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Hi, this is Danielle, the woman in the photo next to this column. Except older. Much. You were expecting to read about Contessa but I’ve had to fill in for her because she’s missing. No, not sleeping-in- the-alley-behind-Spec’s-missing, but off-the-grid-missing. 
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Many times, she’s threatened to run away. Just a few weeks after her wedding, Contessa broke down under the weight of marital bliss. Ironing The Big Guy’s undershorts every morning and fetching his Budweiser each night had taken a toll. Contessa told The Big Guy sometimes she felt the need to bolt.  
Shaken, he asked, “I-10 East or West?” She wouldn’t say. Just in case.
There was the time Pinot and Grigio both came down with paralyzing twinitis. They slouched on the couch in front of the TV one afternoon and didn’t move for another five years. She tried running off with the pool boy then but he was too fast. All those wine bottles in her purse could slow a cheetah.  
Contessa left once, after Tween-age Cat asked if she could wear thongs. The kind with a strap squeezed inside a crack that wasn’t between her toes. Contessa showed up at the Betty Ford Center the next morning, requesting Lindsay Lohan’s suite. 
The getaway was ideal. Someone else would cook meals and scrub toilets. Contessa would be surrounded by folks asking what she was feeling. For real, and not as a ruse to trick her into mowing the lawn. 
That escape backfired at the entrance when they said, “Leave the wine outside.” Contessa was too shy to walk around bra-less, and afraid she’d keep tripping, so she returned home.  
This time, she’s really gone and it’s my fault. Nearly a decade ago, I forced Contessa to share her life and family with Tribune readers. Being a timid wallflower, she refused. After I threatened to break her corkscrew, Contessa relented. That’s when she introduced the entire Contessa household, and her nagging friend, Merlotta, to Tribune readers.  
I did more than force her to share her world. I created that world, putting thoughts into her head and words into her mouth. That world was filled with chaos, humor, love, restraining orders and wine. And share her world, she did! Contessa spread stories from her life, like baking cookies for Pinot and Grigio’s gal-pals that landed those young ladies in the hospital. She regaled with tales about volunteering in classrooms, serving at student banquets and delivering treats to teachers – all of which led to the school’s adoption of TSA-styled pat-downs upon entrance into the building. 
Contessa’s stories rang true to many readers, although in a wacky, hectic, and sometimes bizarre way. I created her adventures and shared them in more than 100 columns hoping readers might crack a grin and say, “Better her than me.” 
I’ve come to that proverbial fork in the wine aisle and am following a different path. This is the final “Haute Flash Contessa” column.  New writing projects await me and they demand all the creativity and time I can muster. At least they aren’t demanding my wine. 
One project is a humorous companion piece to my book, “Don’t Chew Jesus!,” which celebrates its 10-year-anniversary this fall. Also in the works is a comedic memoir of self-discovery. Hint: think Growing up Catholic meets Jewtopia. (Google both if you’re unfamiliar.) 
I’m appreciative of your readership, and for not bolting down I-10 after that first column, but it’s time to say good-bye. I won’t promise Contessa is gone forever. She might pop up performing Contessa Uncorked! comedy shows and there could be a book with her name in the title somewhere down the road. In the meantime, she (or I) can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Contessa would want me to leave you with this reminder: 
“It’s Wine O’Clock Somewhere.”