weather icon Windy
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

Vacation offers life lessons in surviving ups and downs

In a titanic matchup, my girlfriend and I wrestle four days out of our calendars and head for some seriously needed R&R in Napa Valley. We rent a car in San Francisco, and head toward the wine country. Stress sheets off of us as chunks of glacier roaring into the sea. We’re here. Our adventure has begun.

Or so we thought.

An hour later, we have traveled four miles. Four. One mile less than five. We are moving so slowly, we could order pizza delivered to our car. Which we might have to do, actually, given that the dinner reservation we made for 8 o’clock is at a restaurant that books reservations nearly three months ahead of time. Marauding army ants move faster than this.

We take turns being pathetically positive. Putting on a brave face. Any minute now, the traffic will shake loose. Ease up. This lasts about an hour, when we change tactics and settle on a more authentic narrative, not to mention a narrative more cathartic to tell: The Universe has singled us out for a unique, terrible and undeserved injustice, giving us every right to whine and complain. Which we take turns doing. We both get tons of credit for not turning on each other.

No accidents. No construction. Just California being California. I’ve heard there are actually people who live here who do this five days a week. It takes them longer to get to and from work than the time actually spent at work. I get that. It’s gonna take us longer to get from San Francisco to Yountville than it took to fly to San Francisco from Las Vegas.

From the airport to the Bay Bridge is maybe five miles. In that space of geography, I’m pretty sure that 87 highways merge to the bridge. I lose count of the times I was inching along — more accurately, centimetering along — only to find that I was driving in one of California’s Magical Disappearing Lanes.

Three hours to travel 55 miles. Now we can start our vacation. We’re a little rumpled and peevish, but we’re here.

Homemade, organic bruschetta. Cantaloupe slices. Deep-fried pastry-esque pasta balls sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. Some foamy, whipped ginger ale “emulsion,” the waiter calls it. Put any one of these things in my mouth, and I’m just eating. In fact, the emulsion stuff tastes like crap. Cantaloupe is great, but rather pedestrian. The pasta balls are … whatever. Bunch of starch between my teeth. The bruschetta is salty and slightly overwhelming.

But, put all four of these items in my mouth at once? I feel my eyes dilate. Pretty sure I moan. My brain sends an all-points bulletin: “Any nerve ending not otherwise engaged in something important, please report immediately to Taste Section of the brain! They need backup, now!”

It’s nearly erotic. When was the last time you ate a meal so delicious that you were disappointed each time you had to swallow?

The difference between fine restaurants and supernaturally great restaurants is combination. The way things come together. The whole becomes not merely greater than the parts, but in many ways something entirely else. Anybody can cook a great dish, but these chefs combine food types and spices that I would never think to buy during the same trip to the grocery. Some of the items, individually, taste like crap. Who’da thought?

Sunday, we eat at some French bistro. Honeybees begin to dive bomb us. I try to explain to the bees they are not French. That there are no flowers on the table. That neither my onion soup nor my hair contains pollen for harvest. When this doesn’t work, I swat at them with my napkin. It gets personal between me and one of the bees. A Mafia bee, I’m thinking, because instead of attacking me, it stings my girlfriend on the palm of her hand. We spend the rest of the afternoon and evening in the hotel room while she sleeps off bee venom and I monitor for anaphylactic shock.

“Can’t we get a break,” I mutter to myself in protest. Then a deeper, wiser voice speaks: “No. There are no ‘breaks.’ Not for anyone. Life contains a never-ending carousel of pleasant and not-so-pleasant. Comforts and discomforts. Joys and sufferings. Might as well complain that winter always follows fall.”

Maybe the good life is like being a great chef. Maybe it’s all about how you combine things. Put things together. Even the things that, individually, taste like crap.

Steven Kalas is a behavioral health consultant and counselor at Las Vegas Psychiatry and the author of “Human Matters: Wise and Witty Counsel on Relationships, Parenting, Grief and Doing the Right Thing” (Stephens Press). His columns appear on Sundays. Contact him at 227-4165 or skalas@ reviewjournal.com.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Where lost, unclaimed baggage goes to be resold

The store that answers the question “What happens to lost luggage that never gets found?” also happens to be a great place to go bargain shopping online.

End of an era as shoeshine stands shut down across US

The shoeshining business has been hurt not only by the pandemic, but also by the growing popularity of more casual footwear.

New COVID-19 origins data point to raccoon dogs in China market

Genetic material collected at a Chinese market near where the first human cases of COVID-19 were identified show raccoon dog DNA comingled with the virus, international experts say.

The health benefits, and potential drawbacks, of napping

While closing your eyes for a few minutes during your busy day may seem like a good idea, it’s important to consider the effects napping may bring.

What to know about prescription drugs promising weight loss

WeightWatchers recently announced it would acquire a telehealth company whose providers prescribe anti-obesity drugs for growing numbers of eager online subscribers.

When it comes to nutrition, cauliflower is a superstar

Like many consumers, you may be on a quest for healthier food options and willing to try something new or a new take on a familiar food. Cauliflower may be just what you’re searching for.