We would wait until night came down around pretty thick and then we would head out to the graveyard. Gerry would bring along whatever he could get someone to buy for him at the Quickstop - usually it was the cheap stuff although I remember one time there was Michelob - and we would go sit on the far side of the yard, where you could see the entry driveway but from where we still had time to make a run for it if need be. Drinking in the cemetery was my idea, but still I thought it made a lot of sense. It was pretty close to both of our houses, so easy enough to get to, and nobody much was around to notice we were there. Whatever people might get up to doing, what they don't usually do is take midnight walks in a cemetery. So we could sit out there and drink beer and get away with it, so long as we took away the empties afterward.
We didn't bother the folks resting there none, neither. We weren't kicking over stones or stealing flowers or nothing like that. We just wanted to drink and talk aloud a bit without getting hassled. The long term residents seemed to understand this alright, and left us to go about it. Our biggest worry was usually the sprinkler system. It would come on real quick, and if you were sitting in the wrong place when one of those sprinkler heads popped up out of the ground, well, too bad for you. I guess I still kind of worry about getting drenched by a rapid water sprinkler any time I take a walk across an expansive lawn. It's funny what sticks with you across the years. And there were the black ants. I remember climbing up to sit in this old, gnarled tree for awhile and thinking that that was pretty cool, until I got back home and the ants kept falling off the edge of my pant cuffs and onto the kitchen floor. I was so worried somebody was going to see those black ants everywhere on the floor in the morning. Boy, I was scared. I cleaned up every last little speck with a paper towel and then went back over the floor with a sponge. Still I ended up seeing a stay behind on the tile when we were eating breakfast and it gave me a start.
It would get so dark out there in the cemetery that you couldn't see much more than the whitest of the headstones. That's 'cause there weren't any lights to speak of anywhere around. I remember the difference between walking past the yard during the day, and seeing all the many parts of it, and being there at night, and seeing hardly anything at all. It was like that time I was talking to Driese's eyes. He had dark skin, and it was late, and all I could see were his two eyeballs. Two white golfballs looking at me through the night and that was it. Where his body was I couldn't know. It was the same with the headstones, the ones you saw were the ivory colored ones. MARSHALL or DASH or GELB. I didn't know any of them, but I did look on their names, and I did relax in their company.
It took me until about two days ago to realize, but I've been drinking in graveyards for almost my entire adult life. Giovanni Conterno. Giacomo Bologna. Henri Jayer. Philippe Engel. Vincent Leflaive. Gaston Huet. Andre Tchelistcheff. Al Brounstein. Gerard Chave. Jacques Reynaud. I have never met any of them. But which day goes by that I don't think about one of them? Their vintages span wine lists. I owe thanks to each, but they were gone before I could pass it on to them in person. Sometimes a human, even as great as they might be, seems like a cloud running across the sky. It's not so long before you can't see them anymore.
A lot of people tend to ask that basic question "What was it that got you into wine?" I guess maybe I should answer that, from the beginning, it seemed like however much one might sit and drink by oneself, we don't choose to drink alone.