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Baltimore in the fall


My friend Pete—and I guess other people—uses the phrase “firing on all cylinders” to describe spans of time when you function at your top-speed. Yesterday, I felt like I was there: despite having a test in my Shakespeare class, I attended all of my classes (and paid attention for the most part). At the end of the class day, I came home, had a beer, skyped my best friend, in Paris, took a short nap, woke up and wrote an op-ed for the school newspaper. Around 2:30 a.m. I rode my bike back to my apartment, where I watched Julia & Julie on Netflix before I fell asleep.

Watching that movie, of course, made me think of this blog. At one point in the film (I don’t know if I should call it a “film”), Amy Adams questions her readers, asking if they in fact exist. For me, that captures the reason I feel a bit anti-blog. Julie Powell’s are flukes on the Internet; how many other blogs have achieved that status?

But I realize, even if no one reads this, it’s not so much the audience that matters for now. When I was writing my op-ed, firing on all cylinders, I was writing really well. I started that column without a vision of where it was headed, and what emerged from my head turned out to be pretty good for a first-run. (I’ll post the link to the op-ed when it’s printed next week in The Greyhound.)

There are times when writing flows so naturally—an idea takes the reigns and kind of writes itself out, and your voice just molds it a little bit. And then there are times when an idea is choppy and tied up in knots, and you eke out an essay, but the reader can tell how forced the concepts were. I think blogging allows someone who presumably likes to write (or, at least, likes to hear the sound of their own voice) to produce a larger mass of work. They say practice makes perfect, so blogging theoretically allows one to practice, but not wholly in vain. Someone, after all, could be reading the blog. Most likely not, but still.

What’s of value, then, in blogging is getting comfortable with forcing out some kind of writing, whether it’s stellar or mediocre at best.

puzzling over chardonnay

Bare Bones

I spent last year in a little town in Belgium called Leuven (in Flanders—the north section of Belgium). While there, I developed an enormous, insatiable thirst for beer. So I try a lot of different beers, and I’m quite fond of a good pils—especially Stella Artois (brewed in my Belgian hometown!).

But, considering the small inner tube that beer can (and has) put around my waist, I’m trying out alternatives. Lately, I’ve been veering toward chardonnay.

It started on my weekend roadtrip to North Carolina over fall break. My cousin, who I was visiting, suggested I do a tasting at the local vineyard co-op, Old North State winery. I tried all of their wines, but one dazzled me: Bare Bones Chardonnay. (See a not-so-nice review here.) For me, it was bright and light and left me wanting more. I bought a bottle to bring home to Baltimore.

Well, I polished that off in a day and a half. So I went in search for more. I knew Bare Bones was an “unoaked chardonnay” so I used that description to follow its lead. At The Wine Source, they recommended Naked, by a California vineyard. The woman who guided my choice mentioned something about unoaked wines being a recent counter-trend in the wine business—a movement away from the more “oaky, smoky, buttery” chardonnays that most vineyards were churning out.

Later that night, after a long day, I popped open the bottle and sampled it with high hopes. Naked was alright, but no Bare Bones. I decided to try again. At Eddie’s of Roland Park, again, I described Bare Bones and based my decision partly on price. After giving another explanation of a few wines involving a lot of words (“round,” “bright,” “mouthful of wood”) that don’t resonate with me when I think of wine, I purchased Rubus. (He really recommended Foxglove, but it was expensive.)

Later, after a night of rounds (I’m an RA in my residence hall), I sat down to write articles for the college newspaper with my wine glass at my side. I alternated between Naked and Rubus—and I started discerning differences in taste and smell.

Ah! Maybe I’m getting chardonnay like I began to get beer, through comparison and practice…I thought. So, my theory is to pick a single adjective when I go into a wine store, ask for the chardonnay that most exemplifies said adjective (say, buttery). Then, with a standard chard to compare it to, I can start learning what people mean when they talk about wine—specifically, chardonnays. But that’s just a launching point.

Hess chardonnay, thus far, has been my favorite. The smell is intoxicating (ha!); I couldn’t stop swirling it in my glass and sinking my nose into the basin to take it in. Right now, my fridge has a near-completed Kendall-Jackson and an unopened Grayson Cellars. Not so happy with Kendall—it’s too sweet. In a perfect world, I’ll keep trying and posting my thoughts.

Photos from just a few of the places I’ve traveled to in the past year: Spain, North Carolina, Hungary, Germany, Bulgaria, and New York.

Photos from my old room in Belgium, in which my brain hatched its sketch of the ideal lifestyle: simple pleasures and lots of free time.

So the dream is…

Full disclosure: this is not my first blog. I have tried to blog twice before; both times were rather unsuccessful. Blogging, to me, feels like uploading thoughts into the ether of the Internet. The motives of hardcore bloggers mystify me.

However, I will say this is the first time I’ve given a mission to my blog. What I would like to examine is what I would be doing right now, today, in a perfect world. With that paradigm, this blog may evade the great Internet orphanage, where my previous two blogs and my Xanga account from 2003 are currently wallowing.

That’s the dream. That this blog will serve as a form of me identifying what I wish I was doing. John Stuart Mill wrote about the differences between higher and lower pleasures; he notes that most men, not deliberately, end up opting for lower pleasures because they’re easier to partake in, or more people prefer them, etc. I see this as a forum to note the higher pleasures I would pursue if I were not juggling responsibilities.