Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Wine Critics in Hell Act 8


Everyone’s starting to feel a little cooped up here in Hell, which turns out to be a Natural Wine bar somewhere in Lodi. If there’s a somewhere in Lodi. Weary of the first seven acts of the play, and aren’t we all?, the wine critics are scattered about the bar sitting quietly, seemingly contemplating their horrible fate. As it turns out, Act 8 is part of that horrible fate… It’s the Stranger who breaks the silence.

Stranger: (standing up from the table where he’s been playing with his Tarot cards) I thought it would be a lot more fun to be in a bar with six famous wine critics. Instead, it’s like “The View,” only everybody’s Whoopi. It’s like talking to the starting lineup of the NHL’s All Head Trauma Team. I brought you all here not just because you deserve it, but because I thought I might enjoy your company. I don’t know what I was thinking.

Galloni: Sorry to disappoint. I’m happy to take my Vinous elsewhere.

Stranger: I thought you learned this already, Antonio. Nobody gets to leave this room, not ever. There is no elsewhere. I can leave, and I’m sure I will soon the way this play is going, but the rest of you…well, you’re my little repertory company. So you know, this is just the rehearsal. It’s going to get a lot better.

Kramer: What do you mean, “I brought you all here?” Who are you? I keep thinking I’m just dreaming and I’m going to wake up any minute now.

Stranger: Oh, you’re sort of dreaming, Matt. But you’re as awake as you’re going to get. (He pauses and looks around at all the critics.) It doesn’t matter who I am. Everyone I meet sees me as someone, or something, different. In here, I don’t know, maybe think of me as the Wine Buying Public. The Wine Buying Public getting its Day of Reckoning.

Suckling: So you’re like a blogger?

(The Bartender loudly slams a baseball bat against the bar. Everyone but the Stranger is startled.)

Laube: Fuck, I wet myself again.

Feiring: (she holds up her wine glass) Oh, I thought that was this Vin Jaune I was drinking.

Stranger: (angrily) I’m not like a blogger, James. Be careful about insulting me. The Bartender is very protective of me. Wine bloggers are fools. They have no power, no clout. Tell me, honestly, what’s the difference between a dick and wine blogger?

Suckling: Beats me.

Stranger: Not much. Only a dick has a mind of its own. (Laube laughs a little too much.)

Parker: So, Stranger, we’re here, and we’re here for eternity, according to you, but what’s the point?

Stranger: Now there’s irony. Parker asking me about points. What if there isn’t a point? Oh, then it could be like an Alice Feiring wine review—not just without points, but naturally pointless. There doesn’t have to be a point to all this, Bob. Who says there has to be a point? Every wine critic’s life is either a comedy or a tragedy. But it doesn’t necessarily have a point. I think you’d all agree with that.

Parker: So which was my life, Oh Great and Powerful Oz? Comedy or tragedy?

Stranger: (after a long pause) I’m glad you asked me that, Bob. That’s an interesting question. And it gets to the very heart of why we’re all here—here in this God-forsaken natural wine bar. (Looking around.) You know, I really could have done better. Oh well. It’s a question each of you has to answer for himself, or, dear Alice, herself. Was your life, in particular, your life as a wine critic, a comedy or a tragedy?

(No one is looking very eager to participate in the discussion. Introspection isn’t on the list of qualifications for being a wine critic. In fact, it’s a significant handicap.)

Stranger: Nobody? (He walks back to his Tarot cards, which are laid out on the table.) Maybe think of your life as one of these Tarot cards. (He holds one up.) Look at it right side up, and it means one thing. Turn it upside down, it means something else entirely. (He holds up the card for everyone to see.) Comedy. (He turns it upside down.) Tragedy. Or (he tosses the card as far as he can), perhaps, worthless.

(The door to the bar opens and a young woman walks in. She looks utterly lost. She’s very pretty, well-groomed, and openly surprised to be in a strange bar with a bunch of old people.)

Woman: Oh. Hi. You’re all staring at me. I’m kinda lost. I was just looking for a glass of wine.

Bartender: (as he speaks, and he speaks loudly, everyone is astonished that he is able to) You got any ID?

Woman: Why, yes, I do. (She takes her driver’s license out of her purse, walks over to the bar and hands it to the Bartender.) I’m 25.

Stranger: We’ve been expecting you! Welcome. Allow me to introduce you to this marvelous cast of characters. (One by one, he introduces the wine critics to the woman.) This is Robert Parker. The gentleman with the wet trousers at the bar is James Laube. That’s Alice Feiring. The guy salivating is James Suckling. Matt Kramer is off by himself in the corner—you get used to it. And, finally, that’s Antonio Galloni.

Woman: Nice to meet all of you.

Stranger: Anyone’s name ring a bell?

Woman: No. I don’t think so. Should I know any of you?

Laube: Oh, Jeez. Fucking Millennial.


Goddess of Wine said...

Thanks. I just spit my coffee.

Unknown said...

Where's the "Like" button?

Larry Anosmia, M.S. said...


I'm sure Bianca had a better drinking and dining establishment in mind than the Wine Critics in Hell bar.

Just sayin' . . .


Unknown said...

"It's like the View only everyone is Whoopi"- that's a gold.

Don Clemens said...

Ron, I have really enjoyed this series. This morning, I decided to print up all eight installments and read them in order. I think that maybe you have a future as a writer!
Seriously, I am really looking forward to future installments of this wild vision of Hell!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

I'll take that as a compliment, though I'm not sure why.

I guess it's the little button at the bottom of the piece to the right of the Pinterest button. But it's so rarely used, I have no actual idea.

The joy of writing this play is that I have no idea where it's going. I skim the previous acts before I write a new act, and then I just fool around. Sometimes I parody a famous playwright, sometimes I just decide to move the play forward and see where it might go. I almost made the young woman who walks into the bar Lo Hai Qu. But I decided it would be too distracting, and too obscure for people who haven't been a fan of my blog for very long. But Lo would definitely have a field day in this bar with these critics. I'm not sure what the young woman is doing in the bar, but I'll find out when I write Act 9.

Wine Critics in Hell doesn't have a lot of traction, or get a lot of comments, but it is frequently mentioned to me by friends and readers as their favorite bit. I like writing it. It appeals to my sense of humor and sense of the absurd. You have courage sitting and reading the entire eight acts. It must make no sense at all.

Charlie Olken said...

It's pretty clear that you enjoy writing this play in several acts, although it is an lot of writing to get to the punch line. And it was worth it.

The only part of the critic equation that bugs me is the notion that the field will be inherited by big money players and that the little guy voices, which are usually more independent, are already being diminished by the economics of publishing.But if the Millennials want their wine reviews in 30 word sound bites, then they will get what they deserve by way of information. Sort of like the way US voters, and the damn electoral college, are giving them (not us) what they deserve.