Wine. Just four little letters, wine; but thousands of books have been published on the subject, with hundreds more written every year, countless magazines, periodicals, and trade publications are printed monthly, and writers opine in columns appearing in the newspapers of nearly every city in the world each week.

Wine. What insightful and new bits of information and wisdom do I have to share, that hasn’t been imparted, shared, by numerous others before?

I will likely add nothing new, and yet my experiences, uniquely my own, may trigger memories of similar experiences you hold; and a particular bottle, and the place you tasted it, and the people you tasted it with, may come back to you as clearly as yesterday. Maybe it was yesterday.

I am wine geekier than most. Experienced, a professional’s palate, around wine all of my life, with developed preferences, I am a Frasier Crane without the pretentiousness, without the snobbiness.  Raised on Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel, I love big rich red wines; ideally with a ton of structure supporting accessible forward fruit. If an old friend showed up with a box of chilled white Zinfandel, something I personally have never bought for myself, I would work up a menu to feature the crushed-strawberry-over-ice notes it might have, pour myself a glass, and enjoy time shared with a friend.

The blackberry currant of a Cabernet, or the brambly raspberry and black pepper spice of a Zinfandel, breathed in through my nose buried in a large glass; the wine swirled, aroma molecules breaking free, traveling up my nose, aromas, bouquet, analyzed, information passed on to the brain for comparison with similar previous smelled items. Judgement, memories triggered, new memories being formed.

I love smelling wines. I can happily swirl 4 ounces of wine in the bottom of a 16 or 20 ounce glass, and inhale the wine, breathe in the smells, experience the changes as a newly opened wine’s tannins and alcohol heat flush dissipate and the fruit comes forward. I love to let a wine breathe in my glass, “nosing” it over and over.

I often open a wine to be used at dinner, either in the food as a part of the recipe, or as an accompanying meal beverage – or more often as both. I love wine, I love food, and I love to pour myself a glass of wine to smell and inspire me as I prep a meal’s ingredients. I often spend an hour just breathing in a wine before tasting it.

I have a picture that hangs over my desk, and has hung on the wall of each of the wine industry related offices I worked in over the years; in the picture are an 11 year old me, and my then 7 year old brother, crushing grapes by foot. Any fan of Lucy Ricardo’s I Love Lucy trip to Italy can recognize instantly what my brother and I are doing. I love the picture, because it demonstrates how far back wine reaches into my life.

While I grew up with, and always loved, wine, one of the first wines that made me sit up and take notice was the 1976 Simi Cabernet Sauvignon. As I didn’t turn 21 until 1982, I found it too late and had to purchase the wine as a library release directly from the winery. I think I was spending $50 a bottle 25 years ago. I couldn’t afford much back then, but somehow I managed to always have a couple of bottles on hand for years until the winery ran out.

Fifteen years later, my dad asked me to watch his house when he went on vacation to Italy; and tucked away, I found a bottle of 1976 Charles Krug. I invited a wine loving friend up to the house for dinner, planning to showcase the Krug. Robert Mondavi is one of my wine industry heroes, he is a God, having changed California winemaking for all wineries, not just the winery he created in his own name. Mondavi left his family’s winery, the Charles Krug winery, to make his own wines his own way, and in doing so paved the way for everyone else, including Krug, to make better wines. I looked forward to tasting the ’76 Krug Cab, a winery from a historied family, from an area known for growing great Cabernet grapes, from an incredibly good vintage. Would it have held up? Would it be faded? Would it be vinegar?

Typically, I opened the wine while prepping dinner, and was not thrilled with the nose, it seemed muted, very closed, possibly dead. As time went on, the alcohol flush disappeared, but all that was left was a tannic edge without much fruit. The wine had gone, sadly faded. I sniffed and sipped at 30 minutes, an hour, two hours, three hours. Nothing.

My friend came for dinner, we ate and glanced wistfully at the bottle that never opened up. As I plated dessert, I tried the 76 Krug Cab one more time. Oh My God. a wine aged under dubious conditions for twenty five years, left open to breathe for over 4 hours, finally opened to show off the most amazing array of fruit and leather and herb and spice. Rich, deep and full, our dinner wine became the sweetest non-sweet dessert wine ever.

I remember during barrel tasting weekend in Sonoma County tasting a Zinfandel at Preston Vineyards in the Dry Creek Valley. I was stunned by the flavors, still in the barrel, with lots of growing up yet to do, I was tasting what I thought of as the best Zinfandel I had ever tasted. I was so excited to taste the Zinfandel that would be made from this barrel. When at last the finished wine was blended and bottled, I tasted the newly released Zinfandel and was shocked.

Traditionally, Zinfandel may be blended with some Carignane, just as Cabernet Sauvignon is often blended with some Merlot. There are certain blendings, classic, that are accepted as appropriate and often result in a wine superior to the unblended wines otherwise made. Lou Preston chose to blend the best barrels of Zinfandel I had ever tasted with Cabernet, producing a wine that tasted like no other Zinfandel I had ever tasted. I was horrified, crushed, mourning the loss of what I had imagined.

Ignoring the label, putting aside expectations of what a Zinfandel should taste like, and what this Zinfandel could have tasted like, but tasting this wine as simply a red wine, and asking myself if I liked it or not, I found that I did indeed like it. I liked it quite a bit. I often took visiting friends by the Dry Creek Store for sandwiches, then to Preston Vineyards to buy a bottle of this Zinfandel, and over a few games of Bocce on the grounds of Preston Vineyards I would recount the tale of this wine from barrel to bottle, as I experienced it.

Another powerfully memorable wine is the 1995 Kistler Chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast, near where the Russian River empties into the Pacific Ocean. The Chardonnay seemed to hold every note in the nose and mouth that I had ever experienced in all other Chardonnays combined. It was all there: oak, toast, cream, vanilla, apple, pear, tropical and citrus, clove, caramel, butterscotch, and so much more. It was like tasting 1.5 Liters of flavor crammed into a 750 milliliter bottle. It was like magic, I have never experienced anything quite like it before or since.

I was in a restaurant in the foodie Buckhead section of Atlanta and saw the ’95 Kistler Chardonnay on the wine menu at $60 which is about the same as it cost on release in a store; remembering the magic, with great happiness, I ordered a bottle. The wine came to the table at perhaps a single degree above freezing, all of the amazing notes locked in by cold. This was a truly sad wine experience, to me it seemed criminal. I would much rather have enjoyed the wine at room temperature with the notes flying out of the glass than frozen and unable to escape.

From the 1973 vintage, Mike Grgich made Chateau Montelena a Chardonnay that won first place among the Chardonnays and white Burgundies at the famed 1976 Paris tasting using fruit that was purchased from the Bacigalupi vineyards in Sonoma County. I had a chance to taste wines made by California winemaker of the year Carol Shelton, using these same grapes, but from the superior 1995 vintage, for Windsor Vineyards. I had a stocked cellar of 360 bottles of wines at the time, I did not need more wine, but I found myself buying cases of this incredible Chardonnay.

Carol Shelton made wines that featured the flavors of the fruit, allowing the grapes and what they had experienced while on the vine to express itself in the bottle. One of the most consistent, approachable wines Shelton made year between the years of 1995 and 2000 was her Murphy Ranch Chardonnay for Windsor Vineyards. Legend, true or not I don’t know, is that Carol was able by contract to pick fruit from the Murphy Ranch in the Alexander Valley of Sonoma County before the vineyard owners could harvest the remaining grapes for use in their own Murphy Goode Chardonnay. All I know is that the Carol’s Murphy Ranch Chardonnay made up the largest portion of my collected Chardonnays during this time. I bought bottles from Murphy Goode each vintage as well to do a sort of horizontal tasting, same wine, same grapes, different winemaker.

I could write about the differences of the Chardonnays; the Kistler, the Montelena, the Windsor Bacigalupi Vineyard, the Windsor Murphy Ranch, The Murphy Goode; or about the different areas the grapes come from: Napa or the Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley and Coast appellations of Sonoma County; or about the different vintages the grapes were grown: the late frosts and early rains or the perfect long and warm growing seasons. It is all of this and more that makes wine endlessly fascinating to the wine geek in me; but suffice it to say that wine is alive, it changes, even twin bottles, cellared well, can taste different months apart.

I could write endlessly about wines, and the wineries and vineyards of my family home in Sonoma County, California. I could tell you about learning that wines change by vintage as my first wife and I had a favored wine become a least favored wine when the last bottle of one vintage was consumed and the first bottle of the new vintage was tasted. I could share that Sonoma County with half the wineries of Napa County wins twice as many Gold Medals in National and International wine competitions – and the wines cost less.

I could write about the lesser known wines of the county I now live in, Mendocino. The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grown in the Anderson Valley; the similarities and differences of these grapes when compared with the grapes from the better known Russian River Valley of Sonoma County, the sparkling wine of Roederer Estate in the Anderson Valley compared to the California Champagne of the Russian River Valley’s Korbel. The lusciousness of Handley’s Anderson Valley Pinot, or the commitment to organic and sustainable farming practices of Mendocino County wineries – even wine giant Fetzer, located just off the 101 in Hopland. One of the most exciting one man wineries I know of is in Ukiah, where John Chiarito’s head pruned vines produce artisanal Italian varietals, Negroamaro and Nero D’Avloa, as well as gorgeously dense Petite Sirah and Zinfandel.

Mostly, when I write about wine, I want to share with you a memory; the taste of the wine, where I was, what I was doing, and who I was doing it with.

There are books dedicated to recommended pairings; red wine with meat, white wine with fish. I have found that any wine is best paired with friends.

A winery, Murphy-Goode, came up with a brilliant public relations coup, offering a six month job as a “lifestyle correspondent” with a grossly inflated salary and luxury home to stay in during the job’s tenure.

Job applicants were to create and submit a 60 second video application. 1,993 video applications were submitted. Applicants could receive “most popular” video votes. The voting undoubtedly artificially boosted the contest website traffic.

Murphy-Goode generated over 300,000,000 hits online and from the media, and the contest is not finished.

I submitted a video, and my friends voted it “most popular” about 1,100 times, making it the 8th most popular video out of the 1,993 videos that were submitted.

I would have been very good for the job. I have a degree in marketing, marketed Sonoma County wines, was born and raised in Sonoma County, have worked in Sonoma County vineyards and Sonoma County wineries, am a really good cook, and enjoy pairing wines with food and friends, know the history of Murphy-Goode, sold wine made from Murphy ranch grapes, have blogged from before the opportunity was announced, am active on all the usual social networking sites and a few online forums. I thought the job was created for me.

With 1,993 candidates, I did not make the first cut to the Top 50. Neither did the person with the most votes.

I am not bitter. Many of my supporters were angry, which I found touching but is unnecessary. My skills are clearly not what the human resource team helping Murphy-Goode valued when the made their cut. My strengths are old school. The people who made it through to the Top 50 had superior video skills. Depth is not as eye catching as flash, and I am not flashy.

I took my shot; I am grateful for the opportunity and more touched by the support I received than I can ever express.

Toward the end of my vote begging, I managed to have my plea included in a blast email from our 30th high school class reunion administrator to hundreds of my fellow classmates. The Piner high school, in Sonoma County, class of 1979 will be holding our reunion early in October, but are engaging in ever larger monthly meet-ups in advance. Thanks to facebook and the blast email, I got to tell the Murphy-Goode job story 20 times at last month’s meet-up.

Even sweeter, a classmate who I have not seen in 30 years, upon reading the blast email, decided to help me get a job. Unaware that I have a job, and not fully appreciating the contest nature of the job I had applied for; my former classmate, who I first met 38 years ago, sent introductory letters on my behalf to a winery owner recommending me for a job in marketing. I am humbled by the kindness that moved my old friend to try to help me achieve what he thought I wanted to achieve.

__________

I flew with my son Charlie to St. Louis, MO last Wednesday for the Pokemon U.S. National Championship. My son competed in the Senior Division and ended up with an equal number of wins and losses. He would not have minded doing better, but was busy playing almost constantly, and had a great time.

I was also pretty busy, but didn’t manage to play a single game all week. I worked as a judge.

The Pokemon Company, International (TPCI) offered me a paid staff invite for the event; flying me in, paying for my room, picking up most of my food needs, and giving me a small stipend to offset some of my incidental costs. I gratefully accepted, and I was brought out to help judge the Junior division players.

We arrived Wednesday to find we had flown into a heat wave, temperatures near 100 degrees and humidity adding 10 more degrees to the heat index. Instead of spending $40 to travel by cab from the airport to the hotel, we took the Metrolink, a train. My ticket was just $3.75 and Charlie’s ticket as a 12 year old was just $1.85. We both worried that Charlie’s child rate ticket might draw a challenge as Charlie is already high school student sized, but our concerns were unnecessary. The train was a great way to ride into the city.

We rolled our luggage 4 blocks from the downtown train stop, past the America Center where the Pokemon National tournament would be contested to our hotel, the Holiday Inn Select.

Each of the 4 floors with rooms had 8 extra large rooms near the corners. We got one of these larger rooms and were able to host other northern California players on Wednesday night for playtesting as our players made decisions about which decks to play and which card tech changes they wanted in their final 60 card decks for the tournament. I played the only game I played all weekend, not Pokemon, with Susan, the person most responsible for Charlie and me playing Pokemon competitively. I won the game, it involved bug tiles. I don’t remember the game’s name but I am pleased with my undefeated game play record for the weekend.

Thursday was given over to meetings, held at the hotel instead of the convention center because of the heat wave. I had only one meeting from 5:00-6:30 PM for judges to receive our judge’s shirts and all access passes on lanyards. Charlie and the other players took over the lobby, restaurant tables, hallway floors, and every other flat area for Pokemon game play. Everywhere you looked on the first 2 floors you saw game play.

Charlie was playing a new deck, the list was provided by one of the best Master division players in our region (thank you Chris!). Through game play that continued until midnight, Charlie came to know his deck inside and out, played it with confidence, and developed a better knowledge of the other decks he would see over the weekend.

On Friday, we were up early and shared breakfast in a nearby deli we found. We used a computer and printer in the deli to create and print Charlie’s final deck list for pre-registration later that evening.

I went into the hall and Charlie lined up outside in the hallway. Friday was being given over to the Professor’s cup, a fun tournament for people like myself who give back to the game more than they play. To play, you needed to earn 75 points judging in tournaments or running league play. I live a couple of hours from league, and only accumulated 50 points judging tournaments, sometimes traveling 6 hours round trip to judge; so I had volunteered to work side events on Friday for all of the non professors who were in town the day before the actual National championship.

On Friday, I head judged the largest tournament I have ever worked. Our Master division alone had 140 players. Junior and Senior division boosted the tourney to well over 200 players. I had a staff of judges and runners to work with who were great. All my calls were easy, and my judging was much more lenient than it would be the next day. I used the tourney as an opportunity to educate players on some new procedures, and a good time was had by all.

We did have to take a break during Friday’s side event modified tourney to allow players to take part in the pre-registration efforts.

In order to make things run more smoothly on Saturday morning, it was decided to pre-register players on Friday from 4-8 PM. I joined the rest of the staff and worked for about 90 minutes before resuming the modified tournament play. We finished the tournament and pre-registration at about the same time. The hall erupted into huge cheers as the announcement that this year’s U.S. National championship would be the biggest Pokemon tournament anywhere ever.

On Saturday, I was back in the hall at 6:15 AM to help with finishing touches before the doors opened at 8 AM to the sea of players.

The tournament had 1,200 people compete in three age divisions for fun, prizes, scholarships, and invites to the World championship.

We ran 7 forty minute rounds of swiss pairing in the Junior division, made a top 64 cut and played one best 2 out of 3 forty five match to find our top 32 players who would move on to Sunday’s play.

The Junior division is my favorite age division, the younger players are often playing for fun and their joy is infectious. The downside of working with the Juniors is that they are prone to tears when a mistake they make requires a penalty be assessed or when they lose a game. Over half of the players in the Top 64 who did not continue on to Sunday’s Top 32 left the floor in tears.

The Junior division judges checked all 32 top cut decks after Saturday’s play, then moved on to help do deck checks on the Senior player’s decks, then started moving tables and chairs for Sunday’s play.

I left the America Center past midnight after over 18 hours worked.

On Sunday, I was back before 8 AM to finish preparations for the Junior Top 32. Our Head Judge told me that he was going to have to send some judges to side events after the Top 32 round. I am a big volunteer-er; I told him that I came from side events on Friday, I know people would want to stay in the “premier” tourney, and told him to feel free to send me over to sides.

Juniors are the best division and were set up and ready for play before either of the other two age divisions. The two matches I watched were both well played. One match was decided in large part by the two decks played, one was “weak” to the other and the disadvantage was insurmountable. The other match was determined more by fortune; which card was at the top of the deck to be drawn, a roll of heads vs. tails, two more evenly matched decks led to a very even round.

Pokemon, even with the biggest tournament ever, can always grow larger, and a professional photographer was present to capture images that may be used in future marketing efforts. The biggest “oops” for me over the weekend is that the photographer was rudely intrusive and put himself into one of my Top 32 matches moving one player, breaking concentration, interrupting flow, putting a game’s fairness in jeopardy. I sent a note to the Gods of Pokemon asking that they train up their photographers not to be quite so pushy in a match.

I was asked to go back to side events, where I was again tapped to head judge a $25 sealed event tournament for over 50 players. Everyone ended up with $32 in swag for their entry fee, while winners ending up with $104 in swag. All Juniors got between $50-$110 for playing. I had another great staff of judges and runners, Pokemon was incredibly generous with their prize support. Everyone had a great time.

Shortly after my side tourney ended, everything ended. The staff cleared the hall, and broke down all of the tables and chairs, the carpet was rolled up and the hall was cavernous and sad in its’ emptiness.

The Pokemon Gods had arranged our names in a lottery picked order, and staff was allowed in order to choose banners and signs used in past promotional efforts (I got a pretty cool Torterra banner, no idea what to do with it), then we were marched through the product room to get a generous swag bag and extra Staff shirt.

On Sunday night, Charlie went to dinner with the other northern California players, and I went to a staff dinner hosted by the Pokemon Gods.

While not falling down drunk, I did consume 7 drinks in 5 hours, and smoked my first cigarettes of the year. I smoked three.

I got back to my room shortly after midnight, my son was asleep and nothing was packed. I packed everything for both of us, leaving out one comfortable flight worthy set of clothes for each, and laid down to sleep at 1 AM.

My clock alarms went off simultaneously at 3:45 AM, Charlie and I both showered, dressed, and left our room to catch our 4:30 AM cab to the airport. We found Chris in the lobby, he was kicked out of his room before 3 AM for the noise 30 players in his room made. Chris rode with us to the airport and we paid his part of the ride as some small measure of thanks for all the help he had given Charlie and me over the years.

Charlie complained that his sleep had been interrupted by my snoring (a cause and effect result of me getting drunk) and my alcohol fume breath expulsions. My moderate hangover, and feeling of unease on the first flight as our altitude increased the remaining alcohol in my bloodstream’s effects, were punishment enough.

Overall, we had a great vacation together. We didn’t spend as much time together as I would like; but Charlie reveled in his freedom to play with his friends, old and new, in an environment where it was safe to do so. Charlie was a good boy who earned the trust he was shown.

I had a great time. I loved working during the tournament. I am not part of the invited staff for the World championship in August; but Charlie and I will both be going, and I have already let the Pokemon Gods know that they can ask me for any help anytime, I don’t need a shirt or lab coat, a title or compensation. I am always happy to give back a little to the game that has given so much enjoyment to Charlie and me.

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.

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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.

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.

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