Monday, April 14, 2008

Wine, Virgins and Christian Surfers: Dec. 5, 2007

I am now employed. Not a huge deal to most people, but I haven't had a job in 4 months, probably the longest stretch of time for me to be unemployed since I was old enough to babysit. (Does anyone else remember starting their own Babysitters Club?)

The lucky employer is Christie's, a 'refined cuisine' restaurant in downtown Brunswick. The folks here are trying to restore a nearly waterfront location with thriving shops and restaurants, and Christie's is a part of that. In only one and a half years of existence, it has been named twice in a row one of Georgia's Top Ten Dining Destinations. Not too shabby.

Christie is the sommelier and her husband Jason is the executive chef. John and I ate there on one of our dates and overheard our waitress talking to some regulars about moving back home the following week. Sensing an opening, I asked for an application and was met with welcome arms. One of the most important things to Christie and Jason is that the customer has an amazing experience. In fact, during my interview they both asked me separately, "What did you have for dinner?" and "How was it?" They are really passionate about it.

I have come to appreciate listening to people talk about what they are passionate about. It's amazing to see people come to life when they are sharing about something they either know very well or love very much, whether it's a person, a hobby, a calling, a plate of food or a glass of wine.

For Christie, it is wine. On one of my training nights, she taught me about wine for 4 hours. It didn't seem like a lesson, it was one story after another and at the end, the wine list had personality and character that I never knew existed. She told me about how way back when (1800s), an 'idiot' from California took some grape stock over to France that had some bug in it. The California stock was resistant to it, so the guy didn't even know it was there, but the French stock was vulnerable to this bug and the bug wiped out all of France's viable vineyards. That pretty much sucked for the winemaking world, so after several years of panic, the resolution was to bring more of the California stock over and start France's vineyards over again. Of course, California originally got its grapes from France to begin with, but you'd think American winemakers wouldn't have to work so hard to get some respect from their competitors across the ocean.

She told me about how World War II and Hitler's attitude toward wine affected winemaking for years. There are fascinating back stories to so much about wine, but what I loved the most was how personal it was for her. For example, she is embarrased for the establishment she used to work for whose house wine was the cheapest on the list. She feels that the house wine should be the best wine on the list, since that is what the house is recommending and should be able to put their name behind. At Christie's there is no house wine. Every wine on the list is one she loves and can recommend wholeheartedly.

Other things I've learned, or relearned, about waitressing is how comfortable people are with the conversations they have in public. In my pre-Air Force days I was a bartender, at Ruby Tuesdays granted, but nonetheless, I was the recipient of many a drinker's woes and secrets. Last night, I overheard three very different conversations, the topics of which all had something to do with God and the volume of which probably had something to do with alcohol.

The bearded fellow at the bar with the tropical shirt was talking to a barmate about 'hoping his daughter doesn't find out before he's able to tell her' about his sexuality. He was dreading the conversations about his faith and lifestyle he would have to have with her. I also learned that she was still a virgin or at least he thought she was. He also fell off the barstool, then asked for something 'fruity' to balance out his meal of hard liquor and oysters.

At my table, one lady was getting pretty upset about a certain church's fundraising efforts. Apparently this pastor was using the tithe records to target the biggest and most faithful givers for the big bucks. The others at the table agreed that this was unacceptable behavior and not even the pastor's role. Between the four of them, they had 6 martinis and 5 glasses of wine (Syrah, to go with the gaminess of the lamb and duck).

At another table, my fellow waitress was crushing on the cute guy at the end, so I went in for her to check if he was married. (He was) He was also very excited about a Christian surfing branch of Fellowship of Christian Athletes in California. The guy who started it apparently was tired of arresting fellow surfers, so he figured he could make a greater impact on them by starting a Bible study for them.

I don't know if every night will be this interesting or if I'm just especially tuned in because I'm excited to be out of my room interacting with real people. I'm grateful for the amazing sunsets over the water I get to watch every night I work. The other servers, and Christie herself, often stop to take them in and even get out their cameras, mentioning how they have hundreds of these pictures, but this sunset is just too beautiful.

So, if y'all are ever down 'round these parts and feel like dropping 50 or so bucks (plus a fat tip!) on some good food and the perfect wine, I'll save a table for you. Just keep in mind, your stories or outfit might end up in some of my writing. If you're lucky.

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