AKA Abraham Bacoln

MYSTERY (again)
August 28, 2008, 1:37 pm
Filed under: tidbit


When I went to my front door this morning there were things sitting outside my door. These things were, in no particular order:

1. A plastic shopping bag containing the following:
1a. Dry shampoo for cats
1b. Flea powder for cats
1c. Flea spray for cats
2. A plastic tub, formerly used to hold some sort of Italian pastrycookie things, containing the following:
2a. Cat litter
2b. Hopefully nothing else

So! No note! Here are some facts:

A. My parents have been known to leave things for me on my front porch.
B. My parents own two cats

Therefore I do not think it was my parents. THEREFORE MYSTERY.


reading iii
August 26, 2008, 3:52 pm
Filed under: quote

From Suttree:

In the morning turning up the frostveined stones for bait he uncovered a snake. Soporific, sleek viper with flanged jawhinges. Fate ridden snake, of all stones in the forest this one to sleep beneath. Suttree could not tell if it watched him or not, little brother death with his quartz goat’s eyes. He lowered the stone with care.

So this is it
August 26, 2008, 2:04 pm
Filed under: tidbit

For all of you who are interested (raise your hands if you don’t mind – let’s see, that’s … two) school is back in session.

–Final semester of college? Check.
–Only twelve hours? And one of those classes is independent study? Check.
–Reading the entirety of Don Quixote in the original seventeenth-century Spanish (ugh)? Check.
–Two econ professors in one day referring to marketing majors as “those people with crayons and coloring books”? Check.
–No class on Fridays? Check.
–Drizzly nasty rain for the past two days perfectly coinciding with the first two days of class, signaling an official end to summer, not that I did anything but work anyway? Check.
–Condescending yet amusing professor (again, econ) saying, “This is the only undergrad class they’ll let me teach. I love teaching undergrad. It’s like kicking puppies.” Check.
–Overwhelming sense of well-being and joy even though it may appear as though my list is filled with kind of negative things? Check.
–Overwhelming desire to get this over with and get out of town? Three check marks. Maybe four.

But seriously I’m really excited – I have three professors who are all very entertaining and actually enjoy teaching, which means that unlike previous semesters I won’t be bored out of my mind. I only work M/W/F which means that when I get out of class on T/Th I can actually go do things before the light disappears. And no class on Fridays means that my loving and lenient boss won’t mind if I take the occasional three-day weekend to go do something fantastic.

The rest of the plan, just so you know, is to graduate in mid-December then spend the end of the month enjoying the holidays and saying goodbye to all my friends, and then come the new year I’ll be going off to my new job, wherever it may be. I have an idea or three.

For once it wasn’t me …
August 24, 2008, 10:06 pm
Filed under: tidbit

Kevin O’Mara: Sidelighting Full Portrait

Originally uploaded by budrowilson

… taking my own self-portrait that is. I got a call from Sean Setters (a photographer friend of mine) yesterday saying that he’d had a cancellation in his schedule and that he wanted something to go shoot. Considering I have many times thought, “Oh, I want to shoot so-and-so at a moment’s notice” and almost never had it work out, I was more than happy to be able to lend a hand.

And the other hand, and some legs and face and the rest of my whole body, actually. I’m pretty sure that all of me was there.

Anyway the point is that I’m impressed with Sean’s stuff. He started out as a good photographer and the more he shoots the better he gets. In fact, I will turn this into a completely biased recommendation so if you’re not into that kind of thing you can stop reading now. I would gladly suggest him for any kind of portrait sitting or wedding photography. I feel I can say this without repercussion since I have no association with any of the major studios in town – I’d send potential clients to him 10 times over before I’d send them to one of the big commercial joints, especially for single-person or couples portraiture.

I think I’m done bragging on him now. I have to stop at some point or his head’ll get too big. You’re a grown person, aren’t you? You can go check out the rest of his pictures of me from today or his Flickr in general.

(and no, he didn’t pay me to say all this)

(though if you are willing to pay me to write something flattering about you, dear reader, I’ll see what I can do)

August 20, 2008, 8:40 am
Filed under: tidbit

I went internet fishing today and caught this quote, yanked it straight from the soggy depths. I bring it to you:

My “automatic vision systems” teacher gave an interesting lecture about research on hens. Hens are awfully dumb. They have an instinctive reaction to images of weasels (panic/run) and also to sound (tweeting) of small chickens (herd/care). The researchers made a model of a weasel that was making the chicken noise. Hens exposed to this experienced software failure: they would freeze and stop reacting to all other external signals/impulses until the chirping weasel was removed.

[ comment by SharpFang on the article Magpies are Self-Aware ]

You have no idea how badly I want to test this theory.

I’ll take “things you put in your mouth + attitudes” for 100 please, Alex
August 12, 2008, 10:12 am
Filed under: tidbit

So there’s a new joint in town called Good Mood Food. They’re all like organic and stuff, or so I hear, or so they will be soon, or so they say.

I’ve been there four times now, mainly because they’re right by the office where I’m interning. Three of those times have been just for a little milkshake. Man, you can’t beat a real milkshake, in my opinion. (picture of milkshake that does it no justice.) Yesterday I went for lunch, and I got pinto beans and cheese, corn fritters, salad, and pico. It was pretty darned tasty, and fresh, and so on.

So yeah, you should go check ’em out. They’re on 1st street, just to the right (west) of the Leslie Town Center. Look for the yellow sign. They’re kind of behind Krazy Kent’s parking lot, and I realize for any of you that don’t know Cookeville … well, I’ll just not say anything. Just avoid Krazy Kent when you’re aiming for Good Mood Food is all.

Okay now for the tangential: reading ‘good mood food’ every day got me thinking about how those words are spelled in a similar fashion but one of them is not pronounced the same as the others. I’m sure there’s some word that describes that case, but I don’t know what it is. Anyway, I went looking for words that are spelled alike but sound different. These are my favorites:

lemon demon
touch couch
worse horse
great meat

I like all of those because they can (more or less) be read as ‘adjective noun’ and they sound like the most improbable combination of objects. I think my first novel will have the words ‘worse horse’ in the title.

If you have any good adjective-noun-spelled-alike-sound-different pairs I’d like to know.

August 10, 2008, 11:48 pm
Filed under: tidbit

So tonight I went to the Putnam County Fair to get some pictures of the rides which is the only thing about the fair that amuses me anymore.

Wait, no, even though I have kind of given up on funnel cakes there is still cotton candy.

I decided that when I was done taking pictures I would get some cotton candy and head home. I stopped right beside the cotton candy boothkioskthing and knelt down to put my cameras away. Apparently I had also stopped directly in front of two Putnam County Sherrif’s Department employees. I honestly don’t know how their structure works – are they all deputies? I’ll just call them officers.

So I was about three feet away from these officers when I stopped to put my cameras up. I had just barely seen them out of the corner of my eye. Now picture this: I’m kneeling on the ground, my tripod collapsed and laying across one foot, and my bag open while I stow my film camera behind the dSLR with the huge wide-angle lens attached, all of this right in front of them.

“You a professional?” the first officer asks me.
“Hah, no, I wish,” I replied, still not having looked up.
“Well you got like a book or something?” he asked.
“I … actually, I do, but it’s self-published, so it’s not really a real book. I do this as a hobby,” I said, having finished packing my stuff up and standing up.
“So you do this as a hobby?” he says.
“Yeah, it’s what I do for fun,” I answered, digging two of my cards out of my wallet. I had one to him and one to the other officer with my standard self-deprecating line, “If you’re ever on the internet and really bored you can go look at some of my photos.”

The first officer looks at the card in the normal way, which is to say he looked at the front, turned it over, saw the words, said, “Huh.” Just like everyone else does.

The second officer looked at my card as if I’d handed him something that while if not necessarily distasteful at least certainly unexpected.

He looked at me with his sternest look and said, “You ain’t been takin’ no pictures of little girls or anything have you?”
I laughed and said, “No, if I had I’d be running away from you guys right now,” and apparently that satisfied them because they turned around and left.

It wasn’t until I had a moment to process what had just happened that I started to get pissed off. Are they seriously going to pick the one guy at the fair with any serious camera gear, the guy who stops at their very feet to kneel and put his stuff away, and accuse him of being some sort of pedophile? By the time I had my cotton candy in hand I was mad as hell.

You know, if I’d been doing something suspicious, or if I’d looked shifty, trying to hide my gear, or if there had been complaints – I could maybe begin to understand. But to just flat-out ask me (or in my opinion come halfway to accusing me) if I’ve been acting like a child-molesting pervert, man, that really gets my goat.

I have been debating between writing this down here just to get it out of my system, or writing a letter to the Sheriff’s Department. I finally settled on writing it here because what is the other option going to get me? A fat lot of nothing aside from more attention that probably won’t be positive.

Still tempted though. I’ll sleep on it.

A long time coming
August 5, 2008, 7:41 pm
Filed under: tidbit

I recognize that it seems kind of strange, not to mention wasteful, to travel from Tennessee to New Orleans just for a case of wine yet that’s more or less what I did this last weekend.

More than a little back story is necessary to explain my trip, however. I’ll start by mentioning that I was born in 1976. Once you get funneled into the guts of the wine industry, like I did, to be able to drink something that was grown and harvested in the year that you were born becomes a strange and almost magical link. I’ve had the good fortune to have consumed four different wines from my birth year (Cakebread Vineyards Cabernet, BV Cabernet, Smith Woodhouse Colheita tawny port, and Chateau Lafite-Rothschild which I drank on my 30th birthday). Two of those, the Cakebread and the BV were wines which more or less do not exist in the retail market. I had my old boss Dave to thank for those.

Dave and his wife were married in 1976, so they set aside a decent stock of wine from that vintage. On occasion they would bring a bottle out from the cellar to celebrate. When I was over visiting at their house, well, that was double the reason. I had at that point in my career had few opportunities to sample aged wine, and they had a further excuse to bring something good to the table. I will always be grateful to the generosity that they showed me by sharing some of the prizes of their cellar.

When I married Katie in 2002 I decided that I would do my best to be able to recreate the experience of having an anniversary wine. Though I was not yet even a manager at the company and had little disposable income to spend on nicer wines, especially in quantity, I really wanted to be able to celebrate our lives that way. Once again, when a wine shares a vintage with a momentous occasion it’s somehow more special, and when you have an entire case of wine you can spread those twelve bottles out over several years, enjoying watching the wine age over time. Maybe you even stretch your consumption far enough that one night you realize that the wine is at its peak, and there’s no sense in letting it go over the hill, so why not have a second bottle tonight? To a beginning wine lover the idea is enough to make oneself smile, maybe even almost a little giddy.

When the vineyards in France know that they’re going to have a good year – and they know this almost every year – they participate in a form of wine selling called futures. While the wine is still in barrel, meaning it’s not yet fully finished or created, representatives from various wine organizations will taste it. They will rate it and state its potential. I’ve tasted out of barrel before – this is not an easy job. A raw young wine still in oak may come out tasting miles from what you expect, and so I respect greatly the ability of these professional tasters to accurately predict a wine’s future personality. At some point during the aging of the wine the winery decides to sell wine on futures. It works more or less like this: the winery says, “If you want to buy our wine now, while it is still in barrel and you have yet to taste it – but you think it will be good – the price is set at this amount.” The stated amount is, of course, far less than the price will be once the wine is actually set in bottles and cases and shipped around the world.

Many customers, both individuals and companies, buy futures, and buying futures was the only way I could guarantee myself an entire case of something from the 2002 vintage. If I waited until the wine was actually in our stores I would have had to empty my checking account to get as much as I wanted.

So, with hesitation and nervousness I placed an order for a case of Domaine Bachelet Bourgogne Rouge 2002. It’s not the best wine in the world, by any stretch. It’s just plain Burgundy, not even from a particular appellation. I just couldn’t afford anything better, and besides, I like Bachelet’s bourgogne rouge. It’s a great Pinot Noir and I had enjoyed it many times in a few different vintages before deciding to buy an entire case.

Almost no wines are bottled in the year in which they were harvested, and the bottling and shipping by ocean freight takes time. By the time I had our case of Pinot it was 2005.

I didn’t open it, of course. Even a relatively lightweight wine like Pinot Noir can stand to lay down for a few years, if well-made and from a good vintage, and in France 2002 was a good vintage. At that time, in 2005, I was the head of the long-term wine storage project at my company. We had introduced a service for our customers where we could set their collection aside in a temperature-controlled environment which is desperately needed in New Orleans. One summer in that city, even in a dark closet in the middle of the house, can ruin a wine. I didn’t want that to happen, so I opened an account with long-term wine storage and put the majority of my collection in there.

There were other customers with their wines in there, of course. I would know because I moved every case and inventoried every bottle, thousands of them. One of my customers – I will call him Tom – had a sizable but eclectic collection, usually no more than two or three of any particular bottle and vintage, but case after case of wine in all.

In June of 2005 Katie and I celebrated our anniversary. We didn’t open the newly-arrived case.

In August of 2005 Hurricane Katrina came. I’m sure you knew already that this was to be part of the story. I had no time to get my wine out of storage (even though I only lived a block from work) because to get that far into the warehouse required three keys and two alarm codes, and I didn’t have all of that at my disposal. Besides, Katie and I left early on Saturday and my wine collection was the last thing on my mind. I brought only one bottle of something else to enjoy while we were back in Cookeville waiting out the storm. And honestly, just like every time we evacuated we more or less assumed that we would be back. Of course as time edged towards that fateful Monday morning it became more obvious that we weren’t going home any time soon.

About two days after the storm hit we went on a short trip to visit Katie’s brother and his wife in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. While we were there I got a call from my wine storage customer, Tom. His anxiety showed in his voice. “Do you know anything about the wine storage unit? How are the wines? Did it flood?”

I held my tongue as best I could. Tom lives in Baton Rouge, so Tom apparently could not grasp the enormity of the situation.

“Tom, I do not know the current status of the wine storage facility. I also do not know the status of my own apartment and all our possessions.”

He didn’t hear that part, of course, because he was thinking only of his wine. I managed to maintain professionalism long enough to state that even though Mid-City was indeed flooding I hadn’t heard that the waters were very high, and the warehouse floor is on a concrete slab that is five feet above the street (which is to say five feet above sea level), and that the storage unit generator ran on city lines natural gas, which meant that the cooler could keep running even if the power was out, which it most certainly was.

None of this reassured him – he could only keep asking me if everything was all right. I told him I would let him know as soon as I knew anything, which could be days or maybe even weeks.

He called me back the next day and we had the same conversation all over again, and this time I told him that honestly I was having a hard time caring about his wine when my entire neighborhood – the neighborhood in which I enjoyed living and spent most of my time and quite frankly loved – was underwater, including our apartment. I told him I would call him when I heard news.

That was the last I heard from him, at least over the telephone. However, as soon as the waters started to recede in Mid-City, and long before the police were letting individuals back in, Tom pulled some strings. He got an 18-wheeler and some armed guards, and got my company’s owner, inventory manager, and maintenance manager to go with him to the warehouse so he could get his prized collection out of harm’s way.

Upon arriving they found that the natural gas powered generator (the one keeping the refrigeration alive) had shut down because it had run out of oil. No matter, though – the insulated unit had kept its temperature for days, and was still 62 degrees which is well within acceptable storage temperature range. This didn’t matter one bit to Tom, though, as he proceeded to have his men unload his entire collection. A few minutes in the maintenance manager had the generator back up and running, but this still didn’t deter Tom from pulling his collection.

The owner and the maintenance manager left to go survey the damage to the offices at the warehouse, which unfortunately were not on the elevated floor. This left only the inventory manager to supervise a couple of hired guys hauling hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of wine out of storage. Keep in mind that Tom wasn’t the only one with his cases stored there – we had many many customers.

I of course was one of those customers, and you can already see where this story is going. My unopened case of 2002 anniversary wine, the only case I could afford from that vintage, was loaded onto a pallet. My manager saw it before it got put on the truck, but it was at the bottom of a six-high cross-stacked pallet and no amount of his pleading could persuade Tom and his men to un-stack the whole thing.

By the time the owner of the company got back from touring the facility the pallet was the subject of much debate. Tom insisted that his wines were traveling to a cold storage facility in Baton Rouge and that no harm would come to my wine, and that time was of the essence. It has also been stated that Tom said, “Besides, it’s just one case of Bourgogne Rouge – what does it matter?”

The rest of the conversation and the exact whos and wheres aren’t important. The point is the victor of the power struggle was Tom the customer, and away my case went. I got an email from the inventory manager detailing the situation.

I had Tom’s contact info so I emailed him, asking for my wine. He assured me that it would be in safe hands until he got his home cellar built in Baton Rouge, probably some time in 2008. Besides, I wouldn’t want to drink it before then anyway, excuses ad nauseam. I was furious, but as by then I was no longer an employee of the company I also felt powerless. The wine was on a pallet on a rack 30 feet up in the air, and to have the storage facility pull it down, unstack the whole thing, then reassemble – it would have been quite costly. I of course thought it unreasonable of him not to return it, but I couldn’t convince the owner of the company to fight it for me.

You also have to remember that this is all immediately post-Katrina. I had so many hundreds of other things on my mind that one case of wine – while very important to me – was less important than where I was going to get a job, and where Katie and I were going to live, and what happened to all of the things in our apartment, and what was happening to our friends, and so forth.

In October of 2005 she and I drove out to Oregon and made our new home in Portland. I occasionally emailed Tom to find out about my wine, but his answer was always the same: after he built his cellar he would take his wine out of storage and send my case to me.

In June of 2006 Katie and I celebrated our anniversary, again without the Bachelet. It would still have been too young. Besides, even though I didn’t fully realize it at the time, things between us were beginning to sour.

In July of 2006 I left Katie, left Portland, and came back here to Cookeville where I have been ever since.

In March of 2008 I took my first trip to New Orleans, post-Katrina. While there I heard from the owner of the company that there was a slim chance I would be able to get my case back. Unfortunately it was not true. Also notable in March was the finalization of our divorce.

Just recently I got the call from the inventory manager that my case was in their possession, and he wanted to know what I wanted done. Well, it is far too hot in August to be shipping a case of valuable wine across the deep South. One hour in the back of the wrong FedEx truck and the investment is ruined.

I decided to take another trip to New Orleans, to celebrate being between the summer and fall semesters, to take a vacation that I felt I desperately needed. My first trip back (in March) was not traumatic by any stretch but it was still shocking. I felt as if I were walking in a dream, reality slightly altered and with the saturation turned up as high as it would go. Reentering that city I loved felt simultaneously strange beyond belief and as natural as sleep. My second trip, my August vacation, was better in every way. All felt as it should be, and I fell right back into a routine. I saw my friends, I visited every bar and restaurant I wanted to see, from the Lower Garden District to Uptown to Mid-City to the West Bank, and never once went downtown or to the French Quarter. It felt like any other weekend I would have spent back when I lived there – just enjoying myself and the company of others, enjoying good food and drink, seeing neighborhoods and not disasters.

Feeling alive, really.

Or maybe feeling really alive.

And to end the trip I swung back by work and picked up my case, put it in the air-conditioned car, and headed home.

So here I am now, a day later, with my anniversary wine in my possession. I still haven’t opened a bottle, I’ve had no occasion. I don’t know what the occasions will be from now on, honestly, but I can guarantee that they’ll be good.

That was quick
August 2, 2008, 9:51 am
Filed under: tidbit

It’s pretty much not a trip to NOLA without seeing a celebrity, so I went ahead and got it out of the way just now. I’m in a coffee shop drinking my breakfast and John Goodman just walked right by my table. It’s not the first time I’ve seen him down here, but he was talking to another guy as they walked past, and it was surreal to hear his voice in person.

I feel strongly about respecting the privacy of famous people, so I didn’t say anything of course, but I wanted so badly to yell BIG DAN!

Okay back to breakfast.