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Writer Charles Blackstone on why it’s best to take risks around the holidays

Charles Blackstone with wife AlpanSingh Zurich July 2010.

Charles Blackstone with wife Alpana Singh in Zurich in July 2010.

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Updated: December 23, 2013 3:27PM



Seven years ago, on Christmas Eve, I proposed to my wife, Alpana Singh, whom I’d met only 11 weeks earlier. To most people, this might sound like a mildly crazy proposition. But I believe holidays are the best time of the year to take risks.

There are friends and family around to talk you through the pros and cons. You’ve been eating turducken and pie for weeks, so you’re too full to dwell very long on the cons. The heartwarming winter scenes on the other side of your windows are the perfect chilly scenic backdrop. And most important, there’s always a lot of booze around to encourage you and keep your ideas warm.

Sure, there’s always the risk that things will backfire and you’ll find yourself swimming in the punch bowl or spending the night in a snow bank. But with a little luck and some of Clarence’s seasonal help, you might just end up with what you’d always wanted.

In advance of a trip we were taking to Las Vegas over Christmas, I secretly procured the all-important objet d’amour. Two months and 17 days after Alpana Singh and I first met at the Hard Rock Hotel bar, I had an emerald-cut rock stashed in our room safe at the Flamingo.

It was Christmas Eve. We had drunk numerous cocktails that night, so my liquid courage was in surplus. When we got back to the room, Alpana lay on the bed, tired from the day’s flight and the evening’s revelry. I knew I’d found the right moment, and was ready to take the plunge. But then I froze, realizing I’d forgotten to pick up any of that aforementioned booze. How do you propose to a master sommelier without wine?

We were in Vegas, and I didn’t know where any stores were, and had no way to get anywhere without her noticing. But we were in Vegas. You can have anything you want at any time. I mumbled a call to room service and for a price slightly less than what it would cost to buy a Kia Rio on Craigslist, I had a bottle of Moët on its way.

The waiter from room service knocked, and my sommelier almost sent him away. But I coaxed him to wheel on in. I knew wine made one brave enough to take big chances in life, and sparkling wine, I’d learned from Alpana over the last two months, was always an instant party. With no more serious equipment than a bottle and a couple of glasses, one had everything necessary for any celebration big or small.

I handed her a glass, retrieved the small box from the safe, and delivered a few hopeful lines. And she said yes. (“I either had to marry you or get a restraining order,” she’s joked.) Thanks to the Champagne, or the ring, or maybe how both sparkled even brighter against Sin City’s neon, it was a Christmas Eve toast and a sip and a kiss that neither of us would soon forget.

Around this time three years later, I began writing the first draft of what would eventually become a novel inspired by these events: Vintage Attraction. A similar kind of risk, in ways, embarking on a long writing project, not knowing if I could make the experiences I’d had live on the page, not knowing if there was a payoff at the end of a long journey. But I pushed ahead — drinking a lot of wine on the way — and my risk paid off. The book was published this fall.

So this holiday season, take a risk, do something incredible, the thing you’ve always wanted to do but put off. The rewards are almost certain to outweigh the misgivings. But maybe, just to be sure, pour wine first.



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