Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Is there Veritas in Vino?

Write what you know, they say. But should you write what you know when you are drunk? Do you really find veritas if you consume enough vino?

Tonight I am more than a little drunk.

This is an unusual condition for me; my control needs are normally stronger than my desire for alcohol.

Tonight marks the end of several too-long days in the service of winning business through the display of words, finely tuned to bring a carefully balanced sense of warmth and opportunity, threat and courage, challenge and achievement to our clients. I have been spinning proposals the way a spider spins silken thread from her arse. I am tired, a little ill and in much need of energy and joy.

In a few days, I will be fifty three. I've been doing consultancy of one kind or another for sixteen years. On the whole it was a mistake – too many nights away from home – too much time spent spinning dreams others will live, too much commitment to something I do only because I'm good at it and it pays well.

If I could go back to my thirty seven year old self, yet to embark on a consulting career, what would I say?

The answer seems simple to me now: there is no business goal that merits missing a night in my wife's bed.

I do not normally drink. Does this mean that the truth is not normally mine to hold or does it mean that normally I lie to myself with enough skill to live with the compromises that have shaped my life?

Tonight I shirked my duty. I should have been at dinner with my team in the heart of Brussels, making them feel valued and special. Inspiring them to strive harder. Validating their belief that what they do matters. But I have been mildly ill since the beginning of the year, I have not had enough sleep, I'd just learnt that my father in law, who I have known for thirty four years and who is fading fast from cancer but suffering more from the dignity-robbing blight of dementia, has lost the top of his thumb courtesy of a slamming door in the facility we thought would grant him safety and care.

So, I shirked my duties as a leader and did what I always do under this kind of pressure, I took my self and my book (Jim Butcher's “High Lord's Fury”) to an Italian restaurant.

I love Italy. It is all the things I am not: friendly, expansive, family orientated, passionate, certain of its own endurance. It also has the best cuisine in the world.

The UN should declare Italian restaurants to be world heritage sites. Wherever I travel, I seek them out. I look for small places, where the tables are too close together, where Italian is the mother tongue, where the ping of the microwave is never heard and where peasant cookery is treated with the respect that so much haute cuisine does not deserve.

To me, Italian restaurants are refuge, a place where I am welcome, where being a vegetarian is not an issue, where the food fills the belly, refreshes the spirit, and stuffs the heart to bursting with a sense of being home.

Then there is the wine. Nothing, absolutely nothing, matches the intensity of Italian wine: Amaroni, Vino Noble, Brunello de Montepullciano, all are works of magic that prove that passion can be bottled.

Tonight I went to a small Italian restaurant in Waterloo, in the French speaking part of Belgium. I had a minestrone made from scratch from whatever vegetables where left over from yesterday and a penned al pesto where the spinach is fresh and the aroma is enough to make me sigh with pleasure.

I tried to order three decilitres of Montepullciano but they only had bottled wine available and I settled for a bottle of Tuscan wine. Two things were bad news about it: it told me only that it was bottled in Tuscany but not where in Tuscany. The Tuscan are fiercely and rightly proud of their wines. Normally I would know which vineyard the wine came from and whether or not it was worthy of being a reserva. To know only that it was Tuscan was to tell me it was strong, cheap and suitable only for foreigners. The second thing that was wrong with it was that it was a 2009 wine. This means that it was at least three years too young to be worth drinking.

I sampled it. Raw, intense, ragged around the edges and completely lacking in sophistication. It matched my mood so I drank the bottle. Alone. Even with a litre of water, this is more than I would ever consume on a normal day.

The harsh vibrance of the wine blended perfectly with plain, solid confidence of the food. I started to feel as if life was, on the whole, better than the alternative, and that tomorrow might prove interesting enough to be worth living through.

I was also completely and passionately convinced that the book I was reading was profound and that crying while reading it was a sign of my own humanity.

The older, well only slightly older than me, couple who had carefully not commented on the fact that I was drinking a whole bottle of not very good wine by myself, left the too-close-to-me table next to mine and were replaced by two women in their twenties They were French Belgians: thick dark hair, long symmetrical faces, broad shoulders, narrow waisted and relatively short. They ignored me completely, which showed good judgement, and engaged one another in a conversation that spoke of strength and confidence and long familiarity.

I like watching women together. I don't mean in the porno girl-on-girl action to get the men hot kind of way (although it is impossible to resist -,let's face it, men ruin porn). To have two women doing everything a man could do only with more grace and a lot more sex appeal, what could be better?

I like watching women because it seems to me, in my present drunken state, that I understand more of how women interact, what they expect of each other and what they are willing to offer each other than I do men.

Men have always puzzled me. I rarely know what they want or why and how they want it.

I think I have some form of guy-dyslexia. Men look at me in a way that clearly has some meaning for them but which leaves me baffled. When I was young, high cheekbones and slim, a proportion of those looks were offers to have have sex. Now that I'm older, wider and look more like a thug, those kinds of looks have dropped away and I'm left only with those “you know what I'm talking about” looks that I have no frame of reference for.

So what veritas did I get from my vino? Firstly I need a job where I can go home at night; secondly, that I would prefer to sit silently among women than be in the company of men; and finally, that 2009 Tuscan wines are much stronger than you might expect and cause you to spew words at your keyboard that you have no ability to evaluate.


si5280 said...

Mike, glad to see you back here, and I do love your writing about travel/places as much as your erotica!

Susannah Indigo
Clean Sheets

Blue Eyed Gypsy said...

Italian restaurants - found in all corners of Europe, thank God - are also the best, cheapest and most welcoming places to eat, when you're accompanied by your four young children.