Monday, October 20, 2003

a wallflower at heart

Some friends invited us to a lavish housewarming. They had built the home from scratch and we had watched it evolved over the past couple of years. But a building is just a building and doesn't really become a home until you bring in your life, which is what the housewarming was for. Invited was a select group of probably the couple's closest and most significant friends, neighbors, etc. (Thus me and the beau were quite honored to be on the list!)

People they didn't think would come, came. Numerous folks from the east coast, and one group from Japan. Sure they came to visit the bay and the valley, but they came also I feel because they understood the housewarming.

So in this home were less than 6 degrees of separation, more like 4 degrees at most who knew this couple, wandering the halls. Some they had seen recently, others they had not seen in years, some had only contact over email or phone. I would watch as they wandered through the house, remembering items from previous abodes.

This table is from New York. I remember this item from San Francisco.

While we had known the couple for only a few years, there were people here who had known them for half a lifetime if not more. As they walked the house, you could see them filling in the gaps, both reflecting on when they had first known the couple to now.

As incredibly social as some of my friends make me out to be, in the end, I'm really a bit of a wallflower and really don't know how to chat, so usually I just listen as other people talk or fall into my wander and watch mode. I would say that I would like to be a fly on the wall, but the husband is quite the bug killer. Suffice it, that I wouldn't be on the wall for very long.

I did meet the neighbors down the hill, whose daughter shared my name, which in general caused them to like people named Michelle. I found out about their family of wild burros living on their land and the fire that swept on their property a few years ago and the providence of the 4pm wind change that saved the "praying" tree and home.

I must say that the couple was quite adept at the seating arrangements, placing people who would probably get along. We had 3 photographers and 4-5 writers/poets. And since the food and wine were exquisite, we all got to be food gourmands. You know when the food is good when each course, no matter how small, leaves one utterly satisfied.

The table was completely confused over the number of utensils at the table. We all knew the general rules about working our way from outside to in. Since the wait service took away plates and utensils that were no longer necessary, we got the answer to our questions after each course. By the end of the evening there was no doubt which fork to use because there was only one left.

There were 4 glasses for wines. Being a novice wine drinker, I would listent to the words passed around the table, like "fresh" and "tannins" and the need for the wine to "breathe." It was like learning a new language, but with your taste buds. Each sip trying to bind words to taste and sensation.

The beau and I had just watched a fashion television show on The Filipino Channel (the satellite tv of ABS-CBN, a major network in the Philippines). The show was general fluff: metrosexuals (single men, with lots of money, and narcissistic enough to be more obsessed with their beauty than most people, but they weren't gay), and fine dining. The fine dining was particularly interesting about the way in which spoons should scoop for soups, how not to eat off of other people's plates to taste, and other formalities of fine dining. Though I understand the need for fine eating ettiquette, it was interesting to see how the way Filipinos interact with food and social eating are contrary to what's considered "fine eating." But more for that on another blog.

Since I'm a sweet tooth, desert was my favorite part of the meal. It was apples and cinnimon on a delectable buttery and flakey pastry with homemade vanilla ice scream followed by an earthquake cookie that simple exploded chocolate in your mouth.

It was already midnight and many of the guests were making their way home. Sandy, being the ever observant poet, asked, "what about the port and cigars?" as noted at the bottom of the menu cards. Indeed a cigar would aptly crown a fine evening full of food and friends.

A handful of guests were staying the night at the christened home. So, with cigar box in hand and uncorked bottle of port, we made our way to a moonfilled porch under the stars in the valley. Though I'm not a heavy drinker, nor a cigarette smoker, I don't mind a cigar now and then, simply for the fact that it's easy to simply taste and puff out as opposed to swallowing it down to your lungs.

My friend Don and I have come across our own ritual between us, that whenever one of us visits the other (we live across the oceans now) we try to make sure there's time to share a fine cigar and liquor, such as tanduay rum or perhaps a fine bottle of wine. Don is such a bad influence. He's the one who introduced me to cigar smoking and wine drinking. It's important to have "bad influences" in one's life.

My beau had never smoked a cigar before. Actually, a few of us had not and it took a few tries to get them lit. Our hostess for the evening, being a fine hostess that she is, taught us the one thing she knew about smoking cigars and port. You dip the non-lit end into the port, then take a puff. You get a kind of swirl of flavors spicy and sweet.

She couldn't recall where she learned that from. I just figured it was her Illocano genes kicking in. Eduardo Masferre, a photographer that travelled throughout the Cordillera mountainous regions, chronicled many a cigar smoking woman. Illocanos know how to smoke a cigar.

As the moon came overhead, we called it a night. I brushed the cigar soot from my mouth. So, I'm all ready for bed, tucked nicely away, barely a sound to be heard in the valley, the moon casting a blue hue on the patio table just outside, our cigar butts left to cool. Then the sound of camera shutter, click, click, click. It's the beau shuttering away. How else can you capture the essence of the kind of evening we just had?

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