"I am itching with anticipation for your next entry! I hope you realize you have the support of Tumblr behind you, cheering you on, and hoping for the best in your life. You and the beautiful story of White Elephant in the Room continue to touch all of us in so many different ways.” — An Admirer, India
"Your writing—along with an epiphany, a conversation with an English professor and a handful of failed chemistry exams—has inspired me to pick my pen (or laptop?) again and switch to an English major. What you do and how you express it means volumes to myself and others. As a long-time follower of White Elephant in the Room, please keep doing what you’re doing…you’re an inspiration on so many different levels.” — Haley, New York
Going to a wine store with Alberto was not unlike going to a boutique with a fashion merchandiser: while you’re drooling over ankle boots, they’re dissecting the front-of-store, judging wall and counter displays, evaluating the retail layout.
Whenever Alberto and I stopped “for a bottle of red” at the Jersey wine market near his sister’s house, we never got out in under 45 minutes.
He’d talk up the manager about screw caps vs. corks, recent consumer habits, whether sales were up or down compared to this quarter last year.
Alberto would walk every single aisle: scrutinizing shelf-talkers and placement of his client’s brands or translating market trends that blew up after the success of a certain movie or vintner: thanks to Yellow Tail, we’ve got Red Buffalo, Blue Fish and Green Fucking Monkey chardonnay. And thanks to ‘Sideways,’ people are too embarrassed to serve merlot. Which is, frankly, a shameful travesty.
During one of our stops for a bottle—or 12—I’d held up a velvet wine bag.
Your sister would love this, I said.
The look on his face said we are so not buying that.
Because wine bags are redundant: people just take out the bottle as soon as you present it.
No. Wine. Bags.
This is the flashback that greets me tonight when Alberto’s sister and I stop at Alberto’s favorite wine market in Jersey.
I get in line while Barby looks for merlot but find myself remembering one of our holiday rituals: placing a bottle of wine and a ribbon-tied card at the front doors of our NYC neighbors.
(The ribbon-through-the-corner-of-the-card was my idea, but the bottle-at-each-door was Alberto’s tradition.)
It was what we did before wheeling our Miami- or Quebec-bound luggage into the hall on Christmas Day.
When I feel the familiar clutch in my throat, I start fidgeting.
Shifting my weight.
Soon as Barby arrives, I dash out of line.
Where you going? Barby asks.
Holiday wine, I explain, for the neighbors.
When I return with four bottles of 2007 pinots, I give Barby the backstory.
Really, she sighs. Albert did that? I had no idea.
It’s smart PR, I say. Considering all the common walls.
We share a few silent moments before Barby grabs my arm.
Holy hell, she exclaims, have you ever seen such a cute wine bag?
I whirl around.
The bag is illustrated with a tipsy Snowman: a wine glass in its stick hand.
I hesitate for all of a half-second.
Gimme me four, sister, I nod. And while you’re at it, add one for you.
“I’ve been following White Elephant in the Room for awhile, but when you mentioned the closing of Revolución, I googled it for the first time. I’m so sorry his business met its demise, but what accolades! What an incredible man you married! And frankly, what an incredible woman and writer he married. In my family, when someone dies, the deceased becomes sainted: we only talk about the strengths. But I think it detracts from a person’s legacy when we overlook foibles and shortcomings. You write with honesty—brave, irreverent honesty—about your relationship with Alberto. And through every story, your love and his legacy shine through.”— Renee, Las Vegas
I’m a girl who comes with a box of Christmas ornaments.
When I was a kid, our family made snowmen with top hats, skiing pandas on popsicle sticks, plastic apples with our names in gold pen. As my brother and I grew up, the ornaments were store-bought and commemorated a hobby or some significant event: convertibles when we got our first car, a globe for my first trip abroad, a filigree of Sather Gate when I graduated Berkeley.
During my first December as a wife, I unpacked my giant box of ornaments.
A sea of mementos crept across the dining table.
From the couch, Alberto raised his eyebrows.
You’re putting all those up?
They’ll fit! It’s a big tree.
He got up, examined a badly painted dough figure in the hollow of a walnut.
Seriously? he said.
That’s the first ornament I made, I squealed. I was, like, three!
He laughed, shook his head and went back to the TV remote.
You’re not? Going to help?
Um, no. This is your thing.
I couldn’t comprehend it.
My dad and brother had always participated in this ritual.
I was newly married and a little devastated.
Hadn’t yet realized that everything in a marriage isn’t met with mutual enthusiasm.
So I decorated the stupid tree with a pout on my face.
I may have done a tequila shot in the kitchen.
On Christmas Eve, he grimaced as he unwrapped SIX ornaments from our respective families and me.
He handed me a box: a flaming, Mexican-style heart decorated with the words ‘I Love You.’
The following year, I dressed the tree on a December night when he worked late.
By Christmas No. Three, as we drove back from Jersey with an evergreen on our convertible, he announced that it would only be fair if we switched off the Christmas-tree theme every other year.
What does that mean? I asked.
This year, we continue your Craft Land Adventure. Next year, we do an all-monochromatic tree. The lights, the ornaments, everything. I’m thinking white or silver.
Does this mean you’ll help me decorate? I laughed.
Are you kidding? I will art-direct that motherfucking tree!
When Christmas No. Four was within sight, I reminded him about the monochromatic tree.
Right, we need to do that.
The second weekend in December, I mentioned it again.
Honey, he smiled, how would you feel about not getting a tree this year? I mean, we’re leaving for Quebec in 10 days and then we’ll just have to pack everything away when we get back…
I did not interrupt to say that, actually, I would have to pack everything away when we got back.
Instead, I agreed.
Not getting a tree sounded brilliant. And practical.
I did not give him an ornament on what became his last Christmas.
He didn’t get me one either.
And as we celebrated the holiday from our suite in Montreal, neither of us gave two shits about ornaments or trees.
"Of all the blogs I follow, your posts remain my favorite. You have the ability to transfer your emotions into your readers—even if we have otherwise never experienced them. I have often gushed to my friends about White Elephant in the Room and many of them have witnessed my geek-outs when you ‘heart’ one of my posts! No doubt when I’m in NYC for Christmas, I will have many White Elephant fangirl moments, much to the bewilderment of my travel buddies. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself and your story with us. You deserve only the best of this world.” — Fangirl, Melbourne, Australia
“Your daughter is truly gorgeous: such a light and sweet soul…unlike Portugal, who proved to be neither light nor sweet. What you wrote in 100 Proof about getting a taste of your own behavior: I can relate. It just doesn’t feel just like ‘freedom’ when you’re on the other end of it. Trust me when I say you’ve been spared, White Elephant.” — Brenda, California
“When I discovered my wife hanging from our garage rafters, it was 16 ashen hours after she died. Her twisted body still haunts me six years later. I know no God in any form, and yet I pray daily for the people who helped me through that awful week. You were one of the people, Tré. You refilled my glass the night we found her and clipped my nose hairs before the funeral. I have never forgotten your kindness—or your mother’s—and as I read of your newly broken heart, I hope you remember that you have survived much worse than a Portuguese workaholic with a guitar to spare.” —P., Thailand