Lies, damned lies, etc.

End of the month which meant payday. One always looks forward to that and I find that I’m still very much a kid when I get a paycheck. I remember working jobs and getting paid and thinking that the coolest thing in the world. There are times it still feels that way. “They’re paying me to do this? Cool!”

I’m easily amused.

I made the mistake of watching PBS yesterday afternoon. You people who watch that and claim that’s where the truth is….wow. I’m rather, well, stunned. Bill Moyers going on about “Buying the War” and his interviews of such stalwarts of journalistic integrity like Dan Rather (who lied--or at very least was criminally lazy about the absurd Bush AWOL story) and various New York Times Reporters. Heck, take Moyers himself who had to apologize to former Secretary of the Interior James Watt when he lied about what Watt allegedly said. To hear Moyers giving sage wisdom about “telling the truth” is just a little hard to bear, I’d say. I used to love Bill Moyers and thought he was a tremendous reporter. But, he’s not. He’s a hack.

Like Rather.

Like Walter Isaacson of CNN.

Like the lot of them.

Here’s the thing–and it’s the most important one that I can think of. I completely accept that Iraq is a mess and that the mistakes made there are horrendous and made by people who simply could not think their way through the problem. I don’t know why that is–and as a guy who teaches English and writes about wine and food, I won’t speculate. I think you can make a real case that ultimately, Iraq was not the right country to invade and that there were smarter moves that could have been made. But what I don’t accept is the nonsense that the President lied us into a war. I think you can make a case that there are some things that have been lied about here, but lying about getting into Iraq just does not appear to be the case by any standard. Saying so means negating all the intel. that so many countries had. That intel was not manipulated by the US. The French, Germans, Russians–everyone–thought Saddam well armed. And the Bush Doctrine, as it came to be known, was simply “you’re either with us–or you’re with the terrorists.” There was no nuance for the President–no gray areas. You can debate the wisdom of that. You can say it wasn’t right. But—what you cannot do is say it was a lie.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to say, “Policy makers are entitled to their own opinions. They are not, however, entitled to their own set of facts.” Indeed.

Fire Melts Steel? Alert Rosie!

This story is a little un-nerving as I was just there a week ago and though I don’t think I went through this underpass, you could pretty much see it from our hotel. Apparently, the fire from the exploded tanker-truck was enough to melt the freeway structure which, of course, means it melted the metal. Concrete doesn’t melt very often. The steel that holds it, however, does–and when it does, the concrete holding on to that steel collapses. We know this sad and sorrowful lesson from 9/11, of course.

However, someone had better alert Rosie O’Donnell that, according to her way of thinking–and apparently for only the second time in history, a fire has melted steel. How curious for her…

Weekend without aircraft…

A Friday has zoomed upon us and I am 2 days lacking in a post which is sad. There are reasons for the lacking-ness and I suppose it would be right and just to go into them, but it’s also boring and pointless, so I won’t.

Making pitches to several mags with some interesting stories. I’d forgotten how difficult that rejection can be. Mind you, not the rejection note that says, “thanks but no thanks…” Rather, the rejection of no reply at all from anyone to whom I send e-mails. By any measure, I’ve been a moderately successful freelance writer, but I still–after 14 years–send out more than 10 times the queries than I ever hear back from. I can take the rejection note–“Hey, nice try–but we’ve covered this” or “well, yeah we thought about doing that, but your writing sucks so, we’ll do the story with someone else.” Any of those are fine–but the silence—oh the damning silence!

Dramatic, I know. Well, that’s how Fridays can be, friends. Pop is on his way in for a visit and will spend the weekend here. Peanut’s excited to see grandpa so we’re preparing the feast (if he makes it for dinner. He’s driving and has yet to enter the 21st Century with a cellphone) and opening the wine. Meanwhile, the weather is beautiful and spring is arrived. Last Friday, we were tooling to the airport for the trip up to San Francisco. The rain was coming down and it was in the 50’s. Today…home with the family, slowly ambling through the sunshine and the 75 degree temperatures.

A good evening…

Existential Angst

Quintessential to the experience of blogging is the feeling that you’ve something to say–even if it’s just to the three or four people who read your blog. So–as I write this, I want you to know that I have a lot to say…..a whole lot.

It’s just that, it’s not really worth saying. I mean, I start at Point A with a thesis and a set of supporting paragraphs and when I get to the conclusion, I realize that I have proved it to myself–no one else really. And so I go on thinking that maybe it would be worth it to jot down these thoughts, but I run into the ineffable barrier that prevents me from doing so.

So it was that I stopped keeping a political blog and a wine blog. I’m a wine writer, but I don’t do reviews much anymore. I don’t think my palate is quite good enough to render any kind of judgment that anyone but me can go by. The magazine I am currently writing for is interested in storytelling–and so am I, so rather than being a kind of taste-journalist, I’m a storyteller who happens to specialize in telling wine-maker’s stories. I’m blessed, thrilled–lucky, even–to be paid to do so and when I’m not being paid to do so, I’m fortunate enough to work at a high school with some really great kids who do some incredible work and I get paid for that, too. Pretty good deal.

But, it’s the storytelling that keeps yanking at me–and I like telling the stories. I like hearing about people’s lives and I realized long ago (though I admit that I need the idea refreshed from time to time) that it is those lives, seemingly ordinary and unimportant, that are the real strength and backbone of a community. Unfortunately, we’ve become inoculated against ordinary people–and we associate the term with a movie that showed lives of truly quiet, mostly, desperation. But as I complained to my pal Brian tonight about being quietly desperate, it occurred to me that in fact, I am not quietly desperate. I’m just quiet…though that is not how my family and friends would describe me. I’m not desperate….but I do, occasionally, get bored and frustrated.

Tonight is one of those nights as I consider the absurdity of the classes I’m being made to complete through our school district and the silliness of the state testing regime which begins tomorrow and the fact that I bought a house for $675,000.00 and thought I could afford it–as well as about 100 other kinds of profound and deep strangeness. It’s just a night for considering such absurdity–and learning to deal with it.

Bleh…

A Good Night

I’ve met a few of my heroes and idols in my life. I was in my late 20’s when I met Alex Lifeson of Rush. As a big fan of the band, it was an even bigger thrill when I wrote an e-mail to Geddy Lee (back in the days when he had a public aol address. He doesn’t anymore) and he wrote me a reply. Told me he was glad to hear from me. What a treat that was.

I got an e-mail reply from Jancis Robinson and one from Kevin Zraly as well. I’d become a certified sommelier and hearing from them was such an honor–a real treat. When I did the radio show at KCLU, I had on Adam Firestone and David Walker as well as Doug Frost. That was pretty great as well. David Walker actually invited my wife and I to the opening of the Firestone Taproom restaurant in Buellton and sat with us as we quaffed cold ale and ate some tasty vittles. He was PR-ing of course, as he knew I was on assignment–but he’d taken the time to get to know us and when he was on the radio show, it was like having an old friend on.

When I was a young man, no more than about 12 or 13, I wanted nothing more than to be an airline pilot. I was traveling with my family in New York City and we were staying at the Sheraton LaGuardia there. A group of Piedmont Airlines pilots came in and were securing rooms for the night and I mustered the courage to go up and talk to one of them. They were very kind and I still remember it to this day.

Some of those memories stand out pretty well and so perhaps it is no wonder that an e-mail response I got last night would send me again into those childhood feelings of joy and a kind of excitement. But, that’s how I felt when I responded by e-mail to James Lileks regarding this post. As a sommelier and an avid Lileks fan, I love when he talks about wine. He’s pretty honest about his tastes and concerns and it’s a pleasure to read him.

I got turned onto him by reading and listening to Hewitt with whom I’ve corresponded about wine also. Hewitt is a genuinely nice guy and because of him, I’ve become a fan of Steyn, Lileks, Gaffney, White and others. Lileks, though, is like dessert. His writing is crisp and clear and I learn something about writing every time I read him. As a freelance writer, I always recommend to my students that they go “blog hunting” and seek out writers whose voices they like and with whom they can identify. Lileks is that for me. We’re both in our 40’s, married to professional women and both have a young daughter on whom we focus a lavish of attention.

When I checked my e-mail just before shuttling off to bed, Lileks had responded to me. It was quite a nice response as well–and in the interest of discretion and valor and all that, I won’t republish. Suffice to say, it was about wine–and the fact that he wrote back to me is a source of endless pride and joy. I know that sounds, perhaps, fan boy-ish, and I am certainly not one–but when a writer gets a note from a writer whom he admires–and it’s not just shop talk, but discussion about a subject in which you share more than a passing interest—well, I’ve reached an apogee of sorts.

Thanks, Mr. Lileks. You made my night.

Bay Area Recap

Back home tonight after a true whirlwind of a vacation with Peanut up to the Bay area. Sue went up on Thursday morning, early for her conference. Peanut and I went up Friday night, catching a flight out of Burbank at 7:00 P.M. for the quick trip up. We were at the hotel around 8:30 and we really did have a good time. As per usual with me, however, I charged and readied the camera to bring along and proceeded to leave it on my desk–where it languished as I struggled for cell phone pics worth capturing. There were few, I promise you–but here are a couple:

Out the window of our hotel room 12 floors above the City of Oakland at the City Center hotel. You could see the bay and San Francisco in the distance. Alas, with 3 pixels, what you’re seeing is the Alameda shipyard as well as some of the older buildings in Oakland. The city itself isn’t the greatest in terms of tourism and, in fact, as our van driver from the airport told us–don’t walk around down here after dark—but, it’s got its character and if you cannot appreciate the extraordinary commercial enterprise of the Alameda ship yard and the military’s Alameda Naval Station, well then you–sir or madame, just ain’t American.


For anyone who knows Pier 39, they know that it is home to an extraordinary group of sea lions who came to call on the boat docks here shortly after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. You’ll read that on the plaques all over the Pier, but the fact is–there is simply no evidence linking the two. The fact is, the fish supply in the bay is fantastic–and when an animal comes to call, it really should come to San Francisco–because once it does, the city has a habit of adopting it, protecting it and making it a violation of Federal law (not just city ordinance) to harass or vex the poor beleaguered beasts in any way. So–the sea lions who came here at first were migratory spending part of their year here and then moving south to where we live, near the Channel Islands. Actually, you can see the Channel Islands from Camarillo, where I live, when you’re up in the hills–and many of the sea lions do still go there (a happy fact for the large population of Great White Sharks that inhabits the areas around the Farralones and the Channel Islands). But many also now make their permanent home at Pier 39 in San Francisco because–well, because they can. Oh–and Peanut likes them a lot. Then again, she likes all animals a lot…

There are others, but I’ll keep those for the family. Suffice to say that riding cable cars, Ferry boats, airplanes, taxi cabs, and various other transportation vehicles was and endless thrill for Peanut. And not so bad for dad, either.

Oakland/San Francisco

The obligatory post from the Bay Area with a relatively weak signal, but what the heck. A fine day in San Francisco in which Peanut and I rode her first cable car, took the ferry across from Oakland to San Francisco, saw the sea lions at Pier 39, went to the aquarium, saw the street performers–a LOT of them–and met mom for an early dinner at Bubba Gump’s on the pier. The rain and clouds made it feel like….well, San Francisco. Got some pics and such, but that’s for later.

A (mostly) smooth and very quick flight up to Oakland Airport and then an even quicker and less smooth ride across Oakland to the hotel. Really, it’s a very nice place. Happy to be here.

But–admittedly, sore and tired–so more from home…

Gains and Losses

It appears as though rain is coming, albeit late in the season, just in time for us to leave. Sue is already in Oakland for her conference and it is raining there–though not here yet. Weather.com is forecasting it–though it’s a pretty moderate storm, not huge. Peanut and I catch a flight to Oakland tomorrow evening and we’ll join Sue there for the weekend spending the better part of Saturday in “The City” and playing around on Cable Cars, at Pier 39 and at Ghirardelli Square. Should be a blast.

Meanwhile, sad news tonight that one of my mentors from college, Fred Bowman, has passed away. Fred was a fine and kind man, a strong teacher and a good friend. He was instrumental in my brother’s collegiate life and beyond and he was a mentor to me, convincing me that CLU was the right place for me. He was so right about that. I had lunch with him in January when Judy Bultman was here visiting from Biloxi and we had stayed in contact through the university here and there. He remembered me well and my brother and he was very funny, decent and loving as always. I loved him dearly and will miss him a great deal.

Peanut’s tired and is out upstairs. In fact, earlier–I heard the dog get up and come out of the master bedroom where he sleeps on his own bed in the corner of the room. I went upstairs fearing he would go into Peanut’s room–and when I got there, I couldn’t find him. I stood in the hallway waiting and then–out he came, not only of Peanut’s room but having been up on her bed. He jumped up there with her, tried to snuggle and apparently she was having none of it. I say this only after realizing that she never woke up. He did not make her stir–didn’t wake her at all. I found that fascinating. He’s not a small dog–he weighs 70 pounds….it’s not like he could have leaped up and silently snuggled. He doesn’t do anything terribly silently.

Well, she and I have been up since around 5:00 this morning seeing mom off. Weariness can have its impact, one supposes.

More from points north on the morrow….

Convenient Fiction

Got some time? Watch Steve Hayward’s response to Al Gore in part’s I and II of his film. It’s a pretty honest and devastating blow against those who believe that anthropogenic warming is happening with certainty.

Virginia Tech.

It is not too much to say that I wouldn’t be blogging if it had not been for listening to Hugh Hewitt. It would not be too much to say that I would not be so completely and deeply involved in a Katrina Relief effort in Biloxi, MS without his advice and influence on how to do so.

For that reason, I have to mention how classy his show was tonight as he focused on the murdered (not the murderer), their families and their grief. The media have looked to affix blame, to assign responsibility, to discuss legislative changes and generally respond inappropriately. It was a pleasure, then, to hear Mr. Hewitt do none of those things and instead conform to the Christian ethic of comforting, consoling, providing love and kindness–and ultimately honoring the human lives that were lost. This is the call of our Lord without question, and one all Christians must heed eventually.

Time will never heal this wound. It shouldn’t. The evil that was perpetrated was not political or blame-worthy of anyone but the young man who chillingly attacked innocent young men and women and ended their promising lives. May God bless them all and their families.