Wine Review: 2015 Carmenere Reserva, Casillero del Diablo

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The Carmenere grape is originally from Medoc, north of Bordeaux, France.  It disappeared from Medoc following the phylloxera outbreak in the 19th century but, after hiding out in Devil’s locker for about a hundred years, reappeared in Chile at the end of the 20th century.

In case you didn’t know, Phylloxera are a grape destroying insect.

Xavier says that Carmenere is a very grown up kind of wine.

“So, you mean it doesn’t taste like wine coolers?”,  I asked.

“I feel like I should be smoking a cigar,” he said.

We didn’t have cigars but we did have peanut M&M’s, which are dissimilar but also good.

Very dry and slightly bitter. The label said chocolate and coffee but, to clarify, they mean dark chocolate and black coffee.

This wine takes a long time to open up. I would give it at least two hours. The longer it’s been open, the better it tastes.

Casillero del Diablo Carmenere is deep, dark and dense.  It is the Guinness beer of wine and was actually filling in a similar manner. You will probably not accidentally drink the whole bottle in one sitting. I recommend spacing this one out over a couple of nights.

I also recommend dental floss and a good whitening toothpaste as Carmenere will absolutely cause a sticky case of the penguin mouth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wine Review: 2014 Pinot Noir, Robert Mondavi Private Selection

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“Will stay in a situation well past the point when a sane person would have quit.”

That’s (always been) me, in a nutshell.

I don’t know if the picture on the label is supposed to be light house or a church but either one seems appropriate for pondering a moral dilemma.

Shelly recommended the Pinot Noir from Robert Mondavi and it did not disappoint.

Xavier and I killed a bottle of this dark and swirling smooth red wine while debating the following situation.

For the past two years I have been teaching a group fitness class called Strength And Balance For Seniors. After all that time I still only have three regular participants. They each only pay $35 a month for the class and it meets twice a week.

Of the three participants, I like two of them well enough but one of them, a women named Sally, pushes me like a sore tooth. Every conversation with her is like chewing on tin foil.

Further complicating matters is that I’ve recently started a new job which is consuming quite a bit of my time and making it increasingly inconvenient to keep the class going, in part, because that class time comes out of the precious few hours I have left of “me time”.

Hold on, let me pour another glass wine.

The problem isn’t that she’s not nice and it’s not that we have opposing political views. She is a nice person who agrees with me on most things. She even loves animals but this is not the problem.

The problem is two-fold, well, actually three-fold if we’re being honest.

The #1 problem is that she likes me a little too much. She stalks me on facebook, digging back through years of my photos and posts, and then announces her findings during class as if she has solved some great mystery. This habit alone makes it hard to keep my cool.

Problem #2 is that, bless her heart, but she’s just a god damned idiot. Literally every word that escapes her mouth is without forethought or reason. I have often wondered how it is that husband hasn’t drowned her in the tub – not for the life insurance money but just to shut her up.

Problem #3 is that, after working on the same exercises with the same simple explanations twice a week for two years, she still stumbles through them like a drunk baboon.

Honestly, by now I could’ve taught monkeys to do these exercises better than she does them.

I spoke to my life coach about it. Kim is pretty blunt. She said, “You need to work smarter, not harder. Cut ’em loose.”

And I had just about decided to do that when….

Wait, need more wine.

I had just about decided to end this class when the Sally’s 38 year old son died of a drug overdose.

Well, fuck.

How am I supposed to fuel this decision with righteous indignation when now all of a sudden I am forced to consider her as a real person with real feelings? Forced to consider what she lives with on a day to day basis, terrified that her worst fears will come true and she will have to bury her own son. Remembering a conservation from the previous week where she shared with the class that her disoriented brother-in-law had called her the night before to ask for her sister’s phone number.  Her sister died five years prior and he is the widower.

An old woman trying to make the best of her remaining years, latched on to me as someone she sees as wise and brave, maybe like the daughter she wished she had instead of a drug addict son.

Maybe the most difficult people in our lives are the ones who need the most compassion. Maybe each of us is the most difficult person in someone else’s life and we don’t even realize because we’re just trying to show affection in the only way we know how. Maybe someday we too will be old and sad.

Maybe I allow guilt to cloud my judgement.

About this latest update Kim said, “Showing support for her situation and keeping the class going are two different issues.”

Xavier said, “This is not what you signed up for. Your job is to teach the class, not to get sucked into these personal situations. If you want to stop teaching the class then stop. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

Due largely to it’s deliciousness, the Pinot Noir from Robert Mondavi is a wise and gentle wine, allowing my mind relax just enough to be reasoned with. Shelly’s recommendation was spot on and I would absolutely serve a glass of this delectable wisdom to my mother and to all of my friends.

I canceled the class.

It’s Hard To Find Good Help These Days

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Raise your hand if you remember walking into a business, asking for an application, filling it out (with a pen), talking to the manager and going home with a job.

Anyone?… Bueller?… (tap tap) Is this thing on?

I am either from the dark ages or I have been self employed for a long time.

Maybe both.

While I type like a three toed sloth, I do know a whole lot about a few things. I have survived in work environments so insane that they defy description. I have put in my 10,000 hours more than once.

I am smarter than some but it doesn’t necessarily work in my favor and the hardest thing is trying to conceal the fact that I don’t play well with others. There was a reason for being self-employed, and that’s the reason.

Trying to rejoin the workforce after nine years of riding fences is challenging but I’m tired of being cold, wet, and hungry so I’m coming around like a stray dog that is ready to give domestication a whirl.

Have you applied for a job lately? If not, and you have a whole lot of time to waste, I highly recommend it.

I’ve been interviewing with the nation’s largest retailer of used automobiles. Three interviews and literally dozens of long form essay questions later and I still don’t know if I have secured the entry-level position of Buyer’s Assistant.

This job is my top pick and working in my favor is that almost everyone I have interviewed with, five different people now, are either former personal trainers or former business owners. Apparently, this is the place where desperado types go when they decide to throw in the towel and get a real job.

But since I still  don’t know if I actually have the job, I take nothing for granted and continue applying at other places.

Long gone are the days of filling out an application and talking to an actual person. This is the age of the online assessment and mind-blowingly redundant questions. I just applied at Short Burst Cellular and was asked no fewer than ten times if I try to understand why people act the way they do and if I enjoy analyzing my own feelings. The other questions are, naturally, all related to how well I play with others and how receptive I am to taking bullshit from customers. I also applied at Horizon and spent thirty minutes answering questions like, “would you rather be subject to incessant interruptions OR be on the phone with angry customers all day?”  Would you rather stab a fork in your eye or drop this kettle bell on your foot?

I can’t help but wonder; who scores high on these tests? According to the job description, it’s people with a passion for customer service. Maybe my definition of passion differs from theirs. I say the word passion is reserved for art and science or a cause that changes the world.

Customer service is a vital bodily function of any business. The business cannot survive without it but it is not something for which I would equate the word passion.

Customer service is necessary of course, but only so that the company can succeed at what it’s passionate about – making money. Who wakes up in the morning and can’t wait to be interrupted constantly by people who are complaining about problems that are beyond their control?

People work customer service jobs out of necessity and in hopes of getting promoted. Let’s not pretend that necessity and passion are the same thing. This is why so many people burn out when they find a way to monetize their hobby, because necessity kills passion.

But back to my original question. Who scores high on these tests?

The U.S. has notably gone down hill when it comes to producing well educated young adults with high levels of etiquette or common sense. Not pointing fingers but…perhaps it is they who have necessitated the rise of the assessments in the first place. Having limited video game vocabularies makes them easy targets for swapping the words necessity and passion and tricking them into thinking it was their own idea.

One of the questions, or rather – statements, at the end of the Horizon assessment was, “I feel this assessment gives a good initial impression of the company values and makes the company seem like an attractive place to work.”  Strongly Agree. Agree. Slightly Agree. Slightly Disagree. Disagree. Strongly Disagree. Fuck Me.

Is the talent pool so shallow that the word passion has become displaced and is now being used in reference to customer service for lack of anything legitimate to be passionate about? In a world of young adults who would rather reside on their parent’s couches than blaze a trail into the frontier of freedom it makes sense.

Firmly rooted on the sofa like baby birds waiting to be fed, they would naturally have no concept of doing something unpleasant out of necessity because, thus far, they’ve spent all day texting their friends but meals still appear on the table at regular intervals.

In all fairness I may be projecting, displacing, evening blaming my hatred of online job assessments on other people in an effort to not throw my computer out the window and spend my remaining days walking the earth like Caine in Kung Fu.

I may be, or I may be the Johnny Come Lately frog to the pot of boiling water.

It is possible, after all, that the assessments exist specifically to weed out people like myself.



Yes, please.

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What will you focus on?

What does it mean?

How will you respond?

Winds of change are blowing around here. I’ve been afflicted with a desire to stop doing things all the time, to stop spending every last waking moment trying to do something.

I think maybe it’s time to reconsider my success strategy.

I closed a business three years ago.  It was a business that made me temporarily rich and less temporarily poor.  It was a short love with a long divorce.

I tried to bounce back but it didn’t come back. Not the business itself, I didn’t want that back, but the income – from any source at all – it didn’t come back and I’ve been so broke for so long now that it almost doesn’t seem weird anymore.

But it is weird and it’s not ok and I’m done.

I wouldn’t say that I’ve wasted my time. To the contrary, some would argue that I have helped facilitate life altering transformations for quite a few people.  I would say, “that’s nice but it’s come at my own expense.”

Not one of the people I’ve helped would be willing to do what I do for the amount of money that I walk away with.  Absolutely not, they wouldn’t even consider it.  I show up for them, whether I feel like it or not, but my wellbeing is left to their sense of convenience.  They think nothing of their work meetings and endless vacations, naturally they do what they need to do and now the time has come to turn the coin.

The answer is easy, if you take it logically.

The focus has to change to taking care of business on the home front. What that means is renegotiating my deal with the universe in regards to paychecks. The proper response is to say “yes, please” when offered an opportunity to join the world of functioning adults.

Soo…, yes please.



A Few Moments In The Cenozoic Era

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65 million years ago a meteor six miles wide crashed into the Earth. The residents blamed Obama and said that the meteor was part of a conspiracy to support his new world order. Choking on ash and poison gas, most of them died shortly thereafter thus turning the last page of the Mesozoic Era.

Organisms go extinct when they can no longer adapt to the prevailing climate.

Included on the short list of survivors was the winged dinosaurs and they flew on to see the dawn of a new age.

The Cenozoic Era continues today.

When I was 31, the tumbleweeds and goat-heads had overgrown the land between my back wall and the road.  Being a good citizen, I called the city to complain. The bored woman on the phone said, “Yep, alright”, and hung up.  The following week, everyone who lived on my street received citations from the city demanding that all the weeds be cleared from behind each respective house on the land between the back wall and the road. The land, that falls behind each person’s property but that the homeowners are not allowed to use in any way, yes, that land which was not ours.  The citation read, in no uncertain terms, “Remove the weeds yourself or we will have them removed and send you the bill.”

Way to go, Slick.

I never told the neighbors that I was the one who complained to the city.

Last week I turned 41.

The previous day, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote but Donald Trump became President Elect of the United States – making this the 2nd election in twenty years where the choice of the people was misrepresented by the electoral college.

Some may consider this to be an evolutionary step backwards, like webbed nostrils or the development of genitals in close proximity to the rectum, but in the year of post truth others have a feeling that America is on it’s way to becoming great again.  I say we called to complain about the weeds and, in doing so, won Shirley Jackson’s Lottery.

Be careful what you ask for, America.  God won’t save us if we can’t adapt.



Coming Full Circle

 

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Home, a place with a lot of tumbleweeds and trailer houses.

In 1984, my parents bought a mobile home and put it on a piece of land out on the mesa in front of the Manzano Mountains.   At the time, the nearest neighbor was a mile away and my parents thought it was glorious.  Unfortunately the nearest phone was also a mile away. I saw nothing glorious about that.

We lived far from everything. Far from the mall, far from my school, far from my friends, and especially far from Albuquerque – which is where all the cool kids were.

Valencia county was generally unconcerned with maintaining the dirt roads so during monsoon season we would go without mail service for weeks at a time, we also had to make our own path through the desert to come and go because our road would be underwater.

Still, my parents were enchanted with this place. “It’s so quiet”, they would brag to their friends. “There’s no light pollution and we can see all the stars“, they would say while setting up their telescope.

Fuck that, I want cable TV.

They had purchased five acres of land and split it into two 2.5 acre lots.  My deadbeat aunt and uncle moved into their own mobile home next door.  They made zero payments on the trailer or to my parents for their land lease.  In the meantime, they did manage to erect an impressive chain-link fence, raise some malamutes, and sell some drugs.

They got the boot.

Later on, my other deadbeat aunt moved her own mobile home onto that side of the land. She was a depressed hoarder with trash piled up to the windows and she too failed to make any payments.  When my step-dad found the cages of dead birds in her living room, she was next to get the boot.

As I was going through my teenage years, this “glorious” place in the middle of nowhere turned into something else entirely.  Imagine being stranded on a desert island with two people in a relationship that is going south.

As my parents grew to like each other less, the silence became a void filled mostly with the sounds of slamming doors and never-ending passive aggressive standoffs. Sufficed to say, the glory was starting to wear off.

When I was 19, the universe told me it was time to move to Las Vegas, NV.  Six weeks prior to my departure, the parental situation came to head and my step-dad told my mom to get the fuck out, which she did.

But not me, I still lived there, playing marriage counselor to both of them right up until the last day.

But when I left, I left.

That was in 1995.  I had no plans of going home again.

Fast forward 21 years.

My step dad still lives on the land only now he’s married to my ex-sister-in-law. Wait, what?  He married my ex-husband’s oldest sister.  I know… you can’t make this shit up.

After a couple years of living in Easterville, Xavier and I have decided to move back to New Mexico so I took him there for a visit earlier this year.  We were planning on moving to Albuquerque, of course, because that’s where the cool kids are but I still took him down to Los Lunas to show him around.  I took him out to visit my stepdad on the land where I grew up and I had assumed that he would be horrified by the place.

He wasn’t.

We have a dream of flying light, of living with low overhead and never being stressed about money, of having more freedom and less worry.

We’ve done countless hours of research on the virtues of manufactured homes.

We’ve stood hand in hand on the beach at midnight and gazed deep into the milkyway while baby ghost crabs ran over our feet and the dark ocean tide was heard but not seen.

We live in an apartment in the city now and one thing’s for sure. The rent never goes down. Constant road noise, constant alarms going off and sirens running up and down the street all hours of the day and night.  Most of all, constant neighbors in every direction. Light pollution mucks up the night sky and we might see a star or two but only the biggest and brightest make it through the haze.

We talk about that night by the ocean and looking out into forever.

 The desert is an ocean with it’s life underground.

And maybe it was time to reconsider this idea of going home.

Nothing but a broke down fence and a pile of trash live on the other side of the land now. More neighbors have moved in but they are still a civilized distance away and at night, the sky opens up in a concert of stars like no one living on the east coast has ever seen.

I never wanted to go back because I thought the life I had lived there could only repeat itself.

But now, I long for the quiet and for the stars. I can see a future there that is different from my past.

At age 41, I didn’t expect to discover that everything I wanted was in the place where I began, the place that I couldn’t get away from fast enough, but time is the great revelator after all and every prophet is in her house.

As it turns out, I want to go home again.

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Ghosts Among Us

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Generally speaking, you could spit in any direction and hit someone who claims to have seen a ghost.  No shortage of those stories but there are some interesting consistencies when it comes to providing evidence.

I’ve listened to dozens of ghost stories told by people who seem to believe them but you know what they never say? They never say, “I saw a ghost and took a photo of it.”

Everyone that claims to have shot a photo of a ghost also claims that it was an accident. They say, “I was just taking a picture of this here empty staircase for no particular reason.” Or, “I shot this portrait of two people in an oddly off centered fashion”. Conveniently, “ghosts” appeared in exactly the right spot after the fact.

My ex-sister-in-law claimed to have photographed the ghost of Jerry Garcia. She proudly showed me a photo of what was obviously lens flare.  She was an experienced photographer and I felt she should’ve known better.  On the other hand, she also claimed that the ghost of Jerry Garcia did everything from giving her directions to the nearest pay phone to helping her move furniture. Sometimes you have to consider the source.

My mom once stayed for a week at the Monroe Institute, a place where people go to practice having out of body experiences and to train in the art of remote viewing. I thought it was fascinating until she told me that, during her visit, participants were told that the spirits living there would appear in photographs in the form of orbs. For a place that fancies themselves to be conducting scientific research, that is some hocus-pocus nonsense.

I don’t mean to pee in anyone’s candy corn but photos with lens flare are not pictures of ghosts and orbs are bullshit.  Sure, orbs will show up in photographs but they too are another form of lens flare.

I was a full time professional photographer for 15 years.  I have been all over the southwest visiting ancient cemeteries, old churches, ghost towns and abandoned motor lodges on the old Route 66.  I have shot tens of thousands of photographs in these places along with countless photographs of weddings and guess how many unexplainable pictures of “ghosts” I have?

That’s right. None.

The one thing that every bogus “ghost photo” of lens flare and orbs have in common is that they were obviously shot by amateur photographers on point and shoot cameras with built-in flashes. For the record, smart phones are also point and shoot cameras with built-in flashes.  The flash being too close to the lens renders all kinds of weird results and, not understanding how cameras work, easily excitable picture snappers immediately assume their cameras are haunted when unexpected things appear in their photos.

Enthusiastic ghost hunters firing their built-in flashes into swarms of nocturnal insects or into the mirror, or towards any kind of shiny object are ready and willing to accept bad photography as evidence of the super natural.  Failing to shade their lens from the sun and being blinded by the light, these are the same people who think they see the face of Jesus in a piece of burnt toast and go around checking their children’s hands and feet for the stigmata.

A few years ago, while on a quest to find an authentic photo of a ghost, I contacted every professional photographer I knew and asked them if they believed they had ever photographed a ghost or had any photos that defied explanation. They all said no.

I bet you think this story is about how I don’t believe in ghosts.

Let’s not jump to conclusions.

Maybe the issue isn’t that ghosts are real but maybe the issue is that they can’t be photographed.  More specifically, something that cannot be seen with the human eye is not going to show up in a photo because, according to the laws of physics, for something to be visible it must reflect light.

Inversely, if vampires were real they would show up in photographs and in mirrors because you can see them.

If you want me to believe otherwise, evidence more compelling that what I’ve mentioned will need to be produced.  The average person has a better chance of photographing a bona fide UFO than taking a picture of a ghost.

Not seeing and still believing.

There are those who claim not to believe in anything that they can’t see with their own eyes.

I call bullshit.  By that rationale, to a blind person, nothing is real.  Additionally, sight is only one of the ways that we experience and interpret reality.  You can’t see the way a pot roast in the crock pot smells but the scent most certainly confirms the existence of the pot roast.

No one has ever shot a photo of gravity, or inertia, but these things are real and for that matter, please show me your photos of music.

Ghosts stories, taken at face value.

Created by DPE, Copyright IRIS 2007

Several years ago I wrote a story for this blog called Watching The Flowers Sway.

I was proud of that piece but I never explained where it came from or why I would write such a horrific tale in the first place.

In 2003 one of my past wedding clients was murdered.

I saw her face on the news while drinking my morning coffee and I said, “That’s her!” as if I had already been talking about her though of course I hadn’t been.

The story on the news said she was missing and presumed dead.  The police found a horrific scene in her classroom at the elementary school where she was an Occupational Therapist.  I remembered watching her walk back to her car after she left my studio for the final time.  Though I was not involved in any way, I felt that I had somehow let her down by not protecting her, I guess everyone probably felt like that.

The police said the janitor did it. The physical evidence against him was overwhelming even without the body which took almost two months to find.

Later that evening her husband was on the news pleading for anyone with information to come forward.  It was heartbreaking.  They had been married less than two years.

And then the news team went to interview the janitor’s family.  The parents weren’t in a talkative mood but they found one of the janitor’s friends who said, “Martin wouldn’t have done something like that, he just bought new rims for his car.”

With a character witness like that and a trunk full of blood and hair, Martin was going to need a really good lawyer.  No Saul Goodman was gonna get him out of this shit. He needed Johnnie Cochran and even then, O.J. seemed less guilty.

With the body being MIA, the story quickly fell out of the news and there was only a brief mention when the case finally went to trial in 2005.  The body had been found by then and it, along with all the other evidence, was enough to get Martin sentenced to life in prison.

Good.

Fucker.

I watched the short bit on the news about the verdict in the trial.  Two things stood out. One was that Martin’s mom was shown crying and saying, “I know my mijo is innocent”. No, he wasn’t. And, two, cameras were rolling on Martin when the jury read the verdict. He sat in his chair, bobbing his head and looking around as if everything were right with the world. He didn’t look the least bit concerned.

Six years later in 2011, I grew curious about the case again.  Very little information was made available at the time and I still had so many questions.

One night I laid in bed looking up anything I could find on her case.  A lot more information had been made available and it was gruesome, all of it, but I read every article I could find.

I was considering writing about it but I didn’t know what to say or where to start.

It was late at night when I finally ran out of articles. I plugged my phone in and turned out the light.

I hadn’t even gotten my pillows situated when the energy in the room changed.

It was dark and there was nothing to see but I swear there was another entity present, I could practically feel it breathing on me.  I knew positively that it was her and the message was unmistakable.  This was a cease and desist order of the highest kind.  In retrospect, I wish I had tried to communicate but to be honest I panicked and turned the lamp on and just sat there like a big scardey-cat for almost an hour before getting brave enough to turn the light back off.

I decided not to write anything about her, ever.

But then I changed my mind.

While laying in bed trying my best to get some sleep I decided that she probably wasn’t trying to scare me.  There’s no reason she should have any animosity towards me. Perhaps I had misunderstood.

I decided to conduct an experiment.

For three days I asked her what she wanted me to say.  On the third day the story poured out.  I moved my fingers on the keyboard but the images weren’t mine, they were hers, and they just kept coming.

I believe I channeled the entire story from her eight years after her death.

There are no photos to back my claim but eyesight is not the only way to experience reality.

You may read that story here if you like.