Drive to Astoria, Drink Wine, Get your Ass back on the saddle, Repeat.

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!


The Melancholic Lobster Expedition

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.

Portland.Maine.2012_43 Continue reading

Louisville: A Quietly Cool City

The dark winter hibernation of the Pacific Northwest had got me itching to travel somewhere warm and sunny.  While I am thankful for all of my travel situations, both for pleasure, work, or a stressful cross-country move, paradoxically, I keep feeling disappointed that I haven’t been able to leave the country, much less North America for about 15 years.  However, I continue to remind myself to be thankful and accept what domestic trips fall into place naturally. Continue reading

“All of me. Why not take all of me?” A Katrina Memoir pt. 2

Jackson Square from a 2006 Motorola flip-phone

Jackson Square from a 2006 Motorola flip-phone

Do you ever talk about something so much, and you are so aware of it, that it even annoys you? I feel that way about New Orleans. It is to the point where I worry that I am going to annoy the people closest to me who hear about it the most, or else it will make them worry that I will leave them to return to that city.

I figured that one way to mentally move-on from my nine years in the Crescent City (yet simultaneously celebrate my cherished memories), is to pay tribute through writing everything out, getting it out of my head and into a story for whoever stumbles upon my writings. That should help, right?

One reason why I miss New Orleans since I left in 2011, is because of memories like this one:

Triggered every time I hear the old jazz standard, “All of Me”, I think about this young crazy chic who was rumored to be a prostitute, who used to sing this song once a week, alongside the jazz band that played nightly at my work. It was a restaurant called Angeli on Decatur- a late night joint in the French Quarter of New Orleans, two blocks from the banks of the Mississippi River.

For a few months after Hurricane Katrina, I had the privilege of working in a beautifully chaotic work environment. The kind of place where you needed a stiff drink when the shift was over, where you commiserate with co-workers over the hell you went through for the fat bankroll in your pocket. It was a unique time for a restaurant in this day and age: cash only, disposable dishes and utensils, a packed house nightly, sympathy and hyper-gratitude in the tips flowing into our hands left and right.

We were one of the only restaurants open in the entire city after Hurricane Katrina and in addition to that, we had jazz bands play every night of the week. It was full of community spirit and joy- to be back and see the familiar faces of those who waited out the storm, or had the fortune to come back (not to mention something to come back to).

Things were all nice and dandy until a neighbor reported the restaurant for noise disturbances, even though we cut the music at 10pm, and she lived in the FUCKING FRENCH QUARTER, on a busy street. We even knew who she was- she was one of our customers! A friendly one that we liked! This street had been traditionally festive with a casual neighborly style of nightlife for awhile now. Its not like it was Bourbon Street, full of thumping bass, and screaming frat boys celebrating their spring break.

We felt like she just betrayed the whole neighborhood. Personally, I feel like even if you have never been to New Orleans, there is a universal understanding of what kind of neighborhood the French Quarter is: a location in the heart of the city, full of people. This is where people “do things” (wink-wink)… Continue reading