Monday, November 25, 2013

Gratitude, It's the Gravy for This Thanks Giving Turkey


Writing HoseMaster of Wine™ has been a remarkable and, for the most part, gratifying experience. I have much for which to be thankful. I’m not the only wine blogger who’s primary goal is laughter, but I’m one of very few. (And here I tip my cap to Chris Kassel, who has far better comedy chops than I.) Writing satire is something of a lonely endeavor. It requires a certain amount of distance, and a great deal of time alone at a keyboard. The work itself is, most days, drudgery. But when it’s over, and I’ve written a new piece, there’s elation. That is the feeling I seem to endlessly chase. For no apparent reason.

When I look back at my body of work here, I usually wonder what the hell I’ve been trying to say all these years. Aside from, “Somebody help me!” In some measure, this entire experience has been about my mother. She died in 2007, a few months before I began this blog, but she always wanted to think of me as a writer. I was, for a while, and she was very proud of that. When I left the writing profession and ended up a sommelier, she was still proud, of course, it’s what mothers do, but it isn’t especially easy to be proud of a son who is a sommelier. In the grand scheme of things and by any measure, it’s a meaningless occupation, ranking somewhere just above 7-11 cashier and just below serial murderer. Whereas a writer, in her world, was something to brag about. Maybe all of this, this ridiculous work I’ve done here, is about pleasing her. Of all the things in life there are to be grateful for, is there anything more important than to whom you were born? It’s the only lottery that ever really matters.

Unlike most of the dunderheads who prattle on about social media and blogging, and they are legion, and they are boring, I don’t throw the word “writer” around lightly. Writing is a noble craft, and a difficult one. I certainly make it look difficult. I am offended when people say that we should stop using the words “wine blogger” and instead say “wine writer.”  I think I’m being generous when I say that maybe 1 percent of the people blogging have any talent for writing. And, no, you’re probably not on that list. (You are on that list, Samantha, and you are astoundingly gifted.) Great writing, in fact, just good writing, should convey meaning and excitement, should gift the reader with insight and a love for language, all the while entertaining. There is precious little of that in wine blogging. I wish I could say it better than I said it five years ago, but I can’t. Wine blogging is the attention-barking of lonely poodles.

The writing process is very hard for me. No, I don’t ever have writer’s block. I don’t even believe there is such a thing, but, then, I say that about female orgasm. Comedy comes from a place of anger and self-loathing, at least for me it does. Not all comedy, not every time, but, in the human heart, that’s where it dwells. I created the character of the HoseMaster a very long time ago, though he didn’t have a name then. I know his voice, and I know what lines he will cross and what truths he will tell. He has far more courage than I do, and also far more insecurity. I have to be very careful not to let the HoseMaster into my everyday life. He can be toxic. Yet it is easy to keep him from my daily routine because I am married to the kindest, smartest, most compassionate woman alive. Her love for me, and for the angry, petulant little child who is the HoseMaster, allows me to write. Because I know that when I’m done writing for the day, I can put the HoseMaster away and simply spend my life loving her. How does one express the kind of gratitude you feel for a lifetime of unconditional love? Every day, in some manner or deed, and several times a day, that’s how. And yet it can only fall short. I love you, Darling, and everything I do, I do for you. “I do.” Words I am very grateful to have spoken to you.

Many years ago, when I wrote comedy, I often wrote for an audience. Now I do not. But I can feel you out there, reading HoseMaster of Wine™ on your laptops, your tablets, your phones. I can’t hear you, but I’m accustomed to silence when it comes to my work. It is not false humility to say that I am amazed at how my readership has grown. I am dumbfounded. Those of you who have taken the time to write to me personally have given me constant inspiration, and the desire to continue writing. That goes for the fan mail and the hate mail. Most humans are born with a burning desire to be heard. To be singled out by the people who read HoseMaster of Wine™ from the cacophony that is the Internet is an honor, and one I don’t take lightly. On the rare occasion that I go to the column to the left of this babbling, the portion labeled “What the Critics Are Saying…,” and reread the kind words that famous wine folk have said about me, it seems surreal. They exaggerate my talent, and I am deeply grateful. Anyone who knows me knows that I hate everything I write. My biggest fear is that I will be found out, exposed as the talentless, humorless schlub I really am. It’s the final quote that speaks to me the loudest and clearest. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

To everyone who subscribes, to those who take the time to write me, to my illustrious and talented common taters, Thank You. I’d get counseling if I were you, but you have my sincerest gratitude. Your enthusiasm for my work, the way you have spread the word, it’s all been incredibly gratifying. I hate Twitter and FaceBook and all the other forms of social media. They dehumanize us. Yet word about HoseMaster of Wine™ has been spread by the generosity of you who have tweeted about me, linked to me, or posted me on FaceBook. You all have my gratitude. But, really, get more of a life. Put down your damned iPhone and live.

Wine has been my career, and it has been kind to me. Though I’ve tried, tried my damnedest at times, I’ve never lost my passion for wine. It trumped my other passion—writing comedy. I’ve never been very good at either, but I’ve had a helluva time chasing them. I like that the word “passion” derives from the Latin for suffering. Passion is a kind of aching, an emptiness that you try to fill but never can, a painful yearning for satisfaction of something that can never be sated. Wine has always been that for me. I think I’ve forgotten 90% of what I learned about wine in my life, but I can’t unlearn the remarkable sensory memories of all the great wines, and the not so great wines, that I’ve drunk in the company of too many extraordinary people to name here. After all these years, it feels like every new wine I taste takes me to some sort of memory, perhaps of a better time, perhaps of a time I’d rather forget. Or to a place I’d forgotten I’d been, or to a person I was lucky to have known, or to somewhere in my heart I’d been afraid to visit for a while. What makes our tastes in wine personal isn’t that we all have different palates and sensitivities, though that’s true. What makes our taste personal is that we all have different memories, different lives, different reasons we live. And when I drink wine on Thursday I’ll be grateful for my memories, and for my life in wine, and for one more day to live in this world.

19 comments:

David Rossi said...

Well said, as always, Ron. Good to see even the Hosemaster can be introspective now again.

I am thankful for Lo Hai Qu and of course penicillin.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

David,
Lo Hai Qu returns very soon. I'm very smitten with my intern, though she bites.

Every now and then I feel the need to step out from behind the HoseMaster curtain and talk about the experience of writing the blog. It's very self-indulgent, and probably disappointing to the people who come here to laugh. I do it to keep a record of how I'm feeling so that I can look back one day and read what was going on in my head. It's a diary, of a kind. But I do appreciate that my eleven readers allow me to do it every once in a while, and still return for the next piece of comedy drivel.

Happy Thanksgiving, David! Enjoy the turkey and common taters wherever you celebrate.

Mike Dunne said...

And thank you! Always look forward to your Monday and Thursday postings, though I'm disappointed and surprised to learn that you didn't make up all those comments on the left.

Jim said...

I'll drink to that!

Jim Caudill said...

Who knew Mike Dunne was a jokester? Well, actually, most of us. But as for you my friend, happy Holidays and enjoy the bird and all that goes with it, and many things that don't, but what the hell....

renzo said...

Gratitude I've got
For what I've read by you

Keep on key-stroking
And sharing the end result

Your words may be less intoxicating than wine
But they make me piss my pants just the same

Happy Thanksgiving internet acquaintance

Brian Baker said...

Ron,

Well done. the fear factor of constantly being exposed is a great motivator, you and the angry little one are winning the race.
BB

David Larsen said...

Make that 12 readers and thanks for sharing. Looking forward to reading more from the Hosemaster!

Marcia Macomber said...

Awwwwwww! That was lovely. Was thinking of you last night watching the Carol Burnett/Mark Twain award show -- all those clips from her show. You have much in common with her writers: Laser-like zingers that produce deep belly laugh guffaws. Very few can do that. So I'm thrilled you still do on Mondays and Thursdays.

Have a great Turkey Day!

Samantha Dugan said...

Ron My Love,
No one loves these Washam pieces more than I do as I get to watch all these other folks discover a tiny fraction of that big, marvelous heart of yours, the one that I have graciously been welcome to explore. Knowing you has changed my life, reading you makes me strive to be a better writer, loving you has made me a more complete and stronger woman. We all have much to be grateful to your for but very few, if any, more than I. That you include me in your list of talented bloggers is overwhelmingly flattering Ron. Coming from you that is as big a compliment as one can get. Thank you Baby and now...wanna touch my writers block? I love you!

Thomas said...

My wife is a damned good writer, but she refuses to do it professionally. When I ask why her response is simple: "I have nothing to say."

Writing is for those of us who believe or feel that we have something to say. Some of us really do have something to say, and when it is said, whether with humor or with seriousness, and it touches others, then our insecurities melt away--because if there's anything a writer needs, it's an audience.

Ron, you have an audience. The quantity of that audience has nothing to do with the quality of the writer.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey Mike,
I don't think I'm even capable of making up that stuff in the left hand column. I'm disappointed and surprised I don't have a quote from YOU to put there.

Jim,
Like you need an excuse. Have a great Thanksgiving, my friend!C

Big Jim,
Back at you, Jim. Enjoy your bird, and anyone else's bird of your choice.

Renzo,
Well, thank you. I enjoy being a leading cause of incontinence in my common taters. Wet pants are happy pants. And Happy Thanksgiving to you as well.

Brian,
Great to hear from you! And thanks. I always have the feeling I'll be found out, even when I don't know what the hell I'll be found out for. Happy Thanksgiving!

David,
The HoseMaster will be back after a short Thanksgiving hiatus. Can't say I miss him, but he has a lot of writing to do, so I'm stuck with him. Have a great holiday, David!

Marcia Love,
I watched the Mark Twain awards too. As a kid, the Carol Burnett Show always made me laugh. Great sketch comedy with great comic actors, and there have been very few comediennes in Burnett's league. I would never put myself in that league with those writers, but thank you for the flattery. And, as one of the longest serving common taters, I love you. Have a great Holiday!

My Gorgeous Samantha,
Thank you, My Love. You've made me a much better man. And I have always believed you have more native talent than almost any other writer I know of. Certainly, your work is infused with more heart and feeling. As for your supposed writers block, I know how to get your juices flowing, Baby, just call me. I love you so.

Thomas,
I think there are a handful of writers who don't need an audience (think Dickinson), but only a handful. Comedy and satire demand one. I am astonished to have such a smart and funny and loyal audience, and to have you as one of the longtime members is flattering, pure and simple. Happy Thanksgiving!

And thanks to everyone for enduring this bit of reflective self-indulgence. Like the surreptitious fart at Thanksgiving dinner, it just slipped out.

Lee Schneider said...

Beautiful writing. Even though your words can sting at times it's good to know this side of you as well. Have a good Thanksgiving.

Bob Henry (Los Angeles wine industry professional) said...

Ron,

Congratulations. Perhaps unbeknownst to you at the time, but you just "penned" the column I encouraged you to write.

"Heroines" not heroes: your mother and your wife. (But who cares about gender?)

~~ Bob


[Posted] October 25, 2013 at 2:00 AM:

Bob Henry (Los Angeles wine industry professional) said...

Ron,

We know your hero in comedy was Jonathan Winters.

And know your fervor for skewering the ignoramuses and bloviators in the wine industry. (Exercising your exorcising.)

How 'bout penning a paen to one of your heroes in the wine industry, as one more “exercise”?

~~ Bob

[Posted] October 24, 2013 at 2:25 PM:

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Bob,

Jonathan Winters was one of my comedy heroes, but hardly my only hero. Most of my other heroes were comedy writers the likes of David Lloyd and Larry Gelbart and Mel Tolkin, among others.

There's enough hero worship in the wine business, from Parker to Alice to Jancis. I'll just keep doing what I do, thank you.

William Hughes said...

Can you hear me now? Good!

Thanks, you big Turkey!

gabriel jagle said...

Ron,

Loved this piece, love hearing from the other side of your brain. And even tho I don't share the sentiment, that quote you referenced was pretty fucking hillarious. I hope to get such excellent hate-mail one day

Charlie Olken said...

Perhaps I should write a short story, but, in the end, the best I can come up with is

THANK YOU for the way to add to our lives, my life. I may not be able to write great comedy but I know it when I see it.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Charlie,
Of all the prestigious wine personalities who have written about HoseMaster, you were the first. And you're essentially the only one willing to show up here and join in the pandemonium. Also, you're one of the longest serving of the common taters. So it's you who deserves my THANK YOU.

But for the support of folks like you and Samantha and Thomas and Marcia, the real old timers here, as well as the newer folks who genuinely contribute, Gabe and Renzo and Quizicat and Marlene (my darling) and Davids galore (forgive me, those I've forgotten to list), I'd never be able to sit down to write just one more piece. I'm am, quite honestly, deeply in your debt.

One day I'll have to do a Whatever Happened to...piece about long, lost common taters. Nah, too inside.

george kaplan said...

A 15% alcohol, highly-extracted post, darkly hinting at underlying sincerity. Thanks for all your sunshine on cloudy days.