When I was in my late teens, early twenties I lived in the Auburn/Opelika area. I had moved there to go to college, but mental immaturity ended that venture after my first year. My mother was actively dying from congestive heart failure and that stress, plus the stress of trying to get keep up when I was out of my depth created a perfect little break down. I would go for weeks with only a few hours of sleep. Looking back, I can see how manic my brain had become. It's impossible to sleep when your brain won't shut down, so I would find things to do to keep it occupied. I would drive for miles and miles and miles, sometimes ending up as far away as Columbus, Georgia. One of my favorite places to go to kill time was a little diner just outside of Auburn.
This is a poem I wrote about that tiny little diner. My favorite thing to order was a breakfast burrito. It was filled with eggy potato cheesy goodness with a nice salsa over everything.
Something happened on Twitter this morning that set my mind going on words. Words, words, words, in the beginning was the Word. Words are powerful.
But first, to put things into perspective for you, Gentle Reader, I need to do something that I don’t often do. I have to open up about myself. But only a little.
When I was a youngling, I was different than the other kids. Today, I would probably be labeled gender-nonconforming but back then I was just called a sissy. Growing up where I did, in rural Alabama, this lead to a lot of teasing. Teasing not only from my peers, but from within my family as well. My naiveté, my gullibility, my fledgling queerness all made me the perfect target for ridicule.
My older brother is 15 years my senior, he was the center for the high school football team, ran his own logging business, the very definition of a redneck. All my life he has picked on me. Most of the time it was verbal, but sometimes it would be physical. The oh so fun StopHittingYourself gag never got old. One of my his favorite admonishments to me was if I didn’t behave he would “put you in ruffled drawers.” Leviticus 18:22 was thrown around a lot as I hit puberty. Another favorite was when I was asked if I sat down to pee (because sitting to pee was something girls did). Ridicule is something that I grew up with. It became the norm.
You learn to hate yourself when your errors are pointed out to everyone.
Earlier today I found a post on Tumblr about how Google planned to use profiles for advertising. I copied the link to the article and posted it on Twitter with the caption “Goddammit google. Don't. just. just. Omg.” One of my followers tweeted me back “Um, that's like 6 months old…”, “So, SURPRISE! *blows party horn, throws glitter and confetti*” and finally “–Later…–Google Exec 1: Let's release a giant worm to devour Alabama & see if anyone notices. GE2: I know one won't! All: HAHAHAHA.”
To be honest, my first reaction was to lash out in anger. My first reaction was to say some very mean things and use language that I would be ashamed of later. Instead, I took some time to compose myself before I addressed this and I think that it was a good thing I did. What could have turned into a flame war with one person insulting the other until one of us ragequit instead became an apology and the impetus for this little bit of writing. I said, “Thanks for publicly pointing out that error in the most sarcastic and humiliating way possible. #buildingselfesteem”. Which prompted my follower to apologize.
In his apology, my follower used a phrase that got me thinking about the power of words. My follower tweeted, “Dude, I didn't mean to humiliate, was just poking fun. Sorry for offending.” I started thinking about what “poking fun” meant. A quick trip to the Google and I found according to Oxford Dictionaries dot com, “Poking Fun” is a verb that means “To tease or make fun of, synonymous with ridicule” So when you are poking fun, you are ridiculing someone. Now, poking fun implies a lightheartedness without malice. Ridicule has a different weight entirely. Ridicule comes from a mean place. When you are poking fun at someone, you are being mean to them. Your words, whether intentional or not, are meant to harm.
When words are used injudiciously they can harm. Words have power. Be careful with your words.
This past Sunday was Mother's Day. Everyone everywhere was wishing mothers a happy them day. This year was especially poignant for me. My own mother had died in 1990. That's far enough away that the hurt isn't as bad. Except for this year. This year was different. My husband's mother, my mother-in-law, died earlier this year.
When I started dating my husband, his mother accepted me as her own. She took me into her family. My welfare was almost as important to her as her own children. This means a lot when you are a gay man in South Alabama. Acceptance isn't something that's readily available in the south. My own family is not accepting. They are cordial. It would be unseemly if they were rude to my husband in public. But he isn't included. There are no presents for me to take to him during the holidays. They never visit us. So being accepted by my husband's family, especially by his mother, means a lot.
This past Sunday was Mother's Day. It was a difficult one. But the Saturday before, my husband and I celebrated 9 years together as a couple. This July we will celebrate our 1 year wedding anniversary. I know my mother-in-law is so proud of us. Because we are her sons.
Our final day on the Georgia Wine Highway 2014 Wooooo started at 9am. We left our rooms at the Days Inn in Clayton and went across the street to the Huddle House to PUTALLTHEFOODINOURBELLIES, or as normal humans say, have breakfast. When I am doing diner breakfast I like to scrambled eggs, hash browns, and toast. This morning, when the waitress asked what kind of toast I wanted I asked her to surprise me. I have to say rye toast is perfect with scrambled eggs and hashbrowns.
With our bellies full we headed out into the Georgia mountains to finish up the wine highway. Our first order of the day was to find the new Yonah Mt. tasting room. After driving for a bit, we found the new tasting room. The move was a good one for them, too. The new tasting room is located on the vineyard and the views are incredible there. After finding Yonah, we had a couple more hours to kill so we headed into Helen, Georgia to kill some time at the grist mill at the Nora Mill Granary and the Naccochee Antique store in the historic Nacoochee Village. The grist mill is a water powered old school mill that uses 200 year old french grindstones to mill corn into some of the best grits you can put in your face. Across the street the antique store is 3 floors of kitschy goodness. This year was a bit disappointing, however. It seemed as though that had gotten rid of a lot of stuff. It just didn’t seem as packed with stuff as it usually did.
At 11:00 we left the Nacoochee village and headed back to Yonah to get our tasting started. The new tasting room was spectacular. It made me wish that we lived closer so we could visit more often. The standout wine for me this trip was the dessert wine. An ice style wine called the La Fin. I am a big fan of the sweets and this wine was so good that we had to get a bottle to bring home for our tasting.
After Yonah we headed to Serenity Cellars. We missed the turn to Serenity, our phones GPS is spotty at best in the mountains. A short trip down a dirt road, we found the tasting room. It looked like someone tried to build an Olive Garden. Walking to the tasting room, we were greeted by a pourer who was seated next to a fire pit that was full of burning heart pine. The wine tasted great but all we could smell was the burning pine resin. Inside the tasting room, we made our way through racks of wine themed t-shirts to the bar and got our first, not pine tar tainted, tasting. We have had Serenity wines before at other venues and they are generally very good wined but this trip we were unimpressed. Delivery and environment is just as important as the wine you are pouring and Serenity just fell flat.The pourer exuded arrogance and was more interested in telling us how good he was at what he did than giving us a taste of wine. In fact, his bad attitude left a very bad taste in our mouths.
After Serenity, we headed to one of our favorite stops, Sautee Nacoochee Vineyards. Sautee has some fantastic wines. We always buy a couple of bottles of their Red-Headed Stepchild when we are there. It’s a semi-sweet red that is just luscious. Another perk of visiting Sautee Nacoochee is the wine slushies. Wine Slushies. WINE SLUSHIES. We broke out our picnic foods, grabbed our wine slushies and settled in for a lunch while listening to Monica Spears sing some great jazz.
Fortified with cheese and bread, we headed to our last stop back in Helen. Habersham always has an interesting tasting for the Wine Highway folks. Haversham takes small groups into the tank room. As you wait you can take advantage of the complimentary tasting at the bar up front. This year, one of the servers was overly pushy and it turned me off. It’s not good to take my pen out of my hand when I am deciding what wines to taste, even if you do want me to mark my tasting card a certain way. The tasting that they had for the wine highway participants more than made up for a rude server. Tom guided us through our tasting and the highlight was the 2004 Chambourcin. Wineries put a few bottles aside each year to see how they will age and the side by side tastings of the different years chambourcin was an education in itself. After the tasting, we were shown the automatic bottler. It’s always good to see the different goings on behind the scenes.
After we finished our tasting and tour, we headed back to R__ and B__s place for supper and sleep. And the evening and the morning were the final day.
Monday we were up and headed back home to Mobile. This years highway was spectacular. I can hope that next years will be just as good. With the itinerary that R__ made, we had no problems visiting a majority of the wineries on the highway. The only wineries that we didn’t visit were ones that we had no intention of visiting, either because of bad wines or bad service. I have to admit, we are concerned with the Wine Growers Association of Georgia will permanently change the format of the wine highway to a 2 day 2 weekend event. It is much easier on us to travel from Mobile for a 3 day weekend.