“Whatever you do, pour yourself into it.”
I didn’t make that up. I read it on a cork. This morning. In the bathroom. At the Amalfi Hotel in Chicago.
Last night, I raided the minibar and enjoyed a chilled Twix bar and a sip of Robert Mondavi Private Selection 2008 Chardonnay. Sure, the label boasts a fine vintage and claims that “…our Chardonnay displays crisp apple, tropical fruit and spice notes, with subtle oak nuances integrated to a crisp finish.” At $16 for just 375ml, I have a mind to rewrite that text: “…For such a little bit of wine at such a ridiculous minibar price, good luck tasting anything as you gag over the price tag. Cheers!”
Back up even farther. Yesterday, I checked into this downtown Chicago hotel for a mini writing retreat. In a very nice, quiet, clean room, I spent eight hours in front of my laptop revising my novel. I took just a few breaks, one of which was to walk to the hotel’s 5-7pm complimentary happy hour. I figured I’d get a free glass of wine, rather than paying through the nose with the bottles in my room’s minibar.
I walked into the “happy hour” on the 6th floor. What a trip. Held in a windowless, interior room of the hotel, there were about twenty 20-somethings sitting around tables and on couches. Voices were hushed, lights were dim, and candles were everywhere.
Think Rosemary’s Baby.
I almost didn’t go in…it was that creepy. Still, I wanted my free wine, so I walked up to the bar in the voodoo room.
As I asked for a glass of white wine, I was hit by a strong odor…it was either the very pungent cheese & cracker table to my left, or the unfortunate scent of a recent and lingering overindulgence by one of the 20 twenty-somethings. Suddenly, that expensive, minibar wine sounded really, really good.
However, I’d already asked for a glass of white wine, so I couldn’t just leave. I waited for the bartender to pour my glass. As he inspected it, his brow furrowed, and he picked out a large piece of something. Something green.
I tried not to stare, and slid my gaze instead toward the funky cheese table.
My pupils tried to capture enough light to register what, exactly, was laid out over there. Nothing looked too gourmet…lots of sliced cheese, some round meat-type offerings, and crackers. Nothing to gorgonzola-ish or blue-cheesey, so where was that smell coming from? I turned back to the bartender, only to realize I hadn’t seen whether he retrieved a clean glass or not. As he poured, I knew I wouldn’t be drinking it. Still, I was polite and waited for him to hand it to me.
I carried my glass up to my room and promptly poured it down the bathroom sink. Ah well, I thought. Better safe than sorry.
I unlocked the minibar and pulled out the bitty bottle of Robert Mondavi Chardonnay with the oversized pricetag. It had come to this. Did I really want this glass of wine? Sure do, I thought. I’ve been working hard, and I’ll be working hard tomorrow, too. There’s just over a glass of wine in here…the perfect size for a nightcap.
I attempted to open it with the plastic wine-bottle-opener supplied in the minibar, but I couldn’t extract the device from the tiny bottle. It was almost as if the opener was too big. At this point, I didn’t even want the wine anymore, but I also didn’t want to give up. Maybe it was a subconscious attitude…don’t give up your novel, don’t let go of your characters. But this, with the wine bottle, was pathetic.
I remembered the bottle of wine I recently opened at home…something my husband had purchased…WITH A BOTTLE CAP! Oh how I wished I just had one of those. I could practically rip one of those off with my teeth at the right angle. Not that I would. I’m just saying…
I called down to the front desk and asked for a travel sized tube of toothpaste (which I really did need), and mentioned that I was also having trouble opening my wine bottle.
The (apparently) 19-year-old woman at the front desk said, “Oh, I’ll send our guy right up. Everyone has trouble with those openers!”
My toothpaste delivery man/wine extraction specialist arrived moments later. He popped the opener out with little effort, prompting me to utter an embarrassed chuckle.
I locked my door and put the toothpaste on the bathroom counter, next to my toothbrush. I grabbed a glass and brought it to the desk. Sitting down, I poured half a glass of wine, took a sip, and decided it was time for bed.
Anyone who knows me can attest that I enjoy a good glass of wine (and even a not-so-good glass) with quite some frequency. But to be so tired that I choose to take a sip and go to bed? Well, “What up with dat?”
I brushed my teeth and promptly fell asleep.
My wakeup call came at 6:30 a.m., and I was (unbelievably) out of bed and in the shower by 7:00. Again, NOT my usual routine. I’m a night owl by nature; weekend mornings are sacred sleepy-time for me. Especially here, in a hotel room, with no distractions, no obligations, and no other compelling reason to get up — save for my novel — I could have easily slept in.
Did I also mention I’d NEVER ONCE turned on the television? I’m such a creature of habit that, when left alone, I’ll almost always turn on the TV for some company. Not this time. I made a conscious effort not to turn anything on except the lights and my novelist brain.
Ah, my novel. I’m back. Back to feeling its pull. Back after a month-long hiatus while getting my feet wet with Patch.com and the twice-daily blogging that was keeping me up every night until the wee hours. I’m back to feeling connected to my novel, the characters, my story, and the importance of the message I’m trying to share. I was worried that I was losing my mojo, worried that jumping in to blogging head-first would zap all my novel writing motivation. I’m not worried anymore.
Back to this morning: I got out of the shower and got ready for the day. Wiping down the bathroom counter, I noticed the cork from the minibar wine bottle. Turning it over in my hands, I read the printed message: “Whatever you do, pour yourself into it.”
I might not have wanted to drink that wine last night, but now I know: the effort to get that cork out and find that message was worth every extra penny.