June 2009


Charlie, my son and I are flying out of San Francisco, CA (SFO) tomorrow at 7:18 AM an arriving in St. Louis, MO (STL) at 3:13 PM.

Charlie will be competing in the Pokemon U.S. National Championship. This is the single largest tournament for the card came of Pokemon each year. Last year saw roughly 1,000 players compete in Columbus, OH. There are three age divisions, Juniors for the little guys roughly 11 and under, Seniors (where Charlie will compete) for the kids roughly 12 to 15 years old, and Masters which sees 16 year olds compete with grey hairs like me.

Each of the contestants is playing for fun. The contestants also wouldn’t mind winning. There are some great prizes including up to $5,000 in scholarship money, a paid invitation to compete in the World Championship, a special Pokemon branded Nintendo DSi, and a gorgeous trophy – there’s more, but you aren’t playing so why bore you, suffice it to say, Pokemon players would not mind finishing well.

I will be one of 7 judges in the Junior Division, ensuring the players follow the rules and ensuring fair play. I am thrilled to be able to work a Nationals as part of the invited staff. My flight and room are being picked up by Pokemon and they are giving me a little stipend to help with food and incidentals. I used frequent flyer miles to get Charlie to St. Louis, so this trip is costing us very little.

I will miss Friday’s announcement by Murphy-Goode Winery of their Top 50 candidates from the 1993 applicants for A Really Goode Job, I will be working events in St. Louis. I hope to see my video application picked as one of the top 50. Mathematically, I have about a 2.5% chance of making the cut. I know my knowledge of the area, Sonoma County, that Murphy-Goode wants described is superior to virtually everyone who has entered, as is my wine knowledge. I am uniquely positioned as someone who was paid to market Sonoma County and it’s wines, and have been awarded three consecutive years by Exhibitor Magazine for that marketing. I figure that raises my chances a bit; but I recognize that I have many great competitors, and a goodly number have a greater web presence than I do. I’ll just have to see on Friday. The good news is that my work for Pokemon will keep me from hitting the refresh button every 5 seconds at the Murphy-Goode website.

Charlie and I fly home next Monday. I’ll probably write something about Pokemon on Tuesday. I’ll post word about the Top 50 candidates for Murphy-Goode, and whether I made that first cut, on Tuesday as well.

__________

Last night while packing, we grabbed a piece of luggage out of the closet to throw Charlie’s clothes into. It seemed a bit musty and we opened all the zippered compartments to let it air out.

Thank God we opened all the pockets. Buried deep, nearly hidden, in a side pocket, I found a leather bandolier filled with 30.06 rifle shells and a Buck hunting knife.

I am fairly certain that our trip through airport security would have been more interesting if we hadn’t discovered the contents of what turned out to be my late Father’s weekend hunting bag.

I graduated 30 years ago from Piner High School in Santa Rosa. Piner was the “agricultural” school in Sonoma County’s largest city.

Our 30 year reunion is planned for October this year. There have been meet-ups once each month in advance, the latest was yesterday at Riverfront Regional Park on Eastside Road west of Windsor, CA.

The meet-ups leading up to the reunion are getting bigger and better, and the reunion itself will be amazing largely because of Kim and Bill. Kim Finitz runs our reunion/alumni site piner79.com and has tracked down 234 of our classmates. Bill Towner runs our facebook alumni site and 65 classmates have joined the group.

At our 5 year reunion, people hadn’t changed much and hadn’t done much yet. At our 20 year reunion, some people had changed too much and we had all done too much…I could remember too few of my classmates but everybody seemed to remember me.

I was active in high school. I was in student government, theater and sports. I was an athletic geek, a rah rah who visited the smoking grounds. I was comfortable everywhere, and knew everyone. 20 years after graduation, I had forgotten the connections I had with some of my classmates from so long before, and I could not tap into memories that, at least that night, seemed lost permanently.

The internet and social networking sites, most specifically facebook, have been such a great aid to me and other alumni. We now have connections reestablished before the big reunion, putting our new more experienced faces to our names, rekindling memories of shared experiences, and creating new experiences will make this the best reunion yet.

Yeserday I saw Derek Clark, Jeff Dahlquist, Doug Duffield, Kim Finitz (Clark), Linda Forthuber (Kynoch), Todd Grames, Susan Greening, Robert Haney, Keith Lewis, Marie Lovell, Deena McConnell, Karen Mishler (Togrimson),  Keith Robinson, Jack Sather, Bill Towner, Tim Vigil, and Kary Witt. There were spouses, significant others, children and even grandchildren too.

I also got to see four additional classmates, Cynthia Johnson (Wise), Felecia McGill (Cordova), Shannon Smyth (Loranger) and David Yokoyama, the night before thanks to Derek and Kim.

I loved seeing everyone, but had the most fun talking about lacrosse with some of my old team mates. In the 9th grade, our cross country coach encouraged us to play lacrosse as a form of cross training, running for an hour without thinking of it as running. We, a group of tiny freshmen, were put in the men’s division of the Northern California Lacrosse Association. We didn’t yet have decent stick skills, and we were pummeled. We lost our first game 33-0, and the only person on the team with any skill left the game early with a broken arm. We played against adult teams for two years, getting better, and finally were able to play even games, managing to win one or two. When we were juniors in high school, our team was put in a high school team division. For the next two years, we were amazingly good. Our competition had gotten smaller, less skilled, and less experienced while we had become larger, more skilled and more experienced. We also had an enormous chip on our collective shoulders about having suffered through two years in the wrong age division. We played with a ferocity that the other teams didn’t expect. We surprised ourselves with lop sided wins. We liked being dominant and practiced more. We developed a bit of a swagger. We started keeping records of spectacularly brutal hits. Collectively, we remember our grandest act of arrogance when we set up a one on one shot on goal by our goalie; this led to a hockey type brawl and an early end to the game. Our other shared memory was our worst physical beating at the hands of a team that decided to play against us in our own style, but with even more extreme violence. We had people leave the field that day with a ruptured spleen, while others were forced to carry on with concussion, or a 100 mph goal shot to the balls.

I wondered to myself how many of us could still handle a stick. It would be fun to pass the ball around, if less fun to run after a missed ball.

I had to answer questions about Murphy-Goode’s Really Goode Job for each classmate I saw this weekend. I had sent notes to every Piner ’79 alumni that is on facebook. Kim did me one better and passed on my plea to all 234 classmates that have been tracked down on our alumni website. You reap what you sew, and so I explained 20 times what the job was about, explained that votes don’t determine who gets the job but can’t hurt making the winery more aware of me, and thanked everyone for the Piner push. I received a ton of votes from Piner 79 grads, their family and friends; many people voting from more than 1 email address. I continue to marvel and the kindness, and complete willingness so many people are showing me in the support and help I am getting in my effort.

Another classmate, John Coons, who I knew probably back to the 4th grade 38 years ago, took notice of my attempt to land what I have referred to as my “dream job” with Murphy-Goode, made note of my qualifications in my video application, and contacted a Calistoga winery owner that he knows on my behalf attempting to help me get a job in wine marketing. I don’t think other wineries are looking to give someone the same position that Murphy-Goode is, but I am incredibly touched by John’s kindness.

I asked for help, for votes. John saw the plea for help and went farther. I have written many times that we are not alone. Ask and people will help.

I continue to be humbled to be the recipient of so much help, kindness, sweetness.

I had a great time this weekend visiting with my high school classmates, I look forward to seeing as many as possible at the July meet-up. I need to go check my work calendar and request a day that I am in town.

__________

Yesterday, on the way home from Windsor with my wonderful son Charlie, we drove out far into the Alexander Valley and parked at the winery of Robert Young. Robert Young passed away Friday. Young was the patriarch of the Alexander Valley wine growers, replacing his orchards with vineyards long before vineyards were fashionable. Sonoma County’s Chateau St. Jean vineyard designated one of their chardonnays as Robert Young Vineyard before anyone else identified single vineyard wines in that way.

If not for Chateau St. Jean and Robert Young, I would have been selling Alexander Valley Chardonnay at Windsor Vineyards instead of the Murphy Ranch Chardonnay I did sell.

I passed my respects yesterday to Robert Young in his vineyards.

I am busy this week. Lots of little things to do, to get done. None of it particularly interesting to you, but things that I have to do in order to feel comfortable in my own skin.

I am flying with my son to St. Louis, MO next week for the Pokemon TCG U.S. National Championships. My son will be playing at his 3rd Nationals, this will be his first year playing at Nationals in the Senior division. I will be helping as a Junior division judge. I am incredibly honored to be chosen to be invited by Pokemon to staff Nationals this year; I have a free flight and room, and am even getting a little folding green to cover food and incidentals, so by using some frequent flier miles for my son Charlie’s flight, we have a free trip when we would have been okay with bearing these costs to share another vacation together.

With help from a much better player in our region, Charlie has a solid and novel deck list of cards to build and play at this year’s Nationals. We had 53 out of the 60 cards needed for this deck. The remaining 7 cards needed cost less than $6.00 online. This is the cheapest deck build for a major tournament ever.

Not wanting to be less current than the Junior division players I will be helping to judge, I will be studying the rules compendium and any updates and recent rulings and decisions for the next week. With scholarships and invites to the World’s Championships on the line, I want to give a flawless, mistake free, judging experience to my players.

A couple of weeks later, I fly into Detroit, MI on July 7 for work. I booked flights for me and Art, my associate, a rental car, hotel. We are scheduled to do three shows, Wyandotte, Plymouth, and Ann Arbor. We are scheduled to fly back on July 19.

Ann Arbor hosts the nation’s largest Arts and Craft show, with over 500,000 attendees over 4 days. I have sold my wine bottle stoppers there for the last 4 years, in booth A3 of the courtyard off Liberty street roughly across from Seva restaurant. Art and I work the show together, and make a nice bit of money at the show.

This year, I hope to abandon Art to work the show alone, or possibly fly my brother up from New Orleans to join and help him. I hope to be interviewing for my dream job instead of working the Ann Arbor show.

Since submitting my video job application, #1015, to Murphy-Goode, 297 more video applications have been submitted. With help and support from lots of people, my video job application is the #25 most popular having received 487 votes so far. If you have 60 seconds, you can view the video application at the link provided; if you have an available email address, you can vote the video your favorite. I would appreciate it. Murphy-Goode’s really goode job is my dream job.

http://www.areallygoodejob.com/video-view.aspx?vid=A1m7ZIwYMbw

The application period will close this Friday, June 19. One week later, the Top 50 candidates will be chosen; I hope to find myself in the Top 50 from St. Louis. If I make the Top 50, and then the Top 10, I will have to scramble; I will fly home after working Wyandotte and Plymouth, on July 13, so I can interview in person July 14-18. On July 21, one of the Top 10 will find that they are the winning candidate for my dream job. August 15 is the first day of work for Murphy-Goode.

In addition to booking travel for upcoming trips, studying Pokemon rules, and asking for favorite video votes all over the interwebs, I have been enjoying a new (to me only) book, Anthony Bourdain’s A Cook’s Tour. Again, I am constantly impressed with Bourdain’s writing. Paying bills, housekeeping, and dealing with familial dramas round out my busy week.

Each week night, Mon-Thur, I have been enjoying a horrible vice. I have been joining others in an internet chat room and watching “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!” on streaming video three hours earlier than it is shown here in northern California. There is something less than noble about watching this trainwreck of a show, deriving delight and entertainment from the bad actions of first Speidi, then Janice Dickinson. Even less noble, I voted for Janice to be safe, so that the entertainment can continue.

I first started this East coast stream watching and chatting during American Idol, which I blogged about earlier this year. It is nice to watch these shows with others who find the funny in the unintended entertainment provided in badly sung karaoke and z-list celebrity Survivor-type shenanigans.

I have been rotating among four musical choices as I work at my computer. As always, the Grateful Dead is tops on the iTunes, but this week the Cardiff Reefers, Railroad Earth, and Yes We Can, Voices of a Grassroots Movement are also in heavy rotation. I am finding strength, sustenance in the positive messages and happy vibes of this week’s musical favorites.

Instead of focusing on the 80′s and 90′s Dead, during the time I toured and saw them live, I have been enjoying some older 60′s and 70′s Dead for the difference that PigPen, then Keith and Donna provide.

A friend, Bill, and I found recently that we share a fondness for the Cardiff Reefers, a band that played about 1,800 gigs before breaking up. San Diego marijuana loving ska/reggae/rock/jam brilliance. I don’t smoke, but I almost get a contact high listening to two CD’s Bill burned me of a concert from Santa Rosa’s old Magnolia’s. Bill and I both may have attended this concert, but not recognized each other then, caught up in our own lives between high school graduation and now.

Clare, an old girlfriend who turned me on to a lot of really cool stuff during the time we spent together, introduced me to Railroad Earth. An East coast folk rock jam band, Railroad Earth is just a nice tasty groove in this week’s menu.

Rounding out this week’s choices are songs sung by Lionel Ritchie, Stevie Wonder, John Mayer, Dave Stewart, Shontelle, Los Lonely Boys, John Legend, Suai, Jill Scott, Ozomatli, Jackson Browne, Sheryl Crow, Nulik Yusef, Kanye West, Adam Levine, Yolanda Adams, Keb’ Mo’, Ken Stacey, and Buddy Miller.

This week, an incredibly sweet gal from my long distant past reached out, asking for help. I let her know that we are interconnected, all things part of a greater whole. When in need, ask for help, and watch out, because help is coming. The trick is to ask for help. Too many people stay quiet and suffer alone, never knowing there is a way out of the unhappiness they find themselves in. Ask for help when you need it. Be prepared to work when help is offered. Not everyone has all the answers, you may have to ask more than one person for help.

The internet has provided me constant access to over 50 of my former high school classmates, hundreds of forum acquaintances – some friends, and countless unknown readers of my writings. You have lifted me when I felt down, you led me to the news of Murphy-Goode’s job offer, you have stepped up and voted my application into a a noticeable position. I have asked for help, and you have responded. In real life, I receive similar support and bounty, and a measure of difficulty at turns as well; I am trying to be open and receptive to the needs of others in return.

I might not be the right person to ask for help in all cases, and you might have to speak up, I’m partly deaf – but we are not alone.

As always, thanks for reading.

Today, I had to drive from my home in Ukiah to Santa Rosa to pack up and be ready for my 3:45 AM wake up and trip to San Francisco to set up and work the North Beach Festival (of really cool handcrafted art topped Corkers for wine bottles and other not as cool things).

As I have applied for my dream job, and the dream job is being offered by Murphy-Goode Winery, I thought I would pop into the tasting room in downtown Healdsburg for a taste of what was being poured today.

Rather than drive directly to the tasting room, getting off the freeway, US 101, at the last possible moment; I chose to leave the freeway in Geyserville, and drive out Hwy 128 through the Alexander Valley of Sonoma County, taking the long way to Healdsburg.

As I left the little town of Geyserville behind me, along with the freeway, I quickly found myself driving through vineyards. The lushly green canopy of leaves on the trellised vines spreading out on both sides of the turning country road, orange California poppies growing wild on the sides of the road, the earth brown, and the grass on the hillsides dried to nearly the same tan brown color of the earthy dirt roads around and through the vineyards themselves, the green vineyards on the hillsides contrasting green against brown, oak trees brown and full leafy green, white feathery bands of clouds against a sky of baby blue; the beauty of the Alexander Valley so powerful, I am happy that I can take the time to drive a slower road.

The road becomes emptier of cars as I reach the turn off to the Indian casino, River Rock, where all cars but mine turn up the hillside drive to give their money away.

I see vineyard workers in cowboy hats and boots. I worked one summer in the vineyards of Healdsburg. I like my view of the vineyard now much better than my view of countless individual vines then.

I pull over and park across from the Murphy Ranch vineyard at the Sonoma Wine Company Alexander Valley Facility. Once upon a time Murphy-Goode used this facility to make wine and pour them for visitors to their co-located tasting room. No more, a large “CLOSED” sign seems perpetually in place to dissuade visits. While I walked about, remembering past visits to the Murphy-Goode tasting room, remembering the friends I visited here with, and the wines we tasted, lost in fond memories, a truck with two men pulled up beside me near the front door and asked me if they were at Murphy-Goode.

I told them that their memory was either very good, or their information very old. I told the two ballooners (their vanity license plate: BALLOON) that the tasting room was gone from here, but directed them to 20 Matheson in downtown Healdsburg. I felt good. Get my dream job or not, 99% of the applicants could not have been able to help these men, fewer than 1 in 100 would have known that this was the former location of Murphy-Goode so would not have stopped to gather memories. I felt more qualified that ever, there is something very special about local knowledge.

Eventually, I got back in my van and continued generally south toward Healdsburg. At the corner of West Sausal Lane and Alexander Valley Road is the closed and dusty Alexander Valley store. I pray the store reopens after remodeling and site improvements, it is both iconic and a perfect landmark, “turn right at the Alexander Valley store.”

I did make my right turn at the Alexander Valley store, saw two women selling cherries by the side of the road, looked down and saw canoes and sunbathers as I crossed the Russian River, and made my way to Healdsburg Avenue.

At the corner was someone selling cherries, strawberries, and oranges; and a taco truck. In northern California taco trucks are ubiquitous, and many a meal is produced at restaurant quality yet at a low price. I smiled at the sign painted boldly on the side of the truck, “Taqueria Guanajuato,” as I made my turn onto Healdsburg Avenue to drive the final leg of my trip to the Murphy-Goode tasting room.

I am pleased to be able to write about more than the tasting room and the wine. The wines I tasted were more delicious for being in the mood my drive through Murphy-Goode’s past, and mine, put me in.

Upon entering the tasting room, I saw a lap top opened to allow people to view video applications for my dream job, so I cued my application (#1015) for the next lap top fiddler to encounter. I noted the upcoming summer jazz performances that Murphy-Goode was sponsoring. I looked at the Murphy-Goode logo clothing that I will want to wear when I am chosen for “A Really Goode Job.”

I bellied up to the tasting bar and asked to taste the first wine being poured, Murphy-Goode’s 2008 North Coast Sauvignon Blanc, “The Fume.” The wine was crisply delicious, showing an abundance of fruit, tropical, citus, and a hint of pear, with a touch of Sauvignon blanc’s straw and cat pee nose. The fruit was so forward, and the straw and especially the cat pee notes so well hidden that I guessed incorrectly that the wine had some Semillon blended in to help boost the fruit. 1 wine tasted, 1 wine loved, 1 bottle purchased.

Next, I tasted a 2007 Chardonnay made with oak barrels sourced in Minnesota. Huh? Okay, The wine maker David Ready is from Minnesota, and likes to link the winery in ways surprising to Minnesota when possible (Viking horns are part of the company uniform). I was told that the Minnesota oak was smaller grain than typical American oak barrel grain. I remember that there was a time when a trained taster could identify American oak held wines by a dill note imparted, a note absent in French oak held wines. I asked about this note, and whether it occurred in these Minnesota oak held wines. The tasting room gal I asked suggested I taste for myself. I would love to tell you about this wine, but I can’t. Served almost ice cold, I couldn’t break much nose or mouth free from the icy clutches of the cold. I liked what I tasted, but I couldn’t taste enough to write more about this wine. Sad, I was really intrigued by the uniqueness of Minnesota oak, I love different, I love unusual, I love quirky.

The other tasting room pourer, I think his name was Will, and I talked of Murphy-Goode past and present. We both had been around wines and wineries for quite a long time and knew many of the same people. It made our conversation easy. We talked about Jess Jackson buying Murphy-Goode; Tim Murphy passed away in 2001, Dale Goode wanted to transition into retirement, and Jess Jackson believes in keeping everything the same in a hands off “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” way, welcoming David Ready Jr. as the winemaker following in his father Dave’s footsteps.

I noted other wineries Jackson had picked up and allowed to continue unchanged, doing what they do best. If you buy a Russian River Valley Pinot Noir artisan winery, you don’t force them to make Sangiovese, or blend Cab into their Pinot, or any other crazy change.

Not sucking up, but Jess Jackson is an icon to me for wine business prowess; up there with Mondavi and the Gallos.

Anyway, next up to tast were a trio of reds.

I started with the 2005 Alexander Valley Snake Eyes (think Reserve) Zinfandel. Oh my God, I think I fell in love with this wine at first nose. I want to marry it, at least get a room and spend the night together. Big, bold, rambly raspberry and black pepper spice for days. Everything promised in the nose, delivered in the mouth. A big mouth feel wine, lots of finish. lots of wine flavor in just a 750 ml bottle. The grapes come from vines of the Ellis ranch which are about 70 years old and you can taste the maturity. This is not your friend’s mom’s white zin; this monster of a Zin, all red, all the time, comes in at a whopping 15.8% alcohol, which is huge; especially as it doesn’t taste hot and thin like some other high alcohol Zinfandels.

Next I tasted the 2004 All In Claret, a Bordeaux style blend, some would call it a Meritage. This wine had a little Petite Verdot, more Merlot, and was mostly Cabernet Sauvignon. Absent in this Claret were Cabernet Franc and Malbec. Supple, delicious, far tamer than the Zinfandel; big, but not scary big. This was a red my friends would love. Filled with Blackberry and currant, with leathery fat cherry. This would be a phenomenal food wine. I would love to drink it with grilled steak. Simple and perfect. Feeling a tiny bit adventurous? Melt a little gorgonzola onto the steak while grilling. The party will be in your mouth.

Finally, I tasted a 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon because of a promised eucalyptus note. it seems the vineyard is planted next to a roadside wind block stand of eucalyptus trees, and the flavors sort of leech their way into the first rows of nearby grape vines. I have tasted a wine that had the same notes for the same reason before, and liked it very much. I liked this wine, a little rough around the edges, but chockablock filled with blackberry and eucalyptus notes. The tasting room pourer, Will (?), poured me a second tasting glass through a Vinturi, a wine aeration device. the 2004 Cabernet was instantly improved. The rough edges I had noted before were smoothed out. I liked the wine more, but loved the Vinturi.

I wanted to buy a bottle of red to go with my Fume purchase. The choice came down to the Zinfandel that I would love the most, or the Claret that my friends would love the most.

My friends are going to have to love giant Zinfandels, or they can drink some really perfect Sauvignon Blanc instead; these are the two wines I chose to buy today.

http://www.areallygoodejob.com/video-view.aspx?vid=A1m7ZIwYMbw

Yesterday, I submitted a video application for my dream job, and readers on myspace, facebook, twitter and several forums began voting for me and my video application.

The dream job is to tell the story of Murphy-Goode, a Sonoma County winery using web 2.0 tools; facebook, twitter, myspace, blog, video blog. The job lasts 6 months, but if I can reach the interview phase, I will ask for an additional, unpaid, 6 months so the job can be done right. Allow me continued access to the internet communication tools of a laptop and camera, and I can be covering bud break in April.

Much of the world communicates visually, even in speech, “look here,” and “see what I mean,” are examples of how important the visual is. The 6 months covered in the job description, August through February, miss out on the greenest and most beautiful time of Sonoma County’s year, April.

In April, when the hills are lushly green, the ground filled with the rains of winter, the sun waking the vineyard from sleepy dormancy, is when the buds erupt on the grape vines. Green grasses on the hills, green leaves on the trees, buds that will become grapes later in the year bursting to flower from the vines, yellow mustard in between the rows of vines, pink cherry blossoms on the lanes in the vineyards, blue skies, white puffy clouds. How can the job not include, require, this be shared with the world by the winner of the dream job. If hired, I would work for a full year. Unpaid for the last 6 months, I would still show up for work each day.

I want to do this job right. I know my home. I need your continued help, your votes, to get this job, and do it better than anyone else can or would.

Thanks to you, 131 votes were cast for my video application in the first 24 hours that my video was up for voting, which is a better pace than 9 of the top 10 most popular videos. Currently, I am the 99th most popular video. On day 1 (for me) I am thrilled to break into the top 100 on my way (hopefully) to top 10 most popular.

Mind you, mine is the 9th most recent application video posted. Some videos have been up for over a month.

The most important thing you have done to help me is voting. I don’t think this job is going to be awarded based on votes, but I do think your votes allow Murphy-Goode Winery to see that some people do have internet savvy and reach, and others do not. I think your votes will help influence the decision to allow me to continue on in this competition to the interview phase.

You, my readers, have humbled me with your support, help, and incredibly kind words and deeds. I would be embarrassed if I didn’t want the job so much, and I honestly believe that I am both the best qualified applicant for the job and the smartest and hardest worker that Murphy-Goode could hire. Unembarrassed, but humbled.

After I blogged and bulletined on myspace, sent notes to everyone on facebook, twittered, posted links on a couple of forums, and emailed yesterday; you took over.

You have taken the link to my application video http://www.areallygoodejob.com/video-view.aspx?vid=A1m7ZIwYMbw and posted it in your blogs, posted it in myspace bulletins, posted it on your facebook wall, twittered it to your followers, emailed it to your contact directories, asking other people to vote for me. Wow, just wow.

Look, I know my little video isn’t going viral; but I am grateful for all of the support and help that I have received from each of you. From voting at home, then getting other family members to vote too and voting at work, then getting other co-workers to vote too; to the internet linking you are doing on my behalf on your social network sites, your blogs, your forums, and in your email correspondence to friends and family.

Please, if you are able, click on the link above and vote my video job application your favorite. The video is 60 seconds, the vote just needs an email address to be entered then click to cast your vote. You will be sent an email to the address you provided, and you will need to confirm your vote was real; so please vote from a real email address. If you don’t find your email confirmation request, look in your spam inbox.

Again, thanks for everything you have done, and please continue to help me get more votes. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Okay, I am going outside to experience the beauty of Northern California directly.

On Friday, I drove an hour south to Santa Rosa in Sonoma County, picked up my friend Shannon, and together we drove the half hour or so west to the coast.

I love the ocean, and living so close to the Pacific, it is odd that I spend more time on Atlantic ocean beaches each year for work than I do on our own coast for enjoyment.

Note to self: get to the beach more often.

The salty smell of the air, and something more deep yet subtle, the powerful smell of the ocean itself with the water, fish and plant life mixed into a living and dying smell, it always gets to me. I connect with the unseen, but very felt, energy of the ocean…and I get hungry.

Both Shannon and I were hungry, and we turned north at the coast and shortly pulled into Lucas Wharf. Lucas Wharf features a restaurant, an island themed deli, and fresh fish cut up and sold right off boats.

I wanted a crab sandwich, and the restaurant’s menu didn’t offer one so we went to the island deli where years before I bought delicious dungeness crab sandwiches, sliced sourdough bread brimming barely containing a thousand island dressing like cocktail sauced bounty of sweetly delicious fresh dungeness (the best) crab.

The island deli was new to me, replacing the deli that had made the delicious crab sandwich previously, but it too offered a crab sandwich, so I was in.

Shannon ordered shrimp and chips, I ordered the crab sandwich, and we picked up two bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale to wash it all down with.

While waiting for our food, I stepped outside out of habit. Although I haven’t had a cigarette this year, I still have the habit of going outside while waiting for something. Instead of smoking, I breathed in the rich moist air. The smell of fresh fish for sale made me take a small walk to look at the fish. I thought about how nice it would be to cook some of the great looking fish being offered.

Back inside, our food came. The fare was rather pedestrian. The food tasted good, but wasn’t anything remarkably special; Shannon’s shrimp and chips was just that, shrimp and chips. My crab sandwich was nothing like I had in mind when I ordered it, instead of delicious sweet fresh crab between slices of tasty bread, I got what looked like a “crabby patty” cooked by Spongebob Squarepants, a fried crab cake served on a bun, burger like. Honestly, it was disappointing.

Our deli server brought a sauce that was made in house, and recommended that I try it on my burger. A passion-fruit and chili blend, sweet and hot, textured and layered, it was okay on the crab burger, but brought to mind many possible better pairings.

Shannon had recently said that she would like me to cook a meal for her. Earlier in the week, another friend, Bill, had taken Shannon, Linda and me to dinner in Windsor. I asked Shannon if she would like me to cook dinner at Linda’s house, where Shannon is staying, and if she thought Bill and Linda could join us. With a couple of phone calls, Shannon had everything set up.

After lunch, Shannon and I went outside to look at the fish. I was torn between some beautiful Copper River salmon from Alaska  (I last tasted Copper River Salmon at the Original Fish Market when working the Three River Arts Festival in Pittsburgh, and it was flavorfully delicious) and some ling cod fresh off local boats.

I really wanted the salmon, it was what I had in mind, but local and fresh off the boat won out, and we picked up some beautiful ling cod fillets.

Before leaving Lucas Wharf, I also left with the most important purchase of the day, an 8 ounce jar of the passion-fruit chili sauce.

Shannon and I went up the road, found an uncrowded beach, and took a nice walk. The walk might have been longer, but I was anxious to pick up some groceries and get back to Santa Rosa to start prepping dinner.

We stopped at the Fir Crest market in Sebastopol for additional provisions. In short order, we had assembled carrots, two Mexican papayas, green onions, purple cabbage, grape tomatoes, a bottle of quality Teriyaki, and a bottle of 2007 Rick Sayre Rodney Strong Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.

Not much later, I was in Linda’s kitchen and the prep began. I intended to make a Thai style Som Tom shredded green papaya salad. The inspiration was the sauce of passion-fruit and chili from the island deli on the coast. I wanted to plate the salad and rest a piece of Teriyaki marinated salmon on top. Lots of flavors on one plate, all playing beautifully with the dusty rose petal and warm cherry notes of the Pinot.

That was the meal I put together in my head at Lucas Wharf tasting the sauce and smelling the fish. I made some changes, but here’s what I did – so you can do it too.

First, pour one bottle of quality Teriyaki over 4 fresh ling cod fillets as a marinade, put in fridge.

Open the Pinot, pour a glass to swirl and smell, noticing changes as it opens up. Pouring a glass also increases the surface area for the wine to touch air, allowing breathing to hasten. Bring on the nose and mouth treats.

I peeled the papaya, scooped the seeds out, and grated the papaya into a large bowl. The Mexican papayas were not green, were very ripe, and did not grate so much as smoosh wetly through the grater. After smoosh grating the papaya into the bowl, I pressed the moisture out of the papaya by hand and poured the liquid out. To the drier papaya, I added two grated carrots, 3 thinly sliced green onions, and 1/2 of a cored and super thin sliced purple cabbage. I added about 3 ounces of the magic passion-fruit chili sauce, some salt and pepper, and tossed it all to mix and dress the slaw type salad. I moistened a towel, covered the salad, and put it into the fridge to sit and allow the flavors to marry.

Prep done, Linda arrived home and quickly the Pinot I intended for dinner was in three glasses. Bill arrived and the Pinot was in four glasses. The Frasier in me regretted that the wine was going to be gone before dinner, the regular guy in me was thrilled that I was with 3 friends and that the wine was being enjoyed. Some say red with meat, white with fish; I say any wine goes best with friends. Let go, and things work out fine. Letting go means that the Rodney Strong Chardonnay Bill brought was going to be served with dinner and was going to be great.

Linda and Bill were hungry after working all day, so we fired up the oven, and put aluminum foil over a broiling pan (to make clean up easier). With the oven at 350 degrees, we placed the fish skin side down on the foil and baked it for 25 minutes.

Just before the fish was finished, I gave the salad a final toss, then plated the salad evenly on four dishes. I sliced some grape tomatoes in half and used them as edible decoration around the outside of the salad. Then I rested the baked Teriyaki ling cod atop the bed of thai style salad.

Dinner was great. Great food, great wine, great friends. We decided to head over to John Barleycorn’s for dessert, and to see another high school friend who was working as a bartender. We saw our friend John, but there was no chocolate mousse at Barleycorn’s.

Note to self: The Villa will make chocolate mousse even if out. Never ending chocolate mousse.

__________

Saturday morning, I awoke at 3:00 AM to head out and set up my booth so I could sell my handcrafted art topped wine bottle stoppers at the Sunnyvale Art and Wine Festival.

I worked all day without a break and was quite hungry when I was allowed to close up at 6:00 PM.

I had an invitation to a graduation party for the daughter of another friend Rachelle. I had known Rachelle since the 4th grade when we attended Mark West Elementary school in northern Santa Rosa. In addition to Rachelle, I was going to get to see another High School friend, Nancy. Nancy is now the tasting room manager for Schmidt Family Vineyards in Oregon.

Before going to the party and seeing my friends, I needed to get some food, check into my surprisingly wonderful hotel, get a shower and change into a suit. Food was the biggest priority.

Near the Domain hotel, I found a Korean restaurant, pulled in and ordered pork bulgogi to-go. I spent a year in Korea, love Korean food, and knew that my hunger would be sated. I would check in to my room and eat dinner.

Jang Tu restaurant, un-fancy on the outside, tucked into a strip mall, has food was beyond adequate. The pork bulgogi, marinated in soy and sesame, and barbecued with garlic, onions and green peppers, was the best I’ve ever had, the absolutely most delicious. The rice that came with it tasted good. I’ve not smoked in over 5 months, but I was surprised to find the rice delicious. I also enjoyed the accompanying kim chi greatly. Chop-sticking a bit of pork, and rice, and cabbage into my mouth, the flavors all delicious, somehow the sum greater than it’s parts, I achieved a near nirvana experience.

The food was so absolutely delicious that i almost went back and ordered another meal, but I wanted to see my fiends more. Barely. That was some fine Korean grub.

The graduation party was an amazing event. My friends both look beautiful, as did their daughters. Rachelle’s daughter Courtney, the graduate, was lovely, amazingly possed, yet unspoiled. Nancy’s daughter will not graduate from high school for about 15 years, Lia is just 3 years old. Lia is amazingly cute. I am envious of Nancy having a child small enough to hold; my own 12 year old son Charlie is taller than I am, we don’t cuddle much anymore.

I have a 2007 Applegate Valley Merlot from Nancy’s Vineyard that I look forward to sharing with some of Nancy’s other friends. I’ll have to build a dinner around it.

__________

On Sunday, back working the Art and wine Festival on Murphy Street in Sunnyvale, I was visited by Chris Cesano and Jim Cesano. Chris is roughly my age, Jim is roughly the age my father would be. We must be related somewhere generations back, we must have common ancestors from Italy; although we don’t know how we are related, it is comforting to meet others with my last name. I am the oldest Cesano in my branch of our family. To keep this entry rolling along food-wise, Chris has promised me his grandmother’s recipes foe gnocchi and ravioli.

__________

It is Monday, I am finally back at home and looking forward to seeing my son when he gets home from school.

All is right in my world.

Plans for my week:

Create an application video for my dream job,

Attend my son’s promotion from elementary to middle school on Wednesday,

Go to the island deli at Lucas Wharf on Friday.

That sauce has haunted me all weekend. I want to make another Som Tom salad. I want to toss chicken wings in it (it would be similar but superior to Buffalo Wild Wing’s Asian Zing sauce). I want it on eggs. I must buy more and reverse engineer the recipe.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,847 other followers