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Wine Truth In Vino Veritas? Britt Leach



I WANT TO EXPLAIN why I’ve cut back on wine, my intake now approaching what the Heart Association, the Stroke Association, NASCAR and FEMA all suggest is a reasonable amount for daily consumption. All of these agencies, along with the American psychological and psychiatric associations, recommend eight ounces of red per evening. With dinner. To keep your heart healthy and your humours in balance.

But either individually or in some healthy-lifestyle-get-into-gastric-regularity aggregate these agencies also suggest a yearly physical, hourly flossing and full-body scans, which to me seems like wretched excess. And also consider this: Because I live in southern California, near Hollywood, there are other folks, my psychic neighbors, who have, shall we say, a stake in my heart, and they too need to tell me how to live.

How about Scientology and astrology and life coaches? How about Deepak (show me the money) Chopra and Dr. Phil, and Suze (shiny lowers) Orman, Wayne the hell Dyer? What about all the edgy (don’t you love it?) M.D.s with their proprietary pills? All telling me how to live. Wayne will even hook me up with a goddamn shaman-pychotherapist. Yes, he will. It’s right there on his website. But then I’ve always thought that the nonsense of shrinkage would be well served by some theatrics: tall pointy hats with shrubbery attached, some smoke, lots of chanting. “Arise, my friend, and join me in the dance.” Bong, bong, bong. Thump-thump.

No thanks. My money is in my pocket, not much but it’s staying there. Everybody wants to tell me how to live and no one understands why I drink. Okay, fuckers, it feels good. Okay, mother-fuckers, we’re alone, don’t you get that? With the other animals, weaker animals that we are so effectively item4killing, drowning, on this rock; and we’ll never know how—except for evolution—we got here. We’re inside something. And we’ll never know what it is. Never. Le silence éternel de ces espaces infinis m’effraie. (“The silence of the heavens terfifies me.”) Pascal, Pensées. Damn straight. Scares me to death. And that scares me too.

Doesn’t it seem reasonable, given the context that I have identified for myself, to drink? I will answer my rhetorical question. Yes, it does.

So on a daily basis I drink red wine, a cabernet from Trader Joe’s; it’s five dollars a bottle and has an odor, not a bouquet. And recently and with no little regret, I’ve come to understand that I can only have two glasses per night. Right at eight ounces of barely drinkable red each evening, an amount that does correspond, I’ll admit, to what the life-fascists recommend. I pour my first glass at 5 p.m. and drink my second glass with dinner, an hour later. I’m not happy with that limited consumption, but it will have to do.

Why will it have to do? It’s because I am not truly alone. Even though I claimed isolation—the rock and all—I have gathered some branches and mud, collected a few boulders, dug a pit for the waste, and survive here with other isolates. Two cats and my Catherine.

And when I drink more than two glasses, damned if I don’t reach a tipping-over point. Damn me if I don’t begin to feel the absurd universe more, after first feeling it less. I sit on my boulder and look into the fire, throw a few rocks, spark the embers, swig the ferment. And for a bit I’m quieted.

But drinking more, I get scared and angry. And who is there for my anger?


THREE WEEKS AGO on an evening with too much ferment, my mate asked me about provisions, something about water. Were we storing too much? Why did we need so much? Couldn’t our energies be better used?

And I began to shout and pace. Fists hit the air, the cats ran. “Don’t you think that I know what I’m doing? Huh? Don’t you?”

She tried to reason with me. More shouting from me, now at her, in her face. The rant took the form of a correction, a correction of her logic. She was being unreasonable, don’t you know. Oh, don’t you know, don’t you know?

Until I passed out.

And then something happened, the strangest thing, with this drinking, I swear it: There was an epiphany. I awoke in the middle of the night and the fog had cleared, and I had a vision of myself and how I had been just hours before. A phantasmagoria shimmering against the fire. I saw myself railing, screaming at Cathy. And this time, instead of regret the next morning, my head against a rock, dirt in my mouth, a physical regret, I understood that I had been hurting Catherine with my ranting drunks. Who, though huddled against my screaming, would sit and listen and nod.

This time I got the connection between ferment, my anger and taking it all out on my mate, my Catherine. So I’ve cut back on the booze.

The nights would be so much longer without her.###


9 May 2006

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