"You can't be satirical and not be offensive to somebody."--Tom Lehrer
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.
After 19 years as a Sommelier in Los Angeles, twice named Sommelier of the Year by the Southern California Restaurant Writers' Association, I moved to Sonoma County to explore the other aspects of the wine business. I've spent, OK wasted, 35 years learning about and teaching about and swallowing wine. I am also a judge at the Sonoma Harvest Fair, San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and the San Francisco International Wine Competition--so I can spit like a rabid llama. I know more about wine than David Sedaris and I'm funnier than James Laube. Stay tuned for an informed but jaded view of everything wine and everything else.
I'm living proof that alcohol kills brain cells.
What the Critics Are Saying About HoseMaster of Wine
"If you want a great hoot and howl moment or two...go read the HoseMaster's year-end reflections...that guy is without a doubt the funniest SOB in the blog-world...and thank him for having the brains and balls to target his laser of laughter on anybody...HoseMaster for President...HoseMaster for Blogger of the Year...although he would be the first to say the bar is so damn low for that award, he should win it every year..." --Robert Parker
"No one is immune from California sommelier and wine judge Ron Washam's skewering. He polishes that skewer with boundless enthusiasm and acuity."
"As serious as the world of wine is, it does allow time for humor. Each Monday and Thursday, Ron Washam customarily posts a commentary on his needling wine blog HoseMaster of Wine. Washam, a former sommelier and comedy writer – he might say they are closely related – is the most opinionated, humorous and ribald observer in the wine world. His body of work is irreverent and remorseless. It’s almost always satire and parody, though he occasionally drifts into straight commentary, sometimes even with tasting notes. This past year, one of his posts was named the best of the year in the Wine Blog Awards. His success has spawned several imitations, which in their awkwardness show just how difficult satire is."
--Mike Dunne, Sacramento Bee
Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/01/21/6089630/dunne-on-wine-wine-blogs-and-bloggers.html#storylink=cpy
"Please let this guy write the scripts for Saturday Night Live which has gotten so lame...his newest "wisdom" is worth an Emmy....I wonder if he is the genius behind all those Hitler/Parker,etc. clips? No one else is remotely as funny or as talented.And the wine world sure needs someone to poke fun at all the nonsense and phoney/baloney unsufferable crap out there."
"Washam uses his own blog, HoseMaster of Wine, to skewer the industry in general and wine blogs in particular. If your mouse scoots to your browser's close box while reading a wine blog, Washam may be the blogger for you."
--San Francisco Chronicle
"Ron Washam, former sommelier, is easily the most bitingly funny blogger/wine writer that we have ever come across. He is an equal opportunity crusader who pillories big wineries and amateur bloggers alike, as well as everything and everyone in between...One needs a sense of humor and a tolerance for earthiness to enjoy reading The Hosemaster. We must have both because this guy deserves a wider audience, in our humble opinion." --Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine
"In my opinion, and that of many others, his blog is one of the best. And in terms of satirical or parodic wine blogs, it has no peer. Ron’s alert eye catches every pretense and skewers it with laugh out loud mercilessness."
"This site should carry a warning label. It's sort of a Dave Barry/George Carlin approach to wine. The Hosemaster (real name Ron Washam) skewers fellow bloggers and industry savants with glee, while offering hilarious wine guides such as his Honest Guide to Grapes..."
--Paul Gregutt, Seattle Times
"Washam is a skilled wine judge (I have judged with him) who is willing to judge wine double blind, in public. To my knowledge, Parker does not do this and never has. So Ron's credentials are in place, and so is his sense of the absurd."
--Dan Berger, VintageExperiences
"...I consider Ron a very talented writer and I’ve long been an admirer of his scathing wit..."
"And if any free sites think they can conquer the world, there’s always the Hosemaster to take ‘em down a notch."
--Tyler Colman "Dr. Vino"
"Those of you who know Ron either love or hate him, because he throws jabs like a punch drunk boxer, and we’re all in the firing line. He’ll throw them if he hates you, and he’ll throw them if he loves you. He’s a satirist of exceptional quality."
--Jo Diaz "Juicy Tales by Jo Diaz"
"I must say you are an idiot. I've never liked you. I have no idea why people find you funny."