The Nevada City Wine Diaries
Yesterday at 11 a.m. I had two desires. One was to pee, the other was to make myself two boiled eggs. I filled a pan — the sort of truly shitty pan you find in a co-working space and over time grow strangely fond of — with water. I set two eggs in it. One of the men at my co-working space likes to borrow my eggs. He replaces them with white eggs if mine are brown, brown if mine are white. I just kind of wish he would leave my eggs alone. These were white eggs — not my original eggs — and I felt a perfunctory stab of annoyance that he touches my eggs in the first place (and then elaborately explains his system of replacement) which I blame on what happened next. Or maybe I should blame the fact that the coffeemaker in my co-working place sits in a burner on the stove.
This bears repeating: The coffeemaker in my co-working space sits on a burner on the stove.
(Or it used to.)
I took a full three or four seconds to look at the stove dial and make sure I was turning on the right burner. I assured myself that I was. I turned on the stove and headed into the bathroom, directly off the kitchen. I emerged from the bathroom forty-five seconds later to see the coffeemaker on fire.
I blew on it, hard. Flames rose up from the base of the coffee maker. There were ropes of black plastic hanging from the metal burner grate, these too blazing away. “Help, help! I NEED HELP!” I screamed. There were three people in the co-working space at the time: the egg-borrower; Ned, a graphic designer who shares my office and gets sick when he smells almost anything but fresh air and is such a nice, non-dramatic person he has me convinced this is a real thing; and Matt, the guy with the office next to ours, who delights me daily by having long phone conversations with his wife in almost wholly unaccented French. None of these people appeared. I screamed some more.
By the time Matt sauntered into the kitchen three minutes later I had thrown half a carton of salt on the fire and the worst was over. Matt is between fifty and sixty, short and stocky, with white hair and a white beard. He has a bureaucratic job involving swamps. “Wow,” he said, looking at the coffeemaker. He seemed both sorry for me and happy that this had not happened to him.
He left me there with my mess and went back upstairs to write emails about herons and mud. I felt very jealous of him and anyone in the world doing anything other than cleaning this up. I was also enraged. Whose brilliant fucking idea was it to keep the coffeemaker on a burner on the stove? I had a memory of objecting to its placement and being ignored. This of course made me angrier, and since I was angrier, I had to also feel more stupid. The two feelings were in a neck and neck race, neither would slow or tire.
Walls were kicked. My dog, Merle ran into the kitchen and just as quickly ran out. “Merle,” I said, choking back a sob, feeling her innocence so acutely next to my own failure. Ned appeared in a paper face mask. “Oh boy,” he said. He exuded a lot more empathy than Matt did, though this is not to suggest that Matt is a bad person. He is a wonderful person who happens to get more nervous around upset women than Ned.
Ned suggested opening all the doors and I realized that in addition to being furious and feeling like an idiot I had a horrible headache from inhaling burnt plastic. “Thousands of years of evolution have not prepared us for breathing in that shit,” Ned said though his mask. His calm rage at our polluted and bankrupt culture was as good as a warm hug. Here’s a handy cleaning tip — you can’t wipe up plastic-flecked salt out of a stove’s nether regions with paper towels. The closet holding our vacuum cleaner was locked, which prompted me to kick another wall, and to augment the kick by shouting the word “cocksucker.”
I drove home to get my own vacuum in the driving rain storm that has been going on since the dawn of time. I drove fast. An enormous jacked-up blue dually truck, covered in bumper stickers that let everyone know exactly what kind of person owns an enormous jacked-up blue dually truck in case anyone forgot, lurched out of Plaza Tires. I had to swerve to avoid it. He honked and I screamed, “I hate you,” into the mildewed abyss of my responsibly tiny car.
I was going to write a long paragraph about vacuuming up the salt and plastic but I think you all understand how suction works. And really I would just be avoiding the worst part of all of this, which was that the burner grates and other burner apparatus were crusted with melted plastic. Some of it chipped off easily, like icicles off a pipe. But you can’t just look at a stove grate, announce “I got most of the toxic melted black plastic off of it! I am a hero!” and return it to use. It was all or nothing. This was nothing. It was going to have to be replaced. This was going to be a pain, and it was going to be expensive, and even though the kitchen was clean, I did not feel much of a sense of victory.
The egg-borrower appeared. “What happened?” he said. I told him. He did not say anything. Perhaps the egg borrower is smarter than I give him credit for. (I know I told you what Ned and Matt do for work but I have not told you what the egg-borrower does because I have no idea.)
That night, a friend invited me over for drinks. I was very excited, because that almost never happens here. He offered me a beer, and I asked him if he had any Scotch, because although a day that begins with lighting a coffee maker on fire is not a day you have any hope of recovering, you may well attempt to recover that night with a nice Scotch. The news got even better — he had Glenmorangie, my favorite decent but unspectacular single-malt Scotch, incidentally also the favorite but unspectacular single-malt Scotch of the two Scottish people I know.
There is a lot one could say about Scotch. Here is the bare minimum: Other decent but unspectacular single malts include Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, and Laphroaig. (And here I am talking about the basic versions of them one gets in a bar or supermarket. Each brand has older, more expensive bottles.) Glenlivet and Glenfiddich are just textbook Scotch. They taste like Scotch. They taste a little peaty. (Peat is, extremely briefly, sort of like mud but with more vegetation in it than dirt. That is not exactly right but it’s right enough. Dried peat is burned as the barley malt used to make Scotch dries, and it imparts to the malt a — hahahaha — peaty flavor. What is the flavor of peat? Order a peaty Scotch and you will know.) Laphroaig is really peaty and a little chemical tasting. Dudes or “cool girls” might brag that they like Laphroaig the best because it’s almost bad-tasting. I totally like it, and I’m always happy to see it, but Glenmorangie is easier to drink. It is a little fruitier and more vanilla-flavored than its colleagues. That said, it doesn’t get made fun of. It is not spiritually the Chardonnay of decent Scotch even if it maybe deserves to be? Or maybe it is, but no one told me.
All I know is that I drank a big fat glass of it with several cubes of ice and forgot about the fact that I had woken up feeling broke but determined to accomplish something and instead spent my entire morning fixing up a mess that would end up costing me $100.
I could end the piece right here and it might be better than how it’s going to end up. But then it wouldn’t be the truth, and [insert sanctimonious observations about truth.]
My friend and I started talking, and I was really excited to talk to him, because he is from the area, and I wanted to know what he thought about the near-disaster that had just taken place at the Oroville Dam emergency spillway and its relationship to climate change. However, quite abruptly, and much to my surprise, I discovered that my friend did not accept the scientific consensus on climate change. Not only that, but he started telling me that sunspots — sunspots — had a big influence on the climate. And not only that, when I said, “I have to say that sounds really ridiculous,” he acted like I was kind of ridiculous. This is a big trick in Northern California: “Oh, I guess you haven’t read all of Dr. Wakefield’s work?” you might hear, as if the person were wearing a monocle instead of steampunk-inspired yoga pants.
The whole time he was talking — yes, he talked about volcanoes being a big factor in climate change at one point, and yes, every single thing hyperlinked here is an article from a different publication about how all this is a load of crap — all I could think was, “Will there ever come a day when I say something to someone from Northern California and they just flat-out agree with me?”
I still had a nice time. My friend made me some ramen. I told him how, while I was watching a show about a ramen chef, I wrote a friend of mine who loves ramen to ask if he’d ever heard of him, and he wrote back, “getting on subway.” The next day I looked at my phone to see the words “THE WORST FUCKING RAMEN OF ALL TIME,” and it took me a full ten seconds to orient myself, which is, I added, the same amount of time it takes a coffee maker to go up in flames. My friend laughed and we were able to forget that we lived in entirely different realities. I could have left, but instead, I had another sizable Glenmorangie. The rain pounded the roof and lashed at the sides of the house with post-truth unrepentance.