Monday, March 7, 2011

One Too Many or One-to-Many

After my freshman year, I moved to the Quate's (Ms. Quate was a manager in the college food service) up at 5 Points. They had a hugh old house with a big barn and 10 acres they still farmed. In my senior year, my friend GeorgeB showed up one fall everning with a pint of vodka and some 7-up. "Want a drink?" I was raised in the Methodist tradition and did not imbibe. But I was now 21, so why not try. We got a couple of milk shake size paper cups, climbed up to the hay loft, opened the loft door, and sat down to mix our brew. My first reaction was: vodka sure did screw up the taste of good 7-up.

We sat with our legs dangling out the open door, drinking this stuff, and talking about our future after college. George was the best piano player I had ever heard and music was in his blood. I was applying to grad schools in Chicago and Pittsbugh. After a little while, we were talking pure non-sense. "Want another?" asks George. "Sure, why not." About half way through the second cup, I began feel not so good. Maybe this is not such a good idea. We dragged outselves over to the ladder and stumbled down.

The first few steps out of the barn didn't go in the direction I was looking. After a few more steps in all directions, I took hold of George and he took hold of me. We began our journey along (or around) the sidewalks north of town, headed toward the McGraw-Edison plant. At the plant we turned around - and around - and around until we were headed back toward the barn. Time passed; I have no idea how much. As we got closer to the barn, I began to feel that where I pointed my foot was, more or less, where it landed. Finally we arrived and hit the sack, sleeping it off in the bottom of the barn. I decided I did not need that experience again in college or forever.

Several years later in grad school, a professor asked a friend and me to attend bar at a welcome dinner for a group of professors attending a summer conference at CMU. Neither of us knew anything about mixing drinks. "No problem", says the professor; he would mix martinis and manhattans in advance. We just had to pour upon request. He also planned to offer guests his "Moscow Mule" and would show us how to make the mule. This is one of the southern comfort mixes you drink on hot, sticky Pittsburgh days - like lemonade. The mule was vodka and lime juice with ginger beer. Sure enough, the professor greeted his guests and "sold" at least half of them on trying the mule. They were tasty and the first one goes down smoothly. Many of the guests choose a second round. That's when the mule begins to kick. We didn't have to worry about  attendees leaving the after dinner speech early! I decided that whenever I drink, my limit is one. If it's a new drink, it's a small one. No more one too manys for me.

When I moved to California to teach, I met a long time member of the finance faculty who taught investing. We were takling at a dinner party and he mentioned he invested in the preferred stock of Napa county wineries. I asked how they were performing? He said, just as he expected. The dividends were steady and tasted good. Each year after grape harvest and crushing, these wineries paid their dividends in that season's vintage. Most of these were boutique wines, found only by dinning at expensive, out of the way restaurants in San Franciso. Now that's my kind of investment. I adopted wine as my beverage of choice and left the hard stuff forever.

Today I enjoy California wines, usually with meals, several times a week. If I could speak French or Italian, I'd say I'm living in Alsace or Tuscony - without the travel cost. There are even vineyards planted on hills in some parts of Danville where I live. Ocassionally, when playing bridge at one friend's house, he opens one or two bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon from Stag's Leap Winery where he is part owner. You ask me why I live in California? Sometimes I wonder, but not for long.

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