Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Summer School

Ah, here we are again with Fall looming down upon us. Like Jeremy Piven’s hairline, Fall disappeared for a bit, but it is now back with a vengeance. White is out, winter white is in. True Blood is over, Glee is finally here.

Always ahead of the ball, CVS has put out a smorgasbord of Halloween candy. (Apparently the general public needs a 45 day window to buy pumpkin shaped Reese’s peanut butter cups.) And as with every changing season, I tend to get a wee bit reflective.

In ruminating on Summer ’09, various memories stand out and it strikes me that each taught me a valuable life lesson. Of course most of them taught me a literal lesson, e.g., if you’re going to drink wine at a summer film festival, make sure to put the “empty” in your purse so it doesn’t roll past thirty rows of film critics during the silent lull right after the filmmaker asks the audience if there are any questions. However, a few summer events also provided greater insight.

My summer started off with an amazing trip to Lake Como, Italy. One of my dearest college friends, Erica, and her adorable husband Cory, invited me to join them for a week long stay at their friend’s summer house above the town of Menaggio. Amidst the breathtaking backdrop of the Lake surrounded by snow capped mountains and historic villas shrouded by lush gardens, I learned a plethora of lessons that I’ll never forget.

First, one should never, ever, EVER stay up till 4 a.m. drinking wine and smoking cigarettes the morning before a ½ day hike up a mountain (no matter how beautiful the fire or how charming the Italian). Trust me, despite a panoramic view that likely mirrors the one from God’s back deck (and tres cute hiking boots), the hike will fall on the pain meter somewhere above tromping through 10 miles of sand in too-tight stilettos and below, I don’t know, let’s say, natural child birth. (I also learned that you should always call your bank before you travel abroad and try to spend a mortgage payment at Furla.)
More importantly, Lake Como taught me that we all need to slow the hell down. Crikey. It took me 3 days of a 7 day trip to stop checking my work email and take off my watch. Why Americans do not embrace the 3 hour lunch, I’ll never know. And, as I’m sure Erica would agree, there are few, few things in life better than having a cappuccino and catching up with a friend. Of course it will taste better if you are sipping it in front of the Duomo in Como (with bags of gorgeous silk scarves at your feet), but a local coffee shop will work.

Summer marched onward, hours were lost at the office, and weekends were always too short, but on the horizon was a girls’ white water rafting trip in the Blue Ridge Mountains. My college group of friends and I are diligent about getting together. The six years since UNC Commencement Weekend 2003 (stop calculating my age and keep reading) have been filled with not only weddings and bachelorette parties, but numerous vacations just for the hell of it. This year was no exception. We decided we would trek up to Boone, NC to stay at Courtney’s in-laws’ cabin (read: 5 bedroom luxurious mountain resort equipped with chef’s kitchen, pool table, tiled baths, and wraparound porch) and try out white water rafting.

Before I even arrived in Boone, I learned two valuable lessons: 1) Nestle Tollhouse Cookie Cafes prohibit “erotic messages” on cookie cakes; and 2) apparently, “We Love White Water" constitutes an erotic message. (I learned this upon a phone call from NTCC that I stupidly answered while two co-workers were in my office, panicked when put on the spot for a back up message, and ended up with a cake declaring “Mountain Weekend 2009.” Quotation marks included). See FN1.

I learned the bigger lesson from “Mountain Weekend 2009” while on the Nolichucky River. After going on numerous whitewater rafting trips as a child and a few more as an adult, I pride myself on being a (somewhat) experienced rafter who certainly is not afraid of a little bit of water and some rocks. (Of coursed I missed no opportunity to tell my friends this sentiment.)

Indeed, the rapids were not the problem. The Nolichucky, however, is not one continuous rapid and it houses several flat plains that require more muscle than skill to navigate. While paddling down one such plane, I took the time to notice the peaceful mountain scenery, enjoy the sun on my skin, and think about the mother of all bloody marys I was going to make once we got back to the cabin.

Suddenly, quicker than a fat girl going skinny dipping, I was fully submerged in the water. I bobbed, bewildered, in the water looking up at my raft and back to the one behind me trying to figure out what had happened. There was nether a rapid nor a rock in sight. I had fallen out of the raft on a portion of the river that would have barely rocked baby Moses in his basket of reeds. (And even now, I cannot bring myself to write about the scene that was the river guide hauling me back into the raft.)

Yes, I learned to keep my ego in check. Better yet, I was reminded that even during the calm, peaceful times of life, you should brace yourself for the unexpected. It isn’t always the rapids that rock the boat and what will knock you on your ass (or cause your ass to be sticking in the air hanging over the side of a large inflatable raft) is typically the thing you don’t see coming.

But I have to say, the most valuable lesson I learned this summer happened during a Braves-Phillies game. A stroke of good luck (and a friend with good connections), gave me two tickets to the 2nd Braves-Phillies game, 20 rows behind home plate. However, the Braves had lost the first game in the series and a win that day seemed unlikely.

The first 2 hours of the game were a bit slow - the Braves scored 2 runs in the bottom of the 3rd which the Phillies answered with a run in the 4th and a run in the 5th. (I did learn during that time, however, that it is mighty hard to tomahawk and drink your Beam & Coke at the same time.) The Phillies scored another run at the top of the 7th. I made another drink and ate some peanuts in the 8th. The Phillies failed to score at the top of the 9th which put the Braves at bat needing 2. Garret Anderson had a leadoff single but the turning point occurred with Matt Diaz at bat. Diaz made a sacrificial bunt and a crazy turn of events occurred. The Phillies’ pitcher made a wild throw to first and the ball bounced into right field. Anderson raced from first to score the tying run, while Diaz made it to third. The crowd went nuts. Peanuts were flung, dip n’ dots went flying, and the tomahawks came out (I’m pretty sure I even put down my drink). In the midst of the frenzy, my friend Joel turned to me and screamed, “Diaz just bunted his way to 3rd!” I laughed incredulously and we went on to watch Omar Infante hit a single to left and Diaz score the game wining run.

The Braves beat the Philles, 4-3. And it all turned on a bunt. Diaz went up to bat fully expecting an out. He would sacrifice for the greater good. But then a series of events occurred that resulted in his feet running over home plate to win the game. It's hopeful, no? You never know what’s going to happen and you certainly won’t find out if you don’t step up to the plate. Even when the likelihood of failure is high, great success is still a possibility.

It's with this lesson in mind, that I post this entry. People may enjoy it or they may find it less palatable than fat free cheese. Regardless, it is highly doubtful that I’ll ever win a Pulitzer or write for the NY Times. Then again, you never know, every now and then, we all bunt our way to third.

FN1. For a thorough, historic examination of the cake decorator’s love of the quotation mark, see


Julie said...

Both entertaining and reflective, as always. I'm glad you're back at it.

EriKa said...

I remember white water rafting (was it truly "white water"??) at Camp Rockmont, I believe, with the Indian Princesses. And I think it's funny you ordered a cookie cake for the weekend...what about checkerboard brownies?