Scarlett’s Letter December 2, 2013

What happened yesterday?

COFFEE GRINDER!!!
COFFEE GRINDER!!!

I got shit done and that’s it. Ten mile run. I finally got the coffee grinder from storage but only after getting coffee at the coffee shop, and breakfast, and running, and a shower. I also got my little Target brand Christmas tree up. Packed. Let Mom cook me GMO laced food featuring medicated, tortured cow. I only buy happy dead cow flesh, you know. Cows that were bottle fed by cherubs in sunny pastures, cattle that were lulled to sleep each night by the voices of fair maidens, fed on only lush, pesticide free grass growing in the richest of soils in some beautiful pasture with a view of the ocean,  treated holistically for any ailment that may materialize, provided with an endless supply of Evian water, massaged, by Swedish masseuses, and then, one day, blammo, hamburger. After a tasty, though suspect, meal, I packed for my two weeks away from home and went to bed. It is so much easier to go to bed at 7:00 PM when it’s actually dark out. I still didn’t end up turning out the light until 9:00. And my alarm went off at 1:00 AM.

Monday, squared.

Nice run yesterday! Warm! Sunny! Napa!
Nice run yesterday! Warm! Sunny! Napa!
Oh Christmas Tree!
Oh Christmas Tree!
Tortured cow. Delicious, though, thanks, Mom!
Tortured cow. Delicious, though, thanks, Mom!

In the few hours I slept, though, I had some crazy, crazy dreams. And I can even explain them! Mostly. I don’t know if my explanation is accurate, but there are some coincidences with what I dreamt and a few things that I viewed in the past couple of days. Either that, or I’m completely off my rails. Or both.

I dreamt, first, that there were a bunch of baby elephants wandering the streets in my neighborhood. Yes. Baby elephants. Just baby elephants. No mommy or daddy elephants. Then, I dreamt there were lions outside my bedroom window, standing on the roofs of the cars in the driveway, roaring, and trying to get inside. Oh, and the only part I can’t explain, I boxed some obnoxious lady in the ear because she was blocking the way to the restroom in some restaurant and she got belligerent when I asked her if I could pass. I’m not normally prone to acts of physical violence, so I’m not sure where that bit of the dream came from. I woke up right then, so I don’t know what happened.

I ground my coffee last night and actually made coffee for myself this morning, just to get me to the Starbucks at the airport in Sacramento, alive. With my “usual” latte, banana, oatmeal and large Fiji water, all in a Starbucks carrier bag, I made my way to the gate. How bad is it that I recognize several people in the boarding area, weekly travelers, like me. The United flight to Chicago every Monday morning is like a commuter train, all the same faces, all the same discussions; mileage, the state of the airline, airports. I look on, and listen, detached. I am not quite yet among their ranks, they all log over 100k miles a year. I’m struggling to make my much desired “Gold” status. Without gold status, I simply cannot imagine travel. I’d have to pay for luggage, I wouldn’t be able to book seats in “economy plus” for free, my bags wouldn’t be the first off the plane and I wouldn’t get premier access to ticketing. I’m not sure what would happen to my TSA Pre-Check status. So easily am I spoiled. I am oh-so close. I was going to book a trip to Hawaii to visit my son, but the ticket prices between now and the end of the year are pretty steep and I’d have to travel before the end of the year, I think, to “get” the extra miles.

The "Monday Morning Line" at Starbucks at SMF 4:15 AM.
The “Monday Morning Line” at Starbucks at SMF 4:15 AM.

The flight to Chicago is miserable. It’s either a brand new plane or a newly retrofitted plane, but, there is no economy plus seating, no extra legroom, it’s like coach. Somehow, after tweeting my complaint @united, I manage to sleep most of the way, just to block out the horrible experience.

No legroom in a seat that would formerly been in the United Economy Plus section.
No legroom in a seat that would formerly have been in the United Economy Plus section.
Legroom! United Economy Plus! THIS is what I'm talking about!
Legroom! United Economy Plus! THIS is what I’m talking about!

I am so excited to have a couple of hour layover at O’Hare! I love O’Hare. I could live in O’Hare! We deplane a couple of gates down from Beaudevin wine bar. It’s noonish. Wine seems fine. But, I am torn. I’d like to have lunch at Rick Bayless’ Tortas Frontera. There is a bar there that serves Negra Modelo AND has plentiful electrical outlets. Tortas Frontera is very popular, though, I can only imagine the wait in line for food, and then the wait for a seat at the bar or at a nearby table. And especially right at noon. I peruse the food displayed at Beaudevin and it doesn’t look so good. All of the salads feature iceberg lettuce with browned edges. First of all, iceberg lettuce has the nutritional value of water and tastes about the same. It’s only redeeming quality is it’s crispiness, but, the browned edges led me to believe that the crispiness may long since have deteriorated from the salads displayed. I walked past, heading for Tortas Frontera, glance at my watch and turn back, again, towards Beaudevin. I notice they now have electrical outlets beneath the bar AND open seats. I envision waiting for a seat at TF, I think of the limp salads, compared to a Cochinita Pibil torta, I turn, take three steps towards Tortas Frontera, eye the wine selection, again, and the open seating, and turn back. I climb up on an overly padded stool at the bar and look over the menu. I decide on a flight of California Cabs and the cheese platter. You can’t go wrong with cheese and wine that come from NorCal. Can’t. Unless, of course, the cheese is so over-chilled you can’t taste it, so over-chilled it won’t even slice, let alone spread on the oddly textured bread. The wine is good. I pick at my cheese plate, eat about two-thirds of it, and give up.

Very cold cheese with a lovely flight of wine.
Very cold cheese with a lovely flight of wine.
 I shoulda had the cochinita pibil at Tortas Frontera!
I shoulda had the cochinita pibil at Tortas Frontera!
Aaaaahhhh.
Aaaaahhhh.

I pay up and make my way to my gate in the other terminal, and, as luck would have it, is right next to Tortas Frontera, which, by now, is not so busy. There’s an open seat at the bar and I sidle up and order a Negra Modelo. Yes, I enjoy beer and wine, often, but I consume, perhaps, a little too much on travel days. I won’t even begin to try to justify it. Sport? Challenge? Or just seeking an ultra-relaxed and altered state of mind in a “world” of frenzied, unprepared, entertaining, though annoying, casual, infrequent travelers. My subliminal goal is to be the first in my boarding group to board the damn plane, find my seat, and slip into a numbed state of mind, if not sleep. Sleep is preferable.  

This, I accomplish on the flight from Chicago to LaGuardia. I stop at the natural food kiosk on my way to the baggage claim and grab a yogurt and an “Eighteen Rabbits” bar for breakfast in the morning. By the time I get to the baggage carousel, my bags have arrived and been unloaded to the side with a handful of others. They are mighty fast at this airport. And, this is one of the few airports where someone insists on comparing your baggage claim tickets to the bags you’re trying to remove. I appreciate this. I may be the only one.

I catch the bus to the rental car lot and select, as my car of the week, a Challenger. Black. Cool, right? Personally, I prefer the Charger. I have opinions on cars much like I do food, wine, fashion and airlines. It is rush hour and I’m in a muscle car. In Long Island. Talk about a complete waste. I honestly think I could live here for decades, not that I’d want to, and still not be able to visualize the maze of highways, interstates and expressways. It is dizzying, and, not much unlike California, SoCal in particular, most conversations quickly turn from the weather to “how I commuted today”.  I listen to David Zabriskie of Team Garmin on my Nuvii as we navigate fast, then slow, fast, then slow, fast, then slow, the fourteen miles to Garden City where I am to live and work for the rest of the work week.

Challenger; car of the week.
Challenger; car of the week.

I come here, for the same client, every year. Often twice. This is my second week here in the past month. I stay in the same hotel and dine at many of the same restaurants. Tonight, for example, tired and lacking energy and enthusiasm, it will be comfort food; Shake Shack, which is practically across the street from my hotel. A beer there, with my SmokeShack burger, hold the sauce, oh, and fries, don’t tell Jillian, and I am ready to go back to the hotel to get ready for the week.  Iron, organize my training materials, set out the tip for housekeeping for tomorrow and get ready for bed. I need sleep.

Comfort food - the Smokeshack at Shake Shack.
Comfort food – the Smokeshack and a Shakemeister beer at Shake Shack.

Scarlett’s Letter November 30, 2013

When I woke up this morning, my hair hurt. I swear it. This being an indication that I may have overdone a wee bit last night. I took two Excedrin and attempted more sleep.

When I finally did manage an upright position, I felt, perhaps, still a bit compromised. Not so compromised that I couldn’t navigate down to “my office”, the coffee shop, that is, where I still reign as mayor, according to Foursquare. I got my latte, acknowledging the fact that the storage unit that holds the coffee grinder I require to grind the whole bean coffee I accidentally purchased over two weeks ago, is less than a mile away. It isn’t the distance, it’s the fact that the box with the coffee grinder in it is kind of towards the back of the unit, and, when I stacked the boxes and Rubbermaid totes into the unit, I made sure the stuff going to charity was at the front, meaning, I’ll have to unload a quarter of the stuff from the unit to unbury the box with the damn grinder. This is how my mayorhood, or is it mayorship, was won. It is much easier to part with a couple of bucks a day than deal with the storage unit. Especially when in need of caffeine. Latte in hand, I headed home and made myself a huge greasy breakfast. For some reason, bacon, eggs and toast seem to be my breakfast of choice when recovering from a night of overindulgence.

My only mission today, other than, perhaps, getting the coffee grinder out of storage, was to go pick up all my wine club selections for the month/months. Tomorrow, my lovely bottles of red wine, hand selected by the wineries I’ve trusted with my credit card information, turn into pumpkins. Not really, but, after a certain period of time, if not picked up, the wine club selections are shipped to you and it costs extra money. And that certain period of time expires today. It was a lovely, sunny and warm day out, all bright and cheery, so Mom and I piled in the car and took off, first for Healdsburg to Quivira Winery for my four bottles from October, then up and over the hill, through Alexander Valley, to Calistoga and down to St. Helena to pick up my two November wine club selections from V. Sattui Winery.

At both wineries, being an esteemed club member, I was offered free tastings. My eyes crossed, my forehead crinkled into a frown, my upper lip curled a bit in disgust, my stomach flipped, and I may have groaned a little, before politely declining. By the time Mom and I made our way back to Napa, we’d sort of missed lunch and we were hungry. Two weeks have passed since we last had our traditional pizza, salad and beer meal at Bene Gusto, which is right across the parking lot from “my office”, the coffee shop. So, for the second time today, I parked in the little lot between the coffee shop and the pizza joint and Mom and I went in with “The Lunch Bite” special in mind. I wasn’t so sure about the beer, but, it comes with the meal. I asked for the Session Lager, which I usually enjoy quite a bit. It arrived, opened, and was placed before me, without a glass, per request. Mom sipped hers, I stared at mine. Mom sipped a bit more of hers, and I just stared at mine. The salad arrived and, as always, the greens were so incredibly fresh, I devoured the entire thing. And stared at my beer some more. I did drain my water glass three or four times, but continued to eye my beer with wariness and trepidation.

The pizza arrived. I’ve created my own variety; a thin New York style crust, red sauce, chicken, mushrooms and artichoke hearts. It’s on the menu with white sauce, but I’ve convinced them that the red sauce is actually an excellent choice. They have yet to put the pizza on the menu, aptly named, “The Scarlett”. I’m hopeful. After about two bites of pizza, especially with all the red pepper I sprinkle on it, the beer became a necessity I was able to manage. I did, however, refrain from ordering a second one, as I am usually inclined to do.

At home, I found myself just staring at my MacBook, mindlessly, scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, WordPress, texting with friends, pretty much just killing time I’d set aside for writing, time I could have devoted to getting the damn coffee grinder out of storage. My friend Miles, Miles N. Miles, the “N.” stands for Nathaniel, was in town visiting family. We went to high school together but didn’t really hang out together. Miles ran cross-country and sang with the choir. I didn’t. I preferred to get into trouble with my friends, the same friends, in fact, that I got into trouble with last night. Miles and I ran into each other at a Catholic church, east of Sacramento, in the foothills, of all places, several years back. Miles, actually, is who suggested I join the running club I’ve been running with for the past couple of years. He is married and has kids, a boy and a girl, a couple of years younger than my kids. Our friendship revolves around sharing stories and strategies for our continued efforts to effectively raise our offspring, running, a little bit of gossip, and our respective careers. We decided to meet for coffee, so, you guessed it, I invited Miles to “my office”. It is good to be the mayor.

The best part of my whole day, though, after my decaf latte with Miles and coming home and writing for a bit, was a nice, long, chat with my Sweetie. And good night.

What I learned today; when your hair hurts because you tested your limits in alcohol tolerance, take two Excedrin and buy a latte. What I learned today that really matters; a day devoted to friends and family, forsaking the “to-do” list is a day to be cherished and in no way regretted. My focus, this weekend, really, was to spend time with family and friends. The list will be there, still, tomorrow, and the next day. Time with friends and family, though, is rare and sometimes fleeting. Sometimes, in our drive to develop, in our effort to evolve, we are so focussed on results and outcomes, we miss the whole point. Isn’t one of our goals better relationships? For most it is. Don’t let “the list” deprive you of spending time with your family, friends and loved ones.

 

Bene Gusto. I should be mayor here, too.
Bene Gusto. I should be mayor here, too.
Group selfie from last night.
Group selfie from last night.

 

Scarlett’s Letter October 14, 2013

A simple little Monday.

I’m “working” from home this week. I have little bits and pieces of work to do; expense reports, preparing for the upcoming Users Conference and upcoming sessions. Yawn. I am grateful to not be traveling, but that doesn’t mean I relish sitting at home. I have a nice little office in the smaller bedroom, upstairs. It is slightly less cluttered than my bedroom, no boxes of shoes and purses awaiting drawer and closet space that seems ever elusive, and, frankly, unlikely to happen any time soon. So, my office is my “at home refuge”, a place I can go and pretend to be “busy at work” even if I am not. I get asked a few questions, but, mostly, my privacy is respected and I can work, read, write, talk on the phone with my Sweetie, play of social media, mostly uninterrupted. But, to spend day after day, for nearly two weeks solid in my office, without actual client work to do, as in training and consulting via the web, is, well, ludicrous.

So, today, like last week, I struck out for a coffee shop. I am, unofficially, starting “Scarlett Begonia’s Coffee Shop Capers”. Last week was Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company, which was delightful, and to which I will happily, occasionally, return. Today, however, I stumbled upon, thanks to Yelp, Molinari Caffee on Main Street in Napa. I loved this place before I ever set foot inside. It had curb appeal! Inside was such a treat, it was like it was built especially for me! An orange accent wall, and I’m with Elle Woods of Legally Blonde, orange is the new pink. Pink is my favorite color, next to scarlet, of course, but orange is a very close third. There was some fantastic art displayed, modern furnishings including a couch and armchair sitting area, a community table, and the requisite café tables for two to four coffee drinkers. The counter was neat and clean, well-organized and I loved that the cabinet facing was chalkboard, listing their offerings. The best part, by far, the very best part of the whole place, a TV hung in the sitting area with black and white Gilligan’s Island programs playing continuously and inobtrusively. I could tune into the dialogue if I chose, or listen to the 70’s music overhead. Happy. So happy. And my café au lait was sublime.

Cool coffee shop on Main Street in Napa, Molinari Caffe
Cool coffee shop on Main Street in Napa, Molinari Caffe

The crowd consisted of a couple of obvious regulars, me, a wanna-be regular, and a whole bunch of tourists asking a whole bunch of dumb questions, like, “can we walk to wineries from here?”  The answer was, of course, “no.” I suggested the several tasting rooms, but they wanted to go to wineries, in Napa, and they didn’t want to have to drive. They were quite insistent, like the world would meld to their will because it’s what they wanted. “But we don’t want to drive!” Believe me, we don’t want you to drive either, but let’s apply a wee bit of logic, shall we? Wine is made from grapes, grapes grow on vines. It takes lots of grapes to make a little wine, so, it takes lots of vines to supply a winery. Acres and acres of vines. Therefore, wineries are sort of spread out, like ranches, or farms. Got it? I concluded my involvement after the first little foot stomp, toss of the hair and whine, “but we don’t want to drive.” Buh-bye. Suddenly too busy with my computer and phone to talk. Involvement = over. YOYO (you’re on your own).

Non stop Gilligan's Island at Molinari Caffe!
Non stop Gilligan’s Island at Molinari Caffe!
Molinari Caffe, Napa
Molinari Caffe, Napa
Molinari Caffe
Molinari Caffe
My office for the day, Molinari Caffe.
My office for the day, Molinari Caffe.

 

So, other than the tempestuous tourists, my morning was delightful and I got quite a lot accomplished. Famished and on a budget this week, a money budget and a dietary budget, I’ve been spending far too much money and far too many calories dining out as of late, I headed home for a sandwich mid-day. I finished my open-faced salmon salad sandwich, with jarred salmon I personally beheaded and gutted along the banks of the Copper River at Chitina in Alaska. So good! So good! So good! I’m spoiled. So spoiled! So spoiled! So spoiled!

I still did not relish the idea of working all afternoon from home. I had grocery shopping for the week to do, so I tossed my computer bag in the car and headed for Whole Foods. I stopped in at Target first for a $1.59 item I need for an upcoming video project. Please, please, please don’t ask me how I ended up with three adorable T-shirts and two packages of $1.59 items instead of one. In the name of art, in the name of art. I promise. I made my way to Whole Foods, and, by the way, thank you to the genius who decided to put Target and Whole Foods in the same parking lot for me! Thank you! I grabbed my computer, found the table with the outlet strategically hidden under the chair and made myself quite at home for the next couple of hours. When I finished what I was working on, I unplugged, gathered my pile of Apple electronics, placed them all in my tote for the day, one I bought from a street vendor in Tribeca in NYC, and found myself a shopping cart. I stuck to my list for the week, hearing Jillian Michaels words ringing in my ears, “if you can afford $20 extra per week for groceries to buy organic, you’ll end up saving money in the long run, on medical costs.” My argument exactly, thank you! Twenty bucks is, what, a co-pay. I’d rather spend it now and bank on the fact that I’ll have less co-pays to pay in the future for my preference for clean eating. Off soap box, now, on to shopping. My entire week’s groceries last week, between two stores, including Whole Foods, $60. This week $84. I was out of local, organic honey, a “large ticket” item. In all honesty, I probably spend more on wine in a week than I do food. Priorities = straight.

I take my computer tote and my perishables out to my car, climb in, open the sun roof and turn my face skyward towards the warm sunshine. October is absolutely the best time of year here. The best. I am reminded of being in high school; the dismissal bell has rung, it is fall, the weather is exactly as it is right now, sunny and warm, but not at all hot. School is over for the day, there may or may not be any homework to do, but it can wait until dark if there is. And in the worst way, I don’t want to go home. I just want to stay out in the sunshine, with my friends, and find something, anything at all, to do, other than go home and do chores and homework. I feel no different now, thirty some years later, than I did then. No different. Is it at all ironic that in high school my friend drove a Honda Civic with a sunroof and I am, now, sitting in a Honda Civic with a sunroof? Funny, right?

I head home. I pull into the driveway, grab my groceries and my computer bag, and as I step from the car. I quickly toss my groceries into my fridge and my allotted cupboard space in the garage, run upstairs and trade my computer bag for my gym bag. Before the radiator fan in my car has even shut off, I’m back on the road and headed for the gym. Today is upper back and cardio day.

It’s dusk when I get home, I cook dinner, tie up a few loose ends with some articles I worked on today, work on a couple of video projects from the weekend and call my Sweetie. It has been a very ordinary, and yet, extraordinary day. It’s the extraordinary I strive for, and that is my hope for the day, that in some way, however great or small, that we all find a way to make each and every day extraordinary. Even the ordinary ones. It doesn’t take much, a thought, a creative notion; find a new coffee shop to stop at on the way to work. We aren’t obligated to always go to Starbuck’s, their consistency is great, but there are lots of great, local spots to be found with so much to offer. Find a new place to work, even at the office. Is there a cafeteria or a sunny meeting room you can take your computer for a change of scenery? It’s amazing what a change of scenery can do for the creative process. And, I’m sorry, whether you’re an accountant or a truck driver, there is creativity involved in your process, whether you realize it or not. How about finding a new spot to eat lunch? Even if you brown bag it. If I had brown bagged my lunch today, I’d have eaten at the park, downtown, by the river. Just a thought. Change things up in a small way to make your day extraordinary. One extraordinary day after another builds an extraordinary life. It’s all up to you.