Sunday, March 20, 2011

How Reputations Get Made...

How time flies! Three weeks ago today, I was on my way back from a women’s writers’ retreat I had been looking forward to for months. In the blink of an eye, it was over. You may recall I blogged about the retreat last year—in particular the fun we had at the Martini Bar on Saturday night. The coordinator enjoyed my post so much she posted it on her website to help promote the retreat—which, by the way, was filled to capacity and a huge success this year, as well.

So this year several new attendees came to the retreat, apparently looking forward to a martini, in addition to reading, rest, relaxation, and a wealth of information about writing. When I had I registered, the coordinator had told me there was another woman from my area registered, as well. I recognized her name as someone from church, so I called her and we traveled together.

Thank God, because it was another blizzardous weekend, and if I had been traveling alone, I’m afraid I wouldn’t have gone. Been there, done that, wasn’t too eager to do it again.

But my friend was from this area, and well-used to winter driving conditions, so off we went in her minivan. Good thing, too, because 20 minutes out of town, the weather cleared up and we had no trouble at all. We even arrived a bit early, got her checked into her hotel down the way—the B&B was full up—and managed to stop at Malley’s Chocolates and stock up before heading off to the retreat.

Imagine my surprise, when on a whim I asked the desk clerk at the hotel if there was a chocolate shop around, and he said yes, right down the street. A clear example of ask and ye shall receive J.

So without my friend I wouldn’t have gone. Turns out that without me, she wouldn’t have gone, either, as she’d learned about the retreat from reading my blog. She was looking for one of those martinis. I’ll admit I went back looking forward to a repeat of the experience, myself. I hadn’t ever had a martini before, and haven’t had one since, but suddenly I found myself dubbed “The Martini Lady” and on Friday night was called up to the front of the room and presented with a lovely framed pastel portrait of a martini, complete with olives.

Writing is such a solitary occupation that I have it posted up above my desk, to remind me that yes, writers do indeed get together and have fun every now and again J.

But my, how quickly reputations are born! The others told me I'd made it sound like such a wonderful time they wanted to experience it for themselves, and having a martini was the talk of the retreat. Unfortunately, this year, the Martini Bar was full, so the group I was with visited an Irish pub instead. Seven or eight of us pulled a few tables together at the back of the room, and proceeded to order drinks I hadn’t heard of in years, since my twenties, when ordering such drinks were the norm—white Russian, Fuzzy Navel, Slo Gin Fizz…and my own simple but straightforward vodka tonic.

Not so simple and straightforward, I realized, as in the intervening years, vodka has apparently taken on flavors, and a lot of them. “What kind of vodka do you want?” the bartender asked. “Just vodka,” I said. She indicated the bar behind her, with a couple dozen flavors of vodka lined up in a colorful row. “I know, but which kind?” “Just vodka, I repeated. Don’t you have any kind of vodka that isn’t flavored? The last time I had vodka, Smirnoff’s was the one you got. Don’t they make that any more?”

"You haven’t tasted flavored vodka?” she asked, in amazement. Then treated me to a sample of espresso-flavored vodka. It being after nine already, and me not used to drinking, no way was I going to mix alcohol and caffeine—I’d be up all night!!—so I thanked her ask if she minded if I shared it with the others.

Which is exactly what I did…I never did find out what it tasted like.

Fortunately, she managed to find a bottle of plain vodka under the counter, and fixed me a drink.

We were the oldest patrons in the bar. As it slowly filled with people half our age we listened to a lone guitar player strumming Irish tunes and happily chatted about children and colleges and the things menopausal women discuss when we get together. And, being writers, we observed the room around us. The pick ups, the hook ups, the couples getting friendly as they flirted with each other before moving on to the main event later.

At one point I saw the bartender pull out a fishbowl and fill it with ice. Her hands expertly holding two bottles each, she poured and poured until the ice cubes were covered, then added (in this case) some red liquid to the bowl and stuffed six big red straws in it. The bowl was almost ceremoniously carried to a back table by three young men and one young woman, who was apparently the designated driver, as she didn’t drink. I noticed one of the young men leaning on her heavily as they shuffled out of the bar less than an hour later, the fishbowl completely empty.

I went to ask the bartender about it. Yes, she said, it was called a fishbowl, and was made with gin, rum, vodka, and tequila, and cost $20. Was I interested? No, thank you, I all but gasped, waving my hands in front of me—I just wanted to know what it was. She smiled indulgently and patted my arm reassuringly, treating me like the fish out of water that I was, and kindly fixed this little old church lady another plain vodka tonic.

Around eleven, with the bar packed and the songs getting less and less Irish, the ladies and I happily trundled back to the B&B, where we sat in the foyer next to a cozy fireplace, the area lit only by the small white lights of a still-decorated Christmas tree, and sipped glasses of Bailey’s Irish Cream from a bottle I had brought along. I might not drink often, but I know how it’s done J. The Bailey’s added a nice, quiet nightcap to the evening.

I wonder if this means next year I’ll be awarded a picture of Bailey’s?

1 comment:

Leanne said...

Way to do it, Liana! Ooh, I would so have loved to have been sipping that Bailey's in front of the fire by the light of twinkling Christmas tree lights. Are you a writer perchance?

Cheers, m'dear. Just seeing the picture you created relaxed me. :)