Thursday, March 3, 2011


The truth is, my father was a heretic. Each evening he would consult the 4 Bibles that were stored at other times under his bed and he would copy out, line by line, verse by verse, the contents. Each volume got an individual column on the ruled pages: the New International, the New Living Translation, the American Standard, and of course the King James. The King James was always the most interesting to me, but my dad didn't seem to have a favorite. He wanted them all, he told me, and then he said that all rivers run to the sea, which was something I had never heard before. Up until that point I just assumed that rivers started from the sea, but that was the first time I had ever thought about it.

I would spend my nights watching The Golden Girls or 227 in another room while my dad would be spelling out the comparative scriptures in block print and blue ink inside of the columns he had drawn himself with a straight edge ruler. He wanted to see all of the translations together, he said. He said you could see every picture better with four sets of eyes, and that the very form of the Bible tells us this with the presentation of four Gospels, and maybe that was true. My father knew that every story told a bit about the teller, and he said he wanted to know what each chose not to say. But I think he mostly enjoyed the writing, not the reading. He liked seeing God's word inside of familiar penmanship. This was his way. Otherwise he could have just looked at one Bible and then another if he wanted to know what each said, but that wasn't how he spent his time. He wanted to write out a text that was written out, and to do so four different times, side by side. I imagined my father at a blackboard writing "I shall not talk in class. I will not talk in class. I won't be heard in class. I will be silent in class." in repeating chalk lines. I imagined after 50 lines the teacher telling him that that was enough and him saying out loud that he wasn't done yet. My dad was nothing if not doggedly persistent.

They say that whatever happens to a sacred text, it is as it was planned to be. If a fire burns a part of a sacred text, or if pages fall out of a sacred text and they can't be recovered, this is because a god has decided to change his message to his followers. A sacred text, unlike a normal text, is as it was intended to be. You can't deface the pages. If there is a change, that is the change that is desired. Perhaps my father's loose leaf, college ruled columns had been foretold. Perhaps the placement of individual renditions next to each other on a single page represented a completion. But most likely, this was just the way for those words to speak most clearly to their reader.

Each day I get more and more tired of Global Lists of wines. Of wanting every shape of bottle in the world represented between two covers. Nobody can do it well anymore, and it never made sense anyway. It especially doesn't make sense now, when they are so many different kinds of wine out there from so many different places that it is like a vinous Tower of Babel.

Give me 50 Barolos. Give me 5 Frappatos. Or lay out 20 Mosel rieslings. A billion sherries. But not all these on the same list. Focus in. Let me learn better from the context, and from the juxtaposition of the similar. Keep a list of comparisons. Do your thing, whatever that is: Basque region, Northern Italian, Greek, or Sardinian. But do your thing well. Bring some depth. Lay like next to like and let's see what we get. Let me learn from what you don't say. Have that discipline. Tell a story better by not trying to tell EVERY story. Make a shrine to the wines of a place.

You know in Nieve, if you go to a restaurant and they have 100 Barbarescos and nothing else, that is called a wine list. Here in New York, that would be called an oddity. And yet we have all these Italian restaurants. Why is it that so many consumers think that there is one taste for Barolo, but several for Vosne-Romanee? Why is that? It is because the Italian lists are doing Barolo a disservice. They aren't emphasizing the terroir differences. I like a wine list that doesn't go along with the mumbo jumbo that every Brunello tastes the same. That every Brunello is big, and juicy, and dense. That every Brunello tastes like 1997 with a little Cab blended in. You know the best way to prove that there are different kinds of Brunello? Well, I think it is to list several that taste quite different next to each other on the same list. Impossible to have that much difference with Brunello, you say? Then why is it that I can nail Brunellos produced from grapes grown on the hillside of Montesoli, even when I taste them blind? The wine list I dream of tells the same story, but it tells that story several times, and it shows you the differences, and the real character of a place by doing so.

That is my kind of wine list. I guess I am a heretic as well.

One of the ways to read this painting is to view everyone sitting at the table as the same man, but as portrayed at a different age. I happen to like that interpretation.


Steven said...

This is not at all what I was expecting to read, and what I am glad to have read.

Do Bianchi said...

I'm with you... great post...

Nietzsche said that we must "see behind the sacred texts."

He also said that he would rather touch a Polish Jew than the New Testament.

I guess that means that you and I are better than the New Testament!

Seriously, great post man... enjoying the blog...

Noel said...

Keep writing.