The Virtue of Basements

I’m still getting used to having a house instead of an apartment. I suppose that’s understandable, since I lived in one apartment or another for 13 years and I’ve only lived in my house for five months. Sure, a house is more responsibility, and if something breaks I can’t just call maintenance and make them fix it for free sometime in the next six months. Instead, I have to call the builder and make him fix it for free sometime in the next seven (until the 12-month builder’s warranty is up – after that, I plan to either fix things myself or ignore them and hope they go away). He no-showed me yesterday morning after I told him the house is settling on my back door and I can’t open or close it without scraping the drywall above it, and that if the outlets in the living room work, the one that controls the jacuzzi jets upstairs does not. He no-showed me several times when I had a couple of other things that needed attention the month after I moved in. But he’s a pretty good guy, so I just bug him every day until it gets done.

And there are lots of times that I have to remind myself that I can do anything I want now. Like when I walk a little too hard across the floor. First reaction: “Oh, the neighbors downstairs are going to think I’m an elephant.” Second reaction: “The only thing downstairs is the basement. Haha! I win!” and then I stomp just because I can.

When I take a shower, I no longer have to think about communal hot water. Sure, I have to pay the bill, but only one person lives here and that means I can take up the average amount of water for four people and still not be judged by society, because society judges based on a family of four. I don’t have to worry about trying to shower before or after the guy upstairs or the old lady next door.

I don’t have to turn my television down when I get home late at night from work (for 1.5 more weeks) and want to watch The Daily Show or catch up on my DVR until 1am. I generally don’t like the volume that loud anyway, but no one can say to me, “Hey, I heard your TV at 1am.” And I can yell at the TV during sporting events without concern for others’ opinions of me as a lady.

I can flush the toilet late at night and not worry about waking up the baby downstairs. Or accidentally slam a cabinet because the handle slips out of my grip. Vacuum whenever I want. Clang pots and pans. Sing out loud a lot. Do laundry at odd hours.

Last night I woke myself up coughing my head off because I got a cold from Neph 1. Before buying my house, I would have worried that I’d wake a neighbor. Now, I have the freedom to worry only about dying alone and not being found for days.

I can paint. And I did. I painted the shit out of that house. Soon I’m going to paint the front door.

Wait. I just read a how-to thing on painting a metal exterior door. I might not do that.

But this morning I might have discovered the thing I like best about my house. As temperatures on the east coast made a bizarre climb and I refused to turn on the air conditioner out of principle, it occurred to me that it might get too warm for my wine.

And then I remembered.

I have a basement.

A gloriously cool basement.

Ah, the joys of homeownership.

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas

On the eleventh day of Christmas, I got 12  gifts.

Whole new meaning to the term box-o'-wine

Why, yes. That is a case of wine. Shipped direct. To me.

Fa la la la la!

Remember when I complained that my company’s parent company’s new subsidiary was bush league for blasting out an email about a wine club deal and then running out of wine? Well, I stayed on top of things. (It’s amazing how dogged I can be when it doesn’t involve things like doing laundry or dusting or making a dentist appointment.) They had said they’d restock by the end of the month. I rechecked the website on December 22nd and, glory be, I was in. The lady on the phone before had lied – it wasn’t quite the same deal. It was about $10 more than the original deal, and it didn’t include the extra three bottles. But it did include a box of wine accoutrements (good corkscrew, wine collar, pourer, stopper, and foil cutter), so I’m willing to let bygones be bygones.

Ply me with 12 bottles of wine and I might be willing to do just about anything.

I had the case shipped to my office because I didn’t want it sitting around in my building all “THIS BOX IS FULL OF WINE!” Yesterday, as I pulled through the gate, the security guard stopped me.

“Yo, I got a box for you!”

I was so excited I nearly hit the gate with the car.

God love this guy, who sits in a little box with a space heater and watches people drive in and out all day; he was grinning when he told me to just pull up and park so he could bring the box to me. “It’s heavy,” he said, smiling while he held it as I tried to clear a space in the trunk. (He sounds so sweet, doesn’t he? But for the tattoos on his neck.) He knew what it was – the contents were announced on the side of the box. The whole thing had me so giddy, and I felt so bad about him carrying the box out to me, I almost offered him a bottle. But when I got home, I managed to take the box out of the trunk, carry into my building and up the steps to my place.

In heels.

Sometimes you just have to want it.

I opened the box and checked the inventory. They had swapped out a couple of the wines I was supposed to get with other labels. I have to check to see if I got equal or lesser-rated wine. And I didn’t get the tasting notes I was supposed to receive. But honestly, the tasting notes could have simply said, “Drink me.” I would have thought, “Brilliant. Excellent. I get it.”

Between this and the half case that Jack gave me for Christmas, I am set until the end of April at a rate of one bottle per week, and I don’t have to dash out to the store if I get invited somewhere or I have company (as planned for tomorrow). Ah, my darling Jack. When I got the online deal to go through, I didn’t have the heart to tell him. I started to, and then I realized that, because he’d heard me whine about the wine before, and because he’d been asking me about my favorite kinds, he might be getting me wine for Christmas. I didn’t want him to feel like his gift would fall flat. And it didn’t. I honestly was thrilled with the choices and with his effort to make sure that he made the right ones. I’m no expert on wine, but he knows I like it and he wanted to make sure I got good stuff.  And I can’t even share it with him because he doesn’t drink it.

We all have our faults. I don’t judge.

Besides. More for me.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, I raised a glass to gifts that keep on giving, and thanked God for the little things that make life sweeter.

Holiday Whine

There aren’t a ton of perks that come with what I do. I mean I have an interesting job, but it comes with precious few pluses beyond a paycheck. (Which I am grateful for. No instant complaint karma, please.) Yesterday, however, a glorious, wondrous, miraculous advantage landed in my office email inbox.

Available through a new subsidiary of the company: fifteen bottles of really good wine for $60. Shipped direct.

Haaaaallelujah! Haaaaallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Halleeeelujah! (words by heavenly angels; music by George Frideric Handel.)

In the immortal words of Neil Diamond via UB40, "Red red wine, you make me feel so fine..."


Of course, you have to join a kind of wine-of-the-month club, except instead of like two wussy bottles a month, they send you a whole case every three months, but even then you get good stuff for like $10 a bottle. I’m so totally in.

Except I currently have $22 in my checking account, so maybe I’m in after payday on Friday, once I get done paying bills and doing Christmas shopping. But whatever. Same-same. And at first I thought, Wow, a case every three months… that’s a lot. And then I did the math and realized, Nnnnooo, that’s pretty much what I drink. Yep. Totally in.

Oh, relax. It works out to about one bottle a week.

This was the most beautiful moment of my week by far. I mean by far. This was a work perk that offered me exactly the amount of wine I’d like to have at hand, for a really good deal, and they’ll send it right to my house. The people at my liquor store will not have to give each other looks when I walk in.

A while back, I posted that my wine rack was full of empty bottles that made me look like I had a problem both drinking and taking out the trash. It’s really just the latter. And I cleaned all of those bottles out before summer and established a bit of a program for myself: in warmer months, when I tended to drink white wine, I bought a bottle of red whenever I could. The idea was to stock up for fall and winter.

It was very Billy Joel.

Aaaand I’m out.

So this wine club thing that we got in our email at work yesterday was serendipitous. Hooray! Good, varied wine in an endless supply! Cancel whenever I’d like! (Why the hell would I do that?) And cheap!

I investigated the situation as far as I could go on the website before they would make me actually pay. I didn’t get all that far. When I selected the red wine case as my choice for my first shipment, I was greeted by a red message.

The Holiday Red Wine case cannot be purchased. Please remove it to proceed.

Wha… wha… what?

My lip may or may not have trembled.

I unchecked that selection and tried for the mixed case of red and white. I really wanted reds because they make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside when it’s cold out, but… I could make do.

The Holiday Mixed Wine case cannot be purchased. Please remove it to proceed.

Bu… but… *sniff* … my Holiday Wine…!

They had an all-white case, but I didn’t want that. So I dialed the number provided on the website, grateful that there was one available. They were experiencing an unusually high volume of calls. Allegedly. But within five minutes I got a human, and explained to her my problem.

“Yeah, we might be out,” she said.

You might be what?!

I told her about how I’d tried two different selections and gotten the same message, hoping against all holiday hope that there was just some sort of computer programming problem, a glitch in the matrix.

“Yeah, I know we’re out of the red cases. We might be out of the mixed cases, too.”

And my poor little oenophile heart broke clear in two.

Dejected, I gathered myself. “Well… when do you think you’ll have a stock?” I asked.

“End of the month.”

End of the…? but… my Holiday Wine…!

“Oh.” I tried not to whimper audibly. “And will the deal still be the same then?”

“Oh, yes,” she replied confidently. “The deal is the same regardless of when you join.”

“Okay.” I took the phone from my ear. I had to sort of bend down to say “thank you” to her as I lowered it to its cradle.

And then I got kind of annoyed. A little bit. Because the parent company blasted out this email to all its gazillions of employees and within five minutes they sold out of the wine. Like they were Justin Bieber tickets or something. What kind of half-assed operation blasts a sale and doesn’t have supplies to last more than five minutes? This is bush league! Way to not deliver on a promise! I DEMAND THE WINE THAT IS RIGHTFULLY MINE AT A STEEP DISCOUNT THAT I DID NOT KNOW EXISTED UNTIL I GOT THIS EMAIL!

This is just like the company. Hold out a carrot and then take it away. Just snatch away my happiness for sport. And during the holidays. I could see the CEO (and yes, I know what he looks like), puffing away on a cigar, monocled eye squinted, sitting on vats and vats of precious wine, laaaaughing and laaaaughing and laaaughing like John Lithgow in “Santa Claus: The Movie” when he figures out how to sell massive amounts of a wayward elf’s concoction of reindeer flying powder in lollipop form.

I guess his monocle fell from laughing so hard.

Those bastards.

I appealed to one of my (six) bosses, who I knew for a fact had a case of wine in his office for weeks. He says he took it home last month. “I think you should give me some wine,” I said, “since the company can’t make good on its deal that it just told us about five minutes ago.”

He blinked.

“I know you have a case of wine. I don’t know where you got it and I know you said you took it home but I’m not convinced. Give me some wine. They’re out. There was the email and then they were out of wine and you have some. I think you should share. I am the 99%!” 

Yes, I really did say that.

He rolled his eyes.

“I’m going to occupy your apartment until you give me some of that wine.”

“Yeah, let me know how that works out,” he said, checking his phone.

He didn’t say no. So, you know. Fingers crossed.

Nice rack!

My wine rack is bothering me.

It stands there against the wall, between the dining room and the kitchen. Brushed metal glinting dully, but classically. Silent, yet undeniably present. It holds 23 bottles. Every slot is full.

But the bottles are empty.

Which is very, very bad.

The first step, they say, is admitting you have a problem. Well, I have a problem.

Empty. 😦

I do not have nearly enough wine.

You probably saw that line coming.

There is one full bottle in the rack. It is a bottle I bought in France, back in 2007. It is an ’04 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cote de L’Ange. I read that it will peak in 2012. That’s the five-year mark from my trip, and I will not open it a day before that, so that I and those with whom I choose to share it will be able to taste and smell it in all its luscious, full-bodied glory. Sounds tres impressif, non? Oui. So I won’t tell you that I bought it at a rest stop. The rest stop was in France, and therefore it is still impressive.

But that one bottle of Chateauneuf cannot save the whole rack of empty bottles. And it cannot save me.

My nephews, who are three, like to count them when they come over. Aloud. Touching each one with a tiny outstretched finger as they go. “Ooonnnne, twoooo, freee, fooourrr, fiiiiive…” They get stuck somewhere after eleven, failing to remember which bottles they’ve counted and which have gone unnumbered, and have to start over. I wonder if they will remember doing this, and some day after I’m gone, they’ll reminisce about it, laughing and shaking their heads, saying, “We never did know why she had so many empty bottles.” I wonder what people think when they come into my home and see my wine rack full of empties. Do they think I’m a lush? Do they wonder how long it took me to fill the rack with them? Do they think maybe I’m just lazy and don’t like to take out my trash?

In fact, I am just lazy and don’t like to take out my trash. It’s usually late when I drain a bottle, be it with or without company, and who wants to schlep a block to the Dumpster? (Before you get your tights in a wad, I should say that there’s no recycling program in my particular specific location, and no, I will not drive 15 miles to drop off recyclables at the Official Recyclable Drop-Off point. I love the planet, but I hate that smell in my car.)

Here’s what: I moved into this place seven and a half months ago, at which time the rack was empty, save the Chateauneuf. I only drink, at most, a glass of wine a night. Many nights, I don’t drink anything. But you figure a bottle of wine only yields four or five glasses. That means roughly a bottle a week. I generally only buy one bottle at a time, unless I have people over, so there’s rarely an occasion for allowing a collection to grow. Therefore, if anything, the 22 empty bottles of wine indicate that I am behind schedule.

Except I have to confess that I have thrown bottles away. I don’t know how many. Could be six. Could be 20. But aside from laziness, cold weather, hot weather, wet weather, snow, lateness of hour, earliness of hour (depending on one’s perspective), lack of sufficient/suitable clothing for Dumpster-schlepping, lack of appropriate or any footwear, avoidance of neighbors I hear in the hall or outside, and/or absence of makeup, there is a reason that empties wind up perched in the rack.

I keep the bottles that once held the wines that I like, so that I can remember which ones they were. I tend to buy all different kinds of wine. “Oh, Annie said this was good. I’ll try this.” “Oooh, this is the one I heard them talking about on NPR the other day.” “Wow, what a great deal!” “Hey, I heard the ’07 Oregon pinots were awesome, but I never see them anywhere. I gotta grab this one.” These sorts of things. And my addled brain cannot hold on to the names and years of my preferred vintages if they’re not super-ubiquitous labels like Kendall-Jackson or Simi. And then I get all, “Wait, I liked their cab, but do I like their merlot?” Hence, my system.

Once in a while, when I’ve returned from the store ready to cook for a gathering, I find that I don’t have room in the rack for my new purchases. That means I have to clean it out. And yes… I have taken out some empties and left others.

I actually can’t explain why I do that.

I will say, however, that I think an empty wine rack is even sadder and more of a statement on its owner than is a rack full of empty bottles. But I have a new goal. I’m a seasonal wine drinker, meaning I tend to love big, bold, velvety reds in the fall and winter, and crisp, buttery, refreshing whites in the warmer months. So I’m hoping that, as the weather warms and I switch to more whites (which live in my refrigerator), I’ll be able to buy a bottle of white and a bottle of red…

"...perhaps a bottle of Rose' instead..."

… each trip. So the red will go in the rack while the white goes in the chiller. And then I can build my collection of full wine bottles for the rack.

Then all I have to do is get my nephews to stop counting the bottles quite so loudly when they visit.