Thursday, August 1, 2013

Three Hundred


According to the stats on my Google Blogger dashboard, this is my 300th post for HoseMaster of Wine™. A few of them were reruns--“Best of HoseMaster,” an oxymoron if there ever was one. But I also wrote more than fifty posts on the original incarnation of the blog, now expunged from the Intergnats, so 300 is a fair number. And a big number. It’s my excuse for a bit of self-indulgence. Consider yourself warned. This will be dull.

I have some regrets about my work here. I wish I had taken it more seriously. So many of my pieces were written in haphazard fashion, and are painfully sloppy to me in retrospect. When I go back through my Archives (a fancy word for what amounts to a compost heap), I am usually embarrassed. There are pieces I’m proud of, but, for the most part, my work has been driven by the need to just get it done, get something posted, keep up with my gluttonous blog. My excuse was that I was writing for free. The truth is, I was lazy.

Writing satirically about wine, and the wine business, combines the two things I have loved most in my life—comedy writing and wine. I began writing jokes around the age of 10. Once a week, at Lowell Elementary School, children in the fifth grade spent an hour at “religious studies.” Amazing, right? The Catholic kids went to one classroom, the Jewish kid (yup, one kid) was in another, the Christian kids yet another. I wasn’t of any denomination, had never attended a place of worship of any kind, unless you count Dodger Stadium. So I was allowed a free hour to do whatever I wanted in the classroom, as long as it was quiet and harmless. I wrote. I wrote jokes, and I wrote science fiction stories featuring the amazing Dr. Cucumber. Yes, Freud would have had a field day with Dr. Cucumber. Thanks to not believing in any God, I became funny.

Writing is serious business to me. I think about it often, and I care about it deeply. I write, at some level, because reading takes us out of time. When you read, as you are reading these words, time recedes to the background, and, for those hours or minutes you are reading, you step outside of time and live in your memory, all by yourself, in places where time no longer matters. Nothing else does this. When I write for HoseMaster, I write to take folks away from their lives for a few minutes to laugh. I know what it’s like for you. You read my crapola with a growing anticipation of when your laughs will come—sometimes, they never do. You aren’t thinking about your marriage or your job or your toothache, you’re hoping a laugh will come by soon. And even if I don’t make you laugh, even if I make you angry, or squeamish, or disgusted, you’ve stepped out of time for those moments and, I hope, become yourself for a bit. You choose what you laugh at here—my cruelty, my silliness, my absurdity—but you choose to come here, of all the places you might choose, to escape time for a few minutes, and I’m deeply flattered.

I don’t get writer’s block. There’s no such thing. It’s as imaginary as Gold Medals and perfect 100 point wines. My father worked in factories his entire life, and he never once had “assembly line block.” Writing is work. Avoiding it is easy, and has its pleasures. I can go on writing HoseMaster until I reach 10,000 posts, though I won’t. And I won’t ever have writer’s block. There are ideas around us all the time, right there, right in front of our eyes and noses. We have only to give them voice to give them life. I don’t believe anyone walks away from their blog because they’re out of ideas. They walk away because it doesn’t seem worth it, or because they have no audience. In many ways, it’s not worth it. I want to walk away at least once a week. But then I’ll write a joke that seems lovely, even perfect, and I want to feel that feeling again. Where the joke comes from, I don’t have even the slightest idea. The best ones seem to arrive on imaginary stone tablets, handed down from a comedy God. I simply proclaim them. And when those jokes are delivered to me, it’s a unique experience. It’s rare, it’s always unexpected, and it’s addictive. So I keep writing. Writing has always been worth it to me.

Writing comedy and satire comes from a place of anger and self-loathing. When I was much younger, this caused me no end of pain. I’d write comedy for ten hours, and be filled with sadness and rage for no readily apparent reason. With age, I’ve learned how to channel all of that, use it, control it, and not suffer from it as much. Yet I often worry about how my words might affect the people I lampoon. Satire requires fearlessness, but that doesn’t rule out insecurity or worry. I try never to pull punches, but I also try never to throw sucker punches. I believe that my targets have earned my weapons, though I’m too often guilty of using a grenade launcher when an arrow would have been adequate. The worst sorts of people in life, and I’m referring to the Rick Perrys and Sarah Palins and Ann Coulters of the world, are still human (the wine biz doesn’t really have the equivalent of those sorts of cretins). Like everyone, they deserve forgiveness, yet they also invite scorn. It’s my lot in life to deliver scorn. I leave forgiveness to people better than I. 

Wine has always been seen as a gentleman’s sport. Like any sport, it’s often filled with scoundrels, liars, posers, hypocrites and charlatans. Only in the wine business, one is not supposed to point all of that out, at least not in public. I’m not a crusader, not by any means. I’m merely the Fool. But I try to choose how I approach my subjects carefully, try to go after the scoundrels, liars, posers, hypocrites and charlatans with the sharpest razor, while gently prodding those others I make fun of who just don’t know any better. I think the responses I get to my pieces tell an interesting story of how accurately I accomplish this. When I seem to have hit a jugular vein, the reaction is usually a kind of collective cringing. When I miss, perhaps cross some sort of line, the reaction is often a stunned silence. I learn from those reactions. Satire only works when the tone is right, gentle on one occasion, ferocious on another. Get the occasions confused, and it falls flat. I’ve fallen flat too often for my own liking. Yet more regret.

I have no illusions about my reach. My audience has grown over the past couple of years, but it’s still meager. Nothing about wine or wine reviewing or wine writing will change because the HoseMaster was here. There are inmates on death row with more fans. I don’t write HoseMaster to become famous in the wine business—that’s a fool’s errand, one being pursued by no end of nitwits who comment on STEVE! to boost their recognition. I don’t write it to get free wine, which is lucky because I’m pretty much a failure at that (though I have been gifted by regular readers who make wine, and it’s a lovely gesture to exchange my creative abilities with theirs). I don’t write it for money, though Tim Atkin is kind enough to pay me a bit for my pieces on his blog. I think I write it to see what I’ll say next. Or, more accurately, to see what the HoseMaster will say next.

Most of you will agree, I’m certain, that there is so little worth reading on wine blogs. The vast majority of the ones I’ve looked at are dismal—tired, talentless and trite. A collection of journeys meaningless for their collective banality. When I began HoseMaster of Wine™, three hundred pieces ago, I spent a lot of my time making fun of wine bloggers. I have no idea why. It’s the wine business, the marketing people, the professional wine writers, and the celebrity sommeliers that deserve more scorn. And so my focus has gradually shifted in their direction. Not that it matters. Yet no matter how cruel or insulting or demeaning my pieces can be, I have great fondness and love for the wine business, far more than almost anyone I know. My only talent of any kind, superficial as it might be, is writing jokes, satire, comedy, meretricious pantagruel… For me, every one of my pieces is a love letter to wine.

300 down, who knows how many more to go. I wonder, all the time, how much longer I can channel the HoseMaster. I wish people understood that the HoseMaster is not me, and I am not the HoseMaster. But wishes are the dreams of the hopeless. Meanwhile, thank you for allowing the HoseMaster into your heads twice a week. I don’t hear from very many of you who regularly read this blog, but I know you’re out there. I have no idea why, but you’re out there. I guess, just like me, you’re wondering what the HoseMaster will say next.

39 comments:

Samantha Dugan said...

Ron My Love,
This was a gorgeously textured and honest glance into the heart that I've been lucky enough to be granted regular access to. I confess to feeling both proud and protective, but mostly I sit here in awe of your natural gifts. You are a constant source of wonder, bent-over-sore-tummy laughter and absolute joy. I am profoundly lucky each day that I get to wake up knowing I have a special place in that big heart of yours. This was so beautiful Love and a very happy 300th to You.
I love you.

Eric V. Orange said...

I read it all the way through.
zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

bahahaha.

Keep at it Hose.

EVO

Charlie Olken said...

Question: Did Eric read it twice and come to the same conclusion or was he really so asleep that he pushed the send button twice?

I have been writing about wine for almost four decades now. Occasionally I will try my hand at comedy because there are moments in life that require a laugh.

I like writing, although truth be known, I did not much like it at any point in my schooling, and I cannot write the great detective/spy novel. If I could have been one writer, I think I would have been Lecarre at this best.

But comedy is easy. It is right there in our tummies, our brains. We like to laugh unless we are horrible curmudgeons or sommeliers.

In fact, comedy is so easy that almost anyone who writes tries it at some point. And we realize then that laughing is easy. But writing great comedy is not.

Those of us who hang out here know how lucky we are. We love wine and we love comedy. But rarely have the twain met successfully.

They do here, and I, for one, am profoundly glad and feel incredibly lucky to be able to suspend time with you twice a week.

Thank you. And get on with it, please. Three hundred is just a down payment on the ten thousand.

Charlie Olken said...

EVO--You have hidden your repeated comment. Not funny when I am trying hard to be at your expense.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,
300, for no apparent reason, seemed like some sort of milestone. That's a lot of comedy, mixed in with this kind of self-indulgent twaddle. But I think I wanted, more than anything, to thank those folks who read HoseMaster regularly and have allowed me to have an audience for my foolishness. It's been an amazing blessing.

And you, MB, are the blessing I am most grateful for.

I love you, too!

EVO,
Yeah, I'm with ya. But I didn't even bother to finish reading it. Too fucking dull.

Charlie,
First off, it was I who deleted EVO's stammer, not EVO. One photo of that guy in the comments section is plenty!

Secondly, those are mighty kind words, especially considering the stature of the source.

The gift of comedy is a strange one. I'd gladly trade it for playing the piano, or dancing like Fred Astaire. Or both at the same time. But this crazy blog has given me the chance to share my tiny little gift and get nearly immediate feedback. That still amazes me. And it has given me the opportunity to meet people like you, wine writers I never would have met without this wacky place. And that amazes me. Plus, I won awards! Look at me, I'm a winner!

I wonder how much I have left in the tank. I can write jokes until I'm 100, but do I have the will to keep working this sparsely populated room? I hope so. I'd miss Lo Hai Qu. And good old Larry Anosmia. And my true love Avril Cadavril. And Blinky and Alderpated and 1WineDoody and STEVE! So I'll hang in there. For them.

And for all the kind folks like you who hang out in the HoseMaster Peanut Gallery. Thank you.

The Sommeliere said...

Ron, do not ever stop writing. As I have said ad nauseum (?), you are the voice of reason in a sea of wine- reviewing BS artists (myself included).

When I am down, I read your pieces and get a much needed laugh. I still think you should aggregate your work and put out a book, which would be a lot more fun than the same old, same old baloney from most wine writers.

Keep doing what you do so well--write a funny!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Marlene Darling,
You're a relative newcomer here, but I'm very grateful for your presence. And thank you for the kind words.

Every time I write a piece like this, which is really just a Reflection of where I am at a given point in my life and in the life of this stupid blog, it starts to sound like I'm begging for praise. I'm not, but thank you.

I've said it endlessly, if this is, as Tom Wark says, the Golden Age of Wine Writing, just shoot me. Most of the wine writing I see, and perhaps I'm looking in all the wrong places, is like those poetry refrigerator magnets--the same words rearranged over and over as though that's original or interesting thought.

Ah, well, I'll keep plugging away for a while. As long as you love me, Marlene. That's always nice.

Mark D said...

Ron,
I have only just tuned in to HoseMaster and love your work. Parody seems easy but can only be done properly by someone who writes well, has genuine knowledge and experience on the subject matter and is actually insightful. It would be a bloody shame if you stopped writing. Our industry is to serious and needs the levity.
Mark D

Thomas said...

Ron,

I can play piano and I can dance like--er--well not like him, but like another guy whose name you might know. And you know what? I can't write comedy.

I can be sarcastic; I can be quick witted; I can turn a pun; I can do other things, but I can't write comedy.

Plus, I've never suffered from writer's block, but I am intimate with procrastination, like right now.

If you ever really want to trade places, you teach me comedy and I'll buy you one of those Arthur Murray dancing lesson kits with the feet in positions. That's the other Fred Astaire.

David Pierson said...

Thoughts on your treatise on writing and why you do it.. I got a novel in the drawer, and no it's not on wine.. unsubscribed to James Conoway's blog after getting umpteen plugs for his damn novel Nose, did anyone else get those???.. Jeesssus.. I once wrote a humorous column aimed directly at those assholes who go around wrecking parties with their acoustic guitars and pushing their dreadful songs and musical ability or complete lack thereof...
No pity parties for stepping up to write as one of my favorite authors, comic or otherwise, Mordecai Richler said, "we're all volunteers, no gun at our backs to write."
No Canuck flag waving here, sorry Ron, I loathe Margaret Atwood novels..
As for ideas coming from God or the ether.. Keith Richards, another hero of mine, said similar things in his book, the devastating Gimme Shelter came to him as a huge black rain cloud rolled in... but alas, his muse seems to have left him, but God bless him he keeps trying, and his booze soaked fingers keep going.. just as long as the guitar plays.. let it steal your heart away...
Hope you keep trying and hey, maybe 10,000 will come up on you soon enuff..

gabriel jagle said...

This Ron character may not be as funny as the hosemaster, but he's much more likable. I loved reading about your craft.

Marcia Macomber said...

Charlie took all the good words here...

Thomas...is not the only one with an intimate relationship with procrastination! (Such a slut, Procrastination! Many of us know her better than we wish.)

I'm looking forward to the next 300 posts, as always.

And BTW, Fred Astaire not only danced up and down the walls quite well, but he was a fabulous pianist AND played a mean set of drums. Bitch!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Mark,
Thank you. Our industry does need more levity, especially levity that isn't silly or self-serving, but, I hope, thought-provoking. That said, it would be an ugly world that had eight or ten HoseMasters in it.

Thomas,
Shelley Berman used to be a semi-regular customer at my old restaurant. Berman taught a comedy writing course at, I think, USC. I asked him once, how was it possible to teach comedy writing. "I can teach it," he told me, "but that doesn't mean anyone can learn it."

In a weird way, though I was a sommelier at the time, I wish I'd taken that class. If only to hear him endlessly kvetch about how underappreciated he always was. And, of course, maybe I'd have learned to write comedy.

David,
Funny, James Conaway's name came up last night when I was having drinks with a friend. He works that "Nose" thing pretty hard. No, thanks, James, I'll pick my own.

Atwood isn't my favorite Canadian writer. That would have to be either Alice Munro, or Alex Trebek.

Why don't you start a wine blog, David? You seem like an entertaining guy. You should volunteer. I'd like to read other people's jokes about wine now and then.

And thank you for reading, and being a common tater.

Peter Fitzharris said...

Sir Hose,
I readily admit I can't write as some of your other posters, but I can bring laughter to the dinner table on occasion. You bring smiles to me and your 'flock' twice weekly and is always appreciated. I hope I live long enough to read your 10'000th with the giggles you present. Keep on keeping on!!
Peter

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Gabe,
"Craft" is a big word. It's more hobby than craft. But the longer I write HoseMaster, the more interesting it becomes for me. After a 30 year absence from writing satire, this time around has been incredibly rewarding. Thanks for hanging around, Gabe. And, to be honest, most of the time the HoseMaster is far more likeable than I.

Marcia Love,
Yeah, that Astaire guy could also sing pretty well too. And he married a jockey! Always wanted to have sex with a jockey, but only if she was wearing my silks and going hard to the whip.

Thanks, Marcia, for being such a loyal member of the HoseMaster Peanut Gallery and for being such a lovely common tater.

John Gonzalez said...

I'm one of those who doesn't comment, but who is out there and appreciates the humor, sarcasm and spot-on observation religiously twice a week. I can't say more than thanks.

John Cesano said...

Hi Ron,

I enjoy a contemplative soul and psyche baring column from you as much as I enjoy an exuberantly written piece of satire from the Hosemaster.

Your skill, talent, for writing is on display with either one, your range of voice is evident with both to enjoy.

Thanks.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hi John,
I assume you're the John Gonzalez married to the beautiful Mary, one of my alltime favorite wine reps. Thank you. And thanks for reading. And give my love to Mary whether you're married to her or not.

Hey Peter,
You bring up an interesting point. Most of my regular Russets and Yukon Golds are better writers than I. I'm the idea guy around here, and vastly underqualified.

Thanks for chiming in, Peter. Nice to hear from you. Making people laugh, or cringe, or angry, is what I try to do here. Though I've no idea why.

Hey John Cesano,
I do indulge myself on occasion, probably too often, and step out from behind the HoseMaster curtain. As I've said before, that HoseMaster guy wears me out sometimes. Thank you for the kind thoughts, kind words, and unflagging support.

Kinda been hoping someone who hates me would show up, too... they're the real Silent Majority.

David Fish said...

Ron, I very much enjoyed this honest look at "the man behind the curtain". I enjoy reading HMW. the sober and somber, as well as the seething and scathing. I hope that you will continue for another 300.

p.s. glad to see that your subject line did not lead to a picture of you dressed in leather screaming
"THIS IS SPARTA"!

Samantha Dugan said...

Ron,
Send that leather clad photo my way! Hubba-hubba.....

Dean Tudor said...

Ron, happy 300...Taken from the movie? There's a large green screen over your website for writers...use it..

You nailed it with "satire only works when the tone is right".

I love the people you've constructed to populate your world, such as Lo Hai Qu. This is your best work: the people you use.

Joe Roberts said...

Where's the part where your and your CGI-enhanced six-pack abs start slaying Xerxes' armies in bullet-time slow-motion with blood splattering all over the place and heavy, percussion-driven music pumping in the background? Or was that a different 300???

Ron Washam, HMW said...

David,
Thank you. Inside every satirist is a serious writer trying to get out. Mine is Fitzgerald. Drunken bastard.

And, believe it or not, I never once thought about the movie "300" when I wrote this. Probably because I didn't see it. I had to Google it to see that it starred Gerard Butler. Who the hell is he? I thought it had to star Russell Crowe, or Mel Gibson, both of whom scored about 300 on their SAT's.

So no leather shots here. That's on my Tumblr blog, Chappedsac.tumblr

My Gorgeous Samantha,
Me dressed in leather? I'd look like a fucking suitcase.

I love you.

Dean,
Well, from one fellow satirist to another, I appreciate the comment.

I like the characters, wish I had more, but I just wing it every day I write, and I guess they show themselves when the time is right for them. As you might imagine, a lot of voices in my head. That goddam drunk Fitzgerald, for example.

1WineDoody,
There ain't enough memory in the world to CGI me a six-pack of abs. They're buried under some very attractive flab.

Though I might use that percussion heavy music for the next Lo Hai Qu piece. She'd dig it.

larry mawby said...

OMG - it's true - i always suspected that there was a real person behind the curtain of the hosemaster. this washam guy is the real deal. thanks.

larry mawby said...

OMG - it's true - i always suspected that there was a real person behind the curtain of the hosemaster. this washam guy is the real deal. thanks.

larry mawby said...

WTF why does goggle repeat everything?

Thomas said...

Ron,

I wanted to but forgot to mention your mention of who reads and comments on so many wine blogs.

Two things have turned me off most of the blogs (three, if you count the bad writing): the incestuous nature of wine blogs, and the constant promotional/networking tone of most bloggers and so many who comment.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Larry,
Some days I'm not sure who's the real deal, me or the HoseMaster. But thanks for reading. And I have no idea why Google repeats some comments. But it adds to my comment count!

I usually delete duplicate comments, but, since you've followed up, I'll just leave it all be.

Thomas,
I obviously agree with you. Though I don't see how the incestuous nature of wine blogs could be any different. I've always assumed that more than half of my eleven readers are other bloggers. Maybe I'm somehow more "intimidating"(?)than STEVE! and the self-promoters stay away. Who knows?

There was a time I fretted about my blog stats. Now I don't care. First of all, the way the stats are measured seems impenetrable at best, bogus at worst. Secondly, I try to write this just for the creative exercise. Pandering to attract readers, with alluring headlines and easy topics (nothing gets hits like posts about blogging), might work, but it's the literary equivalent of sticking a cucumber in the front of your pants. Which is fine, but only if it's not straight out of the fridge.

What was my point?

graz said...

Hey Ron, I'll bite and offer you a slightly unflattering critique (as per your reluctant request - who really likes to be criticized?).

Just like a funny person doesn't need to explain their jokes or convince that they have a sense of humor, you don't need to keep telling us that this blog is satire and you are not this blog ... In Real Life.

We get it ... screw those that don't ... and keep up the skewering ... Less explaining please, sir.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Graz,
Thanks for that. I hear you.

The problem I have with identity confusion isn't here, on HoseMaster of Wine, it's when I'm at wine events and meeting someone in the biz for the first time. I get one of three reactions. An excited, "Oh, you're the HOSEMASTER!!". Or "Yeah, you're that hosemaster guy." Or, most often, no reaction at all (which comes as a relief). I might have been more clear about that in this piece.

Blogs are always about one thing and one thing only, the blogger. The whole thing is masturbatory. It's all about buying into the illusion that other people give a single solitary turd about what you have to say. And once you buy that, you think that everything you say has some value. It clearly doesn't.

There are days I sit down to write and what comes out is reflective, not comic. I tend to publish both. That can disappoint those who come here for the satire. To them, I humbly apologize. But don't worry, it's always back to the comedy, after these words from our sponsor.

Lily-Elaine Hawk Wakawaka said...

These comments made me laugh and crave potatoes. Gotta go find some fries.

Love to you, Ron. As you know we share in heart. Yours.

Thomas said...

Ron,

Just a warning: there are small cucumbers and there are large cucumbers. Choose well.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Elaine,
Love to you, too.

You want fries with that? I got lots of common taters around here, and the hot oil to make it happen.

Thomas,
Yeah, I know. But do I put it in the front of my pants, or in the back? Does it matter?

Unknown said...

Hello Ron:
Don't know why it took me so long to subscribe to HMW. Probably something to do with my age and inability to learn all this new-age stuff (blog? log? Facebook? Twitter?... I have enough trouble looking up contacts on my i-phone...) But it was good to read your ruminations as well as many of the comments. You have a good bench here rooting you on in your exploits....
Congrats and here's to at least the next 300 if not 10,000!!
George Ronay

The Sommeliere said...

Ron,you MUST be important! Today's WineBusiness.com blogger page listed your "Three Hundred" piece TWICE!

Please do not stop writing--ever!
As Samantha said, "you are a constant source of wonder, bent-over-sore-tummy laughter and absolute joy."
I concur!

binNotes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey George,
Yeah, it's a pretty good crowd that supports me here at HoseMaster. But I always need some fresh blood, some rookies. You're a little old for that, but thanks for checking in.

Marlene Darling,
In the wine business, I couldn't be less important if I were wine consultant for Macaroni Grill. The question isn't whether I'll stop writing, but whether I'll stop publishing this crap. For free.

binNotes,
Don't know about "Acoma," though I've been in one for six years. My elementary school was in Long Beach, California.

As for Pallet Press, it's the Certified Kennel for Tiresome Barking Poodles.

Fabio said...

Great post. I made me wonder why I bother to keep writing my own blog - which has even less than the eleven readers of yours :)

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Fabio,
I often wonder why anyone continues to write a wine blog, and yet they continue. Though it's been a while since a new one made any sort of splash. The output required is certainly daunting, not to mention the energy it takes to keep it up for years.

Yeah, I must be nuts.