Karma Chameleon

We hospitality workers subtly shift roles to seek the same beauty guests do.

Most people—you and me and that woman making your latte and that man turning down your bed—we want the same thing. We want to taste beauty so potent it transforms us. “She wants to hear wine pouring,” writes the poet Rita Dove,“… taste change.” We pursue that beauty relentlessly, if in different ways.

Those of us working in hospitality, however, lead double lives.

I am one of you; I am not one of you. Here I am behind the bar; there I am slipping from my post to mingle with the crowd. First I pour your wine; later I sip from my own glass. We are alike, you and me—although when I pull on my work boots, tie back my hair, and roll up my sleeves, the resemblance might be hard to see.

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It wasn’t purely aesthetics that first drew me to wine—I can’t make such a romantic claim. Necessity factored heavily. At the height of the Recession, I arrived in Sonoma County with a lagging freelance business and no safety net. I felt wildly lucky, then, to find a gig working with a boutique winery. I’d soon become their first full-time employee. Seven years later, I still help run the place.

No, I didn’t come to wine just for the beauty—but I stayed for it. Continue reading

“It’s important to find your lens.” In conversation with writer Cathy Huyghe

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Cathy Huyghe is an author with an appetite.

In Cavalier Career, we explore the will to do good work. So what kind of work does it take–really–to bring wine to the table?  Consider:.

  • A harvest crew skilled not only at picking fruit, but hunting rabbits.
  • Courage enough to traverse war-torn Syria in a taxicab full of ripening grapes.
  • Nerve to skirt the law, particularly in Turkey, where it is illegal to market wine and the consequences may be harsh.
  • Patience as long as the life cycle of a koala bear: If eight years pass before you bottle your wine, then so be it.
  • Hunger. Voracious hunger.

That last bit, according to writer Cathy Huyghe, is key. Whether the ache of passion or of physical appetite, hunger drives the wine business. It also drives our own private pursuits. 

RedCoverHFW-1In Hungry for Wine: Seeing the World through the Lens of a Wine Glass, Huyghe uncorks bottles
and stories from around the world. With uncommon curiosity, she looks past the luxe labels and technical tasting notes to global socioeconomics. The resulting twelve “conversations about wine” (as she calls them) reveal the humanity behind one of the world’s most celebrated beverages–and the drive it takes to pursue one’s hunger. 
Continue reading

Storm-Chasing & Peace-Seeking

My migration across the country fifteen years ago was a pivotal point in my life. It constituted a great leap toward dreams I’d held since I was a little girl–and the beginning of my Cavalier Career.

For all the gifts of that move (and they have been countless) it also brought chaos. This week, my essay “Dock of the Bay” reflects on the ongoing quest for peace amid unrest, and the lessons of a life in motion. Thanks to Misadventures magazine for the publication.

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Voice in the Vineyard

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“When people don’t express themselves, they die one piece at a time.” 

~Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak

“The gift turned inward, unable to be given, becomes a heavy burden, even sometimes a kind of poison. It is as though the flow of life were backed up.”      ~ May Sarton

Dark shit, no? When I read that tidbit from Ms. Sarton, I always imagine some kind of nasty infection one might contract in a hospital. I think of words multiplying in my system, thickening like sludge in my veins and eventually shutting me down altogether.

Silence: what a way to go. Surely there’s a way to avoid such a tragic fate.

It took years for me to understand that my need to write has something to do with a need to be heard. That my drive to do good work—which has veered toward workaholism—stems from a half-innocent, half-deranged desire to make a difference. And that all of it is partly traceable to some kind of anxious, middle-child complex. Hey! listen! I have something important to say!  Continue reading