Monday, March 14, 2016

"No Country for Old Men Wine Critics" by Cormac McCarthy

The first one I shot never even begged for his life. Not that it would have mattered none. 89 just aint a good score and he knew it. Ever seen a cow right before the bolt gun goes off? Those great big wet eyes beg you to pull the trigger. My first old wine critic had big wet eyes too. That made it easier. Shame no ones going to make hamburger out of him. He would have gone good with those nasty red wines he rated so high. I read a lot that he was the most powerful wine critic ever lived. Power makes a man crazy. I seen crazy in his eyes. They say the eyes are the window to a mans soul. It was clear he was a royal pane.

Some women get a taste for killing. Not many. I had an aunt once that liked it. There werent hardly no cousins left when they caught her. Sometimes a pig will eat her own. It was kind of like that. I understand the urge. I like pork as much as anybody. It goes fine with the Grenache I made. That I submitted to the weteyed old wine critic. Who gave it 89. 89. Everybody knows the worst number to get is 89. 89 is a slap in the face. 89 is flipping you the bird. 89 is smiling at you while he watches you eat his shit. He knew that. They always know. My aunt knew when she killed people. She told me once she never killed noboby didnt want to be killed. That people who look at you funny want to be killed. Just takes them a while to find someone to do it. Then she got a taste for it. Like you might take a first bite of an applewood smoked pork chop and never want to stop eating it. My aunt loved the taste of killing in her mouth. She gave it 100.

This is what we come to. I never thought I would take to killing old men wine critics. My aunt would have approved. It was her idea. She would have approved of the electric chair she ended in too. Done her to a nice medium rare. Lightly charred. I visited her three of four times before she was roasted. Four times. I must have mentioned to her that the first old wine critic had scored my Grenache 89. I seem to remember my aunt saying I should kill him. I liked the idea. I told her that all the powerful wine critics are old men. Robert Parker, James Laube, Harvey Steiman, Charles Olken, Jancis Robinson. My aunt just sort of stared at me. The way a sommelier stares at the imbeciles he is forced to sell his wines to. That look of disgust. So kill them all she told me. This is no country for old men wine critics. Their time is over. You are my blood she told me. I am about to be pot roast. That is what it come to. My aunt gave me her taste for killing. I was going to make sure I never got no 89 again.

They wasnt hard to hunt. That was my biggest disappointment. It didnt seem like sport. No thrill of the chase. I only had to go to fancy wine events to find one of the old men. Even among a crowd of people they stood out. Old men wine critics are always the worst dressed people in the room. They are not there for long. They show up like they are doing everyone a favor putting a little bit of wine in their overrated mouths. They dress like a dog is their fashion consultant. Yves St. Bernard. The second one I shot was wearing a belly shirt. A fancy Napa Valley tasting and he is wearing a shirt that billows out but doesn’t reach his pants and you can see the lint in his navel. His pants look like the upholstery on the sofa my killer aunt covered in plastic to keep the blood off it. Everyone is still kissing his ass mind you. Putting their noses so far up his butt their ears have curly hairs in them. Never mind he is walking around like that asking to be killed. Ever seen how the oldest elk hangs around the edges of the herd so that when wolves attack he is the one who is killed? Is he forced to the edge? I dont think so. I think he hugs the edges hoping the wolves stop his misery. Wearing a belly shirt to an exclusive Napa Valley tasting is just an old elk wandering around the edges looking for someone to end it. It is asking for it. Everyone knows it, everyone sees it. I do something about it.

He give me an 88 for my Grenache. I asked him why. 88 is a good score he told me. Its a score that means Very Good: a wine with special qualities. I could look it up he said. I pistol whipped him. He smiled. His wet eyes pleaded with me. I wondered how my life had brought me to this place. I only wanted to make wine. It was hard being a woman and trying to make wine. Its an old mans game and old men dont take to women playing their games. Let the little lady play they will say now and again. Like how you let the slow kid take an at bat because it makes you laugh behind your covered mouth. I made wine and the old men liked that I took my at bats. And gave me 88 and 89 and 87. 87. Very good. With special qualities. Like me, they meant. Special. I knew what they were saying. I had already killed one old man and I got the taste for it. The second one I told that I appreciated his 88. I hoped he appreciated my .45. From the slow smile that caressed his face I think he did.

I never thought about how many old men wine critics there was. Worse is there are younger ones coming up to replace them. Future old men wine critics. Much as I wanted to I couldnt kill them all. It come to me I was just buying time. Not changing anything. There is a true evil prophet of destruction living in the wine business. I have seen him. Once. I dont want to see him again. He smokes big cigars and smells of death. Nothin’ can kill him. And if anything could it would not be a woman replaced him. He is everywhere in the wine business. The wine business is all about this prophet. Prophet, prophet, prophet. The prophet of destruction deals out the letters after names. He gives authority to old men to promote other old men. I have the yearning to kill him but not the courage. Nothing would change anyway.

Why does almost everyone listen to old men wine critics? Experience they tell you. What gives them wisdom is experience. Old men say this and we listen. We go to movies and old men are romancing young women. Men get better looking with age society says. Women lose to gravity. They say the same about wine. It gets better with age. Like men not like women. But I dont think so. Old wine is just that. Old wine. Old men wine critics are just that. Old men. Handing out 88s and 89s just asking for it. Cold hard numbers meet cold hard steel I say. I aim to make sure none of them ever gets 89. They have seen their last birthdays.

It comes to this too. I am a hero to so many people. People who dont want numbers attached to wine. People who dont want to be told what to drink by old men who wear belly shirts. Cant hear and cant see and thus also cant smell and cant taste. My Grenache was great. Young and inexperienced people know that. My aunt was right. This is no country for old men wine critics. I tell them to hang it up. Get a blog. Vanish into obscurity where I cant find them. Otherwise you should start looking over your shoulder as you write down 89. You should start dressin’ nicer for wine tastings. Be careful which woman winemaker you stare at with those wet eyes. She just might have your name on her.


Eric V. Orange said...

Nice piece Hose.
Funny line;
>all the powerful wine critics are old men. Robert Parker, James Laube, Harvey Steiman, Charles Olken, Jancis Robinson.



David Pears said...

Great piece HoseMaster,

Like the voice - Makes me wanna go on a wine-rampage even though it's monday.
By the way, congratulations on your 502nd blog piece!


Don Clemens said...

"My first old wine critic had big wet eyes too. That made it easier. Shame no ones going to make hamburger out of him. He would have gone good with those nasty red wines he rated so high". What a great start for my day! I had to read this one two times, just to absorb the flavor. Of course, I was spitting, so...
Thanks, Ron, for another gem.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey Gang,
There are times ideas just come out of the blue. It's been a very long time since I tackled literary parody, a form I love. You get to immerse yourself in a writer's work, pick apart style and voice, then sort of fuck with it.

I was driving home when, out of nowhere, came the book title, "No Country for Old Men." It's probably the most plot-driven and accessible McCarthy novel. But as soon as that title came to me, I thought, "No Country for Old Men Wine Critics." I initially dismissed it as stupid, which is probably accurate, but I kept gnawing at it. Finally, it was bugging me so much I sat down, started thumbing through McCarthy's works, got a bit of a handle on his style, and just began.

I didn't know it was a woman's voice until a few paragraphs in. Which, given McCarthy's rather male perspective, especially on violence, struck me as funny. So I went with that. It was great fun to write. That's very rare, in my experience. Writing is, for me, sweating blood. So even if you hate this piece, I had fun writing it. First time in a long time.

Thanks, everyone, for reading.

Charlie Olken said...

For some years now, I have been glad I was not a lawyer. Now, I have something else to worry about.

Of course, if you believe the sommelier nerd over on STEVE, all writers will be dead in five years and only the somms will survive. The guy is the vinous equivalent of DT.

larry mawby said...

oh, man, this piece is an 89, for sure.

Eric Allen said...

A humble request: Write the next one as David Foster Wallace.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Puff Daddy,
What's hilarious is that each generation of sommeliers says the same thing. I know I did, when I was wet behind the nose. So I read Ian Cauble's remarks and laughed. Don't worry, he'll be working for Constellation in five years and using reviews to sell plonk.

Have you met my .45?

I'm not sure the cloud is large enough for me to do David Foster Wallace. And I'm not nearly depressed enough. But you never know...

Blaise said...

Being a Ky girl, I got it right away and loved it. Then I read it out loud for the rhythm. It was even better.
Great work, Hose honey.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Thanks, Darlin'. It was fun to do. But that's the first time I've been accused of havin' good rhythm. I dance like a white boy carryin' a heavy pants load. Comedy is all rhythm, though. Glad you noticed.

Paul Moe said...

"Heavy pants load". Are you intimating that you're similar to The Donald?

Ron Washam, HMW said...

What's in my pants is.

Marcia Macomber said...

Dead on match to McCarthy, of course. I had a vision of some giant thug-woman (towering over Mel Brooks) in my head.

An 89 for the Grenache! How fitting... LOL Glad you had fun writing it. More, please!

Marcia Macomber said...

Somehow it all seems so apropos to the current political scene as well. (Can you blow them away with your .45, please?) No Country for Old Republicans (evidently...!)

Larry Anosmia, M.S. said...

I've seen lots of rheumy eyed lushes in my time. An occupational hazard in the hospitality game.

Blathering on and on 'bout the good ol' days of Beaulieu and Heitz and Inglenook and Freemark Abbey and Diamond Creek and (egads!) Jordan Cabs.

Low alcohol dinosaurs!

(Thank gawd for today's higher alcohol, high pH, slight residual sugar, and ridiculously profitable wines-by-the-glass like Cupcake. "Ka-ching!")

You gotta be careful around these bloviators. Turn your back on 'em, and they pinch your tips.


(Oh, I'm sorry. Were we talkin' about bar flies -- or wine critics? Like there's a difference . . . )

pam strayer said...

So many genius moments here! "They dress like a dog is their fashion consultant. Yves St. Bernard." GufFAW!

I just had to wonder -you wrote this piece after attending the Napa Wine Writers Symposium. Is there any connection?

And, I wish there would be a TV series in wine like this, as opposed to another somms-aspiring-to-be-MWs show (like Esquire's Uncorked).

More, more!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

No, no conscious connection to Meadowood. As I said, I was driving and, for no apparent reason, "No Country for Old Men" just popped into my head, followed by my suffix, "Wine Critics." I have no idea where my ideas come from, and don't need to know. And when that title wouldn't leave me alone, I decided to write the parody.

You quoted the only joke I like in the piece. Stupid, but I always love the stupid ones. Yeah, Yves St. Bernard. I like it.