ain't that some auto parts store?

I was raised a white zinfandel girl (from hence known as white zin). I didn't realize until I began working at Vintner's Restaurant & Wine Shoppe that white zin was not classy. Most wine people tend to look down upon it, lumping white zin people with boxed wine people, Boone's Farm people, and illiterate people. I remember once waiting on a table at The Bistro of three gentlemen who were drinking pricey pinot noir. Their table was next to a big southern family of eight drinking white zin. One of the gentlemen looked at the family with disgust, and then said in a fake southern accent, "Napa? Ain't that some auto parts store?" I laughed, because it was pretty clever, and said, "Hey, it takes all kinds."

Being around wine at work all the time made me interested in it, so I started learning what I could. I was too young to do much tasting, and my of-age friends were impatient with my hour long trips to the wine aisle. So it was mostly head knowledge, and very little tongue knowledge. But with limited tasting, I was having a hard time finding something I liked. Every wine I tried made my face pucker, but I thought that was just the way wine was. I began to despair that I would never be more than a white zin person.

My life with wine changed the night I went to an art opening. It was shortly before my 21st birthday, they had free wine, and no one was carding. After the first time, they took your empty glass as an indication that you were old enough to do this. I took the opportunity to try a lot of different things. Casey was not very interested in wine at the time, and asked for a suggestion. I recommended a riesling, because I knew that it was one of the sweetest "classy" wines that you can find, and that's what we both had. One taste, and we both had a great epiphany.

Wine could taste good.

My face didn't pucker, I didn't have to swallow it quickly, and I definitely didn't throw it down the water fountain like I did with some bitter red stuff we tried later that evening. At the time I tasted it, I lacked the wine words to describe it properly, but here is what I remember: very pleasant and drinkable, fruity and well-balanced, but not overly sweet. It was what the experts would call a nice sipping wine. It was what the southern experts would call a nice sippin' and sittin' on the porch at sunset in the summertime wine.

I've since looked everywhere for that wine. I went to the local wine stores and all the grocery stores, but no one had it. Probably whoever had it couldn't sell it, and donated it to the art gallery. I remembered the label from the night we tasted it, and I did extensive searching on the internet until I found it. I also found three wine shops in New England that carry it, but do not ship to North Carolina. I could only hope that the winery will release a new vintage every year that was as good as the one I tried, and I can find it then. I was a little afraid that since I, a wine amateur, liked it, that in the wine world, it would be considered a bad wine. But then it showed up in the Top 100 Value Wines issue of Wine Enthusiast. At #54, it scored 88 points. I am redeemed.

It's been over a year and a half since I tried that wonderful riesling. I stopped looking for it after a year. This week, I was early for some dinner plans, so I stopped at a wine shop downtown to kill time. I'd been meaning to check it out since I moved to Winston, but since there's a Total Wine & More near my work and a North Carolina wineseller near my house, I lacked the impetus. I was just browsing, looking more for a red zin that my local Total Wine doesn't carry than anything else, when there was my riesling. One bottle, sitting there, hanging out without any sort of sign that said "SANDRA, LOOK HERE RIGHT NOW!" I'd sworn off wine buying recently, because I have two cases at home, but an exception had to be made. I was so excited that when I paid, I gushed to the cashier, "I've been looking for this for a year and a half." I never divulge information to strangers. He politely nodded and took my credit card.

I'm afraid now that I won't like my little riesling. My tastes have changed, as I've been old enough to taste and I've been taking advantage of that. I find red zin more interesting than white zin, and it's been a long time since I found a riesling that I liked enough to buy. I'm afraid that the wine won't live up to the memory, like when I watched The Dark Crystal for the first time as an adult and realized that it sucked. We shall see.

I've come a long way in my wine knowledge. I try not to be a wine snob, because Lord knows I still have a long way to go in my wine education. I see white zin as a pair of training wheels on a bike. You have to start somewhere, and I don't think there is anyone who can jump right into a sauvignon blanc or a pinot noir and appreciate them without having had wine before. (I was honestly beginning to wonder if I would ever like sauvignon blanc when I tried a very nice one a couple of months ago.) And while some people may never get past the training wheels, anything that gets them to appreciate wine at all is a good idea. You should drink what you like. Why waste your time drinking something that doesn't even taste good to you? Looking down upon people for liking white zin is like looking down upon people for liking oysters or mushrooms or cantaloupe (though I have to confess I do have to wonder what is actually wrong with all those kinds of people).

Though I may think all of that, it's a little different in practice. I went out to eat once with a friend of mine. After the food, I decided to partake in an alcoholic beverage for dessert, so I asked about the wine and beer list. I wanted a nice riesling. But this was not a wine place, and they had merlot, chardonnay, and white zinfandel. I didn't like beer, so I ordered a premium malt beverage. Most college kids would not be caught dead drinking a malt beverage in public, but as I explained to my friend, "Well, I wasn't going to drink a white zin in public!"


goo goo g'joob.

hing 1: Forget the walrus, I am the lobster (goo goo g'joob).
Translation: I am sunburnt.
I am not so much the color of a lobster so much as I am the color of a lobster as it is being boiled alive. I have only myself to blame. I knew I was pasty, and I knew I was going to be out in the sun. But my altogether faulty logic figured that since I would not be in the sun between the hours of 10am and noon (the most dangerous hours in terms of sun exposure, so I've heard), that I would be fine. However, when you are the color of a, well, a computer scientist, and you are out in the sun for FOUR HOURS, then you're going to end up looking like a computer scientist being boiled alive. So I'm red, I'm in pain, and I am whiny.

Thing 2: Forget the walrus, I am the electric blue lobster (goo goo g'joob).
Translation: I'm using that bright blue gel ice stuff for my burns.
I bought this stuff last night, around the time that I realized just how much sun I had gotten. I love this stuff. I love that it is neon, I love that it is gel, and I love that it is a very silly product that somehow works. Plus, they seem to have made advancements in the gel ice technology since the last time I purchased the stuff, as it no longer has that weird smell. It smells like mint. So I may look kinda stupid with my weird burn lines, but I smell like I just brushed my teeth. Blind people will want to kiss me, I am so minty fresh.

Incidently, I heard recently that you could put vinegar on sunburn, and that you would feel better. This sounds like something you tell someone so they'll do it, and then you can laugh at them - like the time at The Bistro when Harry burnt his thumb, and someone told him to put a wet tea bag on it. He came in the next day with a brown thumb, and we laughed at him. Also, with this method, blind people will not want to kiss me, though, as Mama pointed out, I will not attract any flies.

Thing 3: Forget the walrus, I am the electric blue lobster being boiled alive (goo goo g'joob).
Translation: I am still not using my air conditioning.
No, I'm not that stubborn. I did finally turn my air conditioning on: it just doesn't work. My apartment manager has been notified, and the situation is due to be corrected in the morning. No promises on the rest of my problems.


the depths of my poverty.

Last night, I was lying in bed, and I was sweating. Relax, Ma, it's not what you think. Have you been upstairs in my apartment? No, of course not, otherwise, I would have found your skeleton already, one hand on your empty canteen and one arm draped over the cactus that has recently sprouted in my guest room. I tell ya, it is hot up there. Downstairs is fine, almost comfortable. Upstairs, it's a toss up between walking around in my skivvies and throwing all the windows open. If I lived in the country, I'd do both.

Of course, the real solution is to just turn on the A/C. I have air conditioning, I even have central air, which was a big selling point for me when I signed up for my place. I should use it. I'm not even sure what I'm waiting for. Every time it occurs to me to just turn on the A/C, I suddenly am too lazy to do it. To me, suffering is easier than closing the windows and going downstairs to turn a knob.

I've lived without air conditioning in Winston before. I lived at Salem College one summer on the top floor of a dorm that was apparently built by the original Moravian settlers back in the year sixteen-whatever. My solution was to spend as much time as possible either in the Fine Arts Center (where there was A/C), outside, or with my head in my fridge. But at night, I had to be in that sauna. I had the top bunk, and I slept wearing as little as I could get away with without embarrassing my roommate, to whom I never spoke. Eventually, I put an oscillating fan at the foot of the bed, and then before I went to bed every night, I would wet a few of my socks with cold water, and then lay them on myself. I bet I sure looked stupid.

Maybe the problem is that I still think that I live in Boone. In Boone, no one has air conditioning, except maybe like the rich old people who summer there. It just doesn't get hot enough. People in Boone just throw open their windows or walk around in their skivvies or both. I was no diferent, and during my last summer there, I lived in the country. See, in Boone, I was just reluctant to turn on the heat. I remember one winter sitting at my computer trying to type with gloves on before the typos just got ridiculous, and I looked at myself and said, "I am not this poor."

And I am still not this poor. I am not poor enough to go to bed with wet socks all over me. I am not poor enough to wonder just how little clothing I can get away with before my neighbors start whipping out their binoculars. I'm even richer than when I was not poor enough to type with gloves on. I am rich enough to use the air conditioning that I am likely paying extra to have in my apartment. If only I were rich enough to just buy a house in the country.


dreaming when i wrote this.

2:37 am.

I'd had a rough night of it. I couldn't remember if I'd been awake for three hours or if I'd just been having very realistic dreams of being awake. Either way, I was feeling unsatisfied by the past three hours of sleep that I might or might not have gotten. My cell phone was ringing. The screen says Josh is calling, but I know two boys named Josh, and the screen isn't big enough for the last name. To see the last name, I would have to open the phone, thereby answering it.

One boy named Josh would call me at 2:37 am. If I could be sure it was him, I would let it ring, if for no other reason than the fact that he left me a lovely and revealing voicemail message once, and I've been waiting for another ever since, except I keep answering my phone. He called me once before in the wee hours of the morning. I think he'd been drinking, though he claimed only a light buzz when I answered the phone that time.

Another boy named Josh has never called me in the dead of night before, and it doesn't strike me as his style. So if it were his last name that was sitting just out of the range of the exterior screen of my cell phone, that might mean he needed something. Maybe he needed bailing out of jail. Maybe he was depressed. Maybe he couldn't think of the band that sang that "Time of the Season" song.

Ah well, I wasn't sleeping well anyway. Might as well answer it. For the brief second that I saw the screen of the phone before I put it to my ear, I saw that it was Josh #1. Crap. Should've just let him leave a message. Too late now.

"Hey, sailor."

"Oh, hey. I didn't expect you to answer. I woke you up, didn't I?"

"No. Well, kinda."

"Oh, I'm sorry. I was just going to leave a message. I figured your phone would be off."

"Nope. What's up? Are you okay?"

"Yeah. How are you? How's your job?"


"Yeah, it's a job. Listen, what are you doing May 28? I think that's the right date. The last Saturday in May."

"That's Memorial Day." A beat while I realize I've told a falsehood. "Weekend."

"Oh, really? Huh. Are you sure?"


"Oh, well, my apartment building is having a music festival, and there's-"

I laugh.

"...well, okay, you can laugh if you want." He's a little hurt.

"It's funny. 'My apartment building is the last stop of Lollapalooza!'"

He laughs.

"Yeah, okay, that is funny. Well, there's like four bands playing in different people's apartments. We're calling it 'Waltamont,' you know after Altamont, and-"

I laugh.

"You know, that old festival that went bad?" He's confused now, though he knows me well enough to know that I laugh at nigh upon everything.

"No, yeah, I know. Can I be the first person to get killed at your festival?"

He laughs.

"Sure. I was just calling to leave you a message about that, but you answered, and...hey listen, I should call back when you're awake and it's not the middle of the night. This was dumb."

"Yeah, okay."

"Okay. Sorry. Bye."



car things.

Car themed things today!

Thing 1: I got a car.
Not new, not even new to me. For though I've been driving this car around and calling it my car for four years now, it's officially mine. My parents signed a paper, I signed a paper, an unrelated witness signed the paper. I own a car. It is the most valuable thing I own. Depending on the depreciation of my computer, I would say that my washer/dryer set run a distant second. Then my autographed 8x10 glossy of Macaulay Culkin. Nah, just kidding. I wasn't kidding about having one of those, just about it being worth anything.

Thing 2: I broke the car.
Specifically the windshield. A few weeks ago, I noticed a crack in the windshield. I vaguely remember hearing something hitting the windshield, but at the time, I hadn't noticed damage. The crack was concerning, but I didn't worry about it. A couple of weeks after that, I noticed the crack was longer. That was cause for concern. I figured a cracked windshield wouldn't hurt anything, but an increasingly cracked windshield was troublesome. Long story short, the company my insurance company sent me to came out while I was at work, fixed my windshield, filed my insurance paperwork, gave me a lifetime guarantee, and told me to have a nice day. I proceeded to have a nice day, except for when I was driving home and something flew out of the road, hit my windshield, and left a scratch. But not a crack, so it's okay.

Thing 3: I fixed the car.
The car pulled to the right, and the steering wheel vibrated at around 65 mph. My solution for that was just to always go faster than that, but that still didn't solve the pulling. As convenient as it was to be able to get off on my exit without having to steer myself there, it's bad news for the tires. And as I am fully capable of screwing up my tires by hitting potholes at high speeds, running over nails, or hitting cats, I don't need help from my own car. So I had the tire place fix that up real nice, and they changed my oil, too. But NOT the power steering fluid, because I can get my daddy to do that. So I'm only mostly helpless. Afterwards, I was able to fix my hair while driving because I didn't need to keep a hand on the steering wheel all the time. Aren't you glad my car's all better?

I hate having car issues. I am rough on my car with my ignorance and apathy. I need my car to just do its job, to get me somewhere and play that funky music. So there's crap all in it and there are some places that are sticky from having stuff spilled on it. You may find a diabetic test strip and/or syringe, because my boyfriend doesn't care what my car looks like either. When the car is broken, it gives me a sinking feeling in my stomach all the time. I'm scared of the car being broken, and I'm scared to go get it fixed. I just want it to work. And I do love my little car, because she understands her job. She knows she's just supposed to get me there, and that it doesn't matter what she looks like or what kind of mess her interior is in. She gets to go fast and listen to loud music, and she can win races at the stoplight against much fancier cars, particularly when their drivers don't realize they are racing.

So I'm glad she's all better now, because I hate having to worry about my tires falling off or my windshield coming flying in my face. With the change in ownership, she can now expect exactly the same kind of treatment. She's my car now, and she's the most valuable thing I own. If only I could get Macaulay Culkin to sign the car, now that would be something special...


back to pondering my mortality.

Terry Schiavo. The Pope. Big time for the media. Oh, and Mitch Hedberg died. I noticed.

Mitch Hedberg is (was?) a comedian, easily my favorite. He died this past month at the age of 37; rumors whisper heroin. Mainstream America knows him from regular stints on Letterman or from specials on Comedy Central. I was introduced to Mitch Hedberg by an hour-long comedy CD that found its way into my freshman roommate's stereo. The three of us would sit in the room, each of us at our computers doing something else while listening, often pausing to laugh. Sometimes we had to pause a long time, because it was just that funny. Before long, we could quote him verbatim, and we often imitated his slow, stoned drawl.

The thing I liked most about Hedberg was just how obvious and ridiculous his jokes were. No one thought of his jokes before because they were so obvious. So obvious, it was funny. Most of them left you going "What in the world?" but you laughed as you said it. Maybe they were the kind of jokes you would make up if you were stoned, and maybe potheads the world over have already come up with all of his jokes a million times, but they just didn't remember them later. Regardless, they weren't jokes you had to be stoned to enjoy.

So I've been bummed about it. Mitch Hedberg's death isn't going to cause political changes, like Schiavo's, and it won't affect people the way the Pope's has and will. It's not like he's even the first young talent in entertainment to OD. There's nothing controversial about his death. It's just...sad.

I took the liberty of finding some of Mitch's jokes* for you all, so that if you had never heard him, you could enjoy them too, and then be sad like me that he's gone.


I had a stick of Carefree gum, but it didn't work. I felt pretty good while I was blowing that bubble, but as soon as the gum lost its flavor, I was back to pondering my mortality.

I like swiss cheese. It's the only cheese you can draw with a pencil and identify. You can draw American cheese, but someone will think it's cheddar. Swiss cheese is the only cheese you can bite and miss. "Hey Mitch - does that sandwich have cheese on it?" "Every now and then!"

I can't wait 'til this set is over 'cuz I've got a roll of lifesavers in my pocket and pineapple is next!

Once I met this wino and he was eating some grapes and I said "dude, you have to wait".

I hate turkeys. If you stand in the meat section at the grocery store long enough, you start to get mad at turkeys. There's turkey ham, turkey bologna, turkey pastrami. Some one needs to tell the turkey: man, just be yourself.

I like refried beans. I wanna try fried beans, because maybe they're just as good and we're just wasting time.

I have a friend who is a juggler. When I go to his house I don't like to take food from him if it is in threes. "He has three apples left ... I guess I can't have one."

If you had a friend who was a tightrope walker, and you were walking down a sidewalk, and he fell, that would be completely unacceptable.

My friend said to me "Man, this weather is trippy." I said to him, "No man, perhaps it is not the weather that is trippy, it is the way we perceive it that is indeed trippy ..." then I thought, man, I should have just said, 'yeah.'

I like to play blackjack. I'm not addicted to gambling, I'm addicted to sitting in a semi-circle.

...and then at the end of the letter I like to write "P.S. - This is what part of the alphabet would look like if Q and R were eliminated."

I wanna hang a map of the world in my house. Then I'm gonna put pins into all the locations that I've travelled to. But first, I'm gonna have to travel to the top two corners of the map so that it will not fall down.

When I drive a rental car, I don't know what's going on with it, right? So a lot of time I drive, like, for 10 miles with the emergency parking brake on. That doesn't say a lot for me, but it says even less for the "emergency parking brake." It's more like an "emergency make-the-car-smell-funny lever."

I was at a club and they had blacklights everywhere. A blacklight is a light that makes everyone look cool... except me, 'cause I was under the impression that the mustard stain came out.

Whenever I walk, people try to hand me out flyers. And when someone tries to hand me out a flyer, it's kinda like they're saying, "Here - you throw this away."

When I was a kid, I used to lie awake in my twin bed wonderin' where my brother was...

I played golf, I'm not good at golf, I never got good at it. I never got a hole in one, but I did hit a guy. And that's way more satisfying. You're supposed to yell "fore." But I was too busy mumbling, "there ain't no way that's gonna hit him." ....

My belt holds my pants up, but the belt loops hold my belt up. So which one's the real hero?

You know when they have a fishing show on TV? They catch the fish and then let it go. They don't want to eat the fish; they just want to make it late for something.

I wanted to buy a candle holder, but the store didn't have one. So I got a cake.

I think Bigfoot is blurry, that's the problem. It's not the photographer's fault. Bigfoot is blurry. And that's extra scary to me, because there's a large, out-of-focus monster roaming the countryside. Run. He's fuzzy. Get outta here.

An escalator can never break. It can only become stairs. You would never see an escalator "Temporarily Out of Order" sign, just "Escalator Temporarily Stairs... Sorry for the Convenience ... We apologize for the fact that you can still get up there."

I have a cheese-shredder at home, which is its positive name. They don't call it by its negative name, which is sponge-ruiner. Because I wanted to clean it, and now I have little bits of sponge that would melt easily over tortilla chips.

I was at this casino minding my own business, and this guy came up to me and said, "You're gonna have to move, you're blocking a fire exit." As though if there was a fire, I wasn't gonna run. If you're flammable and have legs, you are never blocking a fire exit.

Sometimes I fall asleep at night with my clothes on. I'm going to have all my clothes made out of blankets.

This jacket is dry clean only. Which means .... it's dirty.

*Quotes obtained from WikiQuote.



I'm playing frisbee with my nephew Adam, son of my brother Knocker. Adam is describing to me the way to throw a frisbee. The description involves a demonstration of proper frisbee-throwing technique and form and finally culminates in an even and completely mis-aimed throw. "Sorry about that," he says. "Sometimes I miss."

"It's okay," I say, because it is, "You just need more practice." Then I remember something from my childhood and wonder if Adam knows the answer to the question that I then put to him, "Hey, Adam! What does practice make?"

"Better." Of course he knows. He's Knocker's son, and I distinctly remember Knocker correcting me once when I was little, saying that practice did not make perfect, practice makes better. After querying Adam, Knocker laughed that I knew what practice makes, thinking that I had heard it from some other brother. I told him that he had told me when I was little. "Man, I've been saying that a long time."

"Practice makes perfect" is not technically correct. Without getting too far into the question of whether actual perfection is ever really attained, we can all agree that it isn't always attained, even with a lot of practice. I practiced basketball for five seasons, in two hour sessions five days a week. I never made it to perfect, and it would be very debatable to say that I even made it to adequate. But I got better.

I decided long ago that I agreed with "Practice makes better." And then this morning I started wondering why Knocker came up with it in the first place. Maybe he doesn't believe in humans attaining perfection. Maybe he heard it from someone else. Or maybe there was some tragic incident where he practiced, practiced, practiced and still didn't make it to Carnegie Hall. Then he was disillusioned, because someone had told him that practice makes perfect, and he had practiced, so therefore he should be perfect. But he wasn't. He was only better. Young Knocker concluded that the phrase was then wrong, or at least misleading. Q.E.D.

I feel like the practice-makes-better story is a Knocker-defining one. I could tell the story to someone who knows Knocker, and they would laugh, nod, and say, "Yeah, that sounds like him." Everyone in my family likes to be technically correct, and I suppose it wouldn't be too far off the mark to call us perfectionists, but I've always felt like Knocker beat us all out at it. Maybe he just practiced more.

But I find, and I suspect Knocker does, too, comfort in correctness. Not popular, not even necessarily right, but correct. It is logically sound and you cannot really argue against it, even when it borders on silliness. I might win on a technicality, but I win. I may be stumbling blindly through life just like everyone else, but at least I know the truth about practice and what it really makes.

But for all the comfort I get out of that, I am realizing that being correct isn't everything, and in most cases, it isn't anything. While I still appreciate correctness and I admire other people who appreciate it, by and large, it is missing the point. It is small picture, not big, and it is trees, not forest. See? I know that. I am making improvement. Though I have no hopes of ever achieving perfection, every day I get a little more practice at life.

And I'm getting better.



The higher-ups at my company like cake, which is just fine with us lower-downs, because we like it, too. Someone, somewhere said "Let them eat cake," and so we're all having it, and we're eating it, too. Every month we have a lunch from a local eating establishment, and then we finish it off with some cake. The excuse for the party is to celebrate all the birthdays and work anniversaries for that month. Then we also have parties for five and ten-year anniversaries, where there is no lunch, but only cake. I'm not fooled by these reasons for celebrating. We are celebrating cake. Every month we are saying, "A long time ago somebody threw together flour, eggs, sugar, and milk, and boy, was it a good idea!"

The cake is usually marble, that is, vanilla with chocolate swirls. There is elaborate colored icing on top with "Happy Birthday" or "Congratulations" or "Hey, look! Cake!" written in more colored icing. Often there are icing flowers and candy sprinkles, and whoever ends up cutting the cake (usually whoever is having a birthday) will have to field requests for specific pieces. I don't like icing much, so I ask for a middle piece and hope there are candy sprinkles involved. Others will ask for side pieces, and only the boldest will ask for flowers. We all have college degrees, most of us have mortgages, but cake has a way of turning us all into five-year-olds. The only difference is the fact that age and experience has given us the ability to keep from bouncing on our toes while we say, "Can I have a piece with a flower? And, and, and some sprinkles? Please, can I? Pleeeeeease?" If a fountain of youth is ever found, chances are good that it's made of cake.
Josh, whose office is across the hall from mine, likes cake more than most. He works out every day and usually eats carrots or celery that he buys in bulk at Costco for lunch. But he makes up for it on cake days. He eats two slices at the party, and then later in the day, when everyone is full of cake, he'll sneak to the break room and come back to his office with a piece of cake about four times the size of a regular piece. He'll intend to take it home to eat later, but that mammoth-sized piece of cake won't last five minutes. Once we had cake with some blue icing that gave everyone Smurf teeth. Sure enough, at about 4 o'clock, Josh looked like he'd been chewing on a blue ink pen that had exploded in his mouth. I tell ya, there's not much in this life that will cheer you up like grown-ups with funny-colored mouths all hepped up on sugar. Except maybe cake.