Whole life I’ve worn hand me downs. From my older cousins, irregular fits, and Salvation Army, must retro. People see me on the street and they get nostalgia. Nostalgia is a hampering condition for most stigmatized people, which is pretty much almost everybody. My mom would call me a “ragamuffin”.
Mom is a JC Penney, Sears, and Montgomery Ward lady. She adores Walgreens and avidly reads the coupon section they insert in the Sunday section of the paper. She didn’t have much growing up, so anything is great even if it is a cheap rendition of something nice. I remember her telling her friends that my wardrobe was such a fuss on account of poor workmanship and my relentless desire to slide like a baseball player into things. She always bought the cheapest because that was all she could afford. Even later in life, when money was there, we’d try to get her to upscale a bit. We’d plead the advantages of quality and explain the saving in cost. She never budged. Only enough. I just wanted to be like my peers, I wanted a Chicago Cubs Jacket, not an iron on emblem.
My first wine was Boone’s Farm. I liked the Country Quencher version. Tart, sweet, drunk. My friends and I would guzzle bottles of it in the village parks. We kept a watchful eye for the cops until we found an old lunch table for some medical device company next to the El tracks. The bench was shaded by a dwarfed elm that obscured the view from the street. We’d arrive on Friday night and drink in peace until Sunday morning. There was a park across the street so the cops always spotlighted there and our secret bench remained. The company eventually put out a recycle bin for our empties and the stage was set. We drank there almost every weekend through high school and when I’d come home from college, all my pals and I would buy a couple bottles of Boone’s and a case of Milwaukee’s Best and get wasted.
My eyes fool people. They think I’m looking deep into their soul and giving them my undivided attention when really, I’m sucking their ideas dry. Every stutter of laugh they utter, I lock away and use in my stories. Even if they read them, it would take a logistic with time on hand to trace the footprints on the beach back to me. I just smile and nod and take away.
It wasn’t like this until I shed my insecurities like cobwebs and destined to a faux realization of who I thought I wanted to be. I read Sartre, Nietzsche, Marshall McLuhan, Kafka, Camus, Hrabal, Milan Kundera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, all the best surreal existentialists. All the best. Even though everybody wanted me to be just like Hemingway, ‘cuz we drank the same water, I would pasha and thumb nose.
“Hemingway is a hack” I’d say.
Then I read The Old Man and the Sea and I thought about how the old man’s boat didn’t sink and I was real happy.
I went to the liquor store and perused the wine. I picked out a cabernet from Chile. I’d heard at a cocktail party that the ’99 was great. So I bought one, called Los Vascos Reserva. It was great. I drank the whole bottle.
My dive into wine occurred when I discovered the Spanish Reds. The regions and subtle differences intrigued me. I tried everything because it was all under ten bucks a bottle. Jumilla, Yecla, Priorot, Monstant, Navarra… I couldn’t get enough. I was the hole in the bucket dear Lila.
I brought a bottle of a Navarra to a party once and some snob there shrugged his shoulders at the nine buck price tag. An old vine Grenache will pound the sediment out of any oak barreled young Vin De Pays from France so I laughed.
“Try it.” I poured a small bit into his glass from the decanter.
Capitalists associate a high price with quality. When money becomes a variable, people covet the item “worth” something. Worth systematically becomes their preference and collectible wine can be an obsession.
I drink inexpensive wine. The average bottle of wine I drink costs ten dollars U.S. It is usually good. It is from Spain or Portugal or California. Generally, I can cook with the wine and it will significantly enhance the flavor of any sauce I’m making and provide a wonderful deglaze for my garlic and shallots. The rest of the wine gives me a pleasant heady buzz. Wine is good.
Serious collectors of wine will never, ever consume their entire collection. They will even refuse to drink certain wines, even on the novice level. Wine connoisseurs covet an idea of value and quality. Their devotion to an idea cramps their evolution as individuals. By not drinking the wine they enhance, they subsequently deny themselves the reason they collected in the beginning.
When we spin a ball from one polar to the other, turning it over, we still have a ball. Roll the ball. It rolls. As time and space sometimes preside, so do your eyes blink if moments remain.