Ξ September 24th, 2010 | → 4 Comments | ∇ A Day at a Time |
A couple of years ago, before the creation of this site, I wrote a serial on a highly respected wine blog forum. Much time has passed since those innocent days. After much reflection (and a substantial rewrite), I thought it might be nothing but fun to post it here. The tale is what I call ‘enhanced fiction’. In an effort to keep it short, and with a vigilant eye to my serious work, only ever so often I will post additional parts, five in all, I think. I hope it is received in the same playful spirit in which it was written.
One summer Robert Parker and I went wine tasting on islands scattered in the Indian Ocean. I was to become the official Wine Advocate correspondent for what he called A-list Atolls, and he was showing me the ropes.
I have known him all my life, but owing to our competitive natures many were the angry breaks we took from one another, some years long. Worst was the bloody boil-over one cool Tasmanian evening while philosophizing about Nature’s feminine caress, whether of grapes or the driftwood, the generous curves of which were burning in our beach fire.
Perhaps the moonlight was to blame, perhaps it was his realization that Zanzibar Cellars was actually headquartered in Oregon; to this day, I do not know. But suddenly there emerged a violent disagreement over a Christmas Island 2001 ‘Tattoo’ we were then sipping. He claimed its color was luxurious, a dense ruby/purple/inky-saturated powerhouse, best drunk when in a bathrobe or toga; while I thought it irrefutably modernest, marginally literate, a simple shirt-stainer, besides, the sun had set. On the nose he detected gravel repeatedly trod upon by dirty horse hooves, a bonfire of mushroom and new Las Vegas Bacarrat felt. No! I had to disagree. All I got was Miracle-Grow-infused rutabagas, empty promises, a fruit to-be-determined, and just a hint of bitter clown tears. But it was disagreement over the palate that we turned to fisticuffs. Believe it or not (and I hoped a few bottles of the four cases produced made it to American shores; damn those British collectors), he thought the finish like a broth of dusty snake, enobled by crushed insect aromatics, smoking loons, flamboyant espresso, and (this is when I hit him) bloody socks. Smoking loons? Bloody socks? Are you kidding!? Robert, you have lost your mind, I yelled. It finished like a flat Sprite, compost tea, lead-contaminated Chinese candies and unwashed sex toys.
He hit me back, and screamed, “Cassis notes! Loads of personality!”
“Yeah, sure, old man. You may be impressively endowed but you need 5-7 years of cold cellaring!”
We parted that night. I made it back to the US somehow (funny story, another time). We went our separate ways. He deepened his career in gustatory deceit, I went into film. I guess we’re even.
Episode 1 RECONNECTING
The 4 a.m. stillness of the Barcelona nunnery was broken by a phone call from RP. “What? RP?!” “I need your help, Ken….” The voice was beaten, resigned, yet supple, super-ripe. Desperation at 96 points. So many years had passed since the Tattoo tasting had shaken the wine world that I hardly recognized his cutting-edge vocals. “If you’re RP what’s the password?” “Sea Smoke”. “Well, right. How did you get my private cell #?” “My miracles are many”. I remember it differently. I hung up, shocked at the call. You see, I was fruit-forward, so to speak, in a rusty bride of christ; yet I soon came to a bright sense: Was so a rare friend really in need? What if Yes? Regrets, recriminations of old flew out the door, flowed away like water under the proverbial bridge. Sweet RP! Was that really you? Think so! Metaphors freely mixed in my simple brain. His boisterous, grilled-meat personality, so concentrated on the phone, sought my firm structure. A no finer grip of friendship have I never known! My soul toughened. I turned to my pale flower, my cloistered game, “Dear, please forgive me. Let go.” I let her go. “RP called”, I whispered. Muscles loosened. She understood.
RP and I, we’ve both long been wandering under hostile stars. A friend in need…
I silently leapt up from the bed, no more than a hard cedar board. I took gentle care to break Sister Teresa’s sleepy hold on my ankle from the next cot. Anxious, was I. The room full of God’s betrothed stirred, their dreams of concubinage disturbed. I placed a modest stack of Euros topped with chocolates, my usual, near the door. Bless the tortured beauties.
But RP, only RP is on my mind. I checked my phone. The International area code recorded was that of Mexico. I’m on my way, RP! I’ll find you!
Episode 2 TRAVEL
There is nothing wrong with a case of Clape, I try to tell myself. Old joke freshly squirming in a medicated body, mine. I’m 20,000 feet over the Atlantic on a Lufthansa flight J2347 to Mexico City. Got to find RP. But, can I? I’m as nervous as a baby in a crack house. I call repeatedly the number RP left until, frustrated by the plane’s erratic flight path blamed on my phone, the co-pilot himself, a muscular, dry ‘58 wafting more than a hint of Axe, hair stained green from too many lay-over swims in chlorinated Ramada pools, slaps the cell phone from my ear. OK, ok! Humiliating. I then remember what an intimate friend, M. Rolland, once told me in the depths of Pavie’s ‘other’ tasting room back in ‘82, “Never stop flying. Ever.” Yes. I find a clearing in my panicky forest of exclamation points, and breath deeply. Feel better. M. Rolland was right (although turns out he uses the same line with everybody. And I mean everybody. Never calls).
The penicillin forbids me drinking. But I have a look at the wine list anyway. Jeez! You’d think the German’s had won the war! Bullying consonants were everywhere and stuck sideways in my throat: Mittelrhein, Hessische Bergstrasse, Saale Unstrut, Ahr (?) The French followed on the list, hardly surprising, and with vowels to spare. Where do the French find all those vowels? I think they’ve been stealing letters of the alphabet from each other for centuries. The spoils of war. Cointreau vrs Bock. Bordeaux vrs Pfaltz. What madness!
Then came a couple of Italians, Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano Antica Chiusina and Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva Le Due Sorelle. The smaller the typeface the better the wine, I guess. But I am not in my right mind. I have only one thought, RP! Wait, there are California wines rounding out the list. Couldn’t hurt to take a peek. Dominus, Araujo, Egelhoff, Duckhorn, Grace (seems they’ve a) Family, among others. Well… health can wait. I order two small plastic bottles (post 9-11 world), a 1999 Chateau Beaux Mals, a 2002 Trokensmashmouthin Shrieksbaden, and a very pretty Staglin ‘Nam’ from Cali. And…
Peeled from my seat upon touchdown in Mexico City, I stumble through the airport toward Customs…
END OF PART 1