The Wandering Eye

I was sitting at the outside bar with 42 at Farmstead in St. Helena on a gorgeous summer afternoon, when she caught me watching a woman pass by. “You are a flitterer,” she accused me. “You have a flittering eye.” I tried to pivot from this potentially volatile conversation faster than Sarah Huckabee Sanders at a press briefing by telling her there was no such word as “flitterer,” but it was no use. I had glanced over at a woman walking across the patio, she saw me do it, and I was busted.

Now, this wasn’t a full-fledged, head-arching, CIA-caliber investigative check-out. I’m talking about the Wandering Eye, the quick shift, the distraction. Regardless, I can see how this behavior comes across as tacky and disrespectful at best, and intimidating and demeaning at worst. As such, it is completely deserving of recrimination. But why is it so difficult not to do? As ball-scratching, proto-apes go, I consider myself to be adequately evolved, but I still only have about an 83% success rate at not watching that azz go by.

This is not to say that the Wandering Eye is a Date Crime reserved solely for men. I’ve been with plenty of women who’ve checked out other guys, though I find there is a variation of the Wandering Eye that seems to be a Super Power exclusive to the female gender: The Checkout Radar. And unlike men, who at least try to be subtle with their glaring, most women have no problem reporting in real time what is coming across their radar scope. “That guy at the table over there totally checked me out. So did the manager when we walked in. And that woman over there drinking the Lucia Pinot Noir thinks I’m a slut for wearing this dress.”

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Gary Pisoni, rock star winemaker for Lucia, lasciviously checking out Pinot Noir grapes.

Interestingly, science provides us with One Of The Three Reasons Why Men Have A Wandering Eye. This may seem like an excuse, a fait accompli that we are simply victims of our own bioengineering, but I say give it a try next time you’re caught and see what happens:

#1: Studies Indicate That The Human Eye Is Involuntarily Distracted By Peripheral Motion And Irrelevant Objects. This conclusion is backed up by several peer-reviewed papers. Two worthy of note are a 1998 study by scientists at The University of Illinois, and experiments reported in Remington, Johnson, Yantis (1992), “Involuntary attentional capture by abrupt onsets.” Perception & Psychophysics, 51(3):279-290.

In other words, there’s actual scientific evidence to back you up when you say, “I can’t help it!” Apparently, you can’t. We were born this way, because if our Neanderthal ancestors who were dining with their dates didn’t notice the saber-tooth tiger jumping out of the trees, they became the featured entree.

Reason Number Two has no science behind it at all, unfortunately, and is therefore a lot more subjective. But I think it’s insightful in it’s own weird way, so here you go:

#2: Any Thoughts I Have About A Woman That Distracts Me Are Irrelevant, As They Have No Basis In Reality. No, I don’t want to have sex with that woman I just glanced at…though maybe I’d consider sex with the complete fantasy version of her I just concocted in my mind: one where she’s a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Master Somm with a 2,000-bottle wine collection who’d pay my utility bill the morning after.

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Oh my GAWD! Check out those sunglasses!!

Reason Number Three stems from why I only have that aforementioned 83% success rate. One evening, while I was having drinks with Ex #2, I was droning on about something when I noticed her eyes light up like sparklers on the 4th of July. Assuming this wasn’t a reaction to whatever fascinating story I was telling, I asked her what was going on.

“Oh my GOD,” she whispered. “Did you see that girl’s butt?”

No, I didn’t, I thought to myself. But more importantly, how come I didn’t and you did?

So we struck a deal: We could check out anyone we wanted, but we had to acknowledge it to the other person. Though this may sound a wee bit dysfunctional on a certain level, it had a logic behind it that removed all feelings of jealousy or disinterest.

#3: Because It’s OK To Acknowledge When Something Beautiful Or Different Passes By. If a strikingly beautiful woman walks by me, I’m probably going to notice, in the exact same way I’d notice if Ryan Gosling passed by. Or some dude carrying a Picasso walked by, or if a UFO lands across the street, or if a Centaur starts walking through the restaurant handing out winning lottery tickets. I’m just going to notice. It’s just going to happen.

And that’s ok. In some respects, this behavior is ironically at the root of everything we consider right and good and deserving of our priorities: Stop and smell the roses; the philosophy of namaste. I’m writing this entry on the balcony of my apartment, and I can’t count how many times I’ve been distracted by the changing colors of the sunset. Perhaps one can argue that’s not the same as being distracted by another person when your attention should be on someone else, but maybe that’s more an issue of the prejudices of our own insecurities.

Sinegal 2Getting Distracted By The New Object In Your Peripheral Vision Pairs With: The 2014 Sinegal Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. As I’ve mentioned before in these pages, I was a bit ready to mostly write off the 2014 vintage in Napa. Maybe it was the stark contrast to the exquisite 2013 vintage, but I generally haven’t been a fan, especially of the fruit profile, which has too much bubble gum for me. Then along came the 2014 Sinegal Cabernet Sauvignon, and I’m a changed man. Maybe this is the outlier of the vintage, but Mother of God is this an amazing wine.

Sinegal is the luxury wine brand project of David Sinegal, the son of James Sinegal, co-founder of Costco. Though David had no experience making wine, during his own 20 years at Costco he’d overseen all buying, including the wine buying. It was also during this time that he started developing – and I kid you not – the 1,403 steps to making a great wine.

After purchasing the old Inglenook property in St. Helena, Sinegal zeroed in on the major aspects of grape growing and winemaking, and his top talent team—winemaker Tony Biagi (formerly at Plumpjack), veteran viticulturalist Jim Barbour, and consultant Craig Williams (former winemaker of Phelps Insignia)—brainstormed to develop a list of micro-actions for each part of the process. For example, they give different amounts of water to each individual vine. They divide even small vineyard blocks into two-ton lots so they can harvest grapes in perfect condition. They even get goats to do the weeding between the vines.

All this effort and attention to detail is fully apparent in the wine, and at “only” $90, it’s a Napa cult Cabernet with actual value. The 2014 is only their second vintage. Get on their mailing list before it escapes your field of vision.

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