Monday, July 18, 2016

Wine Critics in Hell Act 2

Act One is here

The same Natural Wine bar in Hell. Four dead wine critics sit glumly sipping Cornelissen rosé. Their glasses, though they drink them continually, never empty. Hell is bottomless natural wine rosé. Behind the bar, the bartender, who has nothing to say to these idiots, stands and observes. He represents the readers of wine publications. Even with the evidence to the contrary right in front of him, he believes these critics to be worth listening to. A stranger is also in the bar. Not a dead wine critic, but clearly dead, he seems disoriented, confused about how he has landed in this horrible place. With a shitty wine by-the-glass list. It’s like landing in a Marriott, except the customers here know they’re dead.

Laube’s head is on the bar. Suckling is searching the place for a mirror, and trying to see his reflection in everything. Kramer is pontificating to the Stranger, who is clenching his fists and seems on the verge of violence. Parker is putting Laube’s finger into a glass of warm water.

Parker: Oh, this will be great! Laube’s pants will be like a great vineyard—all about the soil.

Suckling: Does my hair look alright to you guys? Where’s the fucking mirror in this dump?

Parker: Should I grab your balls and tell you to, “Coif?”

Kramer: (lecturing to the Stranger) I think you’ll really enjoy my newest book, Stranger. It’s called “Making Sense of Death.” I think it’s my finest work, and, as you know, I’m universally regarded as the greatest dead wine writer…

Suckling: Yup. Give the public what they want.

Kramer: (ignoring Suckling, which is nothing new to Suckling) I think you’ll be surprised at the section that explodes the biggest myths around death. For example, that a 96 point death is better than a 92 point death. That’s what most people think, right, Stranger? Well, it turns out death is utterly pointless. Harvey Steiman gives Gluttony a 97, it doesn’t matter. Choose the death that you like! I did!

Parker: Gluttony is clearly 100 points. Hey, look, Laube pissed his pants!

Suckling: Come on, Kramer. You didn’t choose your death. None of us did. We all died of neglect. Consumers just stopped giving a shit about us. Fucking Millennials. Put us all in this room and damned us to eternal irrelevance. After all we did for them.

Laube: (waking up in a puddle of his own making, he stands and the front of his pants are wet) Shit! Bob, what the fuck?

A woman enters on a cheap bike. She looks lost. She stares at the wet spot on Laube’s pants, which continues to grow. The dead wine critics look at her, then at each other, and they begin to laugh. Only the Stranger and the bartender are silent. It’s the laughter of the damned.

Woman: What are you assholes doing here? Fuck. And me without a cowhorn into which I could shove this roomful of shit.

Stranger: The question, Ms. Feiring, isn’t what these assholes are doing here. They belong here. They’ve been drinking their way here for forty years. The question is, how did you end up in this particular room with these particular pricks? You’d think that the woman who saved the world from Parkerization would end up in a better place. You’d think that a woman who expended all her energy trying to show consumers that she was the one who held the secrets to great wine, that she was the one to whom they should listen, that only she was incorruptible and sincere in her love for wine, you’d think she was nothing like these four old, dead, impotent wine critics. But you’re not different, are you, Alice? You’re just as vain, and just as incontinent. You…

Parker: (loudly interrupts) Hey, Stranger! Lay off her.

Everyone falls silent after Parker’s outburst. Laube tucks a napkin into his pants and spreads it to cover the wet spot. Suckling shuffles around the bar appearing to be lost in thought, though thought is as foreign to him as humility. Kramer is sullen because no one is listening to him, though he has the same point to make he made but a few minutes ago. The bartender sets a glass of rosé on the bar loudly and stares at Alice Feiring, welcoming her to Hell. Feiring seems bewildered.

Feiring: (quietly) Thank you, Bob. Gentlemen, I’m a little confused. Just a minute or two ago I was riding my bike through the hills of Provence. Oh, it was a beautiful day. I felt like a young woman again, vibrant and sensual. I could smell the French countryside, and it was like the aroma of a biodynamic wine. You know, Bob, like inhaling the armpit of a French hooker with one leg named Eileen.

Suckling: What do you call her other leg?

Laube: The grip.

Parker: Shut up. Let the lady talk.

Kramer: I’d like to say something…

ALL: Shut up, Kramer!

Feiring: (sipping from her wine glass) Hey, this is good. (She strolls seductively over to where Parker is leaning against the bar. She stands very close to him.) Why are we here, Bob? I mean, we’re all famous wine critics, right? I get that. Well, except that Stranger. Who is he? I don’t like him. But why are we here? I have a lot of things to do. I don’t have time to sit around and drink with a bunch of old, dead, white guys. Like I ran for Congress. I have to save wine from you, Bob. (She leans in as if to kiss him.) I hate you.

Stranger: (angrily) Hate him, Alice? You are him. You’re all him. Every goddam one of you is him. You wasted your lives and your meager talents emulating him, or deriding him, or stealing from him. Laube, his fawning panty boy, pretending his opinions were different, but longing to worship at Bob’s feet. Suckling, the self-parody, the mockery of a critic, like imitation crab—looks like the real thing, but leaves a shitty taste in your mouth. And Kramer, the faux intellectual, the flipside of the hedonist, the “thinking man’s” Parker, the one who knows how to speechify but never feel, the one who puts the acid in flaccid. And you, Alice.

Feiring: What about me, Stranger? What about me?

Stranger: The Doña Quixote, the nut in shining armour, tilting at windbags. You might be the worst of them. These guys are buffoons, exaggerated parodies of wine power, the Walking Dead of the wine world, misogynists, the NFL owners of wine. And you? You pretended you were trying to slay these monsters when all you were really doing was finding a way to stand on their shoulders. Bob’s shoulders.

Feiring: Oh, they’re big strong shoulders, Stranger.

Laube: Fuck me. I think she’s in love.


benjamin said...


Baldwineguy said...

Unknown said...

Could be your best ever Ron! Too many good lines to count. Maybe you should call wine writing the "Myth of Sissy-pants?"
George R

Daniel said...

when will this be made into a movie? what fun we could have with casting...

Martin said...

Not wow as above but fucking wow! In Ireland we'd say that was brutal, as the highest compliment.
Jesus, it's takes no prisoners brutal and close to the bone as an episode of Bones. Remind me not to piss you off!
How many times do I have to say 'your best yet'?
Sarcasm and parody are harsh but reveal many truths as fans of 'Spitting Images' know.
I'm in awe. A total fan boy.
Martin Moran

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey Gang,
I have no idea what this play is. Aside from stupid, that is. But it seems to be calling me to work on it now and then. As I wrote after the first installment, I originally had in mind something like Eugene O'Neill's "The Iceman Cometh." Not thematically, particularly, but when I was writing it, I kept seeing that barren bar where Hickey and the other drunks talk about "pipe dreams," those dreams we carry that are foolish and unreachable, but sustain us nonetheless. Somehow these dead wine critics came to mean something like that to me. Though that's high-falutin' for such an amateurish piece of playwriting. It's really about the jokes, such as they are.

It dawns on me now and then that I have the weirdest wine blog on the planet.

Unknown said...


Cris Carter said...

I love this, Ron! Happy to be part of your weirdness. Wine needs more weird. Not the anti-scientific, anti-sulfur, anti-vaccine idiot sort of weird, just the good old Werner Herzog, kind-of-need-a-shower-after-that weird. Bravo.

Bob Henry said...

"Suckling is searching the place for a mirror, and trying to see his reflection in everything."

It is said that when you are looking into a mirror, you are looking into your soul.

Bram Stoker popularized the notion that vampires have no soul . . . hence no reflection in a mirror.

Wine vampire Suckling is on a Sisyphean search.

(Or maybe checking out his image is akin to Dorian Gray checking out his portrait?)

Bob Henry said...

Nice inside joke about Barrister Bob and his coif.

Unknown said...

A brilliant piece of wineturgy Ron. Very O'Niellian. He would have approved. The claustrophobia, the self-deception, the futility of human existence. Parker comes off best of the bunch which is just and fair. Try to work in Galloni next time.

Alice said...

Ron, This is good. Might almost love it.

Legless in Burgundy said...

Intersting-ish anecdote about Frank Cornelissen. Back in the early days I worked for a London wine broker. Frank Cornelissen was selling the all new 97 point 1997 Campoleone from Lamborghiçni at roughly £70 per bottle (call that 120 euros/ dollars at the time). I bought and sold tons of it...I then worked for an importer of Campoleone and found that Lamborghini sells it for 15 euros.
So can you imagine my guilt? It"s probably all my fault...I financed the whole shebang.
My place in this circle of hell must then be assured.

Unknown said...

In my country there is a saying, "if you keep calling yourself names, they will stick"...Quit calling your work stupid, you know its not gonna stick...You should create a go fund me account for it a make a televized version...