Monday, July 18, 2011

Sacred Places and Bourbon

We all have our sacred places.

In what has become something of a weekly ritual, I am sitting at TaZa Coffee Shop in Westover Hills after my church choir gig doing my best job of NOT working on what I was originally supposed to be doing and basking in the glow of serendipity. I feel very comfortable here and when I want to be alone and/or do some work (or write a blog post), this a good place.

I've often quoted (and mis-quoted) the line from Kung Fu when Caine says, "when a man finds his way, Heaven is gentle." (Here's the video. The quote is very near the end at 9:47 but the entire episode, even though it's edited, is a good watch) That's kind of been working on many levels for me lately. Along with all the darkness this month brings us, there has also been plenty of light and doorways leading me, seemingly, to where I'm supposed to go.

For example, as I settled in to my coffee and bagel here at TaZa, I noticed some people messing with the art on the walls and after the initial "STOP THIEF!" impulse passed, I realized they were the actual artists. Wasting no time, I obnoxiously jumped up to talk to them and see if we could get some pieces for the Art Auction on Sept. 30. They didn't bat an eyelash and they all agreed to figure out something to donate!

But what about the heading of this blog post? The concept of "Sacred Places" has been haunting me in both bright and dark ways recently. I love historic sites and being in the same place Patrick Henry spoke or performing in the same place someone like Jon Hendricks or Tony Bennett have performed really gets me "geeking." Same thing for places where I feel a connection because of Charlotte.

So it really should be no surprise that there are places that are important to me on a spiritual level and I feel pulled to them for one reason or another. One of the oldest places I feel that pull is my Grandma's (Gramsies) old house in Denver. I remember spending a huge amount of time running around that couple acres or so of land. I often thought to myself how happy I was just being there.

It was inconceivable to me that I would ever see the time when I wouldn't be able to go back. So when she sold it to the neighboring college and they knocked down the houses, my concept of reality was shaken to the core. I remember going back for the first time afterward and being very disturbed by what I saw.

We all have our sacred places.

Another is the short stretch of Lee Davis Rd in Mechanicsville which runs in front of the house where Charlotte used to go to Hanover Montessori School. She really started to shine there and it's that crowd of her friends and their families that became a cornerstone of our support "Network" after she was diagnosed. I often drive that stretch of road on my way way home from Romp n' Roll. It helps me feel the connection to her.

It's actually very difficult for me to drive that little bit of road but I've always thought it was ridiculous to avoid places or take unnecessary detours because of memories so my rebellious side sticks my tongue out and goes that route anyway.

Of course, aren't I altering my path because of memories already? Silly boy.

Speaking of Romp n' Roll...One of the places I feel closest to Charlotte is where the Virginia Center Marketplace store was located. For me, her spirit permeates the entire area from Target ("There's ALWAYS something to buy at Target!") to Chick-fil-a and everywhere in between. The old Romp n' Roll location, which is now an Original Mattress Store, still has her energy imprinted there. She was our official greeter and many times, the first person some of our oldest customers met was Charlotte. I pop my head in there sometimes just to be there. I think I'm starting to freak out the employees a little.

So a mattress store is now one of my sacred places. Go figure.

Then there's COSTCO. Another oft quoted conversation is: Me: "Charlotte, what do we get at COSTCO?"
Charlotte: "Pizza and ice cream!"

Yep, it was one of "our places." Charlotte and I would shop there and sometimes she would push the cart from way down below. I can still vividly see that tiny little kid trying to push when the cart was full of stuff. We would usually get pizza or ice cream while we were there (sometimes both; sometimes a hot dog) and I always remember being so worried about her falling off the bench. It was my little bit of obsessive parenting.

I took her there several times after we had started the journey and she was always the absolute best kid at those times. I had more than one person make comments to me about how obvious it was that there was a strong bond between us. I live for those memories.

COSTCO definitely has "sacred place" status.

I go there these days as much to "commune" with Charlotte as to shop for stuff. Yesterday, the concept of that really hit me as Rachel and I were there together. It was really crowded and it seemed most of the people there had become partially unhinged for some reason. I might have felt very angry that people were acting as stupidly as they were but for the fact that I was thinking about Charlotte a lot which makes most situations better.

We did NOT get pizza or ice cream this time but that's ok. It still served its "sacred place" purpose.

Then, a little later, a chance encounter with a fellow Cubs fan at Martin's finished the job of renewing my piece of mind. At least for a little while. Martin's is not a sacred place but that old man who noticed my Cubs hat made it move a little higher on the list.

Last but not least, as I was singing at my choir job today, Pastor Donna's message was about "Sacred Places." I kid you not. My highest compliment to any priest, pastor, guru, therapist, imam, qoph, monk, or any other person who claims religious leadership is that they make me think. Ed did that at St. James The Less as did Kent at Trinity in Fredericksburg. So did that Buddhist monk on the airplane so many years ago. Donna sure did that to me this morning.

Those doors keep opening. I'm probably rationalizing on a massive level but I'm going to keep going with it.

Now for the "Bourbon" part:

Let me go back a few weeks to a link sent to me by one of our many amazing supporters (my brother, Vance, in fact) which announced a giveaway by bourbon maker, Buffalo Trace. They had produced 174 bottles of top-shelf straight Kentucky bourbon from what they called the "Millennium Barrel" and were allowing non-profit organizations the opportunity receive one bottle each for fundraising purposes. These gift boxes will probably be valued at over a hundred dollars if not many hundreds of dollars.

I was a little leery at first about using something alcoholic to fund raise for a children's based organization but given the unique nature of the bottle, I got over it pretty quickly, especially after tasting it at our board night out at Lemaire. (PS There are still two Mondays in July remaining to benefit CJSTUF if you need a great excuse for a fabulous meal.)

I went ahead an submitted our application with the thought that we might receive it in time for our Art Auction. It's not "art," per se, but it's a very high-quality item and our event will be a good venue for a special item like this; very adult (which is another reason we don't have a problem with it).

After a few days, I received an email from Buffalo Trace letting me know they were reviewing our application but in the meantime, I might be interested in another opportunity being offered by another brand under their umbrella, Eagle Rare. They also make and sell high quality bourbon but this time, the idea was to have people submit stories of friends, family, etc...who live "Rare Lives." The grand prize winners will win $20,000 to be donated to the non-profit of their choice and several runners up will have $2,000 donated. The qualities they listed as those exhibited by deserving nominees are courage, leadership, survival, devotion, character, and heroism.

So I nominated Rachel. I mean, duh!

The thing is, I'm not known for being the most thorough reader of things the first time through so I didn't catch the part about how winners will be decided by people voting at the Eagle Rare website. I thought there would be a panel of judges or something or I might not have done it. We had sort of sworn off voting contests after the Kindermusic Grant fiasco (Pepsi is sending me regular emails inviting me back to the new-and-improved Pepsi Refresh contest but I've been resisting) and even now, I'm a little gun shy about promoting the contest.

That was until I checked back on the Eagle Rare Life page a few days later and saw that Rachel had already received over 100 votes with very little promotion.

That convinced me that it was a good idea to continue. If Rachel (and in turn, CJSTUF) should win the $20,000, then CJ's Meal Fairies can really get off the ground, and even if she finishes as low as 7th, $2,000 is four (4) families helped.

As of 1:30 Sunday, we were already at 400 votes. Voting lasts until January 5, 2012 and people can vote once every day.

So in closing, I return to Kung Fu. Not with video of the deep quote of the day but of probably the worst sword fight ever choreographed for film. Enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed reading this very much. I also hold Grandma's old house and property as a sacred place. I often dream about the place. I remember when me and Vance, when we were young, joined Uncle Terry and his friends, and slept outside on the lawn. We both woke up the next morning with mosquito swollen shut eyes. I picture heaven being a family reunion like the ones we used to experience at Grandma's.


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