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Daily Column

                                          Come join the editor Jennifer Barnick as she searches for the Champagne Life....

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Sparkling Wine

Interview with Alison Schneider, Jepson's wine maker
by Paul Donaldson

Feature Dr. Timothy Smith writes about the birth of champagne

Sparkling Wine Review Mark Kernaghan savors rosés for the holidays

Arts & Sciences how does temperature affect sparkling wine?


First Person

HelloGoodbye Suzie Sims-Fletcher says hello and David Sirois says goodbye.

Passion Forum Dr. James Smith speaks about his passion for opera

Under the Goldlight—True Tales of Drinking Champagnee Our newest column...Dave Brown takes us on one heck of a night


Art & Literature

The Marcia Reed Virtual Gallery Painter Anthony Lobosco

Drinker's Poetry J. Blake Gordon & Slattery

Fiction Anna Luciano tackles coming home for the holidays


Other Goodies

Founder's Page Greeting from Dr. Timothy Smith

Letters to the Editor click for full list

Photo Gallery Click for Pics


 Cultural Embrace

     By Suzie Sims-Fletcher


          "No, no! Not again.  I don't want to. Do I have to?  Please don't make me.  Here it comes. I can see it. I can feel it. Wait for it."

     "HELLO!!"   "Hello, hello!!"


     "Oh, ok.  OK!  Fine."


     and, as always, it is followed, with a stream of giggles and high pitched mimicked "hellos."  

     "Hello."   "Hello."

       And more giggles. 

     I probably wouldn't mind so much if there was any sincerity, if it didn't seem to be some sort of a game.  And, quite honestly, the variety afforded in the occasional "How are you?"  or   "Pleased to meet you."  don't help.  They are just words. It is just their rote repetition of meaningless sounds.

     Some times I just want to hold my head, with my hands firmly over my ears, and my eyes screwed shut and shout, "MAKE IT STOP!!!"

     And then it comes again.



     and I ignore them.

     Only four weeks in China and my altruistic plans to be a friendly ambassador to this formerly communistic, third world, emerging power has waned.  Actually it is four weeks, five days, and something like sixteen hours, but really who's counting. 

     I am DAMN IT!  And I am counting in HELLOs!

     As one of only six Foreign Experts   (our official titles - so official we each have a little red book formally embossed with Foreign Expert , some Chinese characters, and a very official seal that we must carry with us everywhere) in the tiny little island community of Zhoushan, I am quite the spectacle.  And NO ONE ever told a China-man (or woman or baby, for that matter) not to stare. 

     Staring staring staring .

     Granted I am six feet tall (or, I have come to find, as the rest of the world would say:  1.82 meters) and have about three feet (what is that?  1.41 meters?) of red hair (natural, thank you) - and a bust that is more healthy American Dolly Parton, than Asian flapper Kate Moss.  Oh, and freckles, lots of freckles - you know angels kisses?  No, no, No angles in china.   In china, freckles are seemingly horrible blemishes, marks, nay smudges of hideosity!  They are spots, stains, imperfections, an affliction to be gotten rid of (and thankfully the department store cosmetic counters sag under the weight of various real blessings in the form of:  face-whitening cream. Hallelujah.)

     But, seriously, the c o n s t a n t    STARING

     Wide eyed, mouth open, highway-car-accident-rubberneck STARING.

     And this is a place where you really have to pay attention.  Traffic. There are about 9 billion bicycles, 4 million motorized bikes, scooters, and motorcycles, bicycle carts, motor scooter taxis, not to mention the thousands of green taxis, pedestrians, and a private car or two.  And, believe me, under the best of circumstances no one is watching where they are going and no one,   none  is giving way.  Traffic signs and signals seem to be decorative at best.  You've seen the pictures in National Geographic.  Those photos aren't touched up. There can easily be 100 bikes jamming an intersection.

       So, throw me into the mix - wearing my scandalous tank tops (oh no! her shoulders), hiking shorts (oh, no!  her knees), and pink Converse high tops (oh no! her fashion sense) - and you get accidents.

     I have had men fall off their bikes from losing their balance when craning around to prolong their stare.  I have had cars going full speed grind to a near halt crawl so that the passenger could hang out the window and gawk.  Oh, and of course, shout out "Hello!! Hello!"

     It wears me out.  It really does.  And my face hurts - from constant polite smiling (not from the offending freckles).

     BUT - when riding my bike on a country road, passing a deep brown colored farmer stopped on the shoulder, having a cigarette, taking a rest from pedaling his bike-cart, which carries an affable  600+lb (I don't know the kilograms) rust colored redheaded pig.  I can't help but return his  "hello" with a genuine grin on my face.

     OR when a very small six-year-old girl, dressed in her Sunday best (a term that means nothing as even banks are open on Sundays) very politely comes over to me in a busy teashop, her extended family watching with immense pride as she looks up and says, "Hello.  Welcome to China." I can' t help but smile, say hello , and sincerely thank her.

     Or on a day when I am feeling particularly happy to be traveling in the beautiful country side, thinking about how helpful people try to be, how very interested they really seem to be, how I am not simply a zoo creature or circus freak...when I actually want rice for lunch and don't first think about pizza or cheese or hamburgers on that day, when I pass an ancient weathered woman wearing a Maoist gray jacket sitting peacefully on the back of a cart, I shout out a greeting causing her great glee, and she claps her hands and  loses her eyes in her full face toothless smile.

     "Ni hao!" I shout.

     "Ni hao!!  Ni hao!"   She delights back to me.

       On that day, and others, which seem to be coming more and more frequently, I respond to all of China's chirping "hellos" with

     "Ni hao!"

       Maybe I am ready to culturally concede.

     Maybe when I spend my birthday eating a pastry filled with bean paste instead of a concoction from Carvel or a sugar-rush inducing iced masterpiece; when I am teaching confused 20 year olds about plastic masks and trick or treating; when my Thanksgiving bird is some stringy chicken in duck sauce; when Christmas cheer is an indefinable clear liquid they call wine (at 52 proof).   Maybe I will

     ...perfect my pronunciation of "kwai le"(celebrate), learn the secrets behind the red money envelopes.... Maybe I will embrace the holiday hello...

     "Hello!  Helloooo!!"

     Ok.  Ok!

       "Ni Hao."

     ..Ni hao China.

~ ~ ~

Suzie is a consumate communicator, writer, and teacher, and much to many's dismay, speaker!  Her enthusiasm for new experiences has taken her (temporarily) to China, where no one has heard of Boonesfarm or Krug. Suzie is a professor, voiceover artist and private consulatant in all things oral.  Her clients include actors, asians, and the Air Force! Learn more about her and her work by contacting her at: www.redhed.info




     By David Sirois


     I met my first friend when I was five, boarding a bus bound for kindergarten. I saw him sitting on the "sinister" side of the schoolbus, about five seats back. He was wearing purple pants, and I liked that. He had fine black hair, so oily it stuck to his forehead like Pigpen of the Peanuts Gang. He smiled when I sat next to him. I'd been grinning since I'd seen my favorite color in his clothes.

     "Hi, friend!" I said with young confidence. "Hi, friend." he cheerily replied. I felt I'd met a kindred spirit, and we were so comfortable with each other we never exchanged names. When the huge yellow Bluebird bus settled in the Saint Thomas School parking lot, we left each other with a matched set of "Bye, Friend!"

     Our kindergarten was next door to the Saint Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Madawaska, Maine. Madawaska is a Mic Mac Indian word meaning 'Land of the Porcupine'. It is the northernmost town on the east coast, sharing a border with New Brunswick, Canada.

      I don't remember running into Friend during school or recess - we were Bus Buddies, nameless as strangers in the street. I would wait for the bus with my two sisters and a few other children at the street-side end of our housing complex's parking lot. We shuffled our feet and shifted our weight from side to side, the boys holding their books stacked against one hip, the girls clutching them to their chests. I'd board the bus and search the seats for Friend. I'd noticed that he wasn't on the bus every day, but rarely asked why - when I did, he turned toward the window, saying nothing.

     My mother, sisters and I sometimes subsisted on ketchup sandwiches, graham crackers, and gallon jugs of sugar water, with the occasional crazy cake recipe full of substitutions - "We didn't have baking powder, so I used baking soda; We didn't have eggs, so I used extra milk." - cakes that turned out either rock hard or mushy as rotten bananas, frosted with a kind of caramel roofing tile.

     Our project was across the street from a mini-mall, featuring Sampson's Supermarket, "Hi, Mom!" Cards and Gifts, Zayre's Department Store, Radio Shack, and Real's Men's Store. We went there either to 'splurge' after the first of the month, buying Italian subs, Doritos, chocolate bars and six-packs of Coke in glass bottles - or to spend our last coins on Brach's "Pick-a-Mix" candies, always taking more than our coins afforded - or to window shop for radios, records and cassette tapes.

     One Saturday afternoon, after a slew of cartoons, my mother took her three little McNuggets to our neighborhood shopping plaza, and while we were crossing the lot toward Zayre's, I spotted Friend and his family in the distance. His father wore a wild beard, faded plaid shirt and a baseball cap, and his mother a loose housedress in baby blue. As we got closer, I made sure to shout "Hi, Friend!" He fidgeted toward his parents. My mother pulled me closer to her side, fear in her eyes. We walked nearer, and I could see dirt all over his face, and holes in the knees of his jeans. Friend's coat was falling off one shoulder, and dirtier than ever. He shyly waved, as I told my sisters that he was my friend. His father forcefully rushed him toward their beat-up pickup truck.

     One morning on the big yellow bus, his hair was especially messy, and there was a huge dirt stain on his Members Only-style discount fall coat. When I sat down beside him, I swam in the overwhelming smell of urine. We smiled at each other fully, as usual. Backed by our high comfort level, I blurted out "You smell like pee!" His whole face went sour, then sad. Tears started to fill his big brown eyes, and he looked down, shame weighing heavy on his forehead. I made a mistake. "I'm sorry." I offered. We traded no more words that morning. I never saw my first friend again.

~ ~ ~

David Sirois lives in his beloved Medford, Massachusetts, the "ford in the meadow" of the Mystic River.  He is a self-employed poet, musician, comedian and arts critic.  He fronts two bands, Ceremony (Joy Division/New Order tribute) and Rasputin (original songs).  His upcoming books of poetry include Nightnotes and The Pursuit of Stillness.





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