This post is dedicated to my friends who carry the burlesque torch!
It’s about time someone opened up a wine bar on the pier in Astoria, Oregon. What could be better than watching huge boats sail toward the Pacific while sipping on wine in the warmth of a little wine bar? WineKraft is the name, and the list is full of gems from the Northwest. (I had a gruner veltliner, but I wished I had the whole evening to stay and drink more from their diverse and adventurous list!)
Sitting in the lounge chair, overlooking the Columbia River, I feel a sense of peace that I rarely feel in a food or drink establishment. Part of it is from some lively banter by the bar-keep and her neighborhood friends. I am not sure why it was peculiarly so peaceful to me on this day.
A new customer speaks adamantly about returning in the future, since it allows her to go out for a drink without running into the other half of her boat’s crew. I love hearing snippets of the maritime life every time I hang out in this town. This makes me wonder if I am a voyeur of sorts. A voyeur of lifeways that differ from my big city, service industry bubble.
Astoria has become my habitual destination when I need to take a long drive to clear my head; always far enough, but close enough. On these drives, I give myself a chance to worry, hate, ruminate, consider revenge, wallow in regret, sort things out, and feel pissy that life is unfair. Once I find a place to post up for a drink and a snack, I wrap-up the thoughts that I had on the drive into town. On the drive back home to Portland, I seek solutions and look toward the future. I resolve to seek progress.
Sinking a little deeper into the lounge chair, looking out over the water, I realize it has been four years since I found myself floundering in the darkest waters I had ever seen. The Grim Reaper comes in more than one form. Grief is a bully. But I’m still standing. Four years after being heart-broken in more ways than one, all at the same time, confused, regretful; tripped up by timing, faltered by the unexpected, and distracted with financial desperation; I continue to jump back on the saddle, over and over and over. I got through all that shit, so surely I can get through the shit that I thought about on the drive into town today.
Many words of wisdom have been brought my way by the people who have survived their falls. I used to work at a restaurant in New Orleans, with the sweetest little old lady who worked pantry and salad line. I’d say “How ya feelin today Miss B?” And half the time, she would respond in a variety of ways such as “I must be doing good, because I woke up today”. Another cook adopted the saying as well, and it comes to mind often.
At times, I lose sight of my course, and in some moments, I give up all hope. But just for an evening. Once or twice a year, I’ll post up on the couch with a full bottle of wine just for myself. I give myself the evening to silently pout.
And as I imagine giving up (who am I to think I can breathe some kind of new life into the world of wine?! Who am I to think I can infiltrate the wine pocket of the upper-class (a woman who pulled herself up and out of the poverty of her childhood, only to be taunted with poverty again thanks to college debt, rapid inflation, etc), my logic (and stubborn persistence) kicks back in, and I try again. Today, tomorrow, next week. One step at a time. In Vino Veritas*, right? (*An old latin saying, “in wine there is truth”).
On a past trip to Astoria, I attended the Fisherpoets Gathering. Erin Fristad, a (former?) deckhand for commercial fishing and research vessels, caught my attention with her reading of a poem that spoke to my struggle. I found her email a few months later, and I let her know the poem touched me. She was kind enough to send a .PDF of the poem in her reply, with permission to share it.
I would like to share it with you here, although I wish yall could have heard her read it in person. That evening, you could tell she lived the words that she spoke. The room was captivated until the roar of applause.
Maybe this poem will offer you something, if you are feeling disoriented by the fog. Please feel free to comment if this poem speaks to you too. I would love for Erin to know that her poem has gotten some love.
And to my friends and readers, I want to encourage you to go check out WineKraft when you visit Astoria, Oregon. There are plenty of spots for beer, and we can always count on Albatross for a great cocktail, but it is refreshing to be able to go out for a delicious glass of wine without having to settle on the cheap basics that plague the wine lists at other restaurants down that way.
Thanks again Erin!
Many of my friends wouldn’t know that this is a thing- but it is; and I have not had a bad glass out of the five that I have tried.
I just want to encourage yall- to try an Eastern European wine, next time you see one. If you tell me it sucked, I will personally take you out for a glass that doesn’t.
In Portland, I have found wines from Eastern Europe and even Israel on the lists at both Kachka and Nicholas’.
Today, I attended a portfolio tasting for Small Importers, sold thru Mitchell Wines; who have brought a few Eastern European wines to Portland. Again, they were the stars of the show.
Please let me know if you find a restaurant or bar that sells wine from these regions. I can’t wait to try more wines from there, and see how they progress as they make their way.
At some point in 2011, my love affair with food was getting hot and heavy. I decided that many of my next travels should be determined by a food destination. I wanted fresh lobster from the waters of Maine. I wanted blue crab from Baltimore. I missed the food in New Orleans. I wanted to sit in a real Irish bar in Boston, maybe the same one I visited when I just turned 21 and pissed off the owner. I wanted hatch chiles in New Mexico, and whatever random stuff I found along the way. And that is just the domestic portion of the list. There is an international portion as well.
The long list of cuisines and cities was pinned to the bulletin board above the desk in my home office. It was a thrilling idea, immediately followed by melancholy. It saddened me to know that, despite being in a relationship, I would be crossing these cities off, alone, as usual. My boyfriend at the time, preferred to spend his money on building motorcycles and hot-rods, and trying to get him to discuss potential future travel ideas was like pulling teeth. I liked what he was into, but my heart always yearns to travel. It had started becoming apparent how much we wanted different things out of life.
Months later, as I was booking a burlesque tour, giving myself a month to not just perform, but have some time alone, assuming it would be good for me after dealing with a couple of blows to my spirit. I realized that I could easily visit a couple of food destinations from my list as well, and from there on, I had built a food tour within my burlesque tour!
The Melancholic Lobster Expedition is just one of many snippets during my month-long solo journey, best summed up as: A burlesque dancer travels around the country, taking her clothes off for enough money to eat and drink her way through a multitude of various regional cuisines. Simultaneously seeking relief from the mourning of a breakup and the loss of her father, she wrestles with professional struggles in Austin, Texas after having relocated from a successful and happy life in New Orleans.
Its almost formulaic- travel pairs well with stories of redemption and healing, relationship troubles, finding oneself, and completing goals that may seem silly to other people. The funny thing, is that the travels did not help matters, and where one would assume that all that eating, drinking, dancing, socializing, and alone time would have made for a happy ending- I just felt shittier when I got back.
It took a few years to pick my ass up off the ground. But I look back on these bittersweet memories of travel, heartache, and personal growth, and I write it, because it feels like a tension that I have to get out of my chest. I wrestle with it feeling like I am trivializing my life to sound book-worthy. That is the hard part of writing memoir. But I know it will inspire and entertain someone, someday down the line, like many writers have done for me.
Once in awhile, I worry that I won’t find a serious wine industry job, because 1) Particularities about my looks- I am a heavily tattooed woman, who often dresses loudly, and 2) How I talk- I say “Ya’ll” and I cuss a lot. Ok… and sometimes I make fun of wine. And I know someone with a grape-vine stuck up their ass is going to think I am being disrespectful.
I figure this stuff will be an issue, here and there, because it usually is in most professional industries. However, I am inspired to persevere by the rebellious nature of Oregon’s wine pioneers, the first female wine maker in Oregon, and many other people who set out to do their thing, on their own terms. If any of my character traits are going to hold me back with some people, then I am just going to have to be better at what I do, and study harder for what there is to know. And thats not a bad thing.
The fun part, is that I get to drink wine in order to study wine.
The hard part, is that it costs money to learn, and its a damn shame that we Americans chain ourselves to the debts of our college education, long before many of us discover our true calling. For me, I am saddened that I can not afford the 2-4 months off from my regular job, in order to work for a lesser paying harvest job. I feel like it is important for me to take part in that, to understand wine on a holistic level, but it will be at least another full year before I can save up some backup money and consider the risk of leaving my job for an extended absence to go stomp on grapes.
The other fun part, is when you seek, share, and, savor with someone- a cheap bottle, or something special from someones cellar.
My first wine loves came from other countries, but since moving back to Portland, after an 11 year hiatus in the warmth of the South, I have realized that there is so much more to learn about Oregon wine then the fact that the Pinot Noir grape can flourish in the Willamette Valley.
So I have made it a point to become proficient in the details and varieties growing in the Willamette Valley. I see that knowledge lacking in many of my Portland industry peers who seem more impressed with cocktail history and mixology, these days. I feel a little alone in my little wino-world.
Most wine lovers and even novices, know Oregon is well-suited for exceptional Pinot Noir. However, the current AVA’s are perfect hosts to many other varieties of wine grapes. One of my favorite varieties that does not yet get the credit that it deserves, is Riesling. Last week I watched “American Wine Story” because it is focused around the Brooks Winery, which produces my favorite Oregon Riesling, “Ara”. The movie was touching and it made me want to drive out to the Brooks Winery later that week.
The tasting room had a nice atmosphere- clean, comfy, diverse seating options, air conditioning, music, and food! As usual, I wished that my boyfriend was with me instead of at work- because it was such a pleasurable experience. The attendant was very welcoming and thoughtful, the view was grand, the music selection was fun, and I even got to meet a lady with roots in Louisiana- and if you know me, then you know I am always excited to meet Louisianan’s/New Orleanians over here in the Pacific NW. And then the attendant pointed out that the tattooed female walking around, was their Sommelier, and I felt inspired and reinvigorated, that eventually- I will find my home in the wine biz.
Always appreciated and never expected- it was very sweet of them to comp my tasting because of my industry affiliation with serving and bartending. I am thankful that once in awhile, I have this good fortune that makes my “continuing education” cheaper, because of industry courtesies.
I hope that someday soon, I can find a way to work with wine and use my Bachelors in Cultural Anthropology, so I can at least quit bitching about my crazy student loans and the interest rates that doubled in the middle of my college career.
The Longhorn, The Salmon, and The Oyster. These are examples of signature food sources from Texas, Oregon, and Louisiana- the three states that I call home.
As a server, I have worked in restaurants that feature these regional cuisines, over the past 12 years, between all three states.
Often times, we look back on the things that we wish we did when we had a chance. For me, there are the foods that I wish I ate more of, when it was served just around the corner from my home.
When I moved from Portland to New Orleans, I missed Pacific Northwest seafood and vegetarian options. I craved smoked salmon, breakfast at the Paradox Cafe, and healthy snacks from the Daily Grind. When I left New Orleans for Texas, I missed Gulf Coast seafood, backyard crawfish boils, and Creole favorites, like gumbo. When I left Texas to go back to Portland, I missed the convenience of taco trucks on every corner, and the short, beautiful drives out to the country for award-winning BBQ.
Now that I am back in Portland, I realize my pattern, and I am eager to indulge in what this land and food culture provides for me at this point in time.
Preface: There is a great viral internet meme that sums up the Barista Snob, which was originally posted here. In an effort to be spared from a lawsuit, I took the meme down, but you can find it on other sites such as here: http://www.foodista.com/blog/2011/08/26/hipster-barista-meme-pokes-fun-at-coffee-shop-workers
Portlandia is past due to make an episode about “The Barista Snob”.
The scene would go like this. Polite customer: “Hi, can I have a small, skinny, decaf latte please?”
Barista Snob replies with a fake half-smile: “Oh yeah, we call that a ‘Why Bother‘; your total is $4″.
The customer pulls out her money and wonders if she is being insulted or if it was just a friendly tease, but she isn’t sure because the body language of the barista is stand-offish (arms crossed, lack of eye-contact…) and there was half of a smile going on but it looked kind of fake. As the barista’s back is turned to the customer while making the drink, she wonders if her drink is truly being made with decaf. Continue reading