2007 Vintage–bottled and out in the world

Should’ve taken pictures. I told myself to, but I didn’t. I’m too sore now to be that upset by it. We bottled the Barbera today. Got 25 cases of wine out of 60 gallons and I did the corking. Repetitive motion, reaching up, down, sideways, backwards—the neck, the lower back and the hip have had about enough. I need a break and I feel like I finally have one. Problem is, it’s now close to 11:00 P.M. and I had to do a bit of research and some writing, so I’m pretty beat. That leaves us with 2007’s vintage bottled and done with now. I now have about 200 bottles of wine in my keep, Tempranillo and Barbera, all made by myself and my friend Brian with a few pitch-ins by various friends. I still owe a case of Tempranillo to one of them. The Cabernet is sitting nicely, fermenting away. That’s this year’s vintage and so far, so good. But Cab is slow and I won’t be writing much about it again until at least a year from now. So, we’ll see.

Thanksgiving was a joy, the family was even a bigger joy and Peanut and I went hiking two days in a row. She’s become quite the billygoat and she had me do one set of hills twice, she liked them so well. By the end of it, she was ready for more and Scoop and I were ready for naps.

I’m not feeling particularly poetic, or even prosaic, this evening. I think I’m going to quit while I’m behind. Good night.

While it is true that Abraham Lincoln solidified the American Thanksgiving tradition, it was President George Washington who gave the first official American Thanksgiving Proclamation–and it stands the test of time today:

Thanksgiving Proclamation

[New York, 3 October 1789]
Page Image.

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor– and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be– That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation–for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war–for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed–for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted–for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions– to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually–to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed–to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord–To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us–and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go: Washington

Writing, Awards and more writing

It’s been a week’s worth of work packed into three days and I daresay that I’m not done working, really. Sure, school is out for a couple of days and that is always a good thing, as far as I am concerned, but the writing still goes strong. I have been able to focus my attention pretty well on some marketing work that I’ve done and so the combination of journalism and marketing, P.R. and content work has been pretty solid.

The proudest moment for me, though, if I may toot my own horn, is that one of the first clients I worked for got notified today that his auto repair facility was named number 8 in the top 10 auto repair facilities in the United States for customer service, customer care and such. He’d been applying for some time and has always placed just below the 10th spot. This time, he was determined to do better.

He enlisted the help of his (and my) friend Larry Tartisel and they redesigned his web page and provided some more marketing cues for him while he focused on the customer service. Larry suggested that Patrick hire me to refine the content of the article he had to write and that’s what he did. I was brought in to more or less put some spit and polish on a 500 plus word article that detailed the specifics of what Camarillo Car Care does. So, I went and interviewed with Patrick, took a look around the shop, spent some time researching all the things Patrick had done in the past at the shop and went to work. That was back in early October and it was only on this week that he was notified that he made number 8.

So, yes, I’m a bit proud, I think. The key, if I may be so shameless, though, is to parlay that into more assignments. I’ve been working with another client of Larry’s who hired me separately after giving me a trial run at filling out the content of a web page he’s designed for his new business. I’m not at liberty to give the details of that one, but I just finished some more work for him today as well. Tonight, I’m on to a bit more journalism writing a 1,000 word update piece for Central Coast Farm and Ranch (no, they don’t have a website) magazine on sustainable vineyard practices in Santa Barbara County.

From there, it’s on to a few more news stories and another client that I’m to meet next week. All this, and I spent some time revamping my entire Huckleberry Finn unit at school along with my friend Richard, with whom I teach. It’s been a busy time. And to be honest, I’m thankful, grateful and blessed for all of it. It’s a prime motivator for me that I’ve worked for nearly 17 years as a freelance writer and through that persistence as well as the desire to become better at it, I’ve finally started to produce the kind of work I’ve always wanted to.

For that, I am truly Thankful.


Caution: Spoilers ahead:

The hype surrounding Bolt was pretty profound and I daresay I was laughing pretty hard at just the commercials. I knew, though, that often times the funniest parts are in the commercials and clever editing only does so much to enhance the experience.

I wasn’t disappointed, though and I don’t think others who saw the movie were either. As for the target demographic, Peanut hasn’t laughed that hard in a very long time. It was joyful to watch her lose control and at one point, her mom, her Aunt and she got into such belly-laughs, it was hard to hear the film.

All that you hear is true, it’s the hamster that does it. Rhino, by name, is played by Mark Walton who is actually one of the writers of the film. His voice-over is masterful and the movie actually starts off too slow for my taste until Rhino comes into it. Sad to say it’s impossible to reproduce in writing what the little guy says because it’s his entire character that makes him funny. From his tonal inflections to his body language to his pseudo-intellectualism brought on by watching a lot of television, he’s hilarious. Rhino makes the movie.

The whole story, a simple buddy film with a fairly cliche idea about a dog that thinks its a superhero because he was raised on a T.V. set and no one ever told him that his powers weren’t real, is thematically tired. But because of the new life added into it from the point of view of characters like Bolt, a dog and Mittens, a cat as well as Rhino and Penny, Bolt’s child-owner played by Miley Cyrus, the story works. Bolt is played by John Travolta and he is actually quite good. You forget it’s him because he really does take on the persona of the dog and the voice fits him.

Rhino enters the picture because Bolt and Mittens wind up in the trailer park in Ohio where he lives. He’s a fan of Bolt’s and in his own way, he believes Bolt is real, too. Even after Bolt realizes that he isn’t a super-dog, Rhino keeps believing, but in just naive enough of a way to provide a good deal of gut-busting laughter as when the two of them sneak into a dog pound in the Midwest to save Mittens and Bolt puts his head around the corner. “There’s a guard,” Bolt says. “I’ll snap his neck,” says Rhino who rolls his ball confidently in the guard’s direction. I didn’t think I’d stop laughing for half an hour.

It’s the same story that Mark Twain wrote in the 1880’s and has been rehashed ever since: unlikely friends wind up on a physical journey, have to learn something about themselves and then learn something about each other, creating their own internal journey–and finally grow to accept who they are. But Huck Finn didn’t have a pet hamster who offered to “watch your six” while he was on the raft.

Go see it.

Home Improvement Nirvana

My life is not punctuated with the kind of manly duties that one associates with…well….manhood. I am not, as the saying goes, a manly man. I’m rather a sensitive soul and I can be downright moody sometimes. I lean toward the creative (and I say lean, here) rather than the practical.

So it was with some consternation that I allowed myself to be swept up in a modicum of home repair deemed truly manly when I finally decided to tackle the dad-gummed toilet in our downstairs bathroom what rocked on its foundations as though you were on the high seas. Blasted thing. I grew rather used to it and took to using it in the daytime when I came home for lunch on occasion where I could practice a kind of poor man’s slollom racing while seated. Finishing one’s business on the downstairs was rather an exercise in cheek manipulation that required both gripping and leaning whilst obtaining the pertinent cleansing utensils and flushing was always a kind of hope that, “today won’t be the day she springs a leak!”

I was set to call a plumber and my wife agreed to the call and our original intention was to replace the whole commode with a new-fangled one that would bring us peace of mind as well as aesthetic joy. But it was then that my pal Dave encountered our struggle and he talked me out of it.

For starters, Dave is the epitome of man’s desire to build. He is our school’s wood-shop and CAD lab teacher and he’s brilliant on a number of levels. It was he who helped me disassemble and reassemble my daughter’s playhouse when we moved and it was he who, with a good deal of patience, taught me how to put the roof on all by myself. Dave has been my mentor of things manly and without him, I’d be a poorer individual today. Cheers, old chap.

Dave told me what to buy. I went to our local hardware store, a respite and oasis in a sea of big box warehouses with their pimple-faced adolescents that know nothing whatever about the products they sell. No, B and B is a paradise of genteel and honest home repair with knowledgeable folks and interested employees. I love them. I went in and purchased less than 30 dollars worth of repair items including a new wax ring, a stainless steel flange repair kit and some new toity fastening bolts.

Now, my lifting days are over on account of a seriously messed up spine, but I can still do things. Dave talked me through and he did the heavy lifting. He gave me latex gloves so we didn’t get shmuggy all over us (here, shmuggy may be defined in any number of ways, but on the day we did the work, I referred to it as “toilet goo.” This phrase still makes my daughter cringe and sends my wife running for the door. Shmuggy is less, well…descriptive). He did some chipping away at the cement where the previous flange had been. The people who owned this house prior to us paid no thought whatever to how to properly install things. They bent, broke and destroyed parts only to force us into the position of having to fix their left-behinds.

Anyway, we removed all the bad parts from their flange and such, replaced them with the shiny new ones and cleaned up all the shmuggy on the bottom of the toilet. This shmuggy was the previous wax ring shmuggy and it required a bit of effort to scrape it off–but off it came. I fitted the new wax ring and Dave lifted the toilet back into place after I replaced the bolts.

Then, Dave taught me to caulk. Allow me to say that there is no more manly home repairedness happiness than caulking. It fulfills a certain kind of image of manliness and it results in a clean, finished look that makes all your jobs look professional. I’m considering caulking my whole damn house, actually. I’ll start with the dog’s food dish, though and see how that goes.

I now have a toilet that I can say fairly does not rock. And it’s a good thing. There is stability for my behind, an anchor for the bum and a kind of happy foundation for the whole mid-section. In short, I have achieved home improvement nirvana and I feel most empowered. I have seated and anchored a toilet and it felt good. Afterward, by the way, my pants hung around my ass and I smelled bad. Now I see how that happens.

Tomorrow, a review of Bolt!

1800® Tequila Essential Artists

Yessir….this is what you may term a review. If Tequila can be reviewed. Certainly, this beverage has nuances and certainly, it’s got its charms. But real Tequila, 100% Agave, is….well….it’s a thing of beauty. As a beer and wine writer and consumer, my tastes in Tequila are indeed limited. Still, its popularity is well documented and the folks at Cuervo 1800 spared no expense on this one.

It’s the Artist series that I was sent to try and so what we have here is a bottle with a painting on it by Dr. Jorge Alderete, a Mexico City artist who specializes in pop art and what’s been called “trash culture” and makes it into images using comics, surf films and other popular media. He signed the bottle, too and it certainly has….well, again….style.

Let’s start with the beverage. This Tequila may well be one of the best around. It’s clean, crisp and clear with those slight citrus nuances that make Tequila a remarkably flexible beverage. But let’s be honest, unlike its other pals in the Spirits world, it is far more drinkable. A shot of vodka? Sure, if your plan is to just get drunk. Whiskey? If it’s good, then absolutely. Nothing wrong with a good sipping single malt or even a well managed blend. Tequila, however, is drinkable and likable–if it’s any good.

1800 is beyond good. It’s among the best and I’m not the only one who says so. That’s the reason that for this bottle, with the addendum of the painting, the cost for it is $225.00. Now, as I told the fine folks who sent it to me, I don’t know too many people, myself included, who would ever spend $225.00 on a bottle of tequila. I don’t run in those circles. I’m clearly interested in quality beverages, mostly wine and beer, and I’m all for a capitalist market–if they can get $225.00 for it and make a profit, more power to them. But at that price, if it weren’t any good, well–what would be the point?

The reason the cost is up, however, is because this is the artist’s series and the aforementioned painter is indeed a noted artist. But, well….here’s the bottle, painting and all:

Now the art is not my style, which is not to say that I don’t appreciate it. I certainly do. But I wouldn’t purchase this kind of art. I have a seven-year old and I guess it’s a great bottle to have around if you want to scare children from trying your alcohol. Peanut said, “she looks like the witch in Wizard of Oz.” A younger witch, yes, and certainly a more handsome witch, except for the fangs, and with perhaps even a note of a kind of angry sex appeal. But, really, she’s dark fargin’ green and she seems to be screaming. Perhaps she’s had too much of the product inside the bottle.

OK, I digress. No need to go over the top. The Tequila is excellent and among the best you’ll find. And, if for some reason my readership has changed and all of a sudden I’ve got high-end aesthetic and eclectic art lovers reading these pages, well, then this bottle’s for you. But, to be honest, for $225.00–and that’s a discount so I’m told, I’m just not certain the screaming green woman is worth the extraordinary tequila inside.

Change and Revelation

Friday again and though I’m thankful, I’m also aware of how fast the days are going. Some of this I attribute simply to the fact that my work schedule has produced a new, and rather strange, frustration…

The work itself is wonderful and I enjoy the writing and working with clients and magazines and newspapers. I’m happy to be doing it and want to do even more as I grow this thing into my very own little corner of the world, as it were. But my hours are now more erratic than ever and while I try to get upstairs and in the general vicinity of my bedroom by 10:30 or so each night, that doesn’t always happen and even when it does, it doesn’t guarantee that I’m going to go to bed then. Then, when I do go to sleep, I’m awake at least every couple of hours until I rise around 6:00. There are exceptions here and there, but mostly this is how it works.

My days have the odd quality of running one to the next without a seam, so to speak, and I find myself, more often than not, not knowing what day it is and such. Luckily, I’ve got a pretty organized schedule at school and follow it well. But when it comes to daily activities that don’t involve teaching–like writing, or family events, or such–I simply don’t have the wherewithal to connect to them and so I lose track of everything. Odd, no?

Am I tired? Yeah, I suppose I am, but not to the point where it stops me from doing my job. I imbibe appropriate amounts of coffee and the occasional soda and I eat fairly healthy. Knock wood, I’m not getting sick at all and so I seem to be able to tolerate whatever it is I’m doing. Again, I owe that to the simple fact that I love the work–really enjoy the people with whom I’m working and find myself in a great frame of mind when working on texts and content of various kinds.

So much I could go into here, but then it turns into a sort of daily drama. I don’t want that–I just find the whole process fairly interesting. Writing, as a habit, as a career that I’ve made for myself, is unlike any other I’ve ever experienced and while it has similarities to teaching, it’s not the same. It’s less worrisome, less social–and perhaps, even though I’m a social sort of guy, that’s one of the things I like most about it. My whole daily career is one of being with hundreds and even thousands of people all day long. Writing is an oasis from that: Here’s the task, here’s the deadline, let’s get ‘er done.

Picked up some Beaujolais today from Ventura Wine Co. Sue loves the stuff–I can take it or leave it, but it keeps her happy which is a constant goal of mine. It is good and smooth, simple and fruity and will do nicely at our Thanksgiving table.


One Week until Thanksgiving

Well it has indeed cooled down a bit here and it looks like rain is in the forecast next week. That’s a good thing as we truly and desperately need it. We had some rain in September, as we usually do, but it went away as quickly as it came. The forecast is for four days or so of on and off showers. This makes me happy, of course!

I’ve been hard at it doing a lot of writing and getting a lot of clients lined up. As I write this, I’m basically seeing the fruits of some 15 years of efforts as a writer. It’s a real kick and I’m enjoying all aspects of it from the journalism work to the clients for whom I’m writing.

Meanwhile, I cancelled my facebook account though I don’t know that I had to. I just wasn’t particularly thrilled with what goes on there and the fact is, though it was nice to catch up with some of my old college mates, it was starting to be a place where I was doing nothing but reliving my past and I don’t necessarily want to do that. Not that I have anything to be ashamed of, you understand, but really, I saw little to be gained. I’m pretty accessible on the web through this site and linked in as well as Open Wine Consortium. If you type my name into Google, this site is the first thing that comes up–so it’s not like I’m hard to find. In light of those things, and in light of the fact that my ego needs to be kept in check ;-/, I decided to cancel my account there.

Meanwhile, tonight’s gathering of the guys at happy hour found us in a new “man cave” in Thousand Oaks. The Thousand Oaks Cigar and Liquor Company is a really cool place to taste some high end wines or spirits, enjoy a good smoke and sit back amongst the bamboo paneling, leather furniture and open windows. What a joy that was. It cannot be that we do that every week, but once in a while, we can do that–absolutely.

I’ve got a review coming up this weekend of a premium Tequila. If that’s your bag, I’ll have it written tomorrow night.

As always, thanks for your patronage.

No Seriousness Allowed.

It’s late and I just finished editing and revising some drafts of web content for a client of mine. I was tired earlier, but now I’m not and that presents the mystical problem of when to go to bed. Tomorrow is a 5:30 A.M. day and if I don’t hit the sack soon, it could get ugly really quick.

Speaking of hitting the sack (I’m going to regret writing that), I had a moment this evening that I am still evaluating. I want to say it feels like I have gotten a hernia–but since I’ve never had one, I have to go with what I hear and what I hear is, there’s no guessing when you have one. You know it. I was ironing earlier and something there in the southern regions gave way and caused me actually to collapse. A shot of pain that disappeared as quickly as it came. Now, it just feels rather tender, tight and uncomfortable and it is indeed in the aforementioned southern regions, as they say. Think I’ll overnight this one and see what tomorrow brings before I make any medical moves. Pointless to say that this is no time for a hernia. Is there a better time? Oh, not now–but hey, the weekend looks good. I can see a tear in my stomach and intestine lining working for me then, OK? Good luck.

I’ve got the TV on to Ace of Cakes on the food channel. What a dumb program. Am I the only one who thinks this? How did this guy get famous? Has anyone eaten one of these cakes? Do they taste good? There’s a lot of that “fondit” stuff in his cakes and you watch as these nihilistic 20-somethings who couldn’t make it in art school roll this stuff between their grubby little fingers, things dripping from their hair, beards and eyebrows right into it–and then they go and serve it to somebody who eats it. Egad.

Well, I shouldn’t pass judgment. I’ve never had one of the cakes before so I shouldn’t say anything. Maybe they’re the best thing since…sliced cake. Who knows? Whatever the case, my ranting about it has proved to me one thing: I’ve got nothing important to say.

Think I’ll go look at websites about Governor Palin.

More Hoax News

As I keep arguing, global warming isn’t happening–it’s a hoax and it’s getting clearer each day that this is the case. This piece in London’s Telegraph is required reading for those of you that laugh at “my ignorance.” Funny that the lead scientist listened to by the IPCC and Algore is, in fact, wrong most of the time as he was last month when he said that October had been the warmest October in some time. The problem is, real facts and data completely disproved what he was saying and it turns out, Dr. Hansen’s data is flawed in the extreme.

Check out the link, read the piece. It’s pretty damning–and again fairly clear that global warming is a hoax.