Thinking about drinking
Slow Sunday yesterday, nothing to do and not wanting to do anything. So just sat around the house and read the paper, caught up on the Irene news (which included hearing from old friends in western Massachusetts and southern Vermont and seeing some scary YouTubes of the rampaging Deerfield River which, when I lived there, was just a pleasant little stream). Then I decided, since I’m paying for premium movie channels anyway, I might as well watch one.
I’d seen Julie and Julia when it first came out and to be perfectly honest, didn’t much care for it. True, Meryl Streep was awesome as usual, but Amy Adams’ Julie seemed self-centered and annoying (she herself admitted to being a bitch), so much so that I had an unpleasant memory of the film. But, as sometimes happens, on second viewing I liked it considerably more.
One of the more interesting aspects for me was Julie’s experience with blogging. As you know if you saw the film, she began blogging more or less as a lark, with no expectation that anyone would read her or that blogging would bring her to the brink of a real career. And yet, in that climatic scene where she finds 67 phone messages after the Christian Science Monitor wrote about her, overnight Julie was sought after by editors, publicists and all the other denizens of the celebrity world looking for the next big thing for the next 15 minutes.
I thought, why did Julie start blogging? Why did she go through all that work–not just holding down a fulltime job all day, but then cooking all night and, when the cooking and eating was over, far from laying her weary body down (with her husband), she then prolonged her workday by blogging about it? This line of thought naturally brought me, by extension, to my own reasons for blogging and–by extension from that–to all the other bloggers, both known and unknown to me, who cannot sleep at night, or who cannot wake up normally in the morning and go about their lives, until they’ve put their thoughts online for all to see.
At first, this seems like very self-centered behavior. Why would anybody think that one’s thoughts would be of the slightest interest to anybody else, much less a bunch of strangers out there in cyberspace? It’s very strange. I can see why (for example), people might be curious about what Dick Cheney has to say in his new book. Regardless of what you thought about Cheney, he impacted our lives. But why would anyone care about the thoughts of a wine writer? It’s not as if we’re smarter than anyone else, or wiser. I’ve been reading classic Greek literature lately and am working my way through The Apology, in which Socrates/Plato makes the point that he who is wisest is the one who knows that he is utterly without wisdom. The older I get, the more I feel precisely that way, which makes it even weirder that this blog would attract the attention of anyone.
I know that some of it has to do with the fact that I am said to possess a certain kind of “power” through my job as a wine critic. People are curious, I suppose, how I perceive that supposed power, how I use it, how it shapes my thinking. The answer is: I perceive it as an illusion. It is an accident of my history and karma that came without my conscious bidding and will disappear just as abruptly as it arrived; and my responsibility as its vessel is to preside over its loss, when it goes, with equanimity. Which is to say that, like Plato’s Socrates, I’m aware that “power,” like “wisdom,” is a forgery.
The rest of the question had to do with you. Why do you read this blog, or any blog, for that matter? I like to think (maybe I flatter myself) that it’s because the writing pleases you. I’m not much for social intercourse in person, and I seem to get lamer with each passing month. It’s hard for me to be myself with others, unless they’re people I know extremely well and trust. Otherwise, my life’s experiences have made me rather mistrustful of people; and especially if they’re in the industry, I can never be sure exactly what their motives are. It’s hard having all the time to guess what’s really going on behind somebody else’s smiling facade.
Still, like most people, I’m a social animal. I think, I drink, I think about drinking, and wine–more than any other beverage–stimulates the deepest, best thinking because wine is the best beverage. It’s simply easier for me to frame the thoughts I want to share in words on a computer screen than to express them verbally in a social situation. Conversation happens quickly; half the time our words just fly out of our mouths, surprising even ourselves. With writing, you can take the time to express a thought articulately, so that you’re sure that what you just wrote is precisely what you meant. Which reminds of of something Meryl Steep’s Julia Child character said in the movie. She wanted (she said) to write down her recipes with “scientific precision” so that nobody who attempted to use them would ever make a mistake. That’s the way I feel about writing, and wine reviewing in general. I want to get it right.