Scarlett’s Letter July 20, 2013

I have been such a slug this week. Just back from a month away from home, a week and a half for work in New York City and a few days in New Jersey, then just over two weeks for a wonderful, amazing and adventure-packed vacation in Alaska. And back to work within hours of my return home. Long days on the phone with clients, teaching the finer points of audit software skills. My “free” time has been spent trying to get caught up on outrageous (NYC) expense reports and other administrivia, plus trying to catch up on a few blog posts.

There may have been a fiftieth birthday in there, too. But, here it is. Saturday. As you can imagine, over a week in Manhattan, followed by vacation and the celebration of a birthday, my eating and workout habits have been sort of sidelined. For three weeks. The last deliberate attempt at exercise was a short, hot, run in Central Park. And here it is. Saturday. I belong to two running clubs, one in Napa, where I live, one in Sacramento of such high quality and superior coaching that it is worth the hour and a half drive. I’d intended to make the drive to Sacramento today, but a quick glimpse at the weather and the planned track workout changed my mind quickly. Forecast temperatures were 102 degrees, and the track at CSU, Sacramento is notoriously hot. The track workout, I rationalized, would not really benefit me as far “off-program” as I am right now. What I really need are some miles on my shoes. The local group set off early, and fast, and far, and, again, what I really needed were some miles on my shoes, and not necessarily fast miles. Just miles. To get back into the swing of things. So, with every ounce of gumption I could muster up, I got out of bed, pulled my hair into a ponytail, pulled on my yoga pants and a jersey from my first half marathon. I laced up my running shoes, ate a quick, light breakfast, and set off. I intended to run between three and five miles, depending on how I felt. I felt pretty good, and it wasn’t, yet, too hot, so five miles it was. I was so proud of myself! I love it when I actually do what I think I should do. There is nothing worse than letting yourself down and nothing better than the satisfaction of having done what you knew you should. Does this make sense?

After my run, though, I had a whole day with no plan. A whole, beautiful Saturday and no one around to conspire with to find trouble to get into. I’ve been stuck close to home pretty much all week, with the exception of my birthday and a meal out and some errands yesterday, okay, and lunch out. But I really, really, really think I might die if I had to sit at home on a lovely, sunny Saturday. So. I didn’t.

What to do when you have nothing to do; a lesson from Scarlett. Something. Anything.

There is always something to do or to see, even if you have no plan, little money, and no one to get into trouble with. You just need to be creative and willing to try something new, all by yourself. And so I did. After a couple of errands, I planned on going to my favorite public Wi-Fi hotspot in Napa, Oxbow Public Market, a collection of food and spirit vendors in a “market” type environment. The Wi-Fi is weak, but the people watching and festive atmosphere more than makes up for it. I enjoy working from there, in complete, total and blissful anonymity, because everyone there is a tourist, but me. I work there for a couple of hours every now and then, for a change of scenery.

Before actually heading to the market, though, I decided to put one of my new initiatives into action. I grew up in Napa, and I’ve lived not too far from Napa for some thirty years since moving away. But I really don’t know Napa anymore. I had a conversation with a guy in a wine bar in Seattle last week, he was from L.A. and knew way more about Napa than I did. So, with the convenience of residency, I’ve decided I need to learn more about the wine industry that has pretty much changed every aspect of this once sleepy, unknown little cow town. Yes, cow town, there used to be a lot of cattle, sheep and many orchards, with just a few vineyards. Decades ago. So, my new initiative is to visit at least one different winery per month AND to visit at least one of the many tasting rooms in downtown Napa per month. So, today, a tasting room, just a couple of doors down from Oxbow Public Market, The Taste at Oxbow. I walked in, MacBook tucked under one arm, scarlet handbag over the other. You know, I wear something scarlet in color every, single day. I do. Just because. I took a seat, alone, at the wine bar. The tasting room was nearly full of tourists, sitting at tables and at the bar, all chatting with one another and enjoying some wine.

I was greeted by one of the sommeliers behind the bar, who, I’m sure, probably doesn’t get too many solitary patrons on a sunny summer Saturday. I explained that I’d grown up in Napa and had just recently moved back to town. So had she, from Portland, Oregon, so conversation ensued. I further explained that I wanted to learn more about the tasting rooms in the area so when I had guests I would know where I could take them. I also inquired as to whether there was a “locals” discount“. Yes! They were part of the “Napa Neighbors” program, which, today, here, meant five tastings for free. Free. I couldn’t stay home for that! If I tasted wine at home, I’d have to buy it, right? And even at Target, with my Red Card 5% discount and my additional 10% discount for buying six bottles at a time, I was doing far better here! And this wine isn’t available at Target! After the first couple of samples I was feeling a little punchy, and a little guilty for getting so much for free. I ordered a snack off the menu, a small “wheel” of Brie from a cheese maker in nearby Marin County. With the Brie came local, organic honey (link I love everything about local, organic honey), crackers, and some dry roasted peanuts. For $9. I don’t think I could’ve purchased all of this for $9, at Target, or anywhere. There is nothing quite like a chunk of high quality brie, drug through sweet, golden honey and spread on a crisp, light cracker. With red wine. Best. Afternoon. Ever. For an afternoon with “nothing to do”. Right?

I chatted with the sommeliers and with other patrons and had a fine, fine time. I could’ve stayed home and watched re-runs of Will and Grace or Modern Family, like I did yesterday afternoon. So very glad I didn’t. After my wine and cheese, local honey, crackers and peanuts, I headed to the public market, found a seat, and wrote and wrote and wrote. Why do people sit at home alone when they have nothing better to do? There is something, somewhere, everywhere, to do, to see, to learn, to experience.  A coffee shop, a book store, a park, a pub, a restaurant that doesn’t mind if you linger, for example, McDonald’s and Denny’s locations often have free Wi-Fi, and if you order a cup of coffee or an iced tea, they’ll let you stay for as long as you like. I know McDonalds and Denny’s aren’t the most glamorous places on the planet, but isn’t it just nice to get out, about, and be in public now and then? To experience life first hand?

So I encourage you, like I sometimes have to encourage myself, get out there and find out what there is to do and see in your town, your city, your community. Become a part of your community instead of being a fixture on your couch. Be a tourist in your own town! It is fun and so, so much better than sitting home wishing there was something better to do than nothing!

Free for locals, and fairly reasonable for everyone else! Taste at Oxbow has excellent wines to taste and enjoy!
Free for locals, and fairly reasonable for everyone else! Taste at Oxbow has excellent wines to taste and enjoy!
Is this not better than sitting home watching re-runs of sitcoms on Netflix? Of course! Local brie, local organic honey, and organic peanuts to accompany my free wine tasting!
Is this not better than sitting home watching re-runs of sitcoms on Netflix? Of course! Local brie, local organic honey, and organic peanuts to accompany my free wine tasting!

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