The Never Normal

9 10 2018

I started to beat myself up about not writing yesterday… only day three and already slacking, but it was a crazy day full of a great deal of stress and some terrible news. The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass concert is over and all the friends I enjoyed for a weekend and myself are going back to our “normal” lives but for me my life has never really been that normal.

As a consultant in the wine industry and ironically a writer about wine (which by the way is much easier than writing about yourself or feelings) I made my own schedule. I have had very few really regimented jobs over the course of my life. Even as the Estate Ambassador for Rubicon Estate for a few years I mainly planned my own travel and worked out of my home. Hell come to think of it my very first job out of college at Windows on the World although my hours were scheduled I worked alone. So basically most of the time I’ve been my own boss.

Sometimes that is good but at times I feel like I need more structure. This whole diatribe is my excuse for not getting my writing done. It would be good if I planned a time to write and ate meals at normal times, had a set bedtime, but honestly that’s never really been “me”.

So today I guess I’ll write twice. And here’s where I may lose some readers because I can’t promise it’s going to always be interesting… but I heard at a songwriting conference once that sometimes it’s important to write to make way for the real story, to remove the clutter so you can see the important things. To get into it as a habit.

I fear it though because I’ve done such a great job at hiding those things. Stuffing the painful things way down. When you sweep up and clean you see the cracks and the shipping paint. You uncover those places where maybe you punched a wall or damaged the coffee table with a glass of wine. But I’ve committed to going there I guess.

Yesterday I found out that my mother is sick, pretty sick I think. This is terribly scary and it conjures up lots of memories of my father being ill. It puts me in a place of extreme uncertainty. It reminds me that little things are less important. That you only have today. I am still on route to Nantucket and back to my new job as interim gift store manager at the whaling museum, and I’m going to take it day by day. I’m thankful for my family that is closer and taking one for the team and I hope to relieve them as needed, but we still don’t have much news. So for today there’s not much I can do but be hopeful and grateful to have today.

Scallop season has started on Nantucket, so I’m hopeful I can get into the water and harvest some scallops. My cousin wrote recently of the book of faces (lol) that when she is fishing nothing else matters, time goes away and it’s a meditative practice. I’m really hoping I can do that tomorrow, getting in the water with my viewing box is so peaceful. I’m with nature and the sound of the water soothes me even when it’s rough. Looking through the viewing box I see the bottom of the sand and all sorts of creatures as they go about their lives knowing little about what is up above the surface. Maybe they’re similar to us, now and then getting a glimpse of something up above or getting swept ashore and then swept back into their mundane normal lives underwater.

My walk, the Camino de Santiago de Compostela felt a little like that. A few weeks steeped in a world that was completely not normal, not sane with a bunch of folks who were all on the same page. Leaving real life for a time to seek, well what I was seeking is still somewhat of a mystery.

The challenge becomes finding that peace of the journey in the day to day. Incorporating those lessons without getting swept back into the mundane. Remembering the magic that I experienced. Sitting here in a bus in the early morning darkness after a red eye with worries on my mind I struggle to find that peace. I do feel a little bit closer to it though and calmer. I pray that I may continue to seek and find serenity even if times are tough.

In other news SFO has decided to prep people for their inflight experience with seats positioned to have less legroom than the actual plane.

But they do have a super cool room for doggies to do their business.

And finally my etiquette tip of the day… “Sir it’s highly offensive for you to floss on the plane.”

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Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2018

7 10 2018

We are in San Francisco for what is one of the most wonderful times of the year. Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. Due to the incredible generosity of Warren Hellman and his family this event continues to be free for the public even after his passing. Thank you Warren is always a message I send up to the heavens while soaking up incredible love and warmth of spirit from the crowd and bathing in the beautiful tones of the artists.

You may be thinking this is a small concert but it’s really massive in scale, three days, multiple stages, so many bands and lots of logistics. It runs annually without so much as a hiccup at least from the perspective of the guests, partly due to the organizational skill of my friend Bradley. We met while working on Eat Drink SF and it’s always great to see him each year.

We have a core group of Bluegrass goers who have done the festival yearly with us, it’s truly like a motley little family. The core are all people I’ve met at The Mint karaoke lounge, someone nearby we were chatting with called us a karaoke family. This group has grown quite a bit and includes people we went to college with, colleagues from the wine business, basically everyone is welcome.

Friday afternoon we usually keep simple with light snacks and not quite as much infrastructure. While some like to move around through the various acts, Daddy David holds down some real estate at the biggest “main” stage, the Banjo. There’s always room on the blankets for us. This year I was there to see Mavis Staples and my ultimate favorite Allison Krauss. From our spot slightly on the rise of the hill we have a perfect sight line.

Saturday and Sunday we go big. We take over a bigger footprint as my husband Mike bravely and tirelessly heads out during the overnight with tarps to secure our area. He returns in the morning with coolers, blankets,’chairs, cards and fake dog poop (to protect the perimeter of our area. He’s an expert… we usually have a space along the railing halfway between the stage and sound booth. From that base camp we can visit other stages and we welcome our friends who drop by.

Yesterday, day two, was truly special with bright sunshine followed by dappled shade and then bright sun again. I got into the park later than I wanted to but was happy to see our cheery group already munching on snacks. Hooray for the Riff Raff was first and gave a very passionate performance. The stage we chose was Star, a little easier to get in and out from… when we choose Banjo that’s always a big commitment and god forbid you have to go to the bathroom! That’s the one thing our camp doesn’t provide!

Star stage toggles with Towers if Gold which means when one act finishes they go directly to the next act and pipe that into the other stage that’s “dark”. Next was I’m With Her and then the highlight for me, the Wailin’ Jennys. Their harmonies were incredible, true siren song. I even bought a CD which they were kind enough to sign.

I took a walk, I like to be alone sometimes even though I really enjoy our crew sometimes it’s good to peel away, so I caught a little Rodney Crowell and then got back in time to hear Don Was and friends, including Bob Weir. After awhile we started to be swarmed with friends dancing among our piles of food and by the time Graham Nash played we’d gotten buzzed and teary-eyed. Just so much love felt here, the energy so uplifting in such a difficult time. Our friend Steph has three daughters who we’ve seen growing up at this festival and she was playing with our friend Katie’s two year old, throwing her up in the air to make her giggle. I was struck by the fact that the future for these girls is uncertain, and that for all the advances our mothers and grandmothers made, have we let these girls down? Or will we? Is it too late? Were we complacent and so comfortable we didn’t see what was slipping away? I don’t regret choosing to not have children. I’m grateful I had the choice to abstain from being a more traditional woman so to speak. I respect those that have kids but wow am I afraid of this world we are passing along to them.

Graham Nash closed with the perfect song, Teach Your Children.





Camino Continues

6 10 2018

I have really missed writing daily. I used the Camino de Santiago as a reason to write. Could I really have anything interesting to say in my normal life? Maybe or maybe not… but I was struck today by grim news that someone is met, she was only 58 years young, has passed away.

I met Audrey at the home of a friend on the edge of the Pacific. We seemed to click or else her dynamism was just so infectious she may have made everyone feel that way, no matter.

I told her of my interest in writing fiction (she was both a screenwriter and director). She let me tell her my idea for a book or movie, I’m sure she got inundated that all the time by aspiring writers, but she then told me she liked the idea. We moved on and spoke about lots of things, our families, my parents and my background. Later in the evening after listening to one of my stories she turned to me and said, “That’s the story right there. Why not write about you?”

Those words have haunted me since. I’ve done some of the work. Picked at those raw moments. Dig into the wounds and then bandaged them up again tightly. This Thursday I was in San Francisco and had friends staying with me. We spoke about Audrey and those words. I told them that now was the time for me to get to work. The slow season on Nantucket may be just the recipe for quiet contemplation and reflection. And I told my friends that now it felt like I had enough of a story where I could say the Camino is the end of the story, although in my heart I know that no story really ends.

I have about a ream of paper here in SF that my obsessive side printed out. Many vignettes I wanted to have on paper in case my hard drive crashes. After we said goodnight I sat in bed and I started reading my own words. I started a particular intro piece I’d written a few years ago while in the very same home where I’d met Audrey. I wrote…

“Trying to write about your life, well, you’d think you have to start at the beginning. And then you get stuck striving to find out how things are going to end, and of course you were never there at the beginning and how can you know how (or if) it is all going to end.”

I also wrote

“Every sign in my life, in my mind, and in my body is leading me to write this NOW. This idea was spawned what seems like a lifetime ago. I was out here on the Mendocino Coast, in the same home. We ate abalone, drank amazing wines and we laid on the grass and gazed at the stars. Despite immense trepidation I made a walk out onto the spit of land that sits in front of me now, a tiny finger that reaches into the Pacific, a rickety fence on one side to add an element of security, but a deep abyss below. I almost crawled to the comforting bench at the lip of the Pacific plate and the world in front of me. At the brink you experience exhilaration and utter terror. Here this idea was spawned, that this story was not about everyone else, it was not fiction, but that I was good enough. THIS story is about me.”

Little did I know that Audrey died Thursday. I found out today. Coincidence that I was hearing her words in my ear? The urging to make sure that I know there’s no time to waste because time is always way too short. I know from the walk that there are no coincidences if you are brave enough to let yourself feel the magic that this universe is trying to remind us of. The magic that we need to bring back. These lessons from the Camino that are so hard to remember upon reentry into life where your only job isn’t walking.

I’m heeding Audrey’s words today. I’m going to challenge myself. I’m going to keep going and I won’t make promises but maybe if I can just do a little every day, someday I’ll be able to have that book in my hand.

No let me rewrite that. That’s wrong. It is my best purpose to write this book. It’s my job. I’m committed to doing that to show my gratitude for having had this incredible life. I have plenty to say, and I’ve got insight to share.

Will you keep walking with me?





Camino de Santiago:

12 05 2018

Today I finally had a full day to dedicate to my other jobs… oh did I fail to mention that I not only work at the Nantucket Whaling Museum (part time), but I also sell wine, beer and spirits to restaurants and retail stores for a distributor (part time) and my main gig (seasonally) since last year is operating a snack bar here in Nantucket called The Hungry Minnow.

And I have a few other things I do as well, Tannin Management which is my wine consulting company, for example I took on a project to help a trade group improve their mailing list this week, I teach wine classes at the San Francisco Wine School, and I have Ambergris which is my art and crafts company (I make notebooks out of VHS tape covers and Monopoly game pieces and sell them on Amazon) and I’m a singer songwriter. I paint sand dollars I harvest from the SF Bay, I paint watercolors… So yes I keep myself busy.

I’m pretty good st juggling these jobs but I’m also really good at procrastination. I’m not sure if the change I felt today was from the walk ir just out of sheer necessity (I have a ton to do!) but I felt like I attacked every task today with greater purpose. I used to like to overplan and outline the tasks in writing but today I just got things done.

I had to go get my car registration and out here on the island there’s only one service center. People know there’s a grouchy guy that works there and a nicer guy. Grouchy guy has always been nice to me, but I was nervous… what if he was in a bad mood? I dreaded it but could not put it off and I got less grouchy kinda nice guy! What luck!!

Rather than writing down who I needed to call (I hate talking on the phone, including even ordering takeout for some reason) I just called them. I ordered the dumpsters for the restaurant, scheduled the fire safety, confirmed the hood cleaning. I went and paid for and scheduled the health inspection. I ran errands and picked up my timecard for the museum.

For my sales job I had a rep from a wine brand coming in Thursday so I had to call, text and email every buyer I knew asking for appointments. I kept on it and tried to get more firm appointments and so many people were off island or busy! I even had to go and stage oyster shells on the wine bottles at the liquor store that sold their wines!

I started cleaning the house as much as possible because Friday we have our very first group of Airbnb guests arriving to stay in our home while we move to a downstairs apartment! I worked for a few hours on a mailing list project… and then I went to a community gathering at a private club, The Westmoor, which was finally a lively breath of fresh air after a non-stop day! It was so nice to gather with some like minded busy community members and drink a little rose. One of a friends from a writing workshop last year was hosting and after most of the people had left we really enjoyed talking about my trip and about focusing on writing more this summer. And I could really tell she understood my journey and my need to take it. We had a lot of parallel experiences to chat about and incredibly we really haven’t hung out since the first time we met. It’s interesting though, just like some friends met on the Camino, how you quickly can sense that there are certain souls with whom you have an innate understanding that has nothing to do with proximity or time spent together.

I returned home to get some more paperwork done feeling relieved to be back in charge of so many things that I’d felt were out of my control for so long and to have clear progress to show for my effort. And a little spiritual connection to boot.

I am a little sad to be behind on my daily musings but… I still want to try to capture some daily thoughts so I hope to catch up soon. I’m scared that soon the title may not be Camino de Santiago… and maybe it won’t continue to be appropriate or pertinent to the Camino groups I used to post on… but then there’s the weird thought that forever I’m now on this journey.

Forever I am now a part of a Brotherhood that DOES understand the Camino whether or not they are walking at that moment. If they are veterans or prospective walkers they may appreciate my emotions. How is my life journey tied the Camino? And how will it be tied to it in the future.. But, in some ways I’m wondering “Am I still a member of the club even though I am done with my journey?”

This is another weird emotion. In some ways I feel abandoned yet it’s only self abandonment…. that said no one out here “gets it”! And now I’m not “in it” so how can or should I still be a part of the group!?

I’ve felt this belonging for so many months but now I’m struck with the thought that perhaps it’s my time to go?! If my walk is over do I leave the group other than providing pertinent info on footwear and such?

I find it a strange and vulnerable spot to be with all the rest of the culture shock I’m experiencing upon return to the U.S.

So there ya go.





Camino de Santiago: The Grind

11 05 2018

So now I’m a few days back and I’m encountering a lot of emotions.

I enjoy talking to people about what I’ve done but I’m finding that I have to tailor the discussion depending upon who I’m talking to. Being a public speaker for so many years I totally sense it when I lose someone. At times someone will say, “What was the best part of the trip!?” And I tell them about Tomas, perhaps the last Knight Templar and their eyes glaze over and they look away.

Sometimes they like to talk numbers. How far, how long, how steep?

Sometimes it’s about people, who did you go with, who was there, what were they like?

It’s so interesting to find that each person I encounter had a different level of appreciation for what I have done. They’re each looking at my experience through their own unique filter. Some people meaning well ask how it was but I sense this is just polite and that they don’t really care, so I downplay it. I say “Oh it was super cool, I lost some weight.” Because I know they’d never really Get It.

I had to work another Whaling Museum shift today and give the story of the ill-fated whaleship Essex which I love doing, so that was fun. I also set the wheels in motion for opening my snack bar, The Hungry Minnow with some meetings both before and after work. There’s a lot to do to prep for the season. I don’t regret leaving for a span, a lot couldn’t have been done before I went yet now I need to really focus.

Luckily I had a great meeting with a new employee and also ran into a former employee who is returning this year. I was excited to find out that he is excited to come back and work again. He’d a lot taller than he was in September. So amazing to see my staff growing up before my eyes, he’s about 15.

Thankfully after many meetings and stuff to do I finally made it home where my husband and dog were finally waiting for me! I got a warm reception from my human but my dog was not as kind. I totally got the cold nose treatment. He truly snubbed me and would not snuggle or react to me at all. It made me sad. I thought dogs weren’t supposed to understand the difference between an hour and a day… but I guess forty days had him miffed.

Sigh. I love that little kid and now I feel really guilty for leaving them both. My husband did so much around the house while I was gone but I’ve got so much more to do, it’s daunting. But I’m taking it day by day.





Camino de Santiago: Reality Bites

10 05 2018

Morning comes way soon out here in the real world. Instead of night vision goggle people getting up at 4 am to rustle their plastic bags you’ve got real world responsibilities knocking st your brain while you’re trying to sleep. Especially if you have about ten days to open a restaurant for the season and you happen to have been scheduled to work at the Nantucket Whaling Museum your first real day back in civilization. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of it, but there was no chance to rest from what many believe was a “vacation”!

Luckily my sleep patterns or lack thereof allowed me to wake early so I could gather my uniform, my lunch and my notes for the shift at the Nantucket Whaling Museum. For those of you who may have watched the newest four episodes of the Gilmore Girls you may have gotten an inkling of what I do at the museum. I basically give a talk about the process of whale hunting as it evolved from the time that the early settlers arrived to the height of Nantucket’s lucrative lead as the whaling capital of the world. It had slides and video and its super fun, but this was my first two presentations of this particular program so I had a little of the nerves, just enough to keep me on point and allow me to deliver what I thought were two really good presentations. It was fun to see the whole team of co-workers who were of course curious about what I’d been up to. The rest of the day was spent roaming the incredible galleries at the museum. I was in awe at how much had changed since I’d been gone and I didn’t reply scratch the surface of what these exhibits hold. I’m excited for many more shifts this May to really delve into the new installations. I’m so lucky to have such an enriching job!

I also got the good news that my friend from the German crew, Patrick was able to make it home, His wallet and EU ID were stolen IN the cathedral in Santiago but luckily the police found it for him so he could return home. I’m also hearing about other friends making it into Santiago. It’s so bittersweet knowing I missed them by just days, but I’m so happy for them. Each or our experiences is so distinct and ongoing, you cannot compare so it’s so interesting to see the varied reactions upon “arriving”. Nantucket and as peaceful today, the calm before the big storm which will be wine festival, then Memorial Day and Figawi and then the whole summer. I’m thankful to be able to enjoy a few quiet moments before it gets crazy.





Camino de Santiago: Nantucket Bound

9 05 2018

So I’m not so sure how many of you understand my unique living situation. I was living in San Francisco as a wine professional for many many years, since 1996. My husband and I got a unique opportunity to buy a house in Nantucket years ago, my lifelong dream. The thing happened in a heartbeat. I saw the photo of the home with its blue facade hiding a much bigger house behind it in a photo in a realtor magazine one night while “dreaming” that one day we could own a home. Up until then that was literally impossible due to Bay Area home prices. Long story short after contacting a realtor who then proceeded to show us the very first house where I’d spent the summer of 1992, my first Nantucket summer… somehow this short sale home became ours and the course of our lives was forever changed. Today’s not the day to dive into the why and how we have dealt both successfully and unsuccessfully with what was initially a bi-coastal life. Let’s just say for now we are committed to Nantucket, but we still have tendrils out there in the SF food, wine and spirits scene.

Anyway, living in Nantucket seems idyllic until you consider the cost, and the difficulty every single time, of getting home. Even if there’s no weather…

I woke up slowly since I was up until about 5am blogging, no idea what time zone I’m on… I usually don’t get jet lag and frankly don’t care about it. If I wake up at night I get things done and sleep when I can. For now I was not working so I have that luxury.

I got my things sorted and in my mind and on paper took an inventory. My plan was to out most of my clothes and pack into the freezer to make sure I don’t transport any unsavory critters home. Although I don’t believe I was ever bit by bed bugs I’m taking NO chances. And I was bit by something two times…better to be safe. Luckily I happen to have access to a large freezer that is empty for the season and will allow me a deep freeze for a few days… I think I’ll wait 6.

I decided to walk the 45 minutes to South Station to pick up a Plymouth & Brockton bus to the Cape. On the way I passed Chinatown and had enough time to pick up some snacks at a Chinese bakery! Fried dough, a lemon egg custard tart and sesame bun.

After the bus it was a short walk to the ferry from there. I was very entertained on the ride by a woman talking at full volume on the phone (you are NOT supposed to talk on the phone on this bus) about her escapades with and ex lover who turned out to be bisexual. It was a fascinating tale and kept me riveted until we had to depart.

We got in early which was a godsend because o was able to buy my ticket and zip over to Spanky’s Clam Shack and get my fix of steamers (clams) for the year. You see in Nantucket the season is effectively Memorial Day through Labor Day, or even perhaps Columbus Day. I expect to be here until gen at least. Likely no real days off, no respite from the grind for the whole season… so basically saying goodbye to ‘Merica and the mainland for many months.

The ferry was quiet and we had a peaceful easy entry across the sound to Nantucket almost 30 miles out at sea. Rounding Brant Point in Nantucket is always special and I was so glad I got to see the Daffodil celebration decorations were still up.

I arrived at my restaurant where I’d staged some clothing and my husband had staged my car and my mass of keys and stripped down and into new clothes and out my pack and all my items except my Compostela and electronics in the deep freeze. Amazing to think that after 40 days and nights that you could just let go of all those items. But I have so many THINGS here it’s amazing… a lesson right there and not quite sure how to embrace it yet, but I have plenty.

My husband and dog are off in California at a disc golf tournament so the welcome was lackluster. I showered and put the temporary clothes in a bag to freeze later. It felt so so good to have my regular shampoo and conditioner and body wash and to take a long hot shower and to have a huge towel and not have to worry about dressing right away!

I curled up on the couch at about 4pm, finally home.

I woke a few hours later totally disoriented and opened my eyes to see some pretty wooden floors, cute accoutrements and nice furnishings. I thought to myself at first, “Wow, this place is totally cute, so honey and comfortable. What a nice Albergue.” And suddenly realized I was in my living room.

I headed to Stop n Shop knowing duck leg and veggies was on my mission and ran into some friends who weirdly didn’t immediately recognize me. They said they saw me and were confused because I looked just like “Chapa”, lol but of course I am, Chapa. We chatted a bit. Ran into another friend who had just been delivered a miracle. He thanked me for praying for him, I know it wasn’t me, I just maybe helped get a message sent for him, it really is his own faith that is the important thing. After he got some positive news and sent gratitude up to whomever he felt inclined to send it a turtle literally walked in front of his car. He stopped on a dime and helped the creature off the road and in its intended direction. We can create miracles if we believe.

My meal was great and I set my sights on some mail piles and bills needing to be paid, and incredibly work is at 9:30am tomorrow at The Nantucket Whaling Museum. I’m giving a new program (new to me) called the Whale Hunt. No rest for the weary but I’m so happy for the work. I’m really happy to be home!