September 2012

There’s a time in your life when it seems like there are a lot of friends and family getting married. A few years after that, the funerals start to show up. I’m currently in that second phase, and it’s not likely to end any time soon. I still have a LOT of relatives who are 60-80 years old, and although many of them are in quite good health, there are a few who are fading, and even if they’re not actively fading, once you hit 75+, you’re living on borrowed time.

I don’t do funerals. It’s not like the dearly departed will care if I’m there. And yes, I know, funerals are not for the person who has passed away, they’re for the ones who are left behind. I truly do want to offer my support and comfort to friends and family who are grieving the loss of a loved one, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the right person for that job. I can all but guarantee that at some point I will crack an inappropriate joke. It’s what I do in uncomfortable situations. It doesn’t mean I don’t care, it doesn’t mean I’m not empathetic, it doesn’t mean that I have a cold tin heart beating in my icy hollow chest. See, a joke. Not thoroughly inappropriate, but maybe in slightly poor taste.

Part of me wants to be more openly empathetic. Maybe it would be better if I could cry with someone who’s grieving. But I don’t know if I can, especially when it’s someone who is quite old or has been sickly for a while. When a 80+ year old person dies, sure it’s sad, but they’re 80+. They’ve had a pretty good run. Someone who’s been battling cancer, or Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s, or some other nasty, debilitating disease? Yeah, it kind of sucks that they lost their fight, but everyone has to die of something, it’s an inevitable result of living. Is that cold? Is that wrong? Eh, maybe, maybe not. Is it appropriate or comforting to point that out to someone who is grieving the loss of a parent or spouse or sibling? Um, no, it’s probably a horrible thing to say.

When I inevitably die, how do I want people to react? To some extent, I don’t care, I’ll be dead. Some people will probably be sad, and if there’s a way to make them feel better, I’d love to be able to make them feel better. I’ll try to do that by never dying, but I hear that’s not possible. I sure hope no one misses work or cancels other plans to grieve. Maybe plan a nice little picnic for a convenient weekend when people can stop by, have some grilled meat and a beverage of their choice, maybe play a little cards. I hope to leave behind no debts, and even leave a nice bit of cash. Not that a pile of cash can make grief disappear, but it’s a nice little bonus for those I will leave behind. I hope that whatever brings an end to this magical mystery tour isn’t long and drawn out, not for myself, but because it’s hard for others to watch and would waste a lot of money. Hmm, that last part might seem a little cold and insensitive…

Over the last few years, I’ve not attended a handful or so of family funerals. I imagine that won’t be possible over the next few years, there are some that I’ll have to attend. My goal is to be as comforting as possible without offending anyone. I’d give myself a 50:50 chance…



I didn’t really expect that this would be a superstar for me, but I’m quite pleased with the complexity of the 2009 Mendocino County Petite Sirah from Green Truck. I usually like a good, chewy red with bold tannins and darker fruit flavors, but this petite sirah has some nice character and a more delicate profile. Others have described a strong dark cherry character, but I would almost describe it as a little more apple-like, especially immediately after opening. As the bottle breathed over 2-3 days, I think I picked up a little bit of raspberry. The tannins are certainly present, but smooth, giving just enough bite to round out the finish, which is relatively quick. And perhaps the most pleasantly surprising part? It’s only around $8 a bottle. I only bought 1 bottle, I might have to go pick up a bit more, maybe even a case.

I wonder if the apple-ish-ness I thought I got was the “dark cherry” that other people described. I’ve eaten dark cherries, and I feel like I’m getting more of a white-flesh fruit character than a dark cherry. I also don’t know if I’m catching the pepper or licorice that others describe. I suppose my unsophisticated palate is struggling with the subtleties. Either way, this petite sirah is a fun little bargain drink.

I just read about a profoundly disturbing incident that happened on a commuter train in California. It’s disturbing enough that I’ll even put up a warning description: it’s about a woman who is verbally assaulted after chooses not to engage in chit-chat/flirtatious banter with other passengers on the train. Not once, but twice. The first incident is disappointing, the second is kind of scary. Read it if you choose.

To be honest, my stomach is churning a bit 10+ minutes after I read it, I can’t even imagine how long this young woman was affected. I’d like to use this story as a learning experience, though, so maybe something that doesn’t suck can come out of this massive suck-fest of an incident. I could very easily see myself as the other guy sitting on the train as “Bicycle Man” went on his tirade. The author says she doesn’t blame the other guy for not stepping in because he was old and frail, but I’m not old and frail. I am, however, masterful at ignoring the world, especially on public transportation. I put in my ear buds (even if they’re not plugged in to anything) and sunglasses, and slip off into my own little world.

From the author’s description, “Bicycle Man” was carrying on sufficiently that I wouldn’t have been able to zone it out, so I found myself thinking, “What would I have done if I had been the other guy in the train?” I guarantee that I wouldn’t have jumped up and beat the crap out of him, that’s not my personality and it wouldn’t have really helped, but seriously, what would I have done? What should I have done in that situation? There’s a chivalrous little part of me that thinks, maybe hopes, that I would have gotten up, walked over to the author, asked her if she was OK, and then asked “Bicycle Man” to settle down. Then I would have sat down somewhere between “Bicycle Man” and the author, and we would have waited until we all got to our respective stops.

That all sounds nice, but there are some problems with it. First, if I really think about asking the author if she’s OK, well, OF COURSE SHE’S NOT OK!! Some clearly angry and violent asshole is screaming at her, threatening her life. Asking her if she’s OK seems like the right thing to do, seems like a way to say “I know this sucks, but I’ve got your back”… Maybe that would have been the right thing to say. Second, “Bicycle Man” doesn’t sound like someone who’s likely to respond well to conversation. Me: “Hey, buddy, why don’t we all just sit down and enjoy the ride.” Bicycle Man: “Yeah, you’re right, I’m being a bit of a dick and I should really just chill out.” Not likely. In fact, it’s probably even money that just by trying to talk to the guy it would push him over the edge and it would turn into a physical confrontation in which I would be all but useless.

Hmm, that leaves me wondering about a middle ground. Move to a seat between the author and Bicycle Man, give her a (hopefully reassuring) nod that silently says I’m trying to help, and make just enough eye contact with Bicycle Man to (hopefully) let him know that he should back off. I’m a big man, some people say I can be physically intimidating, this would be a perfect opportunity to use that in a positive way.

Sadly, after all of this hypothetical wondering, I expect that I would have done nothing. I would have stayed in my seat and let this poor woman be abused because I didn’t want to get involved. I am extremely fortunate to not experience these situations on a regular basis, but after reading this disgustingly terrifying account of what should have been one woman’s boring train ride home, maybe I can be a better person if I ever see something like this happening. Maybe I can switch seats.