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.