Sunday, February 21, 2016

Hitting the end of the runway with a bump and a needle

“We’re going to hit you with a low dose of morphine, to help you sleep.” Was I dreaming? After a day which saw no sleep, a hurried drive from Napa Valley to San Francisco, a bumpy flight (and sitting in the last row of the plane) and an even bumpier landing. As I exited the plane and headed for my luggage, it felt as if I had been hit on the side of my head by Mike Tyson.

Doubling over in pain, apparently something had ruptured. I got my luggage attended to and scurried into the car to get to my doctor, whom I had made repeated attempts to let him know I was in pain and coming immediately from California back to Texas. Apparently his staff didn’t relate the proper information, as when I got there he appeared incensed that I was talking loudly (because that was all I could do with the throat I had) and deriding his staff. After almost 20 years couldn’t he see in my eyes that something was wrong? I just looked him in the eyes, surrounded by a face that had seen too much sun from his La Jolla condo getaway, and said, “These are the last words you’ll ever hear from me.” And walked out, heading to the hospital across the street. Second hospital in a week.

Heading into the very same ER where last year we all learned Ebola was in America, the place was busy. Apparently ER’s from as far away as three hours distances were full up and patients were being diverted to this one. Nine hours later, I’m sitting in a little room on a cramped, smallish, uncomfortable bed, awaiting transfer to a proper hospital room. In pain all this time, sometimes with it subsiding, nonetheless, starting to feel liked a caged animal. And then the words “We’re going to hit you with a low dose of morphine, to help you sleep.” I was awake, but wouldn't be by the time they rolled me to my room, where I passed out for nine hours.

Life on the road. 2016, already I have been to Italy twice, New York Twice, California once and across Texas a time or too. Yes, I’m a bit exhausted. And when things like this happen, out rolls my old friend, strep throat. I was lucky I got back to Dallas when I did. They misdiagnosed my condition in the St. Helena hospital, and if I hadn’t gotten back home I could have developed a severe peritonsillar abscess.

So that’s what I did this past week, along with spending some marvelous times (when I wasn’t feeling so awful) at the 12th annual Symposium for Professional Wine Writers at Meadowood Napa Valley.

Highlights from that included:

Getting to hear Hugh Johnson talk about his life and his memories.

Getting to know Jamie Goode a little. His in life persona is much different than his online one. I’m glad I met him in person. I like him a lot.

Spending time with Eric Asimov. He gets pulled a lot when in these kind of situations and I know he made a conscious effort to hang out with me. I first met Eric here in 2007 and we developed a private friendship because of this place.

Coaching sessions with Irene Virbila and Toni Allegra. I love these ladies and getting mentored by them is priceless.

Meeting Eshter Mobley. I never would have guessed a wine columnist from one of my favorite newspapers from my youth would come up to me and tell me they are a fan of my blog. But Esther did and it was something that I loved. After so many years of trying to introduce and reintroduce myself to your predecessor, I gave up on that. With Esther, it was like night and day. And yes, Esther, I am now your fan as well.

Neil Beckett. Such a patient man. Someday, Neil, someday. Thanks for your understanding.

Mike Veseth. Another case where the man and his online persona are so different. In the flesh, he is animated, excited and really seems to be passionate about the economic aspect of the wine business.

And Elin McCoy. We both seem to have gotten over our shyness and introversion to actually remember and address each other. Finally, after all these years.

Ron Washam. What I learned about Ron is that he isn’t as comfortable speaking to a crowd as he is writing to them. Who knew he’s really a shy guy, too. And he likes getting an autograph as much as the next guy.

Doug Frost. Just because you are both an MS and an MW doesn’t mean you still don’t struggle with all the daily things the rest of us do. Doug is candid enough to admit it. He also has little tolerance for young newly pinned sommeliers that have no world experience, but think they know everything. Amen.

Fred Dame. This is probably the first time in ten years that I have actually had a long and extended conversation with Fred. I saw a totally different person. I don’t want to call him vulnerable, but in today’s changing business environment I saw a side of Fred that was more open and willing to go into the abyss. Really good to see that.

Kelly Hayes. Really nice getting to know Kelly a little better. Such a good, positive force. Always affirming. No dark edges. Just lots of light. Thank you Kelly.

Ray and Jay (Isle and McInerny) - I saw how even Titans of NY sat there mesmerized by the likes of Hugh Johnson.

Emily Siegel. Thank you for coming up to Eric and I without fear, although I don’t think you know what fear is, child. And you’ll be better served by not letting those demons into your world in any event. Just keep pressing forward. Looking for great things from you.

Talia Baiocchi. I was so nice that you came up to me and we chatted. Once again, the person you are online and the person you are in the flesh are different. I have so much admiration for your tenacity and your intelligence. You are the future. That makes me very happy.

Bryce Wiatrak. Antonio’s altar boy. I can see why. You are part of a wave of new young wine lovers, maybe not with a lot of world experience, yet, but with a deep interested in intellectual pursuit and with the energy to pursue multiple paths, wine and music. You’re going to do great, so glad to have spent time with you.

Andrew Chalk. We must have known each other now for 30 years. Nice to see you here. I hope you enjoyed t as much as I did. I bet you did.

Karen MacNeil. How many times have you had to reinvent yourself over the years? And yet, you still keep going back to the toolbox. Looking to tweak this here, that there. Is it insecurity, or are you a tinkerer looking for perfection? Nobody is like you – you are a true original. Like Darrel Corti. And I mean that as a compliment. And the writing world knows it and has recognized it. You should be very proud. I know we are.

Alder Yarrow. You too are double disciplined and an over-achiever. Always thinking, always tinkering under the hood. Such a good comrade since I first came to the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers in 2007.

And Jim and Julia. What a wonderful team. So professional. If I weren’t so under the spell of Italy and her wines, Napa Valley would draw me in ever so closer. I have many stories from here. After all it was 1976 when I took my fateful drive down Hwy 29. But that’s another story from another blogpost.

In the meantime, I’m on the mend and digesting wonderful experiences from my time in Napa. Thank you all so very much.

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

1 comment:

Marco said...

Good to read that you are on the mend, amico. Doctors, doctors. It is no wonder that when RD Laing was stricken on a tennis court, his last words were "NO doctors!". As the Japanese say "Pain is a privilege", but I don't know about that.

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