For New Years, CH and I went to Solvang, up-and-coming wine country and the setting of Sideways, the only entry on the International Merlot Makers Association's* "Worst Movies of All Time" list. While we there, we discovered a few things:
1. Your palatte actually becomes more discriminating with the more wine you taste. Which was a shock to me after the debacle that was my wine-tasting themed apartment-warming party in grad school. Yes, I did pass out, and yes, my fellow writers did end up cleaning up . . . and letting out the rest of the guests . . . and locking up . . . and putting a glass of water beside my bed . . . and taking my abjectedly embarrassed and apologetic phone calls the next morning. But listen, I've learned to sip since then.
And in Solvang I learned to spit, as in "Pwah, the currant flavoring in this wine is totally working against the oaky undertones. I shall pour the rest of this travesty into the spit bucket." You see, apparently you don't actually spit in the spit buckets, just pour the wine you don't want into them. Yeah, I was disappointed, too. I was all ready to make up for years of not chewing tobacco.
2. The best pancakes in the world are at Paula's Pancake House. Almost six months later, I'm still thinking about those thin Danish manifestations of God, kind of like Barbara Streisand thought of the impossibly handsome (back then) Robert Redford in the Way We Were. And when CH suggested going to San Francisco and Napa Valley as opposed to back to Solvang for Memorial Day 2006, my first thought was, "But how about the pancakes?" Sigh. Memories...
3. Alcohol really does make the white people dance. We ended up at a bar/lounge/fine restaurant called the Meadowlands, counting down to New Years with a bunch of middle-aged white folks hopped up on really good wine and food. And get this, the cover band was also made up of middle-aged white people, who for some reason, insisted on only singing R&B hits. I am not kidding. They even did Tony Toni Tone's "No Loot" ya'll. Needless to say, I had a FANTASTIC time, but CH still won't talk about it. Poor guy, apparently black people aren't the only ones who get embarrassed when people from our race do things that we'd rather not have people from other races seeing us do.
I made a ton of resolutions, the most important of which was to
1. Lose the twenty pounds I had gained over the last six months. It didn't help that when I went home to St. Louis for a visit, they all commented that I had gained weight. "You ain't missing no meals out there, is you?" said my Uncle Cornelius after hugging me for the first time in three years. Yeah, more on dear Uncle Cornelius below.
2. Write more. I won't even expand on this, since it's a boring resolution that's on every writer's list every year of their lives until they die.
3. Get up at five am, and do stuff with the two hours before I go to work. I was actually able to keep this up for the 21 days it takes to make a habit. I even extended it into my 21 Days of Exercise in February, but then -- oh wait that's coming up in the February blog.
WENT HOME TO ST. LOUIS:
It was lovely. And the eating was spectacular. Though, I could have done without Uncle Cornelius's many word-for-word re-enactments of embarrassing things I said when I was in elementary school:
UC: Remember when you was seven and you said to me, [in a voice that sounds exactly like what is is: an old black man from Mississippi doing a fairly unconvincing falsetto] "Uncle Cornelius I am the smartest kid in my class!" And I said, "Really, you the smartest--" and you was like, "Yes, I am the smartest kid in my class. Nobody else is as smart as me. They are dumb." And I go, "You already know where you going to go to college, don't you?" And you said, "Yes, I am going to go to Haaaarvard." You used to say that to me all the time. "I'm going to go to Haaarvard."
Me [severely doubting that I would roll my Harvards in such a gravelly way]: Thanks for remembering that, Uncle Neil.
UC: Oh yeah, I remember. You used to say things like that all the time.
Despite the constant reminders that I was a weirdly arrogant, super-ambitious little monster of a child before I became a completely neurotic, super-ambitious monster of an adult, I had a wonderful time.
I had to endure the non-too-subtle hints that I should wear make-up, which usually entailed one of my aunts telling me to "try on" various lipsticks. But I also got to brush up on my trash talking skills, during the monthly Friday Family Game Night during especially heated games of Mexican Train Dominoes -- Think regular dominoes on family-destroying steroids with little monoply-piece-like trains.
I also got to eat St. Louis Chinese food, which in my opinion is the best Chinese food on earth -- and honey, I've been to China. Later, while my sister and I visited our high school English teacher, mentor, and dear, dear friend Mrs. Rowan, her history professor husband told us that the St. Louis version of Chinese food was actually a regional delicacy, because it's a hybrid of Chinese and soul food. No wonder I love it so much!
The highlight of the trip was finally getting a chance to wear the "I'm the Nice One. My Sister is the Brat." T-shirt I had purchased in a youth large (apparently they're pretty big these days, b/c I had room to spare) while in Solvang. My sister glared, my cousins laughed, and my aunts all made the same comment though they saw the T-shirt seperately, "Well, obviously the opposite is true, cuz you wearing that T-shirt." Man, they always take her side. Lizzy! Lizzy! Lizzy!