Thursday, September 24, 2015
EPHEMERA: Hugh Johnson and the HoseMaster of Wine™ at the 2016 Wine Writers' Symposium--Every King Needs a Fool
My brother in satire, Chris Kassel, recently wrote a piece on his blog (and if you don’t read his blog, you’re missing the funniest and smartest wine writing anywhere) featuring himself as Butch, from the Little Rascals, and me as Alfalfa—what I wouldn’t give for Alfalfa’s hair. His piece speaks wisely to the vicissitudes of writing wine satire. There are other bloggers writing comedy, though not many, and most not well, but satire, the art of being genuinely vicious, and unblinkingly honest, and, with any luck, funny, is rare in wine writing. And for good reason—it’s hard to do, it takes a bit of courage, and a lot of fearlessness. I can’t speak to Chris’ motivation, but my motivation boils down to the simple joy of being the kid who’s pointing to the naked emperor. Lots and lots of folk hate what Chris and I do, but I believe we’re necessary to any healthy conversation about wine and the wine business. There is far too much bullshit in wine writing. Not a little bit too much, but way, way, way too much. Not many people would argue against that point of view, but feel free.
All that to say that I’m surprised, and deeply disappointed, that Jim Gordon asked me, as the HoseMaster of Wine™, to speak at the 2016 Napa Valley Wine Writers’ Symposium at Meadowood next February. Yes, friends, I’m putting the “simp” in symposium, if not the “poseur.” Jim approached me with the idea that the HoseMaster might open the symposium and speak to the previous year’s worst wine journalism. Not just mine, but others, and in a satiric vein. I know how prestigious the Napa Valley Wine Writers’ Symposium is, and I knew the other people invited to teach and speak would be wine writer heavyweights. And, indeed, I am way out of my league.
Check out the press announcement. I think I’ve insulted almost everyone listed. So, yeah, this will be fun. Asimov, McInerney, Lee, Goode, Boone…where are Jancis Robinson and Natalie MacLean when I need them to lynch me? Not that a single one of those people has heard of me, but they just might Google my ass, which wouldn't bode well. Nevertheless, it’s important, and it’s wonderful, that Jim Gordon invited me to be part of the Symposium. Satire deserves a place at the table, even if it’s sitting in the folding chair next to the troubled kids. I’m far from a gifted public speaker. I wrote standup when I was young, but I’m not especially gifted at making people laugh as a performer. I’m scared Meomi-less. But I didn’t feel I could refuse. I felt I had to take one for the satire team.
The keynote speaker for the Symposium is Hugh Johnson, who I think I’ve heard of—he wrote the Dr. Doolittle books, right? Somehow, he got top billing. There are a handful of wine writers for whom I have great respect, and Mr. Johnson is one of them. He doesn’t care. I’ll be honored to meet him. He'll give me a puzzled look. When it comes right down to it, there isn’t a single other person speaking or teaching at Meadowood who is worthy of even carrying Mr. Johnson’s luggage when it comes to wine writing. My reward for my predictable humiliation and failure is I may get to meet him.
I’m bragging now. Read the press release again. I’m no longer the guy who “claims to be a satirist,” in the immortal words of a guy who claims to be a journalist, I’m “satirist Ron Washam.” It's on the intergnats, it has to be true. If you’re one of the wine writers who is lucky enough to attend the Napa Valley Wine Writer’s Symposium this February, and you read this stupid blog, please introduce yourself. I’m not a jackass in real life. OK, I can be, but I’ll try not to. And cut me some slack. I haven’t given a speech since I was best man at the Charles Manson wedding. Laugh like a bad sitcom sound track. I'd appreciate it.
Most of the recognition I get for my work here comes from attorneys. I’m honored by Jim Gordon’s invitation. And I won’t pull any punches. I intend to have a good time, and, perhaps, inspire someone else to join Our Gang of satire, Chris Kassel’s and mine. That would be my idea of a perfect outcome.