Two-Two-Two Vacation Tales In One (Lucky You)
Wednesday, November 3, 2010


All right, time to get back to vacation tales. 

You know, by the time I get around to telling you all my travel stories, I'm going to be 92 and instead of the Internet we will just beam ourselves into each other's living rooms. 

And we will be robots. 

Okay, so a few weekends ago I went to Chicago for a girls' weekend. 

And it was insane fun. 

But the thing is, I'm not allowed to talk about it. 

See, I have these friends, dear friends, the kind of friends you can go years without seeing and then when you do finally get together, you just pick right up where you left off last time. And last time, there was some puking going on over my boyfriend's apartment balcony due to a five-dollar-all-you-can-drink-night. And when you're 20 something and the drinks are a five dollar smorgasbord, these things tend to happen. 

I won't say who was doing the puking, but it wasn't me. 

My mom met her BFF Betty when they were toddlers and they have continued to be BFF's their whole life. 

My mom went on to have seven living children. Betty did the same. I think it's like wearing matching best friend necklaces. "Hey, I'm going to have another baby."

"Oh okay, hold up, let me get pregnant, too. Cause we're besties and that's how we roll!"

We had four girls. They had five. 

And together, we were trouble with a capital T that rhymes with P and that stands for Pool or perhaps PMS, with that amount of girls. 

My sisters and I can be a bit wild—some more than others. Ahem. 

Our other sisters are out of their gourd wild. And not to mention beautiful. 

And so whenever we get together, it's crazy time. 

And that is why I am not allowed to talk about it. 

I am not allowed to talk about the enormous black bruise on my hip. The kind you notice in the shower and go, "The hell? How did that get there?" The only thing I can attribute it to is possibly when I was on the ground in the Sushi restaurant demonstrating my Pilates side plank pose. Or perhaps it could be from the photos we took at 3:00 am while lying in a bed of flowers in some of Chicago's best landscaped courtyards. I don't know. I'm not allowed to talk about it. 

Nor am I allowed to talk about someone banging on the wrong hotel room door in the middle of the night. And when the people in the room said in their frightened voices, "Wrong room", this person just might have said something about "The hell it is. Open the door right now" and "I know you're in there, so let me in!" And that person might just have been, (whispering) one of our mothers

And I certainly can't talk about drinking shots with the Men's Handball Team who were super fun and great sports or dancing on stage in da club or doing the caterpillar crawl across that stage or belting out "Macho Man" in the middle of the Tapas restaurant and getting the whole restaurant to join in or losing the mothers in an abortion clinic because they thought it looked like a nice place to use the bathroom. 

I can't talk about any of that. Because they are my Ginas, (A girl term. Think about it.) and we have a vow that what happens with the Ginas stay with the Ginas. 

So instead, I'll show you some pictures of my beautiful friends and share a vacation tale with you that I CAN talk about. 
This is my Gina, Nancy. And she is scrunching down in the picture so that her model height does not make me look even more like one of the seven dwarfs. 

This is my personal BFF Gina, Mary, who may or may not have been part of the five dollar drink ordeal. Oh and did I mention, she's a grandmother? That's right, a granny. 
And the twenty something year old lady in the glasses front and center is Mary's daughter. 

The flower girl at my wedding. 
My, how time whooshes by. 

Now, before I tell you my tale, I want to say that I'm not usually one to give you bit by bit details of our vacation. I tell you about the interesting or the bizarre or the magnificent. 

I've got a lot more bizarre tales coming your way. This is my magnificent one. 

My Hubby and I collect wine. And so we travel up to the wine country of California quite a bit. 

We know it well. So well that we are often heralded by name when we walk in to some of our favorite wineries. 

I'm not trying to be all bragadocious. I'm just setting the stage. 

What I'm saying is, we're the people you want to come to when you're planning a trip to our motherland. I can even tell you at certain wineries which wine hosts are gracious and full of information and which ones must have a grape vine up their ass.  

On our recent trip to the wine country, two of my sisters joined us along with my sister's husband Scott. 

Scott informed us that he had a winery appointment already set up at Verismo Wines. A friend of his who owns some restaurants in Chicago had just bought some wine from this winery and Scott's friend had insisted we stop by. 

We were all, "Huh. Okay, we've never heard of the wine, but we'll go to your little winery appointment."

Even my sister confided to me that she was nervous about bringing us to some podunk winery in the sticks somewhere. 

But we are equal wine drinking opportunists, so off we went. 

As we drove, our navigation system took us through a few shady areas of town and so, of course, we all had to rib Scott with talk of, "Oh yeah, this is going to be great, Scott." And "Should we keep our purses in the car?"

We were all so full of our self inflated selves, until suddenly, the street opened up and the crappy shacks disappeared and in their stead were row upon row of beautiful wine estates. 

And then we pulled up to one of those estates. 

And the sign in the opulent portico said, "Welcome Scott and Friends."

We're pretty big wine enthusiasts and we've never had our own SIGN. 

As we were admiring the sign and the sweet and cuddly dogs, out of the mansion came this tall man bellowing out a welcome

And that's when we met Frank. And the festivities began. 

He ushered us out to his pool, where wine and a treasure trove of succulent meats and beautiful fruits from his estate were waiting for us. 

Frank told me to wade into the pool, which I, of course, did, up to my ankles. That's never happened before. It should have been my first indication. 
And please excuse all of our blue toothed smiles in these pictures, it's a common casualty of tasting wine all day. 

After an array of incredible whites, Frank then led us up to the balcony where he had another feast waiting for us. He brought out the reds, amazing reds, and grilled bruschettas and more amazing meats. 

No winery owner has ever grilled for me before. 

We feasted on Frank's gourmet delicacies and lush, heady wines and enjoyed the splendor of a Napa afternoon overlooking the winery. 

Frank kept our glasses full and was truly the most gregarious, wonderful host I've ever encountered. 

And not only that, Frank likes the ladies. A lot. 

And he was quite fond of my sisters and me, especially one of my sisters. I won't say which one but she is single and beautiful and has the rockin body of a marathon runner which is exactly what she is, a marathon runner. 

Bacchus would have approved of our gluttonous feast of food and wine. When we were full to the brim, Frank took us into his wood shop where he creates beautiful things out of the diverse wood of California. We happened to pick up a gorgeous cutting board while we were there, a souvenir of our time with Frank. 

And then Frank treated us to more wine. 

He and my Hubby got along famously. They bonded over their love of wines, mutual wine friends and their shared love of weaponry.

When my Hubby acknowledged that our dream is to move to the wine country and start dabbling in wine, Frank insisted we call him on our next trip. Not only is Frank a restauranteur, carpenter and winery owner, his main claim to fame is land developer. He told us he'd find us the best deal around and that he knew of several places just down the road from him that were available. 

Later on, when I mentioned to the Hubby that it would be really cool to be Frank's neighbor my Hubby replied with, "I think that might be too dangerous."

I asked him if he meant the bazillion dollars it would probably take to buy something in that neighborhood. He said, no, that it would be dangerous to have Frank in our life every single day. 

After our evening, I could only agree. 

Somewhere along the way, after the trillionth bottle of wine was opened, Frank took us into his beautiful home and down into his wine cellar. 

I won't show those photos because they are of Frank's home and I've done enough to invade his privacy today, just know that his home was spectacular. 

But I will show you this. 

As a wine collector, I will tell you this wine is one of the most generous, gracious offerings we have ever known.  

My hubby was drooling over Frank's wine collection when he spotted this. A Charles Krug 1978 Cabernet is a wine collector's dream. A shining star in any wine collection. As soon as my hubby started oohing and ahhing over this, Frank said simply, "Here, let's open it."

And we did. And it was extraordinary, utterly extraordinary. 

We had reservations for that evening at Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen and as the night wore on, Frank's fabulous assistant kept calling the restaurant and postponing our reservation. 

We were just having too much fun, basking in the brilliance of this generous, larger than life man. Finally we said, "Hey Frank, why don't you join us." 

And so he did. And the debauchery continued. 

I've never had a winery owner join us for dinner. 

Frank, of course, sat in between my sister and me and as the waiter went to take our order, he said, "Frank, what will you have?"

Frank said, "Hey, how do you know my name?"

And the waiter said, "Everyone in this town knows who you are, Frank."

The next day we visited Biale Wines, another one of our favorites. We mentioned our fabulous day to our friend, Kandice, a very beautiful girl, who runs the tasting room at Biale. 

She said two things: "You were with FRANK? Now, that is one man who knows how to have a party! Just about everyone in this valley would give their right arm for an invitation to Frank's."

And then there was this: "Frank is the only man my husband insists on sitting between us."

An apt description of Frank. 

Frank invited us all back to his Harvest Party, a huge bash he has at the end of Harvest every year. Kenny Loggins was coming to sing. 

Kenny Loggins! I say with a bit of a squeal. 

Frank's Harvest Party coincided with our reunion in Chicago. 

My sister, the attorney, tried to persuade Frank to send a corporate jet out for all of us ladies. We assured him we would liven up his party, big time. 

Frank loved the idea, but of course that was after many wine pourings. 

The jet never came for us. 

Frank, this is what you missed. 
And yes, that is whip cream. That's my Ginas. 

But even without meeting Kenny Loggins and traveling on a corporate jet with my Ginas, we had a magnificent time with our friend Frank. And our wine hats are off to our brother-in-law Scott. He gave us the best wine experience we will ever know. 

Thanks Frank and Verismo. You guys are the best. 

A little editing note: This month is a big month for writers everywhere. November brings one of the biggest writing contests around. It's called NaNoWriMo. It's a contest that encourages seat of your pants writing by asking writers to write a 50,000 word novel in one month's time. It's daunting, difficult and it can light the creative fires like nothing else. My friend Ash and a few others have decided to give it a whirl. Ash, Love and Luck, baby. As Ash told me her reasons for doing it, I felt inspired and vowed to finish my revisions and be READY. TO. GO. by the end of November. I'm calling it my own NaNoWriMo. 

And in order to do that, I have to scale back. Less housework, (what a dang shame), less cooked meals, (Who am I kidding, I wasn't cooking in the first place.), less pampering of my family and sadly, less blogging. 

It's not forever. I'll be over here at least ONCE A WEEK. (I capitalize that, because every time I announce I have to blog less frequently, inevitably somebody comments, "No! You're leaving blogging! No!) ONCE A WEEK, friends.  

But what I might really suck at for this month, is being a good blog friend. You might not see or hear from me very much. I might not be able to answer your comments. I might not be visiting your blogs but know that I love each and every one of you. I just have to get this done. For me. 

I'll be back before you know it. I hope I can do this. Wish me luck. I need it. 

Today's Definite Download: Stephen Kellogg and the The Sixers', sweet and lovely ballad, "Keep Me In Your Thoughts" for all of you wonderful, lovely friends. 

Perhaps, you could keep me in your thoughts and perhaps even in a prayer or two, as I round this final bend in my journey and finish up this just most beloved thing I have spent so many days and hours pouring my heart into.

"Keep me in your thoughts while I'm away."

I would like that very much. 



The Furry Godmother said...

I'd wish you lots of love and luck, Joann, but it looks like you have more than your fair share of it.


Have fun writing...

Deidra said...

Frank sounds smashing. :)

Good luck with your November escapades! Keep us updated on how it goes.

duffylou said...

Thoughts of you always, Joann. I live my life vicariously through you as I sit in my living room. The best of luck with you novel in November.

Tracie Nall said...

Much love and good thoughts to you. You will be missed in your less frequent appearances around blog-land this month...but I will console myself that this is an investment in one day going to a bookstore to purchase your book. (while possibly squealing loudly that I "know" you to each person who will listen to me in the bookstore while my husband tries to hide behind a bookcase)

The visit to Frank's sounds amazing! As does the Chicago trip!

Sandra said...

I thought I had read that you were in the process of editing a, you're my hero! Is it fiction? Memoir? Can't wait! You'll have to do a book signing in lil' ol' Winnipeg, Canada so I can come out and hug you! Heck, you can stay at my place!
Your pictures were terrific, I love seeing your pretty, always smiling face.
The story of your sisters and your other sisters is awesome. Isn't that the truth that when one bestie gets pregnant, the other does too! So true! But my favourite part of this was the story of seeing the bruise on your hip and saying, "The hell?..." I'm still laughing because I can totally picture the look of confusion on your face!
Great post, and I know you aren't leaving, so I won't feel too too abandoned, just lonely! xoxox

Cheryl said...

OMG - GINAS? I LOVE that! And I am so envious of getting to grow up with all those great Ginas, er, women.

Love your stories!

Also? Hope you're writing is going well!!

Noelle said...

Just remember...I want an autographed copy!

Do you ever, in all of that wine tasting, just get tired of wine? Is that blasphemos to even ask?

One Photo said...

I am here drinking a cup of herbal tea to warm up my germ infested self before spending the afternoon making things out of play doh and falling over and positively drooling over your winery trip and your wine and food tasting extravaganza.

Good luck with your novel pursuits.

TesoriTrovati said...

You go girl! I am rooting for you to make your goal happen. Do what you need to do. We will be here waiting for you.
I went to Napa once. I didn't have nearly that experience (apparently only those with lucky stars do ;-)
What an incredibly generous soul Frank is... I was thinking he would have made you buy shares in his winery or something.

Enjoy the day. Now get back to writing!


twelvedaysold said...

Ugh, I want to go out with you SO BAD! Someday, my friend, someday.

Good luck writing and editing!

Anita @ GoingALittleCoastal said...

I can so picture you on the floor of the sushi restaurant doing the side plank pose. Way to go girl! I hate that pose.

Good luck with your final stretch. I know you'll do us proud.

Shell said...

Frank definitely missed out by not sending a jet for you. Um, and for me. B/c I want to go, too.

Good luck with all your editing this month. And I'm always around, even if all you want to do is scream about something!

Anonymous said...

Lord, I can't keep up with your travels. And it makes me jealous. Like I am of the wine carrier thing.
Also? Because I am a clutz and insist on wearing really tall shoes I ALWAYS have ginormous bruises and no idea where they came from.

Michelle @Flying Giggles said...

Good luck on the contest. It sounds amazing.

And please, the next time you have a girls weekend, invite me. You all sound like my type of crowd!

Cheeseboy said...

Frank sounds friggen' awesome. And the ladies... they love him!

The Bipolar Diva said...

I'm envious! I want fun like that!

Anonymous said...

OK, You are excused. UGOJOGINA. Get it? Ha. Wishing you lots of love and productivity. You don't need the luck-you rock-but wishing you some anyway.

Cathy Olliffe-Webster said...

Frank sounds like he should be a character in your novel. You. Are. So. Blessed!

Anonymous said...

Oh how I love your stories!!!

And I just want to ay thankyouverymuch. I was feeling kind of pretty today until I say that pic of the supermodel Gina.

Sweet Mary Mother, please tell me she does, in fact, model?

And Frank. WOW. What a tale. What a man!

Get the writing done before the holidays then you can celebrate guilt free!!!!!!

Mrs. Ohtobe said...

Great the City lifted the ban on you and now you are off doing writer stuff! ;) Good Luck!!

Dawn in D.C. said...

Wow! What a vacation! Well, both of them.

Yeah, I wanna be one of your Ginas. LOL

Gretchen Seefried said...

You write it and I will plug it with all my heart; you are my absolutely favoritest blogger in the whole wide world! Wish you were my sis!

Cecelia Winesap said...

I love reading your vacation tales with wine and friends! Seeing as I am an anti-social homebody, I can live vicariously through you!

Liz said...

In college we called them MDBs...mysterious drunken bruises.

Of course, you look like you had a fabulous time. But you always seem to have a fabulous time! That's the way to live life, Joann. Good for you!

Ash said...

I want your life, Frank and all.


And I love how the flower girl still has the same open-mouth smile. What an incredibly blessed group of Ginas.

(on a personal note, I got chills, honest-to-goodness chills, reading my little ole name here on your blog. The writing is going well, almost to 6,000 words, so somehow I'm still on track. And between you and me, loving EVERY second of it. Better than fine wine and that view. Not by much though. Hope all is well under your writing rock.)

purplume said...

I'm doing Nano too. I'm off to a late start, but not completing would be inconceivable. I'm purplume over there too, if you want to be buddies?
I need me some wine, coffee to start.

jayayceeblog said...

Oh dear God, what a party. Both parties! You definitely had me at Kenny Loggins. Now I'm in the mood for a glass of wine!

Baby Sister said...

Looks like a blast!! Frank sounds like an interesting man. :)

Good luck with your editing!! Sending happy thoughts and prayers your way.

Yuliya said...

Joann, you always sound like you are having the most fun ever. And Frank? I didn't know people like Frank still existed...
Feel free to take me with you anywhere you are headed, anytime, seriously.

Meg at the Members Lounge said...

How I missed this post I don't know! As I can surely attest, you are a wonderful guide to the "motherland", which I think is a perfect description of wine country. I'm still swooning over my vascation!

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