Chrilogy, Part I: The Bubbly and the Storm
Last week, I changed Christopher’s life. And all it took was about a glass and a half of Pop Crush sparkling wine.
I admit: My opening declaration is a hyperbole. But can you blame me for perpetually dreaming of changing people’s lives? This aspiration has sustained past my youth – the sense of idealism to have the power to change other people’s lives for the better; and in the process, make the world a better place. I think of last weekend and although asserting to have changed Chris’ life is an exaggeration, I believe there is a very strong chance I may have positively affected him, in my own special way.
It began Thursday afternoon/early evening when Chris asked if he could visit and spend the night when his Walden-esque spontaneous travel adventure took a different course. It was one of the worst nights known to man; well, just this man1: It was stormy and my day started very early. At 4:30 AM2, I left my apartment for the airport to catch a 6:00 AM flight to Southern California for work. The morning flight was quick, but enough for me to catch a power nap that helped until a venti cup of macchiato oozing with five shots of espresso energized my veins. The meeting with architects, contractors, scientists, and property owner was successful, but silently interrupted with emails from my Director and Assistant Director on matters that involved questions or direction on budget projections, fleet acquisition requirements, security protocol, and other matters that embody my hard-to-explain and ever-evolving job of the past two years. By about 1:30 PM, my staff member and I have driven through sunny flowing traffic from Anaheim to LAX and have returned the rental, passed the long LAX security line, with enough time to get something to eat before our 2:30 PM flight. Between the security line and our quick lunch/snack, the thick fog set in and covered LAX; and just like Stephen King predicted, created a mystical dome of fog that barred flights from landing or departing from the City of Angels.
Two hours later, we finally boarded. But any expressed joy was premature, as it took at least 45 minutes more before we actually took flight.
About an hour and twenty minutes later, the plane’s first set of rubbers touched Sacramento International’s tarmac. This contact triggered torrential pours to burst from the sky; just in time for my rush hour drive home. Fantastic.
With a litany of work issues in my mind, I absent-mindedly missed my exit and with the detour and minimized visibility, a 15 minute drive from the airport to my apartment turned to more than an hour. I made it home safely, but I was wet, famished, and horrendously cranky. I was not my best self, and would not have been a good host.
Then dinner happened: Waiting for me was love in the form of a soup, this Filipino soup called Sinigang3 that Auntie made. From the first few sips of the soup, I have forgotten and forgiven all the troubles of the workplace that have lately pestered my mind. The perfectly tempered sourness of the tamarind-flavored soup tenderized the pork meat and vegetables; and coupled with white rice, gifted me with the warm and comforting reunion with a dish I was distant from in my vegetarian years. I momentarily thought of browsing my humble cellar for an appropriate wine pairing, but dismissed the thought after remembering that I will need to drive out for an errand after dinner.
I thanked Auntie endlessly.
With a satisfied appetite and a full heart, I desired to be a good person again. I contacted Chris and told him he could spend the night. He needed me and I needed him. With a troublesome past few weeks at work, I probably needed him more than he needed me – as a mental escape, a prompt for inspiration, and an opportunity to be a good person.
Seeing Chris smile like a cuddly muppet brought sunshine into a stormy night. Talking about nerdy things I love, laughing, and getting to know each other more to the early morning easily created memorable moments. And Pop Crush, now emblematic of our friendship created a light and bubbly beginning filled with the crisp aromas and flavors of summer – citrus, lime, peach, and lychee; refreshing, easy, and approachable like this old friend from the very first time we met in Times Square.4
When Pop Crush bid farewell, and I continued to caress Chris’ books, a new Story had to begin: It felt right to uncork my last bottle of 2013 Miss Zin, a unique blend of Mission and Zinfandel grapes, from the old vines of Story Winery‘s scenic Amador Wine Country estate. From light and bubbly, we went to (medium) dark and earthy. This juice transition accompanied us into the seeping tranquility of the night, when conversation about our favorite books, artists, films, and life adventures continued. Opening the wine reminded me of my visit to the fabled estate one spontaneous afternoon when I decided to take the day off and venture out to Amador Wine Country. I had initially planned on visiting multiple wineries that afternoon, but as it turns out, I was meant to spend my whole afternoon at Story Winery. I met Rob Campbell, the President and Winemaker; and Brian Reid, Assistant Winemaker. I was blessed to spend hours in the barrel room, where Rob and Brian generously shared time, stories, and flowing tastings of fabulous wines – reserve, unreleased, and futures – those still in the process of aging.
Vigorously swirling the wine and releasing its spicy aromas prompted a mental return to the barrel room where I first met this unique wine. Until that afternoon, I had not tasted wine with the duality of Mission and Zin; and until Thursday night, I had not shared wine, laughter, and thoughtful conversation with a Kiwi.
Chris was a blessing that night and nights that followed. He is a living reminder of how one must not fall and crumble in the midst of a storm, but instead fly above it to see the glorious things that may be hidden by the dark clouds, daunting winds, and punishing rains.
In retrospect, it was not Chris’ life changed that night, but mine.
And it continues to.