Monday, January 9, 2017

Wine Critics in Hell Act 6


If this were an actual natural wine bar in Lodi, it wouldn’t be this crowded. So it must be Hell. It certainly is for the wine critics involuntarily drinking orange wine, Lodi Zin, or Prosecco, which is what they serve by-the-glass in Hell. It is possible to get Meiomi Pinot Noir by the bottle, unless you’re Laube, because he rated it 92 points. Which is but one reason he’s condemned to eternal wine critic damnation. Alice Feiring seems to be enjoying the orange wine, though she has lost several teeth to it, and it’s apparently turned her hair the same orange shade. Suckling is convinced that this isn’t Hell generally, it’s Parker’s Hell specifically. But if that were true, where’s Jancis? Matt Kramer feels pretty comfortable in Hell, having made life a living one for so many before he died. Laube seems pretty drunk. He’s begun talking to himself, declaring that he’s a “Denizen of Hell to Watch in 2017.” Galloni is pretty sure this whole play is all about him, though, much like when he was a living wine critic, there is no evidence to back this up. The Stranger, who seems to be enjoying all the nastiness and drama of the wine critics in Hell, seems the most energized of the group, while the Bartender just keeps refilling everyone’s wine glass, and listening.

Parker: (walking over to the Stranger’s table and staring down at the Ouija board) You know, Stranger, I’ve been thinking. How do we know we’re actually dead? I don’t remember dying. (he turns to the bar) Does anyone here remember dying? And all of us at once? What is this, some kind of 100 Point Rapture? A wine blogger wet dream? Death of the Scalesmen? And when it comes down to it, how do I know that I can’t just walk out of this dump? What happens if I try?

(Parker has everyone’s attention. The Stranger is just staring down at his Ouija board, smiling to himself a bit, and shaking his head in exasperation.) 

Stranger: (calmly) Oh, Bob, I expect you to try. I expect all of you to try. There’s just one problem. You can never escape a Hell of your own making. Walk out that door, and it won’t be any different. Out that door is this same room. Filled with these same losers. Even the same bartender. Thinking you can escape is just part of the fun of being in Hell. Even when you leave, Bob, there’s no way out. You’re all here for the same reason. It’s not that you’re dead. No one cares if you’re dead! It’s that you’re dead to the wine business. You’re dinosaurs, lady and gents. You’ve turned into noxious fossil fools.

Suckling: Wait. So I’m not dead, but I’m in Hell? Jeez, I feel like a vegan.

Stranger: I didn’t say you weren’t dead, Suckling. I didn’t say you were, either.

Galloni: (angrily) This is stupid. I don’t like anybody here, no matter how much you all admire me. I’m leaving.

(Galloni exits the door stage right, and, but a moment later, enters the door stage left.)

Parker: Just like when he’s reviewing. Never knocks.

Galloni: What the hell? That’s not possible. What is this place? (to the Stranger) Listen, whoever you are, I need to get out of here. I have hundreds of wine reviews to write. My subscribers are waiting. I can’t waste time here with this bunch of…of…has-beens. I have wines to score, and maps to make. I’m not like these clowns, I’m a full service critic! I don’t just recommend the party wine, I’m also the Mercatorer.

Laube: (loudly, but to himself) I think I’m gonna like it here. Yes. It’s nice. You know, when you said you were going to put me in assisted living, I was afraid I was going to be lonely. But look at all the new friends you’ve made here, Jimmy! And I think the redhead has a thing for me. Yes, she does. I think so, too. The Italian guy is kinda creepy. His head is too big. He looks like he’s a bobblehead doll. Fuck, I need another drink… (his voice trails off)

(The wine critics look nervous. Galloni’s failed escape has flummoxed them. Only Laube is content, off in his own little world. Alice comes over to sit near Laube in an attempt to stop him from talking to himself. She offers him a taste of her orange wine. He looks at it with the cocked head and confused look of a terrier listening to a squeaky toy.) 

Feiring: It’s OK, Jimmy. Try it. It’s really good. I can’t believe they have my favorite wine here in Hell.

(Laube takes a sip of the orange wine, and quickly spits it all over the bartender. The bartender never flinches.)

Laube: What is that shit? Christ, it tastes like Kramer writes. A little flowery, but there’s that really bitter edge. Where’s the fucking Meiomi? Papa needs some sweets…

Kramer: Oh, just shut the hell up, Laube. You’ve done the same goddam thing for 30 years. And you know what? You’ve got nothing to show for it. You’ve written thousands of wine descriptions and given out thousands of numbers. And what did it all mean? Not shit. 30 years of “wine writing” and you’ve used twenty different numbers and twenty-eight different words. You’re the Magic 8-Ball of wine writing. You can divine about 16 different things, and you’re full of some really creepy fluids.

Suckling: (eyeing Kramer) Listen, everybody, Bob might be on to something. I don’t remember dying either. And what about this? (He loudly breaks his Riedel glass on the bar) If we’re dead, then if I stab Kramer with this broken wine glass, it won’t hurt, right? (waving the broken glass around and approaching Kramer) Or it won’t kill him, anyway. And I won’t go to Hell because I’m already there. I’ve always wanted to stab Kramer with a broken Riedel. (He feints at Kramer, who doesn’t blink.)

Parker: Put it down, Suckling. It’s the wrong goddam glass. You have to use the right glass. You need the wine glass the hip sommeliers are using if you’re going to commit a Zalto and battery.

(Suckling continues to menace Kramer with the wine glass. Making quick jabs at his neck, he’s creeping closer and closer. Everyone else seems frozen in place, captivated by the threat of violence.) 

Kramer: (in a low tone of voice) Go ahead, Suckling. I don’t care anymore. Kill me first. Then finish off the rest of these washed-up wine critics. You’d be doing us a favor.

(Suckling draws his arm back, looking determined to gash Kramer’s throat. Before he can drive the broken Riedel home, the bartender draws a gun, aims, there is a very loud “BANG.” Everyone gasps. From the gun comes a white flag that reads “BANG!” Suckling grabs his own shoulder in pain. The bartender fires again. BANG! Another white flag emerges from the gun that reads, “I’m a 100 on that!” Suckling falls to the floor and is motionless.) 

(Everyone is silent. Then Alice screams loudly.)

Parker: Well, there you go. A whole lot of Miss Feiring in Hell…


James said...

Miss Feiring in Hell... ba-dum-bum... g-r-o-a-n...

Due to this line, I've discovered that I have the ability to simultaneously spew coffee through my nose while rolling my eyes. Not a useful talent, but nice to know I've got it in me. Now to clean coffee snot off my depletion reports...

Charlie Olken said...

Agree, "Miss Feiring in Hell" is one great punch lines. I wouldn't say that this hits close to home for me. I hits directly home. But I am going to outlast winewriting as we know it. Hell, I have already outlasted winewriting as we used to know it.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

James and Charlie,

Is it me? Or is it deathly quiet around here? Remember the good old days when comments were a dime a dozen? Yeah, you're right, those weren't really good old days.

I complain to my wife that "Wine Critics in Hell" is a pain in the ass to write. It might help if I had a plot, but what fun would that be? I try to surprise myself when I write it, find some new way in to the concept of Hell for famous wine scorers. It has always seemed to me that Hell for them would be filled with the sound of each other.

I spent a lot of time after New Year's thinking about how I could keep my blog interesting to me. I did not find a suitable answer. Then I came down with a really, really nasty flu. Which may be a sign from the universe. Or may just be that I didn't get a flu shot. Ugh.

Thanks, you two, for chiming in. Now I'm going back to my sick bed.

Bob Henry said...

"... I am going to outlast winewriting as we know it. Hell, I have already outlasted winewriting as we used to know it."

Nice turn of a phrase, Charlie.

Marcia Macomber said...

Magnificent, as always! I just love this series. I get that it's difficult to write. Eugene O'Neill, Pinter, Stoppard, etc. -- all tricky to mimic their styles. Then layer in references to the real-deal critics and I have no idea how you make it seem so fluid. Ron, you are the Astaire of wine satire! Smooth as a soft-shoe routine. Amazing!

I love that I can visualize the stage set, lighting, costumes, the bartender endlessly polishing glasses behind the bar. You capture each critic's rhythm of speaking. Not to mention those perfect breaks from the established rhythm - Galloni's exit and reentrance and then the perfect "Miss Feiring in Hell" line. Magnifico!

Unknown said...

"Hey, bartender. You used to serve my gruner by the glass, it did really well. Gruner is super-popular in hell. Any interest in working with that wine again?"

(bartender smiles and nods, but remains silent)

"Yeah, we're actually doing a promo right now. But a case of gruner and we throw in a free bottle. It's only for two months, so you should act fast."

(bartender nods, remains silent).

"so yeah, cool, i'll drop by again when you're rotating your glass pour list"

(salesman exits stage right, enters stage left, scene repeats itself)

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Nice! A quick comic scene. Though "Wine Salesmen in Hell" was going to be my next play. Though I need a better, less redundant, title. Maybe just "Hell."

Unknown said...

Maybe you can write the seven circles of winemaker hell. First is bottle signings, then sales calls, then listening to someone who doesn't actually know what they're talking about explain organics...