Counting Blessings

I work Fridays, Sundays, and Mondays for a total of sixteen hours a week at Total Wine, the largest retailer of wine and spirits in the USA with 208 stores in 24 states. We stock over 8000 different wines in our store. I am one of about 800 wine specialists working for Total Wine across the country. I don’t work because I need the money. I have plenty to keep me busy with the house, yard, Heinrich Isaac editions, and family genealogy. But I do enjoy the atmosphere of working with my colleagues. It is very reminiscent of graduate school. We’re all wine geeks who love talking and learning about wine.  I’m the odd guy there because I’m part-time but they keep me around because I know just enough to be valuable and they appreciate that I always want to learn more.

So, today I get a call from the wine manager. Quick organizational chart: 2 store managers, 3 asst. managers, 1 wine manager, 1 wine supervisor. I consider the wine manager to be my mentor in wine; although he is probably 20 years my junior, he has sommelier knowledge. Anyway he called me today and asked if I would be interested in being part of a wine tasting next Tuesday with Tony Biagi – Napa Valley’s Winemaker of the Year for 2020. This guy has been behind some of the best-known wines in Napa for decades. OK, so let me get this straight: They want to PAY me to spend two hours tasting wines with one of the best winemakers in California on my day off. Gee…..

That call got me thinking about how fortunate I am.

I turn 68 this year. The ravages of age have indeed begun creeping up on me. I have a rotator cuff problem right now with my right shoulder. It is probably akin to the other health issues I have had such as the spinal stenosis (for which I had surgery in 2017) and arthritic knuckles which prevent me from any keyboard work. I have been afraid to try playing my tuba or euphonium because of the condition of my right middle finger.

Waa, waa. 

I am continually told that I do not look my age.  A (younger) co-worker was shocked to discover my age yesterday. I see the differences but evidently others do not.

I walk my Doberdork about five miles daily on the days I do not go into Total Wine. And when I am at Total Wine I probably walk ten miles in addition to climbing ladders and hoisting cases of wine up and down.

I go to my doctor, dentist, dermatologist, ophthalmologist appointments regularly and they invariable send me away with nothing more than cautionary warnings (“eat more veggies”, “don’t drink too much”, wear a hat”)

I live where it does not snow. It doesn’t even frost! I have a swimming pool and hot tub right outside my 24-foot glass patio door – which most months is wide open, making the pool area (called a “lanai” here) part of my living room. There is a 25-foot boat on a lift on the canal at the edge of my property. Said canal leads to the Caloosahatchee river and right down past downtown Fort Myers to the Gulf of Mexico.

My beautiful wife, Michelle, turns 50 next Tuesday. She continues to amaze me with her intelligence and dedication to her chosen career. She is considered a rising star in her field, but those people do not even begin to grasp her breadth and depth of knowledge in things like music history and performance, cooking, or craftsmanship. Two days ago, she whipped up a seafood pasta from leftovers that was worthy of any restaurant. The next day she designed and executed an undercarriage for a beautiful desk that we bought on Craigslist that allows it to be wheeled around. That same day, she went out to the lanai and made two black iron trellises for bougainvillea look amazing by painting portions of them (see image at top).

Every day I thank God that I get to spend my life with her.

There are other blessings. The afore-mentioned Doberdork – Loki – continues to grow and annoy and amaze. He is definitely a challenge – one we did not anticipate. I figured we could handle any dog with our combined backgrounds in psychology, education, veterinary technology, and dog ownership. WRONG! Despite previous dogs such as Bassett Hounds Collies, Springers, Cockers, mutts of all types: Loki is the smartest and most stubborn animal we have dealt with. He is also the most loving and dedicated.  When Michelle comes home, his ears go to his shoulders and he cannot wag his tail enough. I mean, really, how do you beat that?

There are my ongoing friendships and work with Markus Utz and Harold Lischkowitsch. Both live in Konstanz, Germany and both are central to my current life.

Markus is truly one of the finest musicians in Europe. One of the last students of Eric Ericsson, he has risen to be the professor of choral studies at the Zurich School of the Arts – where Hindemith once worked. His work at the Konstanz Munster caused our paths to cross and while his star has continued to rise; he has allowed me to tag along by creating editions of music for his groups to sing.  He keeps me in the game and challenges me to keep working in the research that I began way back in 1982. Markus is invited to Yale University again this fall as a visiting professor for their Sacred Music program. We have been collaborating on his presentation there where he will use portions of my presentation material from the 2010 Isaac conference at Indiana University and music from my editions from the Choralis Constantinus. His planned project to record an entire CD of my editions is still on track, but keeps getting pushed back due to Covid-19 problems.

Harold and I spoke just last Saturday. We miss each other. He has been one of my best friends ever since we set eyes on each other the day after German reunification  (Deutsche Wiedervereinigung) in 1990. We were in Vienna – neither of us had slept the night before. But both recognized a kindred spirit. And it was our good fortune that we both had a connection to Konstanz. I was on that trip only for the chance to see Konstanz, the focus of my doctoral research. He was there as a native Konstanzer to introduce the city to a group of Americans. I cannot speak for him, but I can say with confidence that he has changed my life for the good. It will remain a great regret that Covid-19 forced the cancellation of our planned family visit to Konstanz because I so wanted to show my family all the things that makes the city so appealing.

I have two children. Neither is my biological child, but both call me “dad”. I am proud of both. They have chosen their paths in life and are pursuing them. They call me daily and I am always glad to hear from them. They are a blessing.

In conclusion, I could complain about what is wrong with the country, with politics, the world, but I have decided to focus on what is going well. I truly believe that much of this appreciation comes from cutting ties to social media. My Facebook account remains active because Messenger is helpful for sending information to others. But Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. are all gone. I ignore most emails from – the majority of which seem intent on getting me to pay them to discover who might be reading about me (seriously?).

My wish for all reading this is that you see the beauty around you and seek happiness in the little things. Happy Eastertide.

4 thoughts on “Counting Blessings

  1. Happy Eastertide to you, as well! I applaud your positive, “stop and smell the roses” attitude. What’s your favorite Malbec under $15 at Total? I think I first heard of that varietal when chatting with a conductor from Argentina at the 1999 World Symposium on Choral Music in Rotterdam, when I was representing ChoralNet.

    1. Not all Total Stores have exactly the same inventory at the same time, but I just checked the Tempe Emerald Center store (south Tempe) and saw that it carries the Phebus Riserva (14.99), the Cruz Alta Riserva (12.99), and the Mascota (14.99). Those are my recommendations in order. Many folks have trouble with Malbec’s combination of acidity and earthiness – gives it a rather “rustic edginess”. It’s why I usually go for a riserva. The time in barrel smooths out the rough edges. If you want a solid inexpensive CabSauv., the Cruz Alta and Mascota are better than Phebus, but not in Malbecs.

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