Your eardrums squirm as the ground floor fades. He shuffles His feet and the thought you had before is back. Could it be? You work your peripheral vision like never before, straining, thinking, questioning, believing, until, in an incandescent pop of clarity and fear, it becomes true.
It's you and God alone in the elevator, and you have twenty seconds to make your pitch.
Whatever our individual faiths, our individual heresies, I think we organize our lives around welcoming or dreading some version of this moment--when, freed of distractions, we are called by whomever, ourselves maybe, to account for the things we've stood for, lived for, loved.
God, I love wine. As much as I used to care why, I don't anymore. I also really like beer, and I take comfort in imagining a "Single Malt Scotch" cell on budget.xls one day. Here, at "money", the snake begins to eat its tail and I wish I could turn to the pages of a Kerouac or a Burroughs
for guidance. Instead I just slump into the backseat of a cab in Williamsburg next to Rod Steiger and slur that I coulda been a contenda, I could have been sending my mouth to Speyside every night--not to mention curating a little cellar of Barbaresco, Meursault, Utopias, etc.--by now had I not shambled after this will-o-the-wisp, the credible delusion that lust for delicious beverages was the A / Ω of things to do with my life.
I did not foresee the afternoons lost gazing at labels on a shelf, too invested in the social contract to shoplift, taking sour solace in maybe knowing more about the wines than the people who would actually drink them. I did not consider what it was like to be the janitor at Disneyland, watching people have delirious fun all day on the Tower of Terror and then cleaning up their vomit.
An obvious thing has only lately revealed itself to me: If you know the pleasure of good and great wines and want to experience it a few zillion times, it is a sensible if not sacrosanct course of action to be wealthy first.
Otherwise it's too easy to end up the scrappy clerk with the "sommelier" cert taking potshots at the elites you serve, positive that since you can recite the 1855 Classification to the tune of any Kermit Lynch song, the Yquem those troglodyte McKinsey bros are drinking tonight and tomorrow night would much rather end up as your sugary piss than theirs. And anyway, you know a $38 sticky from the armpit of the Loire that's almost as good. You can't really afford that one either, but the point is you know about it!
Yes, there are impressive cheap bottles accessible to any first-world slacker, but they're not the ones that make us quit our old, secure jobs and go for it in a field with a spectacular record of financial failure at every level.
Yes, many beverage jobs include access to fun, hangover-bait "industry tastings" where you get four hours to pirouette around some cavernous convention center, spit a few times to keep up appearances, and try to distill valuable information from sales rep doggerel. But this is an inferior experience to pouring yourself a big glass of (Hermi/Meri)tage and knowing you can and will have another when it's gone.
YES, enough people stay afloat in the wine biz and a few even thrive, and even if the American Dream is ready for the taxidermist right about now I've still had way more unearned advantages than anyone deserves and it would be a panicked retreat worthy of the firing squad to bail on this, the effort I've put into and the knowledge I've taken out of three years in wine.
There are other caveats and other emptors to my proposition and I'm not going to flail around the room windmill punching after each one. I'll just beg your understanding or your best impression thereof about where I'm calling from, this queasy freeze-frame of realizing that amour fou for wine has put so much of it out of my reach.
So when I sort this out for reals and begin moving forward again, it will be with full understanding that the keys to the kingdom are pricey, and "passion" is not legal tender at the locksmith's.
It occurs to me that this post has nothing to do with alcohol. I suppose the "Alcohol Suite" concluded in Part 4 and this is more of a bookend to my July navel-gaze about why I got into the trade in the first place. But it dovetails with the alcohol question since I want to live long and prosper as much as the next Vulcan, and I've grown suspicious that being mad for wine and craft beer and the rest threatens both objectives.
Here's my last word on alcohol. I bet you, if I had learned myself some real science, I could describe the universe entirely in terms of the toxins that seem to be hidden or not-so-hidden everywhere. And watching how toxin-fear can become a ridiculous, consuming obsession for people makes alcohol seem less like the sweat dripping off the Grim Reaper's mustache and more like a dull, everyday Venom Lite for my dull, everyday everyday.
And I still have total faith that being the creator of a wine or maybe a beer that others like and unlike me would consistently buy, drink, consider, enjoy, praise--I'll take any two of these--would be all I needed on the day of reckoning. I'm not sure I can say the same about having consumed Barolo, Westvleteren 12, f***ing WHATEVER every day.
If it wasn't clear by now, I'm no Capablanca.
I haven't been anticipating the endgame square-for-square since 1. e4 and delighted in yanking the other chumps around the board to their inevitable doom. I've just been following one vital organ
somewhat at the expense of another
and been glad enough to make it to the next day without causing any forklift accidents.
When I look around and realize it's endgame, which may have already happened, I'll just remember that checkmate is a much more rare and satisfying conclusion than resignation, no matter which end of it you're on.