Thomas Wolfe on travel

Some people can watch the same movie, or read the same book, over and over again.  These are the kinds of people with nice DVD and book collections.  I am not (typically) one of those people.

But right now I'm re-reading Thomas Wolfe's "You Can't Go Home Again," and I am enjoying it immensely. I'd say this is partly because it is a work of real genius (trust me, read it-- there is not one throwaway sentence in the whole thing) and also because the time in which it's set (late 1920's early 1930's) and the surrounding macro-economic issues resonate today. Not that it wasn't relevant back in 2004, when I first read the book, but now I'm old enough to understand more of it. 

The book was published posthumously in 1940, two years after Wolfe died at the age of 38. The feverish, brilliant way it's written makes me think that somehow, he knew this would be his last hurrah.  It has that much of a passionate, almost polemical feel.

I've been so fortunate to have a job, and a lifestyle, in which I've been able to travel so much more than the average person.  Since the first time nine years ago I boarded a plane solo (for a church convention in Denver, also the trip that I eased my way into becoming a coffee drinker with daily Frappuccinos), I felt what Wolfe describes in the book:

Perhaps this is our strange and haunting paradox here in America-- that we are fixed and certain only when we are in movement. At any rate, that is how it seemed to young George Webber, who was never so assured of his purpose as when he was going somewhere on a train. And he never had the sense of home so much as when he felt he was going there. It was only when he got there that his homelessness began.

Wine, pricing, and perception

The NYT's wine critic Eric Asimov today wrote a piece about whether or not the pleasures of super-pricey wines are "all in your head."  Honestly, most everything that could be said about it has really already been said  (231 comments and counting on the story at the NYT message board!)

Since I'm not an expert oenophile by any means, I've just got two things:

1. A couple of weekends ago I had my first real "wine country" tasting experience at the Husch Winery in Mendocino County. There I sampled about 12 wines, and only felt I *needed* to buy one based on its total deliciousness: a 2007 Chenin Blanc that turned out to be the winery's cheapest offering by far at $11 per bottle.  The woman pouring that day also politely informed me that Chenin Blancs are kind of thought of as the wine world's version of, like, fondue sets.  I guess they were super popular in the 70's and have since seriously fallen out of vogue-- can anyone verify this? Cheap, and apparently kind of tacky-- but it was the tastiest to me.

2. The whole debate reminds me of this pretty fascinating Calvin Klein interview Vanity Fair published last month.  My favorite part was this, which I found to be surprisingly honest, particularly for a fashion magazine profile:

His father, Leo—who’d arrived in the States from Budapest at age five—was often absent, because of the long hours he put in at the family grocery store, on Lenox Avenue in Harlem.    Calvin, a mini merchant-in-training, would visit the store and remembers lots of conversations about the cost of things, a subject which interested him even then. “I would see grapefruits in the fruit-and-vegetable department, and some of them were 29 cents a pound and others were 49 cents,” he recalls. “I’d ask, ‘What’s the difference between the two?’ My father said, ‘Some people like to pay 29 cents and some like to pay 49 cents.’ I thought, Hmmm.

I learned later that that’s the fashion business to a great deal. You pick the spot where you want to be, where you want your products to be. Many people think just because it’s more expensive it’s better. That isn’t always the truth.”