American Idol finalist Anoop Desai, a Chapel Hill native, will be the next guest bartender at downtown Durham's Revolution restaurant and bar. Desai will be mixing cocktails for charity from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tues., April 6, according to a news release.
Twenty percent of the proceeds during Desai's two-hour shift will go to the Eve Carson Memorial Fund. Desai is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, where Carson was student body president when she was killed two years ago. Revolution started its "Guest Mixologist" monthly fundraiser, which has featured Mayor Bill Bell and other local leaders, this year. So far, the program has raised almost $2,500 for charity, said spokeswoman Teresa Anile.
Revolution is located at 107 W. Main St. in downtown.
I was writing last time about how it's been rather pleasant to think, fantasize, etc. about wine during this time of Lenten abstinence, as a surrogate for drinking it. (Practical note: two weeks to go!) I took this daydreaminess to a new level on Saturday by attending a wine auction.
I'd never been to one, and I'm not sure there really are or have been (m)any others around here. But Leland Little, a local auction house, decided recently to add wine to its portfolio; their new wine director, Mark Solomon, a really nice guy whom I last spotted at our restaurant drinking a '99 DRC, came by and invited me. I was on a pretty tight budget, but I looked at the catalog of bottles on offer anyway. (Like I wouldn't?) Most of them were hopelessly superannuated---it is not true that wine gets better with age. Or perhaps it's truer to say that some wine gets better, for a while, and then gets worse. There was a lot of Bordeaux from the not-very-good 1972 vintage, all way past its prime, and with scary looking ullage in some cases. There was a fair amount of California stuff that I wasn't interested in; there was a lot of status wine you can't really drink at this point---you'd be best off to stick it on your mantle and show it off, and thereby appear to be a wine snob of terminal rank. This stuff is meant to be consumed, people! It ain't trophies!
But there were a few lots that had promise and appeal, so there I was---brochure in hand, handwritten notes, dollar amounts---on Saturday. Not long before they got to the wine portion of the auction (this was an all-day affair, hundreds of things for sale from 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM), a guy in front of me spent about $20,000 on old vases in about 10 minutes. In other words, this was not a room for amateurs. Great bargains were generally not be had.
Good thing I had my notes. Each lot of wine was hustled through the process in about, oh, 45 seconds. The auctioneer did his rat-a-tat thing, the internet-bid guy kept going "hup!" and the phone proxies kept going "yep!" and a few of us in the actual room occasionally raised our hands and that is how a wine could start under $200 and sell for over $500 practically before you could even say the entire name of it. Good thing I had previously crunched my numbers. I bid on a few things but didn't quite win the Sociando-Mallet 1983 or the Abbona Barolo 1989; just barely refrained from upping my bid on the Smith Haut-Lafitte (also 1983); got blown away on the A. Grivault Meursault 1990 "Clos des Perrieres." It was Heather who noticed that the vast majority of the wine, thousands of dollars' worth---including all of those dead 1972's---was bought by the same phone bidder, the mysterious "No. 51." Hey, pal, leave some for the rest of us next time.
But it was a lot of fun, and in the rather giddy experience of looking and bidding, I actually felt I had had a little wine by the end of the day. I even managed to lay off buying a beautiful little Santenay that's been sitting patiently on the Hillsborough Weaver Street's shelf, getting better with age, for over a year now.
There was another reason I felt I had had a little wine, too.
An update to yesterday's post.
Here's the aerial photo of 700 Durhamites spelling out "Google" at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, sponsored by the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau.
View the full-sized photo at the official Web site.
And if you don't know what this Google business is all about, check out the Indy's recent cover story on the Google Fiber project. It could be coming to your town!
The abstinence marches on...
A Brief History
What is Lent, anyway, and why abstain? A time of penance, sacrifice, discipline; like Ramadan in Islam. (Many, many cultures have such a rite.) "Lent" comes from a Teutonic word that just means "spring," and it's appropriate symbolically if not quite linguistically: The period actually leads up to spring rather than falling during that season. The idea seems to be a dark-before-dawn one, in which you volunteer some late-winter forbearance and renunciation in anticipation of the glorious blooms of April. (But to leave it tied only to natural cycles rather than heavenly obedience is rather pagan.) It's a kind of preemptive spiritual spring cleaning.
The 40 days of Lent coincide numerically with Jesus's time in the tomb and with Noah's flood, although the origins of Lent are not Biblical; the practice seems to have emerged in the first few hundred years A.D. (It's always a surprise to discover how many so-called "Biblical" things aren't actually in the Bible. Eve's apple? Not necessarily an apple. Just a "fruit.")
So you start on Ash Wednesday, which is easy to spot because it's the day after Mardi Gras (and you see people with the telltale sign on their foreheads), and you go for 40 days until Easter Sunday. But that looks like fuzzy math---40 days don't go as far as they used to, it seems---until you recall that you're supposed to skip Sundays, which are a celebration day; that makes it compute properly. Originally, Lent seems to have required total fasting, so you needed to eat on Sundays in order to survive. But the age of asceticism is long gone, so most people just swear off meat, or pick some other thing. (For the purposes of my experiment, I am including Sundays in my not-drinking. As a nonreligious person, it isn't important to me to break my abstinence once a week.)
For what it's worth, not every Lenten tradition goes 40 days. The Roman Catholics jump off the wagon on Maundy Thursday; the Eastern Orthodox tradition begins Lent on "Clean Monday" (the day before Mardi Gras). The Ethiopian Orthodox Lent lasts 56 days (it starts earlier). For the hoping-against-hope types, there is no apparent sign of traditions that end Lent on Palm Sunday, a week before Easter. Nor does Good Friday serve as a drop-off point. In any case, Easter itself seems to make the most sense. That holiday, like its seasonal cousin, the Jewish Passover, celebrates rebirth, life, feasting, redemption; and there, again, is that promise of spring. New shoots; mating season; Kabinett-level Riesling, with its sprightly verve and freshness. (The wine writer Oz Clarke once wrote that you should welcome the first signs of spring by popping and pouring a Kabinett-level Mosel Riesling. It's good for breaking Lenten teetotalling for another reason, too: only about 8% alcohol.)
A Cheaper Date
My SLF, Heather, is a real team player and is also not drinking in solidarity. She doesn't drink as much as I do and so this has been no big deal at all for her. When we go out to eat, the biggest deal is a good one: the bill is so much lower! I had forgotten, even though I sell people alcohol with their food on a regular basis and rely on it to make an adequate living, how expensive it is to drink in a restaurant. You can easily double your bill with a cocktail and a decent wine. (Sin tax in its full glory: the markups can be, in disreputable places, unconscionably excessive.) Our dinner the other night was only $44 plus tip in a restaurant where it's pretty easy to spend $100 if you find a wine you can't resist diving into.
But I haven't wanted to eat in restaurants much since Lent began, and not just because it's less fun to dine out when you aren't drinking. I've found that I crave less and less restaurant-type food. Meats, fats, salt---the hallmarks of most out-of-the-house food---lose appeal for me when there isn't alcohol to go with it. I've been craving vegetables, grains, and fish (all of which I generally prefer anyway) even more than usual. I am tempted to speculate that this has to do with the metabolic function of alcohol. Does it help break down the tougher fibers in animal proteins, or "cut" fat in some chemical way? Is my body losing interest in heavy-gauge food out of physical self-preservation?
Hard to know. In the mean time, I have found myself satisfying what deeper wine cravings I have by reading more about wine, thinking more about wine, even buying wine. Not long ago, I fell in love with Heidi Schrock's scrumptious, dare I say springlike Furmint from Rust, Austria, and ordered a case for the restaurant where I work. (Well, actually, half a case, as I'll be buying the other half.) I went into one of my favorite local liquid shops not long ago---for tea, I swear---and walked out not only with my indispensable long qing but also a bottle of Cinsault (all by itself? unblended? cool!) from Domaine Faillenc Ste. Marie, a wonderfully funky family winery in Corbieres down in the South of France. I'm excited to drink these. And I plan to check out an auction of old wines this Saturday. I really shouldn't go, but there's this 1989 Barolo...
I'm sorry there isn't more drama here: no night-sweats, no binges on rum raisin ice cream, no renting the movie Barfly and watching it 100 times in a row. But I think I have made a rather significant discovery. More on that next time.
This post is written by Lora after working at L’Hopital Community Haitienne on Thursday, March 18.
Besides all the physical damage around us, the psychological damage to the people of Haiti is astronomical. I’ve heard it referred to as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) on many occasions, and with my very casual knowledge of psychology, I won’t deny the presence of PTSD here. Today I learned a little bit more about what it means to live in the wake of a devastating earthquake.
• We arrived at L’Hopital Communaute Hatienne today and were led into the main waiting area by our Haitian driver. He seems confident enough, but as soon as we entered the space, he walked into the center area that is open to the sky and some tarps rigged across the opening. Standing under a roof is still a frightening prospect.
• While sitting amidst a pile of suction machines in the hallway at the hospital, we were joined by a curious 16 year old boy. Demitri turned out to be a great help with removing and replacing screws, practicing his English as we did some troubleshooting together on a somewhat hopeless piece of equipment. We learned how to salvage tubing off an abandoned suction unit and learned how to use a continuity tester to verify the integrity of a power cord. While sitting together on the floor at the end of a productive few hours, he started to tell me about the earthquake. Demitri had been at home at the time – changing the channel on the TV. Though his house remained standing, he faced a near death experience in one of the aftershocks while respecting his mother’s request to stay home. Fortunately the eager student is still around to hope his school continues soon. I’d like to think that someday he’ll be working in an engineering or technical field making a difference for someone else. (Perhaps I should just be considering teaching??)
• On the way home, from the hospital, we dropped off another Haitian driver for the night. As we drove along his street, he pointed out his house, his grandfather sitting on the steps, and his tent. Despite the fact that his home survived the earthquake, he remains sleeping in a tent. I’m hoping the massive down pour tonight didn’t wash out everyone’s tents.
• Our team member, Jean, got a call from his sister this week, saying that she was back in Haiti. After watching her house fall down in front of her just as she came home from work, Jean’s sister went to stay with family in Miami. Finally, they’ve returned to the country they love, living with family here whose home survived the earthquake. Like Justin mentioned earlier, the quake is no respecter of persons.
Coal-Free UNC bookended Wednesday's campus Energy Task Force meeting with two events, one to sway opinion through song and the other through intellectual testimony.
In between the rally and the panel discussion, university energy consultants told the task force that it would take significant legislation to drive up the cost of coal and decrease the expense of green energy to make alternative energy economically feasible for the campus.
A dozen members of Coal-Free UNC, which has been campaigning since last year to quash burning coal at UNC's Cogeneration Plant, sang a parody of the school's alma mater and fight song with coal free lyrics at the Old Well.
"I'm a Tar Heel born, I'm a Tar Heel bred, and breathing coal, I'm a Tar Heel dead," they caroled to the six journalists and two onlookers in attendance.
After the boom box died down, the Coal-Free UNC leaders walked across the street to South Building and delivered two letters to Chancellor Holden Thorp's office. One signed by 43 faculty members calls on the campus to end coal use by 2015. The other asks Thorp to meet with students on coal. Administrative assistant Barbara Leonard received and logged the letters, which will be passed on to Thorp, she said.
Read next week's Independent for a breakdown of the Energy Task Force meeting and more on the panel discussion.
Continue reading past the jump for an audio recording of the coal-free alma mater and the full lyrics.
Supporters of Durham's application for the national Google Fiber project gathered at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park this afternoon to spell out the company's name on the baseball outfield.
A photographer in a plane was schedule to fly over the field around noon to take a photo of the assembly. According to Sam Poley of the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau, more than 700 people turned out for the event. There weren't quite enough people to spell "We want Google," he said. Just the word "Google." The "We want" part will be added as text, said Poley, who is part of a committee working on Durham's bid for the Google Fiber project. He hopes to release a photo shortly.
Durham is among hundreds of towns and cities nationwide who are vying for Google's attention and hoping to lure the company to install fiber-optic networks that would allow for Internet connections at extremely high speeds.
I wrote at the end of my first post that, for the first Lenten week of not drinking, I was very, very hungry. No real surprise there: I was using alcohol less as an intoxicant than as fuel. It's got lots of calories in it, so a drink can substitute, to some degree, for food. It wasn't lost on me that I tended to get the hungriest after work, during which time I'd burned a lot of energy. I've been accustomed to sitting down to a drink after work because it marks the end of the labor period---I think a lot of people look forward to that end-of-the-workday tipple, as an indicator to the brain and body that one part of the day has ended and another is beginning---but what I didn't realize was that I was also replenishing my sugars. It was Gatorade for Grownups.
All that reminded me of something I once read about Jimmy Page, the Led Zeppelin guitarist. At one point, the story went, he was trying to drop down from 135 pounds to 125 (!), and consumed only vitamin-infused banana daiquiris for perhaps as long as two years. Well, banana daiquiris and heroin. But the point is that it wasn't just the bananas that Page was subsisting on; the rum had sugar in it, too. The human body will try to make nutrients out of whatever you put into it. A glass of wine has somewhere around 100 calories in it.
But back to that other reason for drinking after work: habit. When you pop the cork, order the beer or shake the martini at the end of the day---no matter whether your day ends at 5:00 or midnight---you're sending your body and mind a signal as strong as an alarm clock: that thing you were doing, working, is over; time to do the next thing. For many of us, that signal is sent as part of a larger social broadcast that may involve going out with colleagues, going home and cooking dinner with family members, or any number of other activities that contain, as part of their cluster of signs to the cortex, alcohol. That's why the thing we know as alcohol abuse may be much less a genetic or physiological problem than we think: substance use and abuse is deeply connected to the context in which we engage in it, and in healthy settings even excessive consumption isn't anything like abuse. Just before Lent began, Malcolm Gladwell published an article in the New Yorker about this phenomenon. A book I reviewed for the Indy a few years ago, The Cult of Pharmacology, makes a similar argument. Routine and ritual are the anchors of healthy drinking.
These days after work, I'm still hitting the bottle, but it's a liter bottle of water, which I don't even bother pouring into a glass. (One of my colleagues claims that this indicates a third thing I'm satisfying at the end of the workday: an oral fixation. But I don't much care for Freud.) While Brad swigs 7&7s and Graham a single-malt scotch and Petrie a glass (or four) of Vouvray, I'm staying inside the circle of the rite by glugging artesian water. It's one of the reasons why, so far, abstaining for Lent hasn't been a killer. I've got more than two weeks to go, or less than two weeks, or exactly two weeks---it depends on whose calendar you keep. Turns out that this particular ritual, like almost every other, has variations. More on that next time.
It's St. Patrick's Day. Enjoy your pint or your fingers of whisky. (By the way: Bushmills beats Jameson by a mile!) Needless to say, I won't be able to join you. Raise a glass for me. I'm green with envy.
The Sierra Club Coal-Free UNC Campaign is using a meeting of UNC's Energy Task Force and St. Patrick's Day as pegs for a green rally Wednesday afternoon.
The group will gather at 1:30 p.m. at the Old Well on Cameron Avenue, just blocks away from UNC's coal-fired cogeneration plant that heats and cools the campus, to sing the alma mater and fight songs with "coal-free lyrics," according a press release.
This post is part of a week-long series from Engineering World Health, a nonprofit headquartered in Durham. A team of three biomedical engineers and technicians from EWH will be in Haiti from March 14 to 21 to assess and repair medical equipment at five clinics in the Port-au-Prince area. Our second post is written by Lora on Monday, March 15 after our first day in the hospital:
Perhaps the biggest misconception about our work here is that we are fixing everything that was damaged in the earthquake. Yes, we were brought here as part of the relief effort. But I hate to break your bubble: Most of this equipment was in very bad shape before the Richter scale read 7-plus.
Overall, we managed to fix seven pieces of equipment in a half day at one hospital. We recorded touching 15 pieces of equipment, some of which could easily be fixed with the correct parts—like a halogen bulb. The pieces that were fixed were addressed largely because of some knowledge beforehand that allowed us to bring the appropriate tools and replacement parts. Unfortunately, the hospital we visited today does not have a trained biomedical staff to do regular equipment maintenance. The designated technician wasn’t around quite enough for us to train him all that effectively. Fortunately, the nurses were well-versed in their equipment and very attentive to details. It’s exciting to see someone bring you something that is an easy fix, repair it and in the process, show them how to prevent or solve that problem in the future.
The trip home from our hospital seemed surreal. We had spent the night in the Dominican Republic the night before, so it was a rush from hotel to airport to hotel to first hospital this morning. When I finally got a chance to take in the scene on the way home, it was as if the news reels were running outside my window. Except they were life-size, complete with the smells and humidity, and the reporter’s narration was satisfyingly absent.
Our third team member, Jean Polycarpe, a biomedical technician in the U.S., grew up in southern Haiti. He has been instrumental on the trip in helping to repair anesthesia machines and other advanced medical equipment. We stopped on a rubble-filled street in front of a two-story house with collapsing balcony and crumbled foundation strewn about. This was his mother’s house, his home during high school and college. Now it was not even remotely liveable, all his belongings having been looted. As he mourned the loss of his personal library, we asked if he would tell his mother about the scene or show her the pictures we’d taken. “No, no… she doesn’t need to know this.”
For more info about EWH, please visit www.ewh.org or email email@example.com