I spent a lovely, cool week last month wandering up the unbelievably beautiful coast of California from San Diego to San Juan Capistrano. In the flower-filled town of Carlsbad, a friend and I accepted an invitation to a community sculpture party, ducked occasionally into a tiny gelato shop for sweet comfort, and made dinner of a cheese course and a flight of wines.
On the beach.
The Wine Spot was offering a tasting of the wines of Paso Robles when, while on a stroll one evening, we decided to look in. We took a table. The proprietor of the shop was pouring generously, and I confess to being a lightweight. After a glass or two, I reached clumsily for a menu card propped against the wall, and the bright little rectangle slipped beyond the edge of the table onto the floor. As I bent down unsteadily to retrieve it, I noticed inexplicable handwriting on the back, which otherwise would have been invisible:
“It is my great misfortune that my heart cannot survive—even for a moment—without love.”
When the shopkeeper returned to pour a cabernet franc, we ordered cheese, and I told him I appreciated his poetic declaration on the back of the menu. He peered at the card, puzzled, and said he hadn’t seen the sentence there and didn’t know who might have written it.
I handed the menu card to my sublimely qualified dinner companion and asked him to append the next line to the essay:
“May you revel in such misfortune—a fate that few may even touch.”
Ah, the temptation is great when one is intoxicated. I thought of Antonio Machado and held my breath to subdue a surge of diffidence:
“Survive long enough for your heart to entomb the memories of your misfortune.”
Three styles of handwriting covered the reverse of the little menu, which I tilted carefully back into position against the wall for the amusement of the Wine Spot patrons who would take our place later that evening.