Setting out my clothes for a fun night of bowling I decided to go casual. That’s flip-flops, a comfy stretch pair of North Face Pants and my Special Forces sweatshirt. It wasn’t long before Keri, her sisters & Craig showed up to pick me up from the hotel. In the car on the way to the bowling alley we chatted about everyone’s reaction to Craig & I being slaves to Keri & her sister Jill. I’m guessing there aren’t going to be many white guys in Maine who would willingly dress up as a slave to a woman from an African American decent, but Craig & I had a ball the night before when we went to the Annual Costume ball at the Pavilion. I was Keri’s “Corporate Slave” dressed up in a pinstriped suit with a “power tie” and collar & leash which Keri led me around by for the evening in her dominatrix outfit. While Craig played the “Goth Slave” dressed in all black with a spiked collar that could have taken out your left eye if you got too close. Laughing about the previous night we left the hotel room and the desk clerk reminded me that I couldn’t have an open container in the State of Maine and I nodded and said, “Thanks, I’ll get right on that.” in an almost sarcastic tone as I walked out of the hotel with the beer still in hand. We piled into the car & I shoved the empty bottle under the seat of the rental car just before climbing in (I didn’t want to litter!) then I squeezed into the back seat with Keri on my left & Craig on my right.
As we were on our way to the bowling alley we passed through the Portland and Westbrook area. About two miles from the bowling alley blue lights and a siren blared behind us, beckoning us to pull over. In that instant I realized two things. First I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt, and second I had an empty beer bottle under the driver’s seat with my fingerprints all over it. The officer stepped up to the drivers door uttered what we all expected to here, “License and registration please. Are you aware that your rear license plate light is out?” Melissa replied, “No this is a rental car; I am just here visiting my sisters from Florida.” As if he didn’t hear a word she said the cop interrupted, “I need everyone’s ID in the car too.” With my heart in my throat I reached into my pocket and pulled out my ID. One by one we all passed our ID’s out the window and when he had them all in his possession he turned around and went back to his cruiser. Why did he take all of our ID’s over a license plate light being out? Not long after that the officer returned to explain, “I need you all to stay tight. I’ve called for the dogs because I am smelling marijuana from within this vehicle. One of you is on bail conditions; I need you to step out of the car now.” Craig opened his door and as he stepped out of the car and I think my heart skipped a beat. We all sat in the car quietly; I think I even held my breath once or twice.
When the second car arrived with the dog the 1st officer returned to the car and asked us all to get out and sit on the curb about 50 feet from the car. They ran the dog through the car, around it, and over to Craig. It was after all of this that the first officer came over to me and pulled me aside from everyone. Standing there I watched his facial and body movements. The look of shock was almost pleasing as his eyes focused on the crest and Special Forces logo on my sweatshirt. “Are you in the Army?” he asked me. “No, this is an old unit P.T. (Physical Training) sweatshirt. I’m a full time college student in Ellsworth now.” I replied. “Look, I don’t know what an obviously good person like you is doing with people like those over there. But, the dog has alerted on both the car and Craig over there for drugs. You can save yourself a lot of time if you just tell me where they are. I’ll see that you don’t get tied into the charges if you can help me out. I don’t want to smear your spotless record with a drug charge if I don’t have to.” Looking him strait in the eye I said the only thing that came to mind, “What do you mean by ‘those kind of people’? I don’t have any drugs, and to my knowledge no one in the car does drugs, or has any on them.” At this a look of frustration and anger (and possibly embarrassment) flashed onto his face. “Sit back on the curb then.” He barked.
Back on the curb I didn’t know if I should be upset, scared, or happy at the way things were going. They had now separated Craig and I from Keri & her two sisters. No one knew what was happening. That’s when the bomb dropped. A cop lifted out the empty beer bottle from the car and asked, “Whose is this?” I stood up from the curb and held out my hand, “It’s mine.” With that he took the beer bottle and threw it off into the bushes and called me over to the car. “I don’t care about a bottle…we just want to find the drugs. Are you going to help us? Or are you on ‘their’ side?” Shocked and somewhat offended at his manner I calmly stated, “As I said before, I don’t have any drugs and don’t know of anyone in the car having any either.” “Then go sit back on the curb some more!” he barked. Another 10 minutes passed before the cop that came with the dog came over to us. “We are done with the car and you can go sit back in it now, thank you for being patient with the search.”
Sitting back in the car we all made the extra effort to buckle up. In a minute or so Craig came back to the car and announces, “He said we are good to go.” “What about our ID’s? I shot back. Craig went back out to the cop car and had to ask for our ID’s. On his way back Melissa turned around and hollered back, “Where are the keys to the car?” Craig turned to make a second trip back to the cops for the keys. As all of this happened the one thing that kept racing through my mind was “Why did we get treated this way?”

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Week 9 "What do you think?"

Setting out my clothes for a fun night of bowling I decided to go casual. That’s flip-flops, a comfy stretch pair of North Face Pants and my Special Forces sweatshirt. It wasn’t long before Keri, her sisters & Craig showed up to pick me up from the hotel. In the car on the way to the bowling alley we chatted about everyone’s reaction to Craig & I being slaves to Keri & her sister Jill. I’m guessing there aren’t going to be many white guys in Maine who would willingly dress up as a slave to a woman from an African American decent, but Craig & I had a ball. As we left the hotel the desk clerk reminded me that I couldn’t have an open container in the State of Maine and I nodded and said, “Thanks, I’ll get right on that.” in an almost sarcastic tone. We piled into the car & I shoved the empty bottle under the seat of the rental car just before climbing in (I didn’t want to litter!) then I squeezed into the back seat with Keri on my left & Craig on my right.
As we were on our way to the bowling alley we passed through the Portland and Westbrook area. About two miles from the bowling alley blue lights and a siren blared behind us, beckoning us to pull over. In that instant I realized two things. First I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt, and second I had an empty beer bottle under the driver’s seat with my fingerprints all over it. The officer stepped up to the drivers door uttered what we all expected to here, “License and registration please. Are you aware that your rear license plate light is out?” Melissa replied, “No this is a rental car; I am just here visiting my sisters from Florida.” As if he didn’t hear a word she said the cop interrupted, “I need everyone’s ID in the car too.” With my heart in my throat I reached into my pocket and pulled out my ID. One by one we all passed our ID’s out the window and when he had them all in his possession he turned around and went back to his cruiser. Why did he take all of our ID’s over a license plate light being out? Not long after that the officer returned to explain, “I need you all to stay tight. I’ve called for the dogs because I am smelling marijuana from within this vehicle. One of you is on bail conditions; I need you to step out of the car now.” Craig opened his door and as he stepped out of the car and I think my heart skipped a beat. We all sat in the car quietly; I think I even held my breath once or twice.
When the second car arrived with the dog the 1st officer returned to the car and asked us all to get out and sit on the curb about 50 feet from the car. They ran the dog through the car, around it, and over to Craig. It was after all of this that the first officer came over to me and pulled me aside from everyone. Standing there I watched his facial and body movements. The look of shock was almost pleasing as his eyes focused on the crest and Special Forces logo on my sweatshirt. “Are you in the Army?” he asked me. “No, this is an old unit P.T. (Physical Training) sweatshirt. I’m a full time college student in Ellsworth now.” I replied. “Look, I don’t know what an obviously good person like you is doing with people like those over there. But, the dog has alerted on both the car and Craig over there for drugs. You can save yourself a lot of time if you just tell me where they are. I’ll see that you don’t get tied into the charges if you can help me out. I don’t want to smear your spotless record with a drug charge if I don’t have to.” Looking him strait in the eye I said the only thing that came to mind, “What do you mean by ‘those kind of people’? I don’t have any drugs, and to my knowledge no one in the car does drugs, or has any on them.” At this a look of frustration and anger (and possibly embarrassment) flashed onto his face. “Sit back on the curb then.” He barked.
Back on the curb I didn’t know if I should be upset, scared, or happy at the way things were going. They had now separated Craig and I from Keri & her two sisters. No one knew what was happening. That’s when the bomb dropped. A cop lifted out the empty beer bottle from the car and asked, “Whose is this?” I stood up from the curb and held out my hand, “It’s mine.” With that he took the beer bottle and threw it off into the bushes and called me over to the car. “I don’t care about a bottle…we just want to find the drugs. Are you going to help us? Or are you on ‘their’ side?” Shocked and somewhat offended at his manner I calmly stated, “As I said before, I don’t have any drugs and don’t know of anyone in the car having any either.” “Then go sit back on the curb some more!” he barked. Another 10 minutes passed before the cop that came with the dog came over to us. “We are done with the car and you can go sit back in it now, thank you for being patient with the search.”
Sitting back in the car we all made the extra effort to buckle up. In a minute or so Craig came back to the car and announces, “He said we are good to go.” “What about our ID’s? I shot back. Craig went back out to the cop car and had to ask for our ID’s. On his way back Melissa turned around and hollered back, “Where are the keys to the car?” Craig turned to make a second trip back to the cops for the keys. As all of this happened the one thing that kept racing through my mind was “Why did we get treated this way?” At this point in my life, I have lived thirty years and never experienced anything of this nature before. I can’t help but ask what the real driving force was behind the evening’s action. What do you think the reasons were?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Week 8 "The Funnel"

Wine…it’s been around for centuries. Napoleon was quoted as saying this about Champagne, “In defeat you need it; in success you deserve it”. Champagne isn’t the only kind either there are more than 30 known grape varietals spanning across the globe. They range from the silky sweet desert wines of Spain to the tannin powerhouses of California. Depending on the grape it can smell of tobacco, plums, earth, citrus, hand cream, and some even have floral notes. However tonight I am not drinking all kinds of wine…and I am not drinking all of the varietals (I’ll save that for the 200+ wine tasting I have on next Tuesday). Tonight I am drinking only one. At first glance in the glass it is a clear perfect garnet color. Holding it up to the light I can almost see the bulb through the wine glass filled with my wine of the evening. When tasting wine, the first thing you do is evaluate the look of the wine in the glass. You can tell a lot about a wine from the look of it. Younger red wines have deep colors, and are vibrant in the glass; as red wine ages it becomes more of a brick color and can often develop sediment.
I then proceed to swirl the wine around the glass in a clockwise motion and lift it to my nose. I place my whole nose into the glass to catch every subtle scent locked within this enigmatic wine. On first note there is a strong alcohol scent, followed by undertones of earth, truffles, and wild cherries. The strong alcohol scent is more prevalent in young wines that haven’t had much time in a bottle. So I now know that this wine is only 1-3 years old. The earth, cherries, & truffles are all very common scents for this grape. Before even tasting it my mind has locked in the answer I was looking for. I know what grape it is…now where is it from? I’d like to rush right in and take that first blissful sip…but before tasting the wine there is one last observance, the glass. Looking at the glass I can see “fingers” where the wine has slid down the side of the glass. The more fingers I see the more alcohol there is in the wine. Why is this important? It’s important because “New World” wines tend to have more alcohol than “Old World” wines. It helps me to ease the pinpoint of the wine I am tasting tonight. There are “fingers” all over this glass tonight, so I’m guessing it’s going to be 14% alcohol or more. That…is a big wine boys & girls.
I lift the glass to my lips and breathe in at the same time; the wine enters my mouth and crosses my tongue as I swish it throughout my mouth. It has a light to medium body; it’s not heavy in the mouth like a Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. As I swallow I can taste the raspberries & wild cherries crawling across my pallet. The wine isn’t in my stomach before I know it all. It is liquid sex in a glass, everything that Pinot Noir is supposed to be, especially when it comes from Oregon. Smiling at the thoughtfulness of my friend to leave me such a fine wine I reach up and pull the drawstring that holds the bottle bag over the bottle. As it slides down I see the label of the 2004 Benton Lane Oregon Pinot Noir looking me dead in the face. It’s times like this where I get everything right, that makes me fully appreciate blind wine tastings.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Week 7 Character (James)

A never ending enigma that is locked up as tight as any fortress may have been in the 16th century…and this is coming from his best friend. I had never met anyone who was as controlling as a roommate. James moved into my room in Darmstadt, Germany on a Thursday afternoon in 1998. Before the week was out I was no longer allowed to smoke in my own room and the refrigerator had been divided in half for us each to have our own shelf and rack on the fridge door. It wasn’t long before I also realized that he wasn’t much of a joker. I guess I should rephrase that to say that he cracked on me from the get go, but didn’t like it when I hemmed him up with a funny catch phrase or two. We lived together for the better part of a year, constantly at each others throat. We did malicious things to one another. I drank his beer, he masturbated on my couch. I’d try to play Pink Floyd and he’d drown out my music with the beats of Tupac, so in return I’d play something louder…like Marilyn Manson. We’d go on back & forth at one another like this for a year. It wasn’t before long he finally got his own room. This is where our friendship starts and I was finally allowed to meet James Bentheimer. He started stopping by the room to say hello. Our chats would turn into an hour of drinking beer together, and then before long I realized we were actually friends.
Shrouded in a protective hermit life, James protects himself from people he knows. He’s not the friend you can count on to mail you back your shirt when you forget it at his house (Trust me…I know. I had to fly back to California to get the fucking shirt). However, he was always there for me as I was dealing with my divorce, and he would talk me through my struggle with depression for hours on end last fall. He doesn’t send me Birthday cards, or buy me presents, but he does give me unforgettable memories. He will cook you food all day long…but don’t expect him to clean up, anything. He’s teased me through my last three relationships and reminded me that I am constantly in his thoughts…but he can’t tell you when my birthday is. We have drunk, laughed, cooked, cried, and fought through the past 8 years together. What makes him my best friend is that I know exactly what I can and can’t count on him for. I know that I can count on him coming home from work when I visit & us sitting together to drink a 12 pack of MGD. I also know not to expect a phone call on June 17th of any year.
With the dashing looks and solid body frame he gets the attention of most women in the immediate area, James stands out in a crowd. Yet his only focus when it comes to women is Debi…he’s not the prototypical Cali-dude that’s out looking to sleep with any woman he can. James has class and respect for the woman he is in a relationship (but I’m not really sure he knows when her birthday is either?) with. He is constantly thinking of her, yet has the ability to forget to let her know that she is on his mind. He’s proud of not only himself, but of the one’s he loves and expects the best out of everyone.
How do you get to know James? That’s a question that’s easier to ask than answer. He’s guarded, and trust with him takes time. I think that in most cases it takes the better part of a year or more. It took me about 5 years to finally earn his complete trust. I’m not sure how many others sit where I sit. I’m not sure how many others really know James Bentheimer. Whatever the case, whatever the cost, it was worth it to have him in my life. I’d go through it all again if I had to. Some people are worth the time, effort, trust, and emotion to have in your life. Everyone who truly knows James knows what I’m talking about. It’s not gifts, trust, or reliability that makes James my best friend…it’s heart.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Journal Entry Friday the 13th of October 2006

Ok, so today is supposed to be one of the few days in the year where I can have a little fun with superstitious people. I started my day as any other, what else do I do. However when a turn of misfortune hits any of us…isn’t it much easier to blame it on the mysterious “Friday the 13th” then just call it what it was…shit luck. Like any other day of the week…only now we can throw superstition into the pot…and a few bad horror movies with never ending sequels. As my day progressed I realized that not that many people had clued in on today’s date as they seem to in the past…and then I caught it happening. My boss started announcing it to almost every customer that came through our register. All things considered I think it was a pretty good day. I only saw the Bar Harbor Ambulance drive past the store three times (…wait a minute. I think I’ve only seen it leave past the store like once this whole season). Not to mention that someone I know said that today the person they are interested in loves them, but won’t date them (I got mine out of the way the other night…didn’t want to cause my friend to associate my decision with the date). I had a peaceful drive home, and have managed to play a little catch up in my writing this week tonight. Of course as I actually type this I am realizing it is now the 14th…and I’ve lost all motivation to continue any further (No John, it’s not due to the lack of a fine wine today…I just chose water tonight).

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Journal Tuesday 10th of October 2006

Well, here I am Tuesday night and I've mannaged to get most of my things done that I had set up for today. Sleeping in till almost noon (because I was up till 3am watching the finale of LOST season 2 on DVD) I started my day by making a list. Haircut, laundry, drycleaning, groceries, and a little schoolwork...notice I said a "little" schoolwork. I drove into town and mannaged to make it to the cleaners before my laundry bag was saturated with the water from my clothes that I had just pulled out of the wash machine at home. After loading my clothes into the dryer and depositing five quaters (a buck twenty-five for 30 damn minutes...are you kidding me!?!) and was off to the baber down the way. I paid $10 and left a $2 tip for a haircut that took all of five minutes (That's what I get for shaving my head three weeks ago). After that I was off to the grocery store and drycleaners. I snagged some fresh rosemary, chicken, sushi, and garlic at Hannaford's to go with the Pouilly-Fuisse I had picked out for my dinner with my father. All the food came to sixty-one cents shy of a twenty dollar bill...and I was out the door heading to the cleaners. The cleaners was an exercise in patience as I waited more than 15 minutes to check in two pairs of slacks & three shirts. All told it took me 2 hours to complete my errands. I made it home in time to start dinner and prepare the house for my father's arrival for dinner. Everything went off without a hitch...the meal was great and the wine was amazing after it got to the right temperature. We talked about life, family, and the pending move out to California. As always it took me the better part of an hour to really open him up in conversation, but we are making headway, and that's all you can hope for on a daily basis...to make a little headway.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Journal Sunday 8th of October 2006

The taste that was in my mouth as I opened my eyes this morning had nothing in common with the beautifuly crafted wine I had last night. It's a taste a friend of mine Bethany likes to call "excessive cat butt" And this morning it was surely excessive. We all gathered around in the kitchen for our breakfast drink. We had managed to save a small amount of the 76’Chateau D’Yquem last night. As we all savored the last of a bottle none of us could honestly afford to buy, a thought struck me. I was drinking less than thirty minutes after being awake! Shit…that’s supposed to be bad. Then I had to share the humor with everyone, “I can see it now. As I’m driving home I’ll get pulled over for speeding and the officer will be like, ‘Mr. Grant have you been drinking?’ ‘Yes, actually I have, it was a 76’ D’Yquem…it was amazing!” then we all burst into laughter. There were a few hugs and some short goodbyes as Sarah & I left Todd this morning. All in all I think I’ll have a hard time forgetting these past 24 hours for quite some time. It was a great honor and privilege to finally get to taste a Chateau D’Yquem…but to get to taste the one from my birth year was something I have often wondered if I would ever get to taste something that old. After that it was a basic day at work…and I’m sitting here now at my house as I have so many times before; pounding the keys of the laptop and trying to make sense of it all in a manner to share some of the happiness and excitement that went with my day.

Week 6 Place setting

My ass was going numb from sitting on the hard wood floor of Todd’s kitchen floor…but I didn’t really care. Life looks different when you have to look up at everything, but for the moment I couldn’t have been happier. To my immediate left was the stark white refrigerator door, that only moments was home to the 1976 Chateau D’Yquem that was now in my glass. The glass had streaks of multiple bad wines that had dripped down the outside during the course of our “Nasty white tasting” through the night. However we had decided to take a break from the grossly past prime whites and slow things down with the D’Yquem. The small kitchen had everything necessary, a double sided sink that looked like it was designed for kids not an adult, an electric stove that looked crammed in beside the fridge and behind me was a small floor heater which was now digging into my hip. The countertops looked as if they were made of wet stone, yet had the feel of Formica. Shaped in an ‘L’ format, the counter stretched from the fridge to the stove on the long part and ninety degrees later was the sink crammed into the toe of the ‘L’ shape. Todd sat perched on the countertop between the sink & the stove with a boyish grin on his face and the bottle by his side. Behind him were basic wooden cabinet doors with a thick layer of egg shell white paint. They were immaculately finished with all the metal hinges flawlessly spotless. Just around the corner from me was Sarah holding her wine up to the light to marvel the liquid gold we were all about to consume. As she did this a gold hue hit the stark white walls of the kitchen to cast a beautiful bronze outline of the wine in the shadow of the glass on the wall. It felt odd, sitting on the floor of a very basic house drinking a wine from the year of my birth. Something didn’t match up to the $1,000.00 bottle of wine and this kitchen that looked as if it belonged to a simpleton. Small and functional, this room of the house was basic to the core. There was no room for a fancy coffee machine or a dishwasher. It was the kitchen of someone who is keen on saving time, money & space. As I rose to my feet for the final toast of the night over this nectar of the gods, a single board creaked…no, groaned under the weight of my body. We were all smiles at 2:13am on this early October morning as we said goodbye to one another without a word.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Alone in a quiet room how did you get here?

Sitting on my futon with my feet kicked up on the desk and the laptop in my laptop I start to trace my steps back in time. Just a minute ago I was watching the 4th disk of the ‘Lost’ series on my laptop, but then I paused the movie and hit the mute button. That killed all the background noise…accept Pasha cleaning her paws. To my immediate left is Pasha, a Persian cat that I saved from the Bangor Humane Society last October. She’s a very vocal cat and often says more than I want from a cat…but tonight she’s cleaning her paws and the silence is nice. The sneakers that are on my feet are on my feet are over a year old…maybe two, I forget. They are on the feet that carried me into this room; but it takes more than just feet to get you into a room. It takes all your bones, blood, tendons, ligaments, muscles, and brain to get you where you want or need to go, or in my case where I am now. Alone in the silence of my living room, where even my cat has stopped cleaning herself as if to completely comply with the assignment. As my fingers dance across the top of the keyboard the only other competing sound is the faint whir of cars speeding past my house at more than fifty miles per hour on this Wednesday evening.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Week 5 Narative

The smell of her perfume & pheromones were intoxicating as they slowly permeated my car for the last ride back to her place. Maria was a young woman on a work visa from Poland was my friend, co-worker, and salvation this summer. At close to nine years to the day between us her innocence was the only thing I protected this summer. A full summer of flirting at work led us to a very tight friendship, full of laughter, tension, frustration, and emotion.
We spent many nights drinking wine, laughing, and teasing each other in every possible way. Constantly pushing the limits of a basic friendship and a work-relationship was how it unfolded from the very first day. Through out the summer I gave her a ride home 4 nights a week and every time we both left each other a longing look when it was time to part. It was a brush of the hand as fine as the hair on my Persians, or a shy look down when she made eye contact with me as she got out. She pushed every button in the book as she constantly asked to learn more about American sexual slang. However, as forward as this all was…her innocence still shined through. It is the sort of thing that every man can see and most men ignore; and I decided that it was the best thing about her early on in our friendship.
Her hand slid into mine with the fluid motion of mercury across a smooth surface. “I will miss you. I think you are one of the nicest thing to happen to me this summer” she said as tears welled up in her perfectly innocent voice. Leaving Bar Harbor headed into Ellsworth on Route 3, I had never felt this way in a long time. I felt good, almost happy she was leaving. With her leaving this way it means that I managed to behave myself and not be the asshole that emerged after my divorce. She was leaving America thinking I was someone special…and that is the best feeling I have felt in a long time. It seemed like seconds before I was pulling the Civic into the Sea breeze Motel and walking her to her front door. As she turned to face me I noticed the salt streaked lines that raced down her cheeks, telling me this was not going to be as easy to say good-bye as I had thought. She opened her arms for a final embrace of friendship and almost fell into my chest as she started to sob uncontrollably. “You have been so very nice to me. You will be the thing I miss the most from here. Email me. I don’t want you to forget me.” “Yep” was my one word response. It evoked a smile that I had cherished all summer long from her. It came out solely for our inside jokes…just like my one word response. “I’ll miss you Maria, and I will email you…but before you go…Are you all set?” “Yep” she said through tears and another smile she hugged me again, the hug of a little sister, the one that you get when you come into her room to check the closet for monsters after a bad dream. It’s the sort of hug that tells you everything in one long hard squeeze. Breaking the embrace, I kissed her on the forehead as I have kissed my own little sister countless times, and turned away without looking back.
Walking to the car I listened for her front door to close, but it didn’t. As I crawled behind the wheel of my car she stood in her doorway staring at me. I backed out and pulled out of the Sea Breeze with a weight on my heart that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I was less than a mile down the road before the song “Run” crept out of my speakers and into my ears the way a thief slides into a house in the middle of the night. The song lifted the weight off my heart with all the grace of a power lifter benching twice his body weight. It was a long ride home for me that night. I must have listened to that song a good 12 or 13 times before pulling into my garage. As I turned off the ignition and stepped out of the car I felt better, lighter, and cleaner. I had succeeded in protecting the one thing I encountered this summer that made me feel like a good man…innocence.
“Run” by Snow Patrol

I'll sing it one last time for you
Then we really have to go
You've been the only thing that's right
In all I've done
And I can barely look at you
But every single time I do
I know we'll make it anywhere
Away from here
Light up, light up
As if you have a choice
Even if you cannot hear my voice
I'll be right beside you dear
Louder louder
And we'll run for our lives
I can hardly speak I understand
Why you can't raise your voice to say
To think I might not see those eyes
Makes it so hard not to cry
And as we say our long goodbye
I nearly do
Light up...
Slower slower
We don't have time for that
All I want is to find an easier way
To get out of our little heads
Have heart my dear
We're bound to be afraid
Even if it's just for a few days
Making up for all this mess

Friday, September 22, 2006

Week 4: Who needs the truth?

I was in Ellsworth and famished, so I decided to swing through the McDonald’s Drive-Thru. It wasn’t more than three minutes and I was pulling back out into traffic. On the drive home I worked through the cold stale fries and a burger that looked as if it had been cooked at breakfast instead of lunch. Pulling into my driveway I decided to call McDonald’s to complain, and this is the conversation that took place…
“Hello, McDonald’s, can I help you?” Wasting no time I fired off in a short tone, “Actually yes, you could. I just drove through your drive through about 20 minutes ago and was appalled by the product your establishment tries to pass off as food!” In a monotone, “I don’t give a fuck tone” she replied, “I’m sorry Sir, what was the problem?” Not giving her a chance to waste any more of my time I fired back, “The fries were luke warm, and the burger which was a special order wasn’t even warm. It looked like someone took it right out of the tray stacks and never even bothered to microwave it!” ”We don’t microwave here sir…we “Q” it.” Being corrected over the phone only sent me off in a whole other dimension of pissed-off. “So what would you like me to do about this sir?” It wasn’t so much the question, but her tone that made me fly off the handle…”Listen…I’m trying to call you to let you know that you just put a piss-poor product out your door, you could TRY to sound a little like you care.” “I do sir…that’s why I asked you.” She butted in. I hate it when people other than myself have the nerve to interrupt. Feeling as if this was a lost battle I succumbed to the simple obvious answer…”I’d like a free meal.” There was a short pause after my statement, it’s the pause that comes when someone gives you the answer you don’t want. She caught her ground and started to go in full stride. In less than two minutes she had my address and was sending me two free meals in the mail. The real question is this…Was it worth the hassle of dealing with her to eat two more shitty meals? Somehow I doubt it…

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Week 4:Sharper

2. Then write about it so that the basic facts are there, unchanged, but you throw in a little fancy stuff to improve the story--you make the girl a blonde instead of a brunette, you add a few horsepower to the engine, you buy a few more dollars worth of clothes than you actually could afford--all this done, not to lie, but to make the truth sharper and, if you will, even truer.


Pulling up to the McDonald’s Drive-Thru I realized I was there only because I had $5 left until the next payday. I was hungry, and this was fast & cheap. With my Ellsworth Eagles “Gold Card” I got a free sandwich with the purchase of a medium drink and their world famous French-fries. At the speaker box I place my order to a pre-pubescent teen with a high pitch wheeze in his voice, “That’ll be $2.87 at the next window Sir.” I paid my money and pulled up to the second window. Here I was handed my soda and bag by a young woman. She looked like she was at the stage in her life where she thought that “more make-up = a prettier face”, this is too bad. Somewhere under all of her makeup was a beautiful young woman that looked like she was just trying to fit in at school.
Pulling out of the Drive-Thru I could smell the fries through the bag, and see the slight stains of grease as it was starting to grow in the bag. I reached in, grabbed the box and started eating them like a ravenous animal. Holding the box in one hand & the wheel in the other I drove and ate my fries strait from the box. I set them down only long enough to slurp down half of my soda in one gulp. After making short work of the first course it was time for my burger. I pulled out the box…it wasn’t even warm! Usually the box is at least warm. After I opened it I grabbed it and bit in without even bothering to really inspect the burger. The first bite was nothing to brag about…it was food and it was filling the empty hole in my stomach. Other than that…it wasn’t doing much. After the first bite I looked down at the burger…and went from zero to pissed off faster than my car can go from zero to fifty. The cheese hadn’t even been melted, which meant that they hadn’t even bothered to microwave my damn burger. It all brought me back to my initial complaint when I worked at McDonalds as a teen in the mid 90’s. “Who the hell wants a nuked burger?” I sure didn’t…with that I threw the half eaten burger strait back in the bag and drove home stewing with anger. Whipping into my driveway I decided it was time to call McDonald’s and complain…

Week 4: Black & White

Pulling out of the McDonald’s Drive-Thru and turning left I caught the scent of French fries in the air. I reached into my bag & pulled out my fries and started eating them on the drive home. In a few minutes with the fries in my stomach and half of my medium coke in my belly it was time to work on my burger. I pulled out the ¼ pound burger and took my first bite. Something wasn’t quite right about this, so I swallowed and took another bite. It wasn’t until I was half way through my burger that I realized why everything was wrong and I was so unhappy. It was cold! My god-damned burger was cold! The cheese hadn’t even been melted from the bun…OR THE FRIGGIN' PATTY! Cursing under my breath I was reminded why it was that I don’t frequent McDonald’s more than once or twice a year.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Week 3 Let's Get Personal

So you want in on my thoughts …this will be fun and could be confusing for the two of us. It’s 7:32pm at Domus Isle in Bar Harbor and I just re-read the syllabus for our 162 English class…it’s almost funny how worked up and I’ve gotten myself over this assignment over the week. I’ve been wondering exactly how I was going to open up my life over a computer. However, this morning it all came to a close as I was rudely disturbed from my slumber at 7:14am by a total stranger as he walked into my bedroom. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, you should have a little background information before I get to far in.
I live in an old house out on the Bucksport road in Ellsworth. Actually that’s an understatement, the house was built back in the 1800’s, it has shingles that are missing in spots on the roof, and there is a slight sag look that is around the house. All of the windows have cracks, I’ve still got plastic up over some of the windows from last years winterization. Sitting less than 25 feet from the road is a FOR SALE sign with the brokers’ number for people to call if they are interested in the house. I have never had any real problems with people who are interested in the house bothering me until the last two days.
There is nothing to describe the confusion I felt yesterday morning as I was startled from my sleep at 9:13am. Outside the cellar door was being shaken violently as someone was apparently trying to get into MY cellar. I got up, looked around for the closest pair of shorts, shirt, and shoes; which happened to be my UGS (a god awful looking pair of boost with sheep fur inside & suede Emu leather). I quickly raced outside to find an older couple looking quite shocked to find me rounding the corner to the house. In immediate response to my presence the woman blurted out, “We’re interested in the house!” My anger must have been apparent as I fired back, “I’m sorry but it’s customary to call the number & make an appointment with the realtor. I rent from the owner, and I’d appreciate it if you’d leave.” Acting as if she hadn’t heard me the woman said, “Do you know how much they are asking?” “NO, I don’t, call the realtor.” “Well, do you know how much land?” “No, I don’t…you’d have to call the realtor and ask them.” With that, I turned around and returned to the sanctity of my bed. I never gave it any more thought; until this morning at about 7:28am.
I was alarmed first by the noise…as I sat strait up in bed, someone was out front shaking the screen door so violently that the lock sprung and it opened. Opening my front door with a comfort that I felt was not good was a man about my size and maybe 10 years older. He looked to his right first, my living room, and then to his left where he saw me sitting erect in bed with a very dazed look on my face. “Hi, I had some questions about the house.” were the first words out of his mouth. He spoke in such a comfortable tone that I only got more infuriated as I rose out of my bed with absolutely no clothing to cover me. “Do you NORMALLY just barge into other people’s houses? There is a number on the front lawn, call it if you’re interested…I rent. Now please get out!” I said this in as forceful tone as I could muster having just realized that I wasn’t even wearing any underwear. However I was still walking towards him and opening the door to get him out of my house. “Wow, I’m sorry” he said, almost sounding like he felt it, I was beyond hearing anything at that point in time. All I could think of was that I needed a better way to keep my house guarded to intruders.
After my morning “visitor” had excused himself and apologized, I was on a mission. With the morning grumble of an empty stomach and enough anger to fuel World War III, I started off at my cellar door. There has long been a slide chain that I do not use on the door that goes down into my cellar. In less than 10 minutes I had it off and was already making my way back to my front door. It was another 10 minutes and I finally had my front door secured to a level I felt confident would keep the unwanted house buyers out of my bedroom with a slide chain, it’s housing unit and five little screws.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Week 2 History Prompt 3

There is nothing to explain the excitement that builds as you board your first inter-continental flight. All of my life I had been trapped in New England and this was my chance to explore a new culture, new foods, and a new lifestyle. I flew over on a Bowing 777 that was empty enough to allow me to stretch out in the middle isles & sleep for a majority of the seven hour flight. We landed at an Air Force base in Frankfurt, Germany in the early morning, and were ushered into the customs room. After sitting through our customs brief, we were picked up by our gaining units.
It was a short thirty minute bus ride from Frankfurt to Darmstadt; we arrived in time for an evening meal and a room assignment. We were to spend the next fourteen day in-processing into our units and learning the basics of the German language. After this we were shipped off to our units. I was welcomed and assigned to the Electronics Maintenance (ELM) section. The first month was a time of meeting new friends and getting settled into the barracks. Shortly after arriving I had established a close network of friends and drinking buddies.
With a new set of friends, a new company, and a new country to explore I was anxious to get started. It wasn’t long before I had ventured out to have my first German beer. Not used to the increased alcohol levels in German beer I drank more than I should have. It wasn’t long before I found myself in a bathroom stall that smelled of raw sewage and looked like it was more of a porta-pottie than a real bathroom. It was a blurry night back on the train, but my new found friends made sure that I got home safely. The following morning I woke safely in my own bed with a head splitting migraine…it was time to start again.
My time in Germany was spent mostly in a drunken haze. Every available moment was spent drinking local beers, and exploring as much of the European countryside as four young men could cover. My three friends and I spent time in Spain, France, Italy, England, Holland, Austria, Switzerland, and of course Germany. We bounced from town to town on trains, in rental cars and in boats…whatever means it took to get us to the next drink. In 2000 I prepared for my departure from Europe with little but drunken stories and a few small pieces of memorabilia to show for my time spent in Europe. I had spent just over three years trying to get people to speak my language in their country…instead of trying to learn theirs. Now, almost seven years later I wish I had the forethought to go back and put a little more effort into truly immersing myself in the culture and lifestyle that I had a chance to discover. However, I chose to drink my way through this experience…and some lesions are best learned the hard way.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Week 2 History Prompt 2

There is no amount of words that can truly sum up nine years of military living. Military life is something you think you see in a movie before you join the military. I joined the United States Army as a communications paratrooper on the 3rd of March in 1996 only three days after a head-on collision in an accident on the way to the military processing center. Injured, out of shape, and aloof to what I had just signed up for I flew down to Fort Jackson, South Carolina for basic training. Basic training is the sort of training that breaks everyone down into one moving unit. They teach you to react instead of think. It’s not natural for anyone to run into an opposing force with bullets flying over and around you. In basic training they mold you into a responsive unit as opposed to a moving thinking person. They are constantly reminding you not to think, only react. The day when graduation arrives is a day of pride and something that everyone looks forward to. Graduates are given a day with family & allowed to finally leave base for the first time in over 8 weeks. It’s a reminder of the freedom that soldiers fight for. No other day in your life will you ever feel as free as soldiers do on that day. The air is cleaner, the food is better than it has ever tasted; and simple pleasures like going to a movie feel like a major accomplishment.
The day after graduation I was then transferred to Fort Gordon, Georgia for my communications school. Like most other soldiers, it was just enough freedom for me. With slightly more free time than in basic training I spent many days reading & working out. Six months came & went with few major incidences. Most of my time in training in Georgia was all the same. We would work ourselves so hard that out BDU’s (Battle Dress Uniform) were soaked with sweat. Graduation at Fort Gordon couldn’t come fast enough for me. I had been worked up and anxious to get my boots in the air from the moment that I met a paratrooper in my class, Sergeant John Oswald. He was everything I wanted to be, confidence rolled off his shoulders like snow rolls down a mountain in an avalanche. He took notice of all of us that planned to go to jump school after our training at Fort Gordon & gave us tips that would prove to be priceless in the 21 day span of the school. In late January of 1997 I left Sergeant Osborne and Fort Gordon behind as I transferred to Fort Benning, Georgia for the beginning of my military static-line parachutist school.
Adrenaline & fear coursed through my veins from the moment that the instructors began yelling. Charlie Company 1st of the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment C 1/507(P) had apparently been assigned 13 too many recruits. I arrived shortly after the instructors (or black-hats as the students called them) realized they had been over-booked. “Alright ‘Legs’ you have 20 minutes to get your gear stashed & get back down here with your canteen! We have 13 too many recruits & we are going to train you till we have the right number!” By this they meant to PT, or physically train us all until 13 people quit. Exactly 20 minutes later 306 soldiers stood out in front of the company. The Seven soldiers that were late had made their choice simple. It was two hours of push-ups, sit-ups, crunches, and other forms of exercise some would consider torture before six people quit. Then we were dismissed to get assigned rooms, lockers, and our equipment that was going to be needed to train properly to become a paratrooper. I would like to tell you that the remaining 21 days were torture & turmoil, but they weren’t. It was a time where you faced yourself, your fears, and your body’s limits of physical toughness. In the end everyone who graduated deserved it. Some of us wanted it bad enough to train through injuries. A young Latina in my section dislocated her shoulder on her third jump & broke her foot on her fifth. However she managed to muster up and walk off the drop zone to get her wings. I stood beside her in the graduation ceremony with a broken toe that looked like it belonged in a horror movie as opposed to my boot. We limped off the graduation field together as everyone took turns congratulating one another. With all of my training behind me I had only one destination to set my sights on; in less than a week I would be stationed in Germany. I was preparing to leave the country for the first time in my life…and I had never been so excited in all of my life.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Week 2 My History (the start)

Recently I celebrated my 30th Birthday. I think this may have been the first time in my life I actually bothered to look back at my life. I think every moment in my life can be traced back to one day at Hyde school in Bath, Maine. I was seventeen, 5’10”, 232lbs, and equal parts of attitude and laziness. I had passed through puberty from a lithe active child to the obese “Nintendo Generation” trouble-child of my teen years. One this fateful day I was part of a group of kids, most of us teens at Hyde were there because we needed some sort of direction that public education didn’t offer us. I was there because it gave me a chance to get away from my mother’s micro-management lifestyle. I had even gone so far as to cough up $1,500.00 from my own savings to get away from her for that summer.
The sun was out and the teachers placed us in our groups to go through the “Challenge Course” that Hyde had for all their students. There were many challenges throughout the day; the one that changed my life was a 12 foot wall that my seven classmates & I all had to get over without any help. It was this wall where I would fall a mere five feet & break my leg, foot, and shatter my ankle. For the accident I spent the next year or more in a cast & in & out of the hospital for operations. I was the proud owner of 9 screws, 3 pins, & 1 plate for the better part of a year. I was also the proud owner of a leg worth over $200,000.00 in surgery. These were the simple basic bragging rights to a teenager limping his way through his senior year.
After high school I moved out on my own with my best friend. I was working at McDonald’s as a manager and making just enough to cover food and rent costs. I was in and out of contact with my parents and coasting through until real life slapped me in the face. I needed to plan for emergency costs. For six months I had been living, making ends meet, but not saving. When I had a major car repair come up I had to use my rent money to fix my car. This meant I had 30 days to find a place to live. In a ditch effort I called my father and asked to move back in under his roof. His words were simple, “You are always welcome to move back here if you need help. However, it is not free. If you move back here you have to either be in college or joining the military within six months of moving home.” Reluctantly, I moved back. I never intended on going into the military, that wasn’t for me. To me the military was too many people telling you what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. Little did I know that almost a year later I would be sitting in a chow hall wondering what I had gotten myself into, as a soldier of the United States Army.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Alone in a quiet room...what do you see?

Flanked on either side by my two Persian cats; hulked down on my futon with my laptop in my lap I start to study. Less than a foot away from my shins is one of the centerpieces of my living room, the coffee table. Cluttered with papers, CD’s, remotes, keys & a wine opener, it is never completely cleared off. My disorganized life is reflected in the first glance at this table. Like my body, the table has its scars. It was picked up at a yard sale in the heat of the summer by my step mother. Bought for a mere five dollars, she loaded it up & left it on my lawn for me to return home to, almost a year ago today. In the lower levels of the table sits my Wine Spectator magazines, almost a years worth piled neatly in the bottom right side of the table. Beside them is a copy of the ‘SCENE IT?’ DVD game, it marked the beginning of game night for my siblings and I last summer. It is there to remind me it’s time to slow life down again to get my two half-brothers & half sister over for some quality time. Moving away from my coffee table I see my wine storage unit directly across from me packed as full as possible. That’s 36 bottles of wine in case you were wondering. Dual temperature zones set to 55 and 57 degrees for my investment wines and the wines that need constant temperatures to age properly. In the front of the case, proudly displayed are my prize bottles. A 2002 Harlan Estate and a 2002 Joseph Phelps Insignia are on my Cabernet Sauvignon side. On the left side are my 2003 Beaux Freres and 2004 Berstrom Pinot Noir. These bottles say as much about me & my life as anything can. They are hard to obtain bottles that I had to search, bid, and work diligently just to add to my collection. Like a neon crayon on dark paper I can see the tissue paper that has been wrapped around a few bottles standing in stark contrast to the darkness within the case. This wine storage unit is probably one of the most important parts of my house, at least to me. I have worked long hours, doubles, and traveled to five different states just to obtain the wines held within.Sitting in the center of the room is a chair that looks completely out of place. Made entirely of wood with a woven seat, it is painted egg shell white all over, yet the weave of the seat is a stained wicker color. This chair as small as it is, still has room for three cross bars in the back of the seat and two bars for support between each of the legs of this little seat. The walls are papered with wallpaper from the 70’s. Stained with decades of dirt, soot from burning a wood stove, water stains from a leaky roof and empty holes where someone’s paintings were once hung with care & precision, these walls scream at your eyes. These walls are not what they could be; age and improper maintenance have gotten the better of them. The trim at the top of the walls is bowed in some spots. Looking up you can’t help but notice the random tiles that have started to droop and separate. Some tiles have water stains and others look like a strong gust of wind could blow it off the ceiling and onto the floor. Speaking of the floor, the floor tiles look as old as the wallpaper, some are bowing up, others are chipped, and a select few are held down due to repeated applications with wood glue. Is there more in this room? Sure, but you asked what it is that I see in this room, not what is in the room.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

My Hands

Twenty two scars and still counting, these uncommonly small hands for such a large frame hold more than just a few stories. Rubbing them together calluses from lifting weights these past few years are the most prominent thing. However when turned over the first thing most people notice is my fathers ring. He sent it to me while I was deployed in South East Asia a few Christmases back. It’s a constant reminder of family, love, and the strong bond between the two of us. Looking at the stone it is scared almost as bad as my hands. Yet it survived years in the military far batter than I or my hands did. My hands are those of a man who is constantly striving, working his way to a better life. Strong, small and basic, these hands are clawing their way through life.