Tag Archives: Wine

The Berries at the Bottom

My first encounter with drink was a romantic one.  Picture this:  Bolzano, Italy.  1989.  The mid-summer night air is cool.  A virgin girl from southern America sits in a tent in the Dolomite mountains with a group of people she now considers friends.  In the years to come there will be letters sent to and from old Italia.  One of these friends will visit America several times.  But I digress.  This virgin girl (okay it’s me) has never touched her lips to a sip of alcohol, although she did sneak a biting puff off one of her grandfather’s Winston smokes in his basement back in Tennessee.  Hack hack.  The cigarette addiction won’t start for another four years.

Tent

In this tent after a long day’s hike these friends pass around a bottle of grappa.  Grappa, as defined by Wikipedia, is a fragrant grape-based pomace brandy of Italian origin that contains 35-60% alcohol by volume.  As defined by me it was a kind of heaven.

I was hesitant at first.  I wasn’t sure what it would do to me or how it would taste.  I can hear them all now.  “Janifehr!  You must try the grappa!  Is so very good.  Will make you feel quite warm!”  As each one took a sip and passed it I scanned the bottle carefully as it made its way closer.  A homemade label wrapped around the clear glass.  The purple liquid inside was the hue of happiness.  Bloated, wine-infused berries swam at the bottom of this drunken sea.

When it was my turn I took a quick, giggly sip.  Then another.  They all laughed.  “She loves the grappa!  Janifehr we will get you drunk tonight!”

The bottle was passed around until every last sip, every last berry was ingested and absorbed.  I don’t remember feeling particularly drunk.  Just happy.  That could have been partly because I was in one of the most serene and beautiful places ever, surrounded by some of the most engaging and beautiful people ever.  And it could have been partly because of the grappa.  My belly was warm.  My cheeks were red.  And I had a difficult time jumping over the fence surrounding the campsite when we decided to go out for ice-cream.

Mtn in Italy

They let me keep the bottle.  It now sits on the 1920’s buffet table I inherited from my great-grandmother.  I cannot believe it has survived all the moves and balls tossed around.  Whoever shall accidentally break it will surely pay.  I carried that thing all over Italy.  Back home to America.  High school bedroom.  College dorm.  First apartment.  Second apartment.  In a moving truck from Tennessee to Florida for a week with everything I owned including all my non-duplicated poems and stories.  Two more houses.  A villa.

IMG_0978

That bottle reminds me of my sense of adventure.  My love for wine.  My youth.  Friends I don’t hear from anymore but at one time were there to share a most magnificent summer.  The Dolomites and all its green, goat-pastured, dandelion-covered, dreamy landscapes.  It reminds me that some things don’t get broken.  Memories clear as the glass they were drunk from.  Experience rich and sweet and full like the berries at the bottom.

And thank God that first encounter with drink was not Mad Dog 20/20 on someone’s basement floor.

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Filed under Observations

Fadeaway Friend

Friendship
Your subtle entry encased in smallish chit-chat
similar musical interests and a love of photography
my chilled white wine next to your pink Cosmopolitan
The infancy of a grave friendship
Oh, the concerts we attended!
The lush green park that day when we photographed
the crooked wooden fence and the giant knot on the oak
You were never ready when I picked you up
You asked which shoes looked best
the tall leather boots or the black strappy heels?
No longer matronly
Oh, the dance floors we graced!
I still have those dancing shoes
the ones tossed on your living room floor
on lazy days by the karaoke machine
I remember that conversation on the phone
tracing the rough edges of a stone wall
while you cried for the twentieth time
All the times I talked you down from the edge of darkness
All the times you did the same
The divorce, the deaths, the foreclosures, job losses
My hands acquainted with your belongings in boxes
more than once
Your car full of my office supplies 
transporting them when the business failed
Oh, the parties we hosted!
Your famous macaroni
you made sure to include a vegetarian dish
I made sure there were no nuts in my famous slaw
You never ran out of wine
Afternoon movies sitting in the back row
Five times we strolled the beach
You never liked yourself in a bathing suit
My confidant
Then the wine became sour
the Cosmo tainted
I winced when the phone rang
I couldn't talk you down anymore
You didn't like who I'd become 
all of a sudden
Jealousy, competition, disgust
miscommunication, anger, judgement
control, betrayal
These are the wicked that turned it toxic
Senility came to our friendship
and it exited with harsh words and sobbing
The waiter gave me a look 
as I was making a scene
The dying plant you gave me is green as spring
its vines entrenched in the ground
and crawling up the slats of the picked fence
Your photographs are still in my frames
But I cannot listen to Blondie anymore.
End of frienship

–Some friends are meant to stay and some are meant to fly away.
I believe we are here to connect with each other.
But some connections are better off severed.
We can mourn this loss but we can also learn from it.

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Filed under Sunday Night Sonnet