Monday, September 7, 2009

Walla Walla ding dong

Katie and I notched another hole in the sophistication belt this Labor Day weekend.

We went wine tasting in Walla Walla, Washington. Any time you drive more than 4 hours away in order to specifically eat or drink something; this is called “Culture.” And you know you have become cultured when your wife looks over at you and says “I really liked the nose on that one but not the hint of bacon I detected.” And I actually know that she’s talking about a red wine and not the schnauzer we pet in the tasting room. Yes, we are moving up in the world. Eating fine cheeses. Taking in gorgeous vineyard views on the veranda. Admiring the architecture and art work of the various wineries. I even know how to pronounce Apogee and Perigee, of which I prefer the latter for its suave finish and structure.

However, there is a catch when it comes to self-describing as cultured. After going wine-tasting you normally go stay in some 4 star hotel or spa kind of resort. Likely it has a golf course attached and people address you as Mr. and Mrs. Johnson. Or I could imagine a scenario where a cultured person would even go stay at a Best Western or Days Inn (if the resorts were all booked up). And then at the very lowest percentile would be those people who stay at a Motel 6 or Super 8 (in order to save money so they can buy a case of wine costing over $500).
And then there is us. When it comes to sleeping accommodations we fall out of the cultured zone into a redneck hillbilly nomad categorization. We spent the evening driving around looking for a nice patch of dirt to pitch our tent. We can’t stand the idea of paying $20 to camp on a slab of cement in an RV park where people are sitting out in lawn chairs watching TV. So we found a remote dirt road and drove down it. Then we pulled Maxine off into the farmer’s fallow field and bedded down for the night.

However, when sleeping in a stranger’s field, what you make up for in financial savings you lose in restful sleep. Every rustle of the tent is perceived as a pitchfork poking through the rain fly. Every cricket noise must be a coyote’s wail of hunger. At one point I woke up and truly believed that an animal was pawing at the tent. But in my soporific stupor I could not understand why this paw would bare a striking resemblance to the letters REI.

One of the things I took away from this experience is more of an understanding of the term “hypervigilance,” which is a core symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I started working at the Veterans Hospital last week and it was an intense week. I have dealt with clients who have trauma histories but this was different. Imagine never waking up in the morning feeling rested because for years you sleep in 30 minute increments during the nite. Or every time somebody drops a plate at a restaurant you jump up and knock your own table over. It’s hell. Last nite I had finally fallen asleep only to be woken up to a truck driving down the dirt road right past our car camping spot. My heart went from 0 to 60 mph in .2 seconds and I thought it was gonna pulverize my ribs. And in that moment I got a glimpse of what it might be like to wake up from a nightmare every night and feel like your life is in mortal danger.