Thursday, May 23, 2013
When I turned up dead, I knew I had an unusual case on my hands. I’d been fine the last time I saw me, that morning, in the mirror. I remember because, since I’ve put on a few pounds recently, it was the first time I’d seen my penis since Anthony Weiner sexted a picture of it all over the damned planet. It winked at me. I’d finished showering (I like my showers like I like my babes—hot, wet, and finished in three minutes) and was shaving. I hate shaving. My electric razor shoots the damned shaving cream all over the mirror. But there I was, the HoseMaster, a private dick staring at his formerly private dick. Alive and dangling.
Or was I?
Funny thing when you die—you’re the last to know. I’d seen it my whole career. I’d be sitting in the square, peacefully drinking Kosta Browne Pinot Noir from my shoe, when I’d look up and I’d see a woman walking by who was dead and didn’t know it. You’ve seen the type. That stunned look on her face, like she’d just finished reading a Matt Kramer column in Wine Spectator, her face frozen like she’s modeling for Edvard Munch, a wine glass suspended between her breasts in a wine yoke, her glittery T-Shirt declaring, “Wine Bloggers Do It Alone in Their Room.” Dead. Her blog readers know it, her prose proves it, her ideas symptomatic of a straight line on an EEG. There are hundreds and hundreds of these wine bloggers among us. I always feel sorry for them, these Walking Dead, these Internet Zombies. Like so many people, they think death is sudden, a moment when the lights go out, your last thought the thought that this can’t be happening to me, it should be happening to Jay McInerney even if it is twenty years too late. But death’s not like that. It’s slow, and it’s apparent to everyone else but you.
Death is like fermentation. Your life happens while you’re growing, when you’ve yet to be harvested. But when you reach maturity, your life is plucked from you, the great Winemaker in the Sky crushes you, and fermentation begins. It takes a while, and you think you’re improving. You bubble with energy and radiate heat. But you’re dying. It might take two weeks, or death might get stuck, it often gets stuck when you don’t know what you’re doing, but once that fermentation is finished, you’re simply dead. Most of us are fermenting even now, especially bloggers, who stop growing even as they begin their “journey to discover wine,” a written journey that virtually defines brain death. It explains the peculiar aromas. Death is one long extended fermentation; it punches us down, over and over, twice a day, to extract everything it can from us. And then it drains us of everything we are, puts us in a large wooden vessel, sometimes new wood, sometimes old, and puts us somewhere nice and cold, like between Natalie MacLean’s lips.
So I woke up the other day and realized I was dead. And, even worse, I knew the people who had killed me. I had all the evidence against them I needed, but how could I bring them to justice? Justice is all you have left when you’re dead. Well, that and a farewell boner. The dead want justice like the living want love. Neither ever gets enough. Perhaps it’s better to want justice when you’re alive, and love after you’re gone. But you’ll never get that either. What do we get instead? Pain, misery, heartbreak, and Wine Blog Awards. It is a tribute to human courage that we manage to endure.
You see, that’s what killed the HoseMaster in the end. Wine Blog Awards. Believe me, this is an ugly way to die. Slowly and painfully, at the hands of ruthless and sinister people. People who have no right to even give you an award, people who intrude into a perfectly fine business, pretend it’s theirs, steal your reputation and standing, and use it to enrich their own lives. They’re like bank robbers, or a Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri tasting. They have no remorse for their foul deeds. They make Frank Cornelissen proud. They declare themselves in charge, and, dopes that we are, we accede. We give in because we lack imagination, and because we seek acceptance and praise like a Cru Beaujolais producer seeks more than 91 points—hopelessly, and because we imagine it matters. Just as we give in to death. Only death is certain, Wine Blog Awards are imaginary.
Sure, the people responsible hire fall guys. I wanted to blame the fall guys for my death. And, that morning, I was beginning to realize I was dead. I was starting to like Malbec. Who likes Malbec? Dead people, people with nothing to lose. But it wasn’t the fall guys, the “judges” (honorary titles to flatter the suckers), who murdered me, it was the organizers, the con men, who killed me.
I did something stupid. It’s partly my fault. Isn’t death always partly our fault, like every tragedy, like the NBA? I opened an email attachment. I knew it was stupid even as I was doing it. Like when you walk down the stairs in your socks, or you check your gas tank with a cigarette lighter, or you buy rare wines at auction. In the attachment were my death warrants. Like Pandora, I’d opened the box. Or selected shitty music. I don’t remember what metaphor works any more. But, when I saw what was in the attachments, I knew the HoseMaster was dead. Dead like “fighting varietals.”. Dead like “soft wines.” Dead like “Mutineer Magazine.” Done. Over. Kaput. Kardashianed. Pamela Sue’d. I was in an Aldered state.
The attachment consisted of nomination badges in four different categories for HoseMaster of Wine™ to win a Wine Blog Award. It was the moment you hear the gun going off just long enough to know you’re a goner. Not that I didn’t have it coming.
Gumshoes make lots of enemies. But, in the end, my enemies didn’t have anything to do with it. Death rarely comes from expected places. That’s one thing I’ve learned as the HoseMaster. Death is slow, and you’re dead before you know it, but the causes, well, they never reveal themselves until it’s too late. It’s like a blind tasting. All your years of experience, all that you bring to the table, all of your insight and passion and love, hell, it just doesn’t matter. Where you stick your nose just might be the end of you. And, on top of that, the idiot next to you doesn’t know crap. Blind tasting is the human condition.
But what’s done is done. Justice will come one day. We have to believe that. I like to think that the Wine Blog Awards ceremony will be the HoseMaster’s wake. People who hate me will still have to say nice things about me. I won’t be there, so I won’t care. My name will be announced, men will gasp and women will weep, but when the shock has worn off, people who otherwise revile me, people whose secrets I’ve uncovered, whose weaknesses I’ve held up to the light, those people will be forced to laud me, to say that, all along, they liked me, admired my work. When it’s not true. I like to think that maybe the whole charade will crumble, that the people who campaigned and begged for votes, who surrendered their talent to vanity, who craved an award given by poseurs and decided by the wisdom of the hopelessly vacuous who live on FaceBook, that they’ll speak my name in false reverence and realize the emptiness of the gesture. And slowly recognize the death of their own souls.
“And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”
I’ve had tough cases before, solved The MS Conspiracy and Dial MW for Murder. I battled my arch enemy Frank Anosmia and came out not smelling a rose. I never thought I’d have to work my own death. You spend your whole life fighting the bad guys and then one day you realize you’re one of them. It’s the great mystery of life. And of death. You just don’t know what you’ve got until it’s done fermenting.
Monday, May 20, 2013
After months of soul searching and consideration, and in the interest of transparency and full disclosure, I have decided to list the ingredients and processes that go into each piece on HoseMaster of Wine™. I am hopeful that my candor and honesty will spread throughout the wine blog world. As it stands now, when you read a wine blog you have no idea what went into the blog, aside from alcohol-fueled stupidity and the vocabulary of a porpoise, i.e. whistling through the blowhole. Nothing harmful is ever added to a HoseMaster of Wine™ article, though nausea can be a direct side effect. If you find yourself becoming slightly nauseated when reading, it’s wise to either induce vomiting, or, if you’re uncomfortable sticking a finger down your own throat, here’s a link that should work.
Once you’ve read through the ingredients, demand of other bloggers that they do the same for their blogs. Ask yourself, what are they hiding? Consider never reading any wine blog that doesn’t list its ingredients. Many are dangerous and cause irreparable brain damage; others are known to have caused cutting. I know a woman who cannot read Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman without slowly slicing her forearms with a Ginsu knife. While clearly appropriate, this is dangerous behavior induced by the blog’s content. At least the knife isn’t dull.
And, also, remember not to vote for any wine blog nominated for a Poodle Award that hasn’t fully disclosed its ingredient list. This would set a terrible precedent. Winners could do harm to unsuspecting new readers—there have been reports of headaches, sleep apnea and erectile dysfunction, but those reports are unconfirmed, and why would you believe my wife anyway? The wine blog world is nearly ten years old now. Isn’t it time we disclose what we’re made of?
Venom: It takes plenty of venom to produce HoseMaster of Wine™. Most wine blogs have very little venom content. In fact, most have little content at all. Remember, if you have been bitten by one of my blog posts, it will hurt for a moment, but don’t panic. Rather than overreact, experts recommend you suck it.
Wine: Inebriation is a key ingredient and I never skimp. I ask that you use HoseMaster of Wine™ responsibly and in moderation. Do not operate heavy machinery while reading. Do not read if you are pregnant. If you are thinking about becoming pregnant, call me. Operators are standing by, but I don’t care if they watch if you don’t. If reading the blog with a group, please use a Designated Reader who is to remain sober and never laugh. Well, the never laugh part is easy.
Artificial Sweeteners: Occasionally something sweet appears in HoseMaster of Wine™. Trust me, this is artificial.
Thought: Only tiny bits of thought are ever used in the production of HoseMaster of Wine™, but at least it’s not some stupid compendium of links to other websites that takes no goddam thought at all.
Wit Substitutes: In the absence of wit, which is known to be carcinogenic, I use wit substitutes. Common wit substitutes include puns, long sentences that sound like wit but really aren’t, sarcastic remarks that widely miss the mark (often called “snarky” by ignorant shitheads), and Randall Grahm sloppy seconds. Wit substitutes are rarely found in wine blogs, which seem to prefer going entirely witless.
Irony: Just listing irony is ironic. Isn’t that ironic? Hell, I put the “ron” in ironic. And without a condom.
Meat Byproducts: Strictly to protect against unwanted Spam.
HoseMaster of Wine™ was produced in a facility that handles my nuts. If you are allergic to my nuts, you are advised to read another blog, or to ingest a small part of my nuts on a daily basis until the allergy subsides.
HoseMaster of Wine™ has been known to cause birth defects in lab rats, like we give a fuck about lab rats.
If after reading HoseMaster of Wine™ you have an erection lasting more than four hours, well, that’s just about average. Try harder.
Objects appearing in HoseMaster of Wine™ are closer than they appear. Objects appearing in my pants are larger than they appear.
By law, HoseMaster of Wine™ is allowed to contain small pieces of rat turd, otherwise known as the Hundred Point Scale.
Do not use HoseMaster of Wine™ in an enclosed space. The fumes are explosive. If you smell anything resembling Grüner Veltliner, immediately open the windows and shout, “It wasn’t me, it was the dog.” In an actual emergency, an oxygen mask will drop from the ceiling. Place the mask over your face, inhale like you have emphysema, and say, “Luke, I’m your father.”
Void where prohibited by law.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
It was what they’d all been waiting for. The Rapture.
For a short period of time the prices of Natural Wines skyrocketed. Demand far outstripped supply. It wasn’t unheard of for a thirty dollar bottle to sell in excess of $300. But the winemaker had to have vanished May 16, 2013, the Day of The Rapture. That was what validated that the wines were genuinely “natural.” Just as a painter’s works jump in value upon his death, so the last of the true Natural Wines became priceless. Wines left behind in barrels were confiscated, moved to a central warehouse, and closely monitored by the government to ensure they weren’t manipulated in any way. Professional critics were enlisted to periodically check the barrels to make absolutely sure they were reassuringly faulty and malodorous to normal people. Once bottled, without both sulfites and conscience, in tribute to the vanished winemakers, the wines were auctioned and the money distributed to the widows and children left behind by The Rapture.
Controversy and violent protests broke out in wine regions across the world. Hundreds and hundreds of winemakers who had declared their wines “natural” had been Left Behind. Left behind unjustly, they proclaimed. A spokeswoman emerged, the champion of the Natural Wine movement, and the maligned, still alive, natural winemakers rallied behind her, calling themselves The Feiring Squad.
“Our wines are natural,” The Feiring Squad declared, “and we have the marketing material to prove it. Furthermore, our wines have been declared Natural, been declared Real, been declared Authentic by the experts empowered to declare them so. They have tasted the wines! Did the God who delivered The Rapture ever taste our wines? Who does He think he is? Robert Parker? He may be God, but He’s no Robert Parker.
“We have been blessed by the writings of Alice, legitimized in the works of the Hobbit Jamie Goode, made real, like Pinocchio, by the Good Fairy Jeremy Parzen, and yet we remain. Our brothers and sisters who were taken from us during what is now referred to as The Wine Rapture most assuredly deserved their disappearances. I think every wine lover applauds their disappearance. But The Feiring Squad protests! We should have been taken too.”
Some desperate winemakers, who had disingenuously declared their wines natural, went into hiding, pretending that they had vanished during The Rapture. They anonymously posted on popular wine blogs, declaring themselves “vanished” in an attempt to drive the prices of their wines higher, and to save their manufactured reputations. But most finally had to emerge from hiding and admit that they hadn’t actually made Natural Wine in the first place. “I didn’t really manipulate my wine that much,” one said, as he was publicly humiliated and scorned, “I spent most of my time manipulating the press. I lied, I exaggerated, I hid a few facts, who did it hurt? If it weren’t for that fucking Rapture, I’d still be a hero to the shitheads who believe in Natural Wine.”
Husbands and wives left behind that fateful May Day in 2013 also formed an alliance, Spouses Overwhelmed Too, abbreviated SO2. SO2 members dressed exclusively in white and were invited to attend every serious winery’s blessing of the Harvest, where they spoke of their beloved taken by The Rapture, their beloved’s purity and devotion to wine, their lost partner’s belief that only Nature and God can make wine that is worth drinking and that a winemaker doesn’t need skill or discernment or a background in chemistry and viticulture to make wine, a winemaker just needs blind devotion to non-intervention and a really gullible mailing list. SO2 members were considered saints and clairvoyants, and wonderful paint ball targets.
The reward for those who had actually followed the rigorous standards of Natural Wine was being taken to Heaven by The Rapture. Those lucky few, one who had been having unnatural intercourse with a miniature sheep when he abruptly vanished, leaving ewe perplexed, and one who had been speaking at a winemaker dinner at a Vegan restaurant when he suddenly wasn’t there any more, his audience turning pale and gaseous (in other words, unchanged), among others, would forever be revered as Natural Winemakers. No scientific explanation was ever offered for their massive disappearance. None was needed. God had called them home to tend his Heavenly vineyards, to make wine only for Him. God knows it wouldn’t kill Him, anyway.
The Feiring Squad eventually disbanded, their pleas and excuses unheeded and disbelieved. Alice was left to write only obituaries, to beg to taste the last of the Natural Wines to have been auctioned off, to whither away into wine obscurity, alone with her inflatable Nicholas Joly doll, otherwise known as Nicholas Joly. SO2 became a mere footnote to The Rapture, their presence at an event a reminder of the basic dishonesty in the Natural Wine movement, their number so small compared to those who had lied and lied and yet whose spouses were never left behind.
Twenty years later it was back. Climate change was still on the world’s back burner, the one that burns petroleum. Many of the large mammals of the world had gone extinct, including most NFL players. The oceans were rising faster than the water in Marvin Shanken’s bathtub when he gets in. And Natural Wines, Real Wines, Authentic Wines returned.
But there was no Second Rapture. “Fuck ‘em,” God said, “if they’re that stupid.”