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Saturday, June 21, 2014

A Toast to Sheldon Glassberg and the Life Superficial

Today is the day that we uncork the bottle of Cab that we've been keeping. We purchased it in 2004 from our favorite wine merchant - Sheldon Glassberg, and dutifully let it age all these years per his instructions. I even wrote on the label "Drink in 2014" so not to accidentally open it too soon. 

Sheldon died the next year, and I still miss him. Our drinking the wine today is a reminder of those people that touch our lives - those superficial moments that collectively form our existence and influence who we are.

Sheldon was a great teacher of wines and wine drinking. His small shop in Springfield was, sadly, not as successful as it should have been. I did my part and bought as much wine as I could afford - simply because I wanted him to stay in business. Toward the end I even considered investing in him just to keep him afloat. Alas, it was not to be, he closed shop, and I believe the stress and heartbreak is what killed him. He died of heart failure while stocking the shelves at a new job.

I mourned someone I hardly knew. I saw him twice a month or so at his shop. I always went to wine tastings, was part of the wine club, plus I tried to drag others I knew in to meet him. I knew nothing of his family, his life outside of the shop, or even his last name. Really barely more than an acquaintance.

I think of other people in my life who are like Sheldon. Certainly moving to Austin has increased that group exponentially. People here in the south are much more superficial than in the pacific northwest. Ed and I call them our "Austin" moments. We have intense, 20 minute conversations with people in ordinary circumstances and places, and then walk away not knowing the person's name. It is the outward friendliness and willingness to share with strangers that enables this. My niece and nephew were always horrified to be with me when one of these moments arose. They couldn't believe I could have a complete conversation with someone I never met. Here in Austin it is so commonplace that I never notice it anymore. If the same thing were to happen in Oregon the person would end up living in your garage. Oregonians don't have conversations unless they are ready for a long-term commitment.

Now that I live here in Texas I can see that it is my former life that was shallow, not the people. The superficial relationship I had with Sheldon enriched me in so many ways. It doesn't matter that I had to look up his last name. It doesn't matter that I spent time discussing the proper temperature to serve Guinness beer with a guy in an irish bar. It doesn't matter that I spent 20 minutes discussing a woman's problems with her tomatoes the last time I was at The Natural Gardener. What does matter is the connections we make with people, no matter how brief or thin. Just because I didn't know Sheldon well does not detract from the man he was and the friendship we shared.

To you, Sheldon, and all the other wonderful people I've met, thank you for unconditionally sharing a moment. The wine, by the way, was excellent.


  1. What a touching post, Sheryl. I was worried for a moment that you found us Southerners to be superficial in a negative way, but I'm glad you've come to appreciate our friendly openness to strangers. I think you're pretty friendly too -- a natural Southerner! You're with your people now. ;-) And yes, sharing pleasantries or more with people we encounter, even briefly, just makes the world a better place. It sounds like Sheldon knew that too.

    1. Thanks Pam! You are one of those amazing people. I'm glad we hooked up and look forward to visiting my old home town with you during the Portland Fling!

  2. I seem to end up in conversations most frequently at the pool (usually after swimming, or in little 10-second snippets between laps). I don't know why it is. They've all been benign and easy-going except for the lady who loves Ted Cruz. She stopped me in the middle of swimming to tell me in great detail why I needed to vote for him (a 10 minute conversation), and then stopped my husband in the grocery store a few days later to do the same (a 20 minute conversation).

    1. Oh Katina, you are MUCH nicer than me. I'm afraid I couldn't listen to anyone about Mr Cruz without seizing the moment to argue politics to the nth degree. Clearly I have much to learn from you!