Monday, December 21, 2015
Last Post of 2015--You're Welcome
There’s so much I want to say after another year slogging through HoseMaster of Wine™. The holidays are not only a time to celebrate, they’re also a time to reflect. If a psychic had told me last January what my 2015 would hold, I wouldn’t have believed her. If I had believed her, I might have put down my poison pen for the year.
I certainly managed to offend an unusually large number of people this past year. I know it seems hard to believe, but offending people isn’t my actual goal. In fact, I don’t even have an actual goal, not when it comes to this blog anyway. Well, maybe to meet hot chicks, but that hasn’t really played out like I’d hoped. It turns out that satire offends people. It certainly seemed to offend Georg Riedel. He had the grandest over-reaction of the year when he had his lawyers threaten to sue me for libel. But he wasn’t the only one who took offense at my shenanigans. The folks at Le Pan were a bit peeved, as were many sommeliers, Master and otherwise. More than a few wine bloggers had harsh words for me, in public or in private. And the truth is, I never insulted the people in the biz I’d really like to insult. There are many I studiously avoid lampooning simply because I don’t want to mention their names, for reasons of my own. I will one day, I’ll get to them, but I need the right vehicle, the right moment. I thought I went pretty easy on folks this past year. Yet I still managed to piss off more people than usual. It’s a gift.
In their own mind and heart, no one thinks they deserve to be satirized. Especially those who believe everything they do is a craft—which they believe simply because if they do it, it must be a craft. More than once, I’ve had emails from wine people asking me to lampoon them. There seems to be some sort of badge of honor associated with being the butt of a HoseMaster column—though a butt is just a butt, and rarely honorable. And there have been several occasions when I’ve skewered someone who asked me to, and nearly every time that particular person took great offense at what I wrote and stopped being a fan. We rarely see what’s genuinely funny or hypocritical or foolish about ourselves, even after it’s been pointed out to us. Satire aims to shine a light into all of our dark places (making us the butt, I guess), to spotlight inadequacies and frailties, faults and hypocrisies, using laughter as a weapon. And there is no more powerful weapon. Laughter is the Force. May the Force be with you, because when it’s against you, it can be painful. Combine laughter with truth, and amazing things happen.
And terrible things. This has been a banner year for massacres—an abundant vintage. But it began with Charlie Hebdo. All year when tiny wine people harangued me, I thought about those poor dorks (and satirists are universally dorks, myself included) being murdered. You see, I don’t mind the least bit being insulted on chat rooms or on blogs or even to my face. That comes with the territory. I have it coming. But bullying, or threatening, that’s a much different story. It doesn’t take courage to write what I write here. Not at all. Don’t kid yourself. Comedians are not brave people, even if they speak hard truths. We’re cowards for the most part, we’re afraid of physical confrontation. And we certainly don’t welcome intimidation or threats. But I welcome critics, and I don’t mind that people hate me. I care who the people are who hate me. I’m happy to say that I’m damned proud of my list of people who don’t like what I do here. A more distinguished list of idiots would be hard to compile.
There isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t want to quit. Yes, I know, I threaten to quit all the fucking time. But I mean it every single time, too. Yet it seems like every time I decide, for the last time, to stop publishing HoseMaster of Wine™, something happens to make me go on. So you have only yourselves to blame for this travesty of wine blogging. This year it was many things.
I won’t ever forget the response to Georg Riedel threatening me with a libel suit. The support of the wine writing community, as well as the wine community in general, was amazing, and personally overwhelming. After all of that, I simply couldn’t walk away from the blog. It would have seemed like a victory for Riedel, and I couldn’t let that happen, not after all the kindness and generosity and support that was thrown my way. I’m not used to feeling affection for the wine business. But those weeks, when wine people far more influential and important than I stood behind me, changed my life. I know that, for the most part, they were simply standing up for a cause, and not really for the HoseMaster. It wasn’t really about me. It was about freedom of expression, and standing up to bullies. I knew that almost from the start. Yet the support, its vehemence and rectitude, filled me with pride and purpose. Thank you.
During the course of the past year, I received a lot of kind letters. Many of them, especially those from people in the trade, expressed the same sentiment. That what I write here on HoseMaster of Wine™ expresses thoughts and truths about the wine business that the letter writer wishes he/she was able to express, but doesn’t, for fear of losing a job, or being somehow blackballed. I like to think that I’m expressing truths in a comic manner, but, honestly, it’s hard to know. When peers tell me I have it right, it makes me happy. Thank you.
I also received a handful of personal letters after my piece about “Wine, Memories and Massacres.” People shared their own stories of tragedy, and of how wine has helped them through life, and of how they endured. I don’t usually get that kind of mail, as you might have surmised. Life turns out to be very much about loss, and about how gracefully and honestly we endure it. I endure through laughter, and by attempting to make others laugh. When I inadvertently touch them as well, I’m astonished. I’ve known from a very young age that words have power, that language matters, and that abusing language with sloppiness or ignorance or prejudice is a horrible wrong. My answer for all of those circumstances is satire, is laughter, is lampooning. That I offend the people I aim at never bothers me in the slightest.
I was also invited to speak at the Napa Valley Professional Wine Writers’ Symposium in February. If this doesn’t ruin its credibility, I don’t know what could. I’ll be sharing the spotlight with people far more talented than I am, many of whom don’t like me. So that should be fun. But Jim Gordon’s willingness to include a satirist in the mix is heartening. And that has kept me writing to an extent, too. Satire should always be present at the table. Maybe not as an honored guest, but, at the very least, as the drunk uncle. If anyone who writes about wine hears the HoseMaster’s footsteps as he writes pretentiously about wine, then my work here is worthwhile. I’m not vain enough to think that ever happens, but I can hope so.
Yes, 2015 was an interesting vintage for the HoseMaster. I’m not at all important, as wine writers go, I never appear on lists of Influential Wine Bloggers (inevitably published by industry nobodies), nor do I have much ambition to be. I just love to write, and wine is my muse. For every single individual who reads my work, I’m very grateful. I know that my work is hit and miss, with miss ahead by a wide margin. I know that it’s foulmouthed and scatalogical and crude. Nothing about its tone or approach is accidental. The HoseMaster, and Lo Hai Qu, are fictional extensions of me, voices in my head that scream to be heard. I don’t need an audience, not really, but there isn’t a day goes by that I’m not astonished by having one, and by your love and kindness.
May your 2016 be filled with a lot more Peace, and a lot more laughter.
From Your Friends,
The HoseMaster, Lo Hai Qu, Larry Anosmia, Avril Cadavril, Loqueesha, Shizzangela, Splooge Estate, the makers of Boner in a Can®, the members of the Go Fuck Yourself Club™, and, of course, me.