Wine, Women, and Song

The boy was frozen, unable to move or speak.


Meanwhile the teacher — an older woman in her forties who’d fought a long battle with alcohol and pills (which she now won), but with a history of being a loving if somewhat absent mother (which she now lost) — tried to help him. “Is there something I can do?” he heard her ask him. It wasn’t enough, so he sat there until the bell rang at 3:00 pm, then went home and took his mind apart piece by piece until it was no longer capable of thought or feeling. And that night when his father returned home from work at 7:30 pm, he told him about how his son had today iced his brain in class, like an overly excited dog who couldn’t seem to calm down; and how they were going on a trip together next week as soon as school let out for summer vacation; and that everything would be fine again soon enough once they got away together alone somewhere south where nobody knew them.


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Driving up Highway 101 past San Francisco on their way toward Napa Valley for their annual family vacation with Uncle John (who owned a winery), Mom asked Dad why wasn’t little Jimmy talking anymore? What happened to my baby boy? Dad said he didn’t know, and Mom cried some more as Dad drove ever closer to their destination.






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The winery was nestled off the main road on a narrow country lane surrounded by vineyards with rows of grapevines growing tall and green under the hot summer sun. The buildings looked old but newly restored, with matching cream-colored siding and well-maintained red terracotta roofs that seemed to be made from the same material as Uncle John’s hair. There were two main buildings — one for taking tours of his operation and tasting samples; another for sleeping quarters, meeting rooms, relaxing areas where guests could enjoy themselves before or after meals (there was a large dining hall); plus several smaller outbuildings used for storage or food preparation that they passed while driving into town from Napa City proper.





There were also many wide open fields between the buildings where vines grew in neat rows over which workers walked in shorts and straw hats keeping watch over each plant’s progress toward harvest; so many people working together to make sure the wine came out right. It reminded me of my brain being made up of billions of cells cooperating together to control everything I do -- except instead of grapes here they planted seeds instead inside paper envelopes that sprouted tiny green tendrils poking out from holes at each end until finally you had an entire row full of plants growing in unison like soldiers marching in step without any effort at all because every single person involved knew exactly what needed doing without having to talk about it first because there was no need for words anymore once everyone had gotten used to performing their duties on autopilot without having to discuss anything beforehand or afterwards either; too much talking can slow down production sometimes just like too much thinking can slow down or even stop brain function altogether like when you try hard not think about anything against your will until eventually you just forget how remember how remember anything anymore including who you are who your family is what your name is why this trip means so much what it is we’re doing here together as a family besides drinking wine tasting samples touring facilities talking about our dreams plans hopes fears.


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Uncle John greeted them at the door wearing short sleeves even though it was almost July now and very hot outside already; he showed them around his place proudly showing off different machines used during various steps along the way from planting seeds inside paper envelopes through fermentation process drying aging bottling shipping deliveries (with special attention paid toward an expensive new machine called a “picker” Bobble said cost half a million dollars).





He told them about how long he had been working towards owning this property and turning it into something useful productive profitable valuable; how many years he spent dreaming ideas scheming plans trying different things failing again falling back asleep again dreaming again scheming again trying different things failing again falling back asleep again dreaming (a cycle repeated over and over until time seemed to stop and it was like he had been doing this forever living for the future without ever actually living in the present at all); how his father’s uncle built a small business from nothing into something valuable productive profitable before passing away suddenly with no will so that now the property sat empty for several years until John decided to return home following his mother’s death in order to settle her estate following which he discovered he had inherited enough money to buy it outright; how in only a few short months after returning home and buying the property with cash sitting in a bank account that he had not touched since adolescence when he first started making some steady income as an electrician installing wires inside new homes in Napa Valley, this winery would be up and running capable of producing thousands of bottles every year.



He told them about how each bottle produced here would represent countless hours worked by many people who were lucky enough to have found work they enjoyed doing, even though it was manual labor; who liked working outdoors or indoors depending on season weather conditions etcetera; who liked growing plants tending fields because of the satisfying feeling you got from knowing your hard work would soon produce something good for others. Because this is what life is about -- helping others find happiness by creating useful products which also serve your own self-interest through financial reward for your efforts. And everyone must do their part if we are all to live together peacefully on one planet without destroying ourselves or our environment first through war or pollution or global climate change caused by human activity.


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They toured around tasting samples of different wines during their visit (with special attention paid toward an expensive new machine called a “picker” Bobble said cost half a million dollars). They talked about dreams plans hopes fears dreams plans fears §After dinner, Uncle John took them out on his boat onto Napa Lake where they ate ice cream while watching fireworks light up sky above Napa City below on both sides of the water as boats danced across surface spraying colorful lights into blackness like tiny explosions accompanied by loud booms shaking water waves rippling downwind toward them loud enough almost deafen them but exciting too exciting fun exciting happy fun -- they laughed talking loudly laughing loudly. And then finally bedtime came after dessert when everyone lay down together with eyes closed imagining each other asleep imagining each other lying next to someone beside themselves pretending sleeping lying there not moving not saying anything at all afraid you might wake yourself up if you even moved just slightly afraid moving might make noise.


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After breakfast, they took a short tour of the winery tasting samples and viewing new equipment that had arrived recently from China through ports in Oakland or San Francisco (it was strange to think about how many people were needed to keep this operation running smoothly). They talked about dreams plans hopes fears dreams plans fears


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After lunch, it was time for the ceremony celebrating the first batch of wine ready for bottling; Uncle John invited several friends and family over along with some of his workers who had worked hard on this project from planting seeds inside paper envelopes through fermentation process drying aging bottling shipping deliveries to be present as he poured out his first bottles into different red crystal glasses; everyone held their breath waiting for the verdict -- would it be good? And then he said, “This is what I call my Napa Valley Chardonnay-blend.” He told them how long it took him to find a name that sounded right when spoken aloud out loud and felt right rolling off the tongue like music; how long it took him trying different combinations until suddenly he realized they were playing jazz music in another room and all at once everything seemed perfect at once without even having to talk about any of these thoughts beforehand because now it was already happening so fast no time talking anymore already here now already doing this now The sound of someone playing jazz piano on a Steinway grand piano being loud enough almost deafen them but exciting too exciting fun exciting happy fun -- they laughed talking loudly laughing loudly. And then finally bedtime came after dessert when everyone lay down together with eyes closed imagining each other asleep imagining each other lying next to someone beside themselves pretending sleeping next beside themselves lying there not moving not saying anything at all afraid you might wake yourself up if you even moved just slightly.

He told them how long it took him trying different combinations until suddenly he realized they were playing jazz music in another room and all at once everything seemed perfect at once without even having to talk about any of these thoughts beforehand because now it was already happening so fast no time talking anymore already here now already doing this now The sound of someone playing jazz piano on a Steinway grand piano being loud enough almost deafen them but exciting too exciting fun exciting happy fun -- they laughed talking loudly laughing loudly. And then finally bedtime came after dessert when everyone lay down together with eyes closed imagining each other sleeping peacefully.

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