INSITEVIEW- - tom shugart's weblog

Tuesday, April 01, 2003


We’ve just returned from a fabulous three-day sojourn up on the Mendocino coast. Mother Nature shined her graces upon us. Our three days somehow managed to be sandwiched in between bouts of blustery, nasty weather.

The highlight of our trip was a sparkling evening with Denise Howell and her dad, Mel McKinney. The gods just kept smiling on us during this trip. For starters, as Jill and I sat in the lively and friendly hotel bar, sipping our martinis and awaiting Denise’s entrance, we basked in an expansive, unobstructed view of the ocean. The setting sun provided a marvelous light show in the sky. As if that weren’t enough, a group of migrating whales swam by, sending their spouts into the air as if to say “bottoms up” to the assembled drinkers.

Actually, the whales were a fitting opening act for Denise’s entrance. Within ten seconds, you know that you’re in the presence of a real spirit. And ditto her dad. It’s not hard to see where her refreshing vibrancy comes from. Mel, by the way, helps run the inn where we were staying and he saw to it that we were well taken care of. It was a marvelous experience. I felt almost like some kind of celebrity.

We had a tasty dinner featuring locally caught fish creatively prepared. Denise ordered us a most excellent Chardonnay from the nearby Anderson Valley, a premier but modest-scale wine-growing region. She suggested that we stop by the picturesque little winery on our way home and get some to take home. As per usual, her advice was well worth following.

As satisfying as the food and wine were, the real magic of the evening was the simple pleasure of breaking bread with Denise. We could have been munching on canned sardines and guzzling warm Bud Light, it still would have been sparkling.

Although my experience is limited, what it tells me so far is that conversing with bloggers—the ones on my blogroll anyway—is a delightful experience. And why wouldn’t it be? It stands to reason that if I enjoy reading someone’s blog, it’s highly likely that I’m going to enjoy the real-world person.

After dinner, we repaired to the local playhouse to watch Mel in Neil Simon’s Prisoner of Second Avenue. The cast was extremely competent, including Mel. Afterward, we gathered at the hotel bar with some of Mel’s friends for a nightcap and still more fun and stimulating conversation.

One of his friends was a radio personality, Mike Cleary of Food and Travel Radio (what a job! Think of the comps this guy must get. Where do I apply?). We had been talking about the gratification that a stage actor receives from the feedback of a live audience.
Jill asked Mike if not having a live audience was a disadvantage in doing radio.

Mike, who in his radio shows, apparently talks openly about his life, his family, and his feelings, responded with some eloquence about the very special connection that exists with his listeners. He remarked on how when he meets these people in real life, they are already good friends, and how satisfying that is.

At that point, Denise leaned over and said to me, “We bloggers know what he’s talking about, don’t we?” It was a special moment—one among several on this most restorative weekend. I think my spirits may be back.


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