eight thingys

Taking the baton, a little bit tardy. Kisses here and here.

1. Both of my names -- Aimee and Michelle, in the middle -- have separate origins. Aimee (with the accent on the first e) is French; I am not French, but I was born at French Hospital in San Francisco, which for decades now has been a satellite Kaiser office, on Geary Blvd. My parents thought Amy was a boring spelling. Michelle would seem to continue the Frenchy theme, but really, my dad just loved the Beatles.

2. The longest train ride I ever took was from Istanbul to Belgrade and then on to Budapest, and then 24 hours later (this part probably doesn't count, tho) on to Prague. The train cut through Bulgaria, where border guards collected the rest of my hard currency for a "transit visa" (this was 1996) leaving me with nothing but Turkish lira and Czech crowns; when I arrived in Belgrade at midnight, my friend wasn't there. (He had forgotten I was coming, and had left town.) I got back on my train still idling at the station, and convinced the Serbian night crew to let me ride black until the Hungarian border. They did. Once in Hungary, I had to convince the Hungarian night crew to let me stay until Budapest; they did as well, my ticket being my ability to slug homebrew out of a plastic Coke bottle. I only puked once.

3. I love watching adults eating ice cream. It's an activity that instantly sheds years off anyone. I can only eat sorbet; the milk makes me icky.

4. Really not keen on drowning, although it's not really full-blown aquaphobia. I can't swim terribly well, but I can swim OK, as long as my feet can touch something solid, preferably ground. This prevents me from learning how to scuba dive, although I've been told it's freaking awesome.

5. The first language I studied was French, in high school. I also started Russian then too (it was the first-ever country I visited; I was 16) as well as Japanese. That, however, didn't last long. Russian was my major in college; at one point I was fluent, although now I have to think really hard to conjugate verbs. I can speak food and wine French fairly well. I've approached German a bit like a sponge, that is, if there's language around I'll soak it up, but I'm not really actively looking for spills. I fear I have one of those heads that people who claim they don't *get* languages kind of hate. I hear patterns, and more often than not they stick. Perhaps I'm just part parrot.

6. I have a Pavlovian response to certain musical chords, that when I hear them I tear up. It's lame, as this happens at particularly inopportune times, like during a commercial for adult diapers or some such. I'm sure someone's done research on this.

7. I certainly wouldn't have been able to say 10 years ago that when I hit my mid-30s I'd be writing about wine for a living. My resume is certainly schizophrenic. But I think I prefer it that way. A linear path makes for a linear brain. And that's boring.

8. I started reading the travel section when I was about seven years old. There's always been a gypsy in me; I think I got it from my grandfather, who ran away from his family farm in Iowa to San Diego, to join the Navy. I feel no emotional ties to the U.S. as a country. I wish people could wander where they wished, without this damned paper trail and visa nonsense. Berlin is cranky and charming, and has so far treated us fairly well. I still have dreams of a half-dozen pieds-a-terre around the globe, to share with dozens of others who share a similar wanderlust. Who needs furniture and mortgages?

And, lo, perhaps the Fairfax crew and our favorite SF shutterbug will take up the baton?


never mock manual labor

I would type more, but I can barely move my fingers. Stuck behind a desk as I usually am, I have renewed appreciation for the world of people who labor for a living. I couldn't move this morning; my fingers are suffering from RSI of the meatpacker kind, from repetitive motions ripping leaves from towering Riesling plants. They give up a fight, but aren't as persistent as the spiders, who like to sprint up arms and wander around necks while you wonder whether it's a nasty on your neck, or just a loose hair.

My time in the fields is up, but the bizzare band of Poles, Turks and Germans I've spent the past 48 hours with get another three weeks, hopefully under the sun, to pick and sweat and fight with eight-legged wildlife. I loved this experience but man, I´m happy to think that come Monday, all I'll have to do to 'get' to work will be roll out of bed. Now, all I really want is a beer.


learning to serf

The trouble about putting your money (or sweat, or tears, or sore muscles) where your mouth is (or has been) is just that -- you've got to do what you've said you were going or wanted to do. So this explains why I'm waking up early tomorrow to train down to Geisenheim to pick Riesling grapes for a Hessian prince. Really. Which makes me a serf, I think, since I'm certainly not getting paid. All in the noble, if not particularly haphazard, pursuit of deeper agricultural knowledge. Or deep mud. Whichever comes first. (Quick weather report check: Yup. The latter.) Underneath all my pre-travel butterflies (I love the travel but the details weigh. Train across country; must rent bicycle; must ride bicycle up large hill to rented room in nearby town; it may rain; must buy poncho; etc.) is a very, very excited city slicker about to do her first nature thingy. Which could lead to other nature thingies, perhaps. (Though maybe not as a serf.) But for now, zum Wohl! I'm off to get dirty and commune with Bacchus. Wish me luck.