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Wine

27 Mar 2013
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Merryvale Vineyards tasting room, Napa Valley, Calif. Noon on a Sunday. Cars jammed Highway 29, filled with California-wine-lovers who’d flown in from Asia and Europe, Australia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Mexico and points beyond. We walked into Merryvale’s St. Helena tasting room about the same time as a group of around 30 people from Vallejo. We had an hour to taste before our reserved tour at another winery up the road. No big deal. I had downloaded a two-for-one tasting coupon. So yay. Before last weekend, the Napa experience had never been our thing. Big and crowded. Pretentious and expensive. I’d been there twice, years ago. Not impressed. And yet we gave Napa Valley another try Saturday and Sunday, armed with coupons on the Winery Finder iPhone app. We were prepared for heavy traffic and pricey wines. We weren’t disappointed. At the same time, we met friendly, knowledgeable people who work…
13 Mar 2013
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Grmmpppcckkkkfflllppsssttt, boompf. Grmmpppcckkkkfflllppsssttt, boompf, grmmfthmp. My partner and I had finally fallen asleep. The party at the Murphys Historic Hotel bar had gone on and on 'til the wee hours. Now it was 3 a.m., and we were sitting up in our bed. Groggily wondering why: Why woulda hotel schedule renovation in the middle of the night? In the room next to ours, it sounded like chairs and dressers were being dragged across the floor. Pounding, stomping, thumping. The thin wall behind our headboard vibrated. Grmmpppcckkkkfflllppsssttt, boompf. Grmmpppcckkkkfflllppsssttt, boompf, grmmfthmp. The room next to ours should have been empty. It had not been rented. (We asked hotel staff the next morning.) In fact, previous hotel guests had been said to flee that very room now and then, some not stopping to ask for a refund. Maybe the hotel hired a staffer to make noise at 3 a.m. to perpetuate haunting…
27 Feb 2013
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Maybe there’s some sort of social network these days for the spirit world—some MyHaunt or Facelessbook for paranormal beings to stay connected, make plans, conspire. That would explain how we met Eleanor the Ghost on a wine tasting trip to Murphys, Calif. Maybe you’ve heard of Murphys. Maybe not. It’s a tiny burg in north-central California, miles off the beaten path (10 miles east of Highway 49) on the way to nowhere (aka Arnold, Calif.) in the Sierra foothills. To get me there must have taken the coordinated effort of at least a couple of pranking poltergeists. The Eleanor story begins and begins again at two haunted hotels about 20 miles apart. The story hasn’t ended yet. Haunting is like that, a lifelong problem or blessing, depending on your perspective. Just when you think you’ve exorcised a ghost, years later, she’s back in your life, making herself known. The Significant…
13 Feb 2013
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Get married on Friday the 13th, and you’re tempting fate. That was our intention. We woke up that morning in Lone Pine and drove to Kelso Dunes in the Mojave (not quite a three-hour drive from the valley), stopping to hike the Alabama Hills, once a setting for cowboy films starring John Wayne and Humphrey Bogart. By the time we reached the Mojave, a storm was brewing. Whirling dervishes of sand. Blustery chill in the February air. I couldn’t shake a nagging fear that we’d disappear in the gritty desert—and that it would then snow. We toughed it out. We’d chosen the doomed date and the desolate location as a metaphor for our decision to marry—or, rather, to renew our vows, to begin a lofty marriage do-over, against the odds, fate be damned. We didn’t want to do this on Valentine’s Day. Too trendy. We’d made The Plan well before…

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