Monday, March 31, 2008

Handstands Under Water

This is part 3 of a story started last week. It's long, rambling and is probably of no interest to more than 4 of you. So, I'm sure there's some TV news around here somewhere for everyone else...

Did you ever do that as a kid? If you did, you know how much fun it could be, your legs poking out of the water, sticking up in the air. Maybe you were graceful, like those aqua-ballet people, or maybe, like me, it was clumsy...legs more flailing than fluttering.

It didn't matter, though. The fact is, when you do a handstand under water, you still have to flip yourself over to come up for air.

So I'd arrived at the winehouse at the DeLoach Winery early. The limo has just pulled up, and out tumbles the hosts of this crazy impromptu affair. Kevin Rose. Robert Scoble. Tim Ferriss. Gary Vaynerchuk. A few friends, all laughing and talking. Tired from a day of tasting wines (how stressful, right?) but all ready for a party. As they flowed in around me, some cursory greetings. Scoble realizes who I am and gives me a hug. "You made it!" I'm not sure why the surprise, but maybe he didn't think I was real -- driving from L.A. to Santa Rosa for a party.

A few other party guests had arrived right after me, so there were already a half dozen of us wandering through the spacious house admiring antique corkscrews display boxes hanging on the walls, cookbooks and books on wine in the kitchen, and the pool area. The hosts scattered to shower, change, or at least put down their finds from the day before joining us for the fun.

It was at this point I realized how little food was around. There was some bread and cheese about, but nothing of real sustenance. And I hadn't eaten much on the road. I feared for my ability to last long with the wine without some food. Fortunately, someone else realized this also, and was taking up a collection to order pizza. I happily offered up a five for a couple of slices. Problem solved.

By 7:30, people were steadily flowing into the house. There were a host of 'names' which would be familiar to those who live and work in the 'Web 2.0' world, but are foreign to most everyone else. Messina. Morin. Sarah Lacy. What was amazing to me was the general high level intelligence in the room. This wasn't a "Hollywood" party, where the closest anyone gets to intellectual conversation is to discuss the attributes of their Prius. No, this was *real* intelligence, raw, hardcore. These are the people changing the web on a daily basis and loving it. I admit, it was heady. I felt immediately like some child pulled out of kindergarten to sit in the senior high school class. They talk about color spectrum, I talk about crayons. You get the picture.

And in all my discussions with people, NOT ONCE did anyone ask me *what* I was writing, which, of course, would be expected in H'wood circles. I would say 'I'm a writer", and I'd get the understanding nod and question about my drive up to Sonoma. My trip was more fascinating than my aspiration. Weird, yet, understandable too.

It made for a great topic upon meeting folks, and the hosts (okay, mostly Scoble) were eager to tell people I had driven SEVEN HOURS to be there. What dedication! What cool insanity! Yeah, it was kinda neat. And then, Gary Vaynerchuk rolled back downstairs. He greeted me, remembered I'd made the trek and was excited, no, REALLY, excited I was there. You know how people say 'oh I'm so happy you are here' and it just feels like a pleasantry? This guy says it and you believe that you made his entire day by just being in his presence. He asked me if I liked the wine I was drinking. Later he asked me to try some bubbly drink he had just popped open, and I was standing nearby. I wish I could describe how inspiring it was to just stand around was like positive energy was flowing out of this guy in bucketloads. And I think he was just starting to realize it, too. Literally in the week after the party, he started doing new video blogs on his personal website, seemingly inspired by his fellow hosts during his weekend in Sonoma.

I had also wanted to meet Tim Ferriss, having recently read his book. He was gracious and attentive, but also knew how to get around to everyone. He was the only person who asked for my card. I pushed it on to everyone else I could. I don't know why...why not, I reasoned.

The wine flowed all night. I tried almost everything. The DeLoach wines were hit or miss, but the Pinot Noir and the Chardonnay stood out as the best. There were a few other wines there, and I don't know where they came from -- maybe Gary had provided them? I tasted the two bubbly 'champagnes', another Pinot Noir, the DeLoach Zinfindel, the DeLoach Cab, and one other wine I don't remember (it was red and not very memorable). The hours rolled by, and I did what I could to break out of my shell and talk to some people. I did pretty well with a very nice couple from the Napa area, and a second couple from the Bay area. Lots of couples, but I'm used to that at wine functions now. It seems to be a 'couple' thing to do.

Around midnight with spirits still high, Gary decided to do a 'live' Wine Library TV show. It's much of the reason for his internet fame -- 400 plus videos of him tasting wines and talking wine, and doing so in a way that energizes young people. As he likes to say, he 'brings the thunder' to 'change the wine world'. So, you can imagine the energy from him to do this show, and surrounded by at least 50 people while doing it. In fact, you can watch the show here. (You can kinda see me in the back behind Gary wearing BRIGHT GREEN).

Around 1:30 AM a lively game of Werewolf started. I wasn't in the first 'round' but ended up in the second as a villager and was killed off very quickly.

By 3 AM the party was almost at an end. I had vowed to stay as long as I could having driven so far to be there. Ferriss had long gone to bed. Gary was talking with Kevin Rose...somewhere. Scoble and a few other guests and myself were all that were left of the party. We all had that same 'vibe' of the right time to leave and made for the door. A final goodbye from Scoble with a promise to keep in touch, and I drove back to the hotel.

My trip back home the next day was largely uneventful (save for the very weird grocery store I stopped in before heading back -- and the fact it was Easter Sunday practically nothing was open, not even the Wal-Mart!) I listened to my music, sang loudly, drank Rockstar (having gotten about 4 hours of sleep -- thanks to the young child with family who seemed to stand outside my hotel room door at 8 AM to serve as a wake up call). Of course, without that natural adrenaline of anticipation, the drive home seemed much longer. But I did have the satisfaction of a mission accomplished, a weekend not wasted (I'm sure some would say I 'wasted 14-15 hours in my car, but I really don't see it that way).

When I go back and watch the videos or read other blogs which mention the party, it seems very surreal to me that I was there, that this was a kind of 'flash mob' party -- arranged in less than 30 hours through Twitter. A success of Web 2.0 in bringing people together? It certainly seemed to be.

So what's the lesson learned? I suppose there were many, but the one that stands out to me was that I should not be afraid to be myself. Not be afraid to have my voice heard. It's something I've been struggling with mightily lo these many months with this blog, my writing...I kept feeling that what I had to say wasn't very important or at best certainly not interesting to listen to. I'm trying not to think that way now. I do have something to say, and it may be of interest to *some*body out there. And that's enough.

And who knows, maybe someday soon, I'll have a larger platform from which to say the things I want. It would certainly be nice to have a vision realized. Until then, I'll keep blogging, keep writing, and keep...well, shouting into the wind. Much of what I say won't be heard, but some of it might make it through. And that will make it worth it.


kristen said...

What a cool adventure! I know exactly what you mean about mingling outside Hollywood. I was in a similar situation recently, surrounded by very smart people all talking passionately about something other than their jobs or aspirations. It was completely addictive and has made me seek out more of the same.

Diane Kristine said...

For what it’s worth, I don’t know you, I come for the TV stuff, but I’ve really enjoyed these posts. Sounds like something I’d do, hop in the car to explore an interest, except I’m really bad at the mingling with groups of strangers thing. But I value things like that: pursuing an interest outside my comfort zone. I think you learn a lot about yourself in those moments, and the road trip doesn’t hurt - they always help clarify my thoughts.

Fun Joel said...

Hey Shawna!

I know you posted this series well over a month and a half ago, but I was not only not writing blogs for about 2 months, but I wasn't reading any either. Was busy meeting deadline. But now that I'm back, I'm catching up on my reading the old blog posts I missed.

I LOVED this story, and the way you wrote it. So unlike most of the other stuff on here (not that I don't like those too -- if I didn't, I wouldn't come back). Made me want to see more of this kind of post out of you.

Anyway, I stumbled on one of Gary's video's about a month and half ago and was so entertained by it. I enjoy my wine, for sure, but I'm not as knowledgeable as some, nor as much of a geek about it. Which is why I didn't continue watching more of his. But I did love it anyway.

Good to see you doing what you wanted to do, and enjoying it!