Thursday, April 28, 2011

Knowing wine for its purpose

Most times, early on, we would watch the games together. Dad preferred college ball ("because the players make mistakes" he had explained), and he always rooted for the underdog ("where is the fun in taking the sure bet?"). From him you got the feeling that the best thing that could possibly happen in the world would be a running back from one of "his teams" breaking several near tackles to cross the end zone as the clock ran down on the last few seconds. I know he enjoyed that because I saw him, my dad, and no longer a young man, rightly catapult from his chair as TV cameras followed a game winner across the line. It was as if nothing else mattered more than those collected yards. Definitely not his cheese sandwich, which had landed on the carpet, thick tomato slices asunder with the onions. Or his Pepsi, thrown hard against the floor so that liquid soda sluiced across jostled ice and into a flowing foam near the couch. I remember I had helped clean up with paper towels, and even today if I smell Pepsi and mayonnaise and paper towels all together I put on a little smile. There had been a lot of joy in that moment.

My dad was a scientist of the sport, a dedicated observer. Most times he never left the TV before a commercial showed up, not even for a second. If something big were happening he'd yell out "Watch! Watch! Watch! Watch this!!!" as if I might somehow be viewing another channel, different from his, and thus missing the big play, the fake handoff, the long pass, the key block. And he had rules. Which were unbreakable. Rules he would tell you about. "I don't like these guys with all the stickers on their helmets" he would announce. "Too braggy." A coach should wear a jacket and tie. A quaterback could not throw too many picks, or dad would turn hostile: "who let this guy in the game??". A receiver with hands and a good sense about him was always a hero in our house. A kicker should always make an extra point, or risk being met with jeers so loud that he would hear them, even from the distance to the game of our apartment.

Later on we fell apart, and maybe that has to happen and maybe it doesn't, but I remember just the sound of him chewing food would annoy me. "Do you always have to chew sooooo loud?" I confronted him, to which he replied, "do you know how you eat?" A question that is still haunting me. We mostly stayed seperate. The old man would go off on long walks around the neighborhood, and you could tell that nothing would have pleased him more than if I had wanted to go with him, so I refused. Game times would come on the weekends and I would be away from the house. I knew he hated to watch a game alone. He tried for awhile to make a big show of how great the afternoon had been, the place all to himself, only having to make one sandwich. But I knew he was lying. And after awhile he stopped watching most games altogether. I guess it wasn't the same without someone to share it all with. Of course I know it wasn't.

Recently, I was at a big dinner. It was a hoot. Lots of people, lots of good wine. A little drunk misbehavior; laughs. There had been some nice bottles. The kind people tend to pay up for. After it was all done I was telling some folks about that night, and someone was indignant about the waste: How could we drink those wines that way? Where was the reverence? What if we had missed something? Wouldn't it have been better to drink one bottle in the quiet, to fully make use of it? How come we didn't think to enjoy them alone, seperately? To all of which, I would reply: this is wine. The taste lasts longer and the flavor is brighter when you drink wine with people whose company your enjoy. The bottles are empty without friends around, even when full.

I like the kind of table that fits a lot of chairs, and holds a lot of glasses.

You don't miss something about a wine when you drink it in a group, you gain what you were looking for all along.


Scott Frank said...

Have a question for you unrelated to this post but have no idea how to contact you. Try me at if you would, please. Re: sweet frappato.



James said...

Amazing post. Beautifully put. Reading you always brightens my day.