Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Church of Aimee Semple McFeiring

I don’t know how to explain it. It’s a miracle. I never expected anything like this to ever happen to me. I attended the revival meeting innocently enough. I simply wanted to witness this strange and burgeoning cult firsthand. Experience the hypnotic and numinous leader in the flesh, just one in the sea of her admiring acolytes. I didn’t expect to be converted, to be healed of my many enological sins. But those hours in her company, listening to her speak, recognizing her inarguable spiritual truths, have brought me to the Light. Many have called her a charlatan, a nimble-tongued purveyor of half-truths, a self-proclaimed prophet of the pure, who preys upon the dimwitted dipsomaniacs and the mouth-breathing Millennials, whose calls to consume only the Natural, the Real, and the Authentic are clarion calls to the weak-minded and easily befuddled. I was one of those who berated her. No longer. I have seen miracles with my own two eyes. I have awakened as if from a long, sulfite-induced coma. I am newly baptized in the Natural Wine Church of Aimee Semple McFeiring. I’ve been reborn.

My epiphany began under a large tent on a warm summer’s eve somewhere in the South of France. As I entered, the congregation was singing Natural Wine gospel songs. “Fight the Good Sulfite,” “What a Friend We Have in Chauvet,” and “For He’s a Joly Good Fellow,” were sung with heart and conviction. The tent was filled with love—love, and anticipation of Aimee Semple McFeiring’s long-awaited entrance. I was welcomed with warmth and open arms, and a glass of natural wine that had a nose married perfectly with the overpowering aroma of the devoted deodorant-free throng. The worshippers grew quiet, the hymns stopped, the lights in the tent slowly dimmed to the oxidized color of a sulfite-free current release, and Aimee Semple McFeiring walked slowly onto the stage.

It was only then I noticed the people gathered at the very front of the crowd, just a few feet below Aimee Semple McFeiring, their eager and open faces turned to her brilliance. “Brothers and sisters,” McFeiring exclaimed, “is there anyone here who wants to be cured tonight?” What happened next is almost too unbelievable to relate; and if I hadn’t seen it myself, I wouldn’t have believed it either. But as Steiner is my witness, every word I write is true.

Wine people with every kind of horrible affliction, those people in front who had seemed the most eager to see McFeiring, began to line up on the steps leading up to the stage where Aimee Semple McFeiring was bathed in that oxidized glow, a glow which seemed to radiate from her purely natural hair color. At first, the sight of all of these terribly deformed wine lovers was horrifying to behold. The first man in line was wearing a Hawaiian shirt with the Trader Joe’s logo, and at the sight of him the congregation gasped and collectively turned their heads, a few attempting to muffle the sounds of gagging. There was a middle-aged, Humpty Dumpty-shaped woman wearing a shirt that had shiny beads spelling out the words “Got Wine?” I tried not to stare, but it was horrible to behold, and I was riveted to the sight, amazed at the woman’s courage to appear in public looking that inhuman and disgusting. A man was holding up a copy of The Wine Advocate, dog-eared and covered in highlighter, and people left a wide swath around him as though he might give them a disfiguring communicable disease, something with scales, a deadly form of 100 Point psoriasis. There were no fewer than a hundred of these pathetic souls in line, and from their dishevelment and grotesque appearance, I knew many of them were winemakers.

“Do you believe, brother?” Aimee Semple McFeiring asked the poor, misguided soul in the Trader Joe’s shirt (a woman next to me whispered to her friend, “He drinks Charles Shaw,” whereupon her friend wet her pants in fear). “I believe! I believe!” he shouted. And with that his Hawaiian shirt vanished, simply vanished, I have no idea how but for the power of Aimee Semple McFeiring, and he donned the hair shirt of the true believers in the Natural Wine Church. (McFeiring told him it wasn’t necessary to wear the hair shirt, but he replied, “It’s cilice I can do.”) Well, it’s not really made of hair, I learned, but of old filter pads cast aside by reformed winemakers. The grotesque woman in the “Got Wine?” shirt crawled on her knees to Aimee Semple McFeiring. There were tears in her eyes as McFeiring placed her right hand on the top of the woman’s head and shouted, “Be gone, Satan! Go back to Hell, Shanken! Leave this woman, Spawn of Heimoff!” The woman’s eyes rolled up in her head, she dropped unconscious to the floor, the crowd inhaled deeply as one. Then she began to levitate. McFeiring’s hand was still on her head, and it was as though she were lifting her with the strength of her will, with the power of her belief, with the pureness of her vision for the True Wine. And when the woman awoke, now alert and on her feet, her shirt now read “God Wine.”

But the man with The Wine Advocate was a different problem for Aimee Semple McFeiring. He held the issue in front of him, arms fully extended, and it was clear that McFeiring was frightened. She hissed, a long, sibilant syllable that made the congregants gasp. “Be not frightened, brothers and sisters. There’s no need to fear the forces of evil as represented by this steaming pile of lies.” She approached the man. “Do you believe, brother?” she whispered, the crowd growing silent in witness to her passion. “I want to believe,” the man replied, his arms beginning to tremble, “but I don’t know that I can.” “Put the ratings from Hell down!” Aimee Semple McFeiring commanded. The man’s voice broke, tears streaming down his cheeks, “But how will I know what to drink? Without the Book of David, and the Book of Neal, and the Book of Lisa, I’ll have nothing!” “You have nothing now,” Aimee Semple McFeiring said, and with that The Wine Advocate burst into flame. The man screamed and cast it aside. His loneliness was palpable, the emptiness of his life flashed across his face. Aimee Semple McFeiring walked slowly to the man. She slipped one strap of her dress off of her shoulder, in the dim light of the tent her breast was exposed, and the man suckled at her breast. A woman behind me whispered, “He drinks Cornelissen Rosé from her teat, it’s the greatest Natural Wine there is.” After a few pulls, the man stood straight up, he seemed six inches taller, and he glowed! Light radiated from his every pore. The tent lights were dimmed, but you could have read “Naked Wine” by his Light. It was a miracle.

And that night I also saw the Light. There is no wine but Natural Wine. All the rest is lies. To let it pass your lips is a sin. But we’re human, Aimee Semple McFeiring teaches us, and we sin. Chauvet died for our sins, so we will be forgiven. But we must strive to be without sin, to taste only what the Natural Wine Church of Aimee Semple McFeiring says is Authentic and Real and Natural, or we shall forever live in Ignorance and worship False Wines. I, for one, believe.


Micah Nasarow said...

Bravo! (slow clap) Braaaavooo, my good sir.

I am assuming you are on your death bed, for this is your master piece. Your Magnum opus.

Bravo again to you good sir..for I shall never laugh at any other of your pieces again.


The Sommeliere said...

Ron, where to start? "He's a Joly Good Fellow, Fight the Good Sulfight, Got Wine to God Wine?"

This is one of your best! I laughed out load and the poodle-doodles came running to see what was going on.

I wonder if some of your younger readers will get the allusion- Amy Semple McPherson was a real character in the early 20th century.
But Alice is an original, too. Anyone who has the cojones to take on Parker the way she did must have been told by her parents that she was smart and pretty when she was a child.

How do you come up with such great stuff? And, please keep doing what you do so well...!

PaulG said...

"Many have called her a charlatan, a nimble-tongued purveyor of half-truths..." and those are her friends! Happy to see, Señor Hose, that we are on the same side regarding this purveyor of self-serving b.s. Rock on.

Thomas said...

Can't wait to read what the Disorderly crowd says about you, Ron.

Whatever they say, some great lines in this one.

Steve Lay said...

Was it a tent revival or a political tent meeting handing out EBT cards for 50% discounts on carbon free wine that will cure STD's if one would only eat of the apple?
Were they preaching to the converted or working on the heathen who smirk at slick willies. My Dad once told me about vile women and to not fall for slick talking women.

Charlie Olken said...

Nicely done. A couple of really good, laugh out loud lines, but the brilliance here is the depth, the reach of the humor, the fact that this piece wants 100% attention because it is more than a bunch of gag lines.

It may not rate high on the knee-slap scale, but it earns high hundreds of thousands on the intelligent, piercing wit scale.

Samantha Dugan said...

Wait, I'm befuddled. So we need a warm Summers Eve to rid ourselves of sulfites?

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey Gang,
One day I was driving around wine country (I rarely play music or listen to the radio when I drive--I like the quiet) and the name, "Amy Semple McFeiring" suddenly appeared in my head. I have no idea where it came from. But it stuck with me for days, insisting I write this piece. And so I did.

I do try to vary tone and content on HoseMaster. Just for my own exercise and enjoyment. I think of this sort of piece as pure satire, not so much filled with one-liners as it's filled with dark tone and only partly unbelievable content. It's the tone, after all, that is the hardest to capture when I come up with an idea like this. But once I get it, it's off to the races.

Amy Semple McPherson was a famous faith healer of the early 20th Century in Los Angeles. Her revivals featured "blind" people regaining their vision, "crippled" people suddenly walking. She was the great scam artist and snake oil saleswoman of that era, a female Oral Roberts before there was Oral Roberts, and she had an enormous following. The comparison to Alice Feiring is completely unfair, in the way of satire, and yet it works. The magic of comedy.

graz said...

I can only hope that you keep up the faith.

Without your sermons of the fount I would laugh a lot less.

Unknown said...

What happens if you drink McFeiring's Kool Aid?

A trick question you can't because it has artificial colors in it.

Oh Yeah!!!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Excellent! You get Common Tater of the week for that. So wonderfully stupid it made me laugh out loud. Blessings on you.

Unknown said...

Finally, Ron, you've created your own unique wine, one that no one could ever rate (at least less than infinity). Cornelissen Rosé: an iconic wine against which all imaginary wines should be judged in future. Brilliant!

Alex Krause said...

Ron, your Hosemastery has given me hope where there was only despair for our industry, and levity.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the chateau of Dourthe, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me thy rot and thy staphylococcus comfort me.

Martin said...

Oh Ron, you legend, it'll be a long time before you top this effort (or maybe not!) How do you do it?!

Particularly loved 'a glass of natural wine that had a nose married perfectly with the overpowering aroma of the devoted deodorant-free throng'.

If I wasn't an atheist I'd be suggesting we all worship at the one true wine church of the blessed Ron H rather than Alice F or Robert J P jnr.

I don't know what you're taking to come up with this stuff but if it can be bottled I want some cause it surely isn't just wine!

Martin Moran MW

The Sommeliere said...

Martin, I cannot agree with you more!

David Larsen said...

From the comments, it sounds like we have many budding Junior Hosemasters in the making

Dean Tudor said...

You -- and your staff of writers -- continue to amaze me..LOL

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey Gang,
Thank you for all the kind words.

Martin, I have no idea where my ideas come from, except to say that most of my life my brain has been trained to view life from a strange, and very skewed, perspective. It's how comedy writers work. Not every idea is great, not every piece works, not every joke is funny. And everyone disagrees which is which. But I find satisfaction in the work, and even more satisfaction that very few others even attempt it in the wine biz.

There's a peculiar notion I hear that the people I lampoon are people I admire or am jealous of. This is idiotic, and is espoused by morons. I don't have any kind of agenda. Or, rather, the agenda I have is, as I've said endlessly, the agenda of the Fool. Here, the Fool (in his HoseMaster garb) merely points out the blind belief of those who preach the wonders of natural wine, and biodynamics, and honest wines, and authentic wines. Theirs is the Right Way, the Way of the Light, theirs the Wines God Intended Us to Drink, Don't Question Their Quality. It's religion, it's faith, it's hooey. I don't have an argument with biodynamics or any other system of making wine. But I find the folks who preach it exclusively to be disingenuous, hypocritical and reliant on empty words and uncritical thinking. It's modern day faith healing.

I write four or five pieces ahead. I have that many pieces in the can, and decide the day before which piece I'll post. I thought, Molesworth followed by Feiring makes a nice contrast. I wrote this piece a month ago. I knew it would get a reaction like it's getting. It's a little rough, decidedly vicious. But I think it's got way more than enough truth in it. Far more than the natural wine movement.

Marcia Macomber said...

Leave it to Samantha to find the 'warm Summers Eve' bit to rid us of sulfites! Loved this piece! Nothing like a good dose of biting wit!

Michael Donohue said...

6 inches taller??? Not me baby!

Unknown said...

I really wanted it to say "devoted deodorant-free thong".....but throng works too.

Eric Guido said...

Well done. This is my first visit to your site, and at first i thought you were serious. Then it just started to seem sick--and by the end, I was laughing out loud. Well done.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Thanks, and welcome to my wacky world. Hope you become a regular common tater. That goes for all the new taters this post attracted. Always fun to have some new spuds around.

This piece was definitely out there. But, too often these days, the cult of Natural Wine seems to have more in common with Scientology than love of wine. Join Us! We have the answers! Read my new book, BioDianetics! And the suckers fall for it.

Unknown said...

Not a fantasy.

Beau said...

Just read this one, and as someone still struggling to learn about winemaking and what's truth versus utter bullsh1t, it really resonated. Bravo, Hosemaster.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey Beau,
Thanks. There is endless baloney in the wine biz, much of it published here. There's always a lot of noise, always a "new" thing, always a hot new winery, a hot new variety. That's never changed, and never will. Make interesting wine, don't try to please anyone but yourself, and have fun--all the rest is just so much tired old manure.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hello Barb,
Thank you. You made my day. I'm glad you enjoy all my bombast and foolishness. It's always nice when one of the lurkers takes the time to comment. It was very kind of you.