Wine as a Subversive Art

by LF (tweaked a bit since 10/91)

One of the finest cultural gifts that the much-maligned Western World has bestowed upon us is wine. Unlike many of the snobbish arts, which require college degrees and the affecting of an annoying simper to even pretend to appreciate, a fine first-growth Bourdeaux can reduce both the uneducated and the "cultured" to eye-rolling raptures. If I may be so bold as to draw a seemingly bizarre parallel, only the cinema also generates similarly democratic products that can be so immediately appreciated by so broad a base of consumers. I believe the comparison to be quite apt, insomuch as the wine industry has both highbrow and pure, unpretentious pleasures. Consider an American film auteur, the inestimable Bob Clark. While his intellectual and spiritual mentor Jean Luc Godard (Weekend, Breathless) has only penetrated the awareness of the art house set, his disciple delivers genuinely subversive celluloid clarion calls directly to the masses. Clark (Deathdream, Stewardesses in Tight Blouses) has achieved worldwide commercial success without diluting his vision, which illuminates his masterful Porky's series with knowing, brutal attacks upon a heartless bourgeois society gone quite mad. In a similar fashion, the heady potions of Gallo, Thunderbird Ltd., Richards Wine Company, und so weiter, can educate the "great unwashed" in a socially beneficent fashion.

The purpose of this article is to permit the reader to experience vicariously the multifaceted and unusually liberating effects that wine -- even the humblest wine -- can have upon ordinary, downtrodden citizens who otherwise would never have thought of imbibing anything other than the mundane malt beverages and hard liquors that the powerful elite have deemed suitable for their consumption. I solicited the assistance of a few local residents with some first-hand experience with alcohol. These good people, whom I will refer to as Judges #1-4, were quite anxious to partake in what they unanimously agreed would be a worthwhile and boundary-expanding afternoon.

The wines selected, accompanied below by my own notes from a personal tasting conducted earlier, form what I believe to be a reasonably representative sampling of the pleasurable liquids to be found at almost any corner convenience store in the more exciting neighborhoods:

With such a bounty before them, the judges fell to their work with evident gusto. I started them off with an informal introduction to the wines, and had each find a match for the foods they courteously consented to bring along (in order to help maintain palate intensity). The "Mad Dog" perfectly accented Judge #1's potato tartare, still moist and warm from its crushing berth in his back pocket. The herring steaks that Judge #2 swears by demanded the mellower ministrations of a white, and the Boone's Farm neatly fit the bill. The Wild Irish Rose met with Judge #4's approval, since it produced a healthy shudder when mixed with his nutritious granola (surprisingly, his palsied hands could still neatly tear the tiny boxes along their perforations in order to make a bowl).

Judge #3, a veteran of many free-for-alls in the vibrant streets of Durham, quaffed the proffered goods with relish, and determined with grand vitesse that the Thunderbird was much to her liking. After regaling us with colorful tales of her often inflammatory exploits in her blue collar home, she decided to favor us with a bit of authentic performance art dedicated to the North. Suddenly in character, railing against the "rich fucks" who put invisible yet amazingly powerful control devices into her (character's) head, she produced a tiny Raven .25-caliber automatic and proceeded to ventilate my illicitly-acquired collection of bad movie posters, a neighbor who picked an inopportune time to pound on the wall to protest about the noise, and at a guesstimated distance of 37 yards (a TRULY amazing display of marksmanship), one of the pathetic regulars from the local Cup-A-Joe coffee house. By delivering a few blows to her head and face I managed to dissuade her from further overly exuberant displays.

At this point, Judge #4 stretched luxuriantly and sprayed the table with a forceful stream of gaily-colored particulate matter. Jack-knifing at the waist, he propelled himself a surprising (for a man of his age and girth) seven full feet from his perch, smack into the sharp edge of my ersatz walnut entertainment center. Concerned, the rest of the judges wove madly over to their prostrate colleague, mewing and drooling what must have been meant to be comforting noises. After administering the customary street palliatives (kicks, curses, shoe-stripping, and pocket-rifling), they hurriedly formed what they explained to be a curative cocoon around him, fashioned out of the old News & Observers cluttering my apartment.

Judge #1, hoping to recapture the festive mood we set out with, entertained us by jamming the necks of five open 375ml bottles of Wild Irish Rose into his gaping cake-hole. Demonstrating cheek plasticity worthy of Dizzy Gillespie, he was able to move his hands from their support position and maintain the bottles by suction alone, all the while generating a numbing small-animal-in-distress-style keening from his pocked, Kennedy-red nostrils. This prodigious mode of intake rapidly wore down his sense of balance, and his second attempt with a new set of bottles met with less success, presenting us with a most unfortunate pratfall and a shower of blood and teeth.

Judge #2, apparently heartened by his newly-acquired though not fresh footgear, took this as his cue to start a tuneless, spittle-spraying chant. "Spank, spank, spank your munkeyyy," he implored "don't get it on your sistuhhh!" After a few minutes of this, he began slapping heavily at his chest and crotch and took off at a dead run -- always a bad idea in a small apartment. Spraying glass onto Hillsborough Street and igniting his pantleg on my still-smoking Weber grill, he head-firsted through the top of the warmer box bolted to the bed of a waiting Pizza Hut delivery truck. The driver, Pantera jackhammering into his skull, peeled off into heavy traffic, apparently oblivious to the extra topping.

My blackout, when it came, was a painful welcome spike.

I came to much later, and chugged clotted water from my Snak-Buddy cooler. For some reason my pants were down around my ankles. Judge #4 was still with me, his wrapping pushed aside by a weak breeze, just starting to bloat in the sun. I dragged the stiffening 200-plus pound burden of reeking piss-bum to a corner away from the window.

Rifling my closets produced a roll of kitchen-size trash bags and a Sears Dual-Compression Stapling Tacker. Loading up with 3/4" chisel-points, I began securing the thin plastic to the paper chrysalis, careful not to touch the greasy splotches leaching through the newsprint.

The pizza truck was back. It was not accompanied by police or emergency vehicles. Apparently the first deep-dish hobo deluxe met with approval. Maybe they'll call back.

I measured the angles and distance, calculating a trajectory.

Up the spout