Tuesday, February 28, 2006


I'm leaving tomorrow, March 1st at 4:30 in the freakin' morning. Wow. Why, you ask, am I getting up at the crack of ass? Because I looooove to start driving early, so that after I've gone five hours, it's still 10 am, and I've got the whole day ahead of me. Otherwise, the day becomes about getting there, and while that'll be unavoidable sometimes, it's so much cooler the other way.

I can NOT wait to wake up in west Texas. West Texas is one of the most beeyootiful spots in the country, don't care what you say. I fully expect to be tripping on the Marfa lights very soon. I can't believe I've been out there twice and haven't check 'em out. We'll fix that. Also on my list of non-vino related destinations: the Guadalupe Mountains, Carlsbad Caverns (always wanted to go since I was a wee little shit!), and the Chiricahua National Monument in Arizona. There's a whole lotta stuff to see, and I want to get it done before we all die of the avian flu.

The Cork and Demon,
my wine-centric blog will host my wine adventures, and this blog will be my headquarters for posts about my travels. And yeah, there'll be pictures. Lots of pictures. You'll totally be like, stop posting kickass pictures already, I'm not getting any work done.
Here's a link to an explanation of the tour.

Please check back, and please post any and all of your comments and suggestions, and wish me well.

Holy Damn, here I go!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Two Punk Proclamations

I watched, finally, End of The Century: The Story of the Ramones the other night, and have since then been collecting punk classics for my road trip. Punk classics. There's sooo something wrong with that title. Oh, but try this one, from ITunes: 'Roots Punk'. How's that?

I met Dee Dee Ramone when I was 14. It was at a record store called 'Peaches', a wooden-crate and disco themed place left over from the seventies. The Ramones were there for a record signing. I remember being astounded by Joey's physique and totally crushed out on Dee Dee, who was in his closer cropped eighties punk revival 'do. The current album was 'Subterranean Jungle', a return-to-raw album with one of my favorite later songs: 'Psychotherapy'.

Anyhoo, the movie reminded me of the fascinating transition from glam rock to punk that happened during the dismal early '70's in New York, and how so many people think of the Sex Pistols as the undisputed sires of punk. Weeeeel, they ain't. They share the title with America's bands across the pond: The Stooges, Ramones, Television.

American punk rock makes me feel a little....patriotic. Is that kinda weird?

An interesting irony: There's the scene in the movie where they're accepting---gracefully---their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Johnny Ramone startles the crowd with "God Bless President Bush, and God Bless America." And I'm thinking, wow, that's as punk as it gets: Fuck You, I'm a conservative. The whole Conservative Punk movement still astounds me (how do you say Fuck You to The Man if your party's the one in power?) but Johnny was always a Republican, proudly declaring that he'd been "a Nixon man" and had never wavered. He sticks to his core beliefs despite the expectations or assumptions surrounding the whole punk thing. That, my friend, is punk, too, whether you (or I, for that matter) like it or not.

Yes, I just defended a conservative. And I'll do it again, if I ever see one worth defending.

The Sex Pistols have announced their own statement to being inducted to the R&R HOF: Fuck You, period. Above is a handwritten note declaring their intent to skip the proceedings, because it's a bunch of rich recording industry gladhanders paying rediculous amounts of money for tickets. I especially like the 'urine in wine' line. Not sure exactly what that means, but you get the idea. This, too, is a classic Fuck You punk move, just like Johnny's, but more predictable. Naturally, one of the rich recording industry members just looooved it:

Susan Evans, executive director of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, said of the band's announcement, "They're being the outrageous punksters that they are, and that's rock 'n' roll."

It makes me sad that the legacy of American punk rock is getting forgotten, except that everyone's gotta have a Ramones tee shirt to go with their expensive jeans. Punk was always more than power chords, and more than "fuck the government". It was a way for kids to express all the fury and anger and disgust that goes with learning how the world works. This is a primary function of rock and roll.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Five More Days

I said goodbye to Jerry today. He's off to Mardi Gras for a four day weekend. I suppose I could be a little hurt that he won't be around to see me off when I leave for the three month wine tour, but who could be upset with someone for going to Mardi Gras this year? It's a pilgrimage, hell, almost a patriotic duty. I'd go, too, but I'm headed west. We spent the evening together, and while I thought: wow, this is it, we're getting divorced, I'm going away for so long...shit: I should be really upset, I wasn't. Instead of some sit-down, talk-about goodbye tearfest, we ate canned field peas and collard greens then snoozed together in front of teevee. I rubbed a knot in his back. We didn't say much, but smiled at one another a lot. It was peaceful and reassuring, and there wasn't room for anger or sadness.

I leave in five days.

Nothing will be the same when I return. I won't be married. I'll own a house. I will have changed. But I haven't the faintest idea how yet. Right now, I'm just thankin' the Christ Child that I've passed through the Free Floating Anxiety period. That was a bitch, thinking that there was all this stuff I was forgetting to do when there wasn't. I'm pretty calm now, gettin' down to thinking of which food bars I wanna buy for the road.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Cork and Demon Western Wine Tour is nigh

Eleven days. That's like, tomorrow, man.

In eleven days, I'm going off in my car for three months.

D.K., the owner of Seoul Korea and as Austinites will know, the Sushi Pimp Host for Karaoke Mondays, gave me some suprisingly fatherly advice for my trip. Suprising, because this man puts on a leopard trimmed pimp suit and giant afro and makes Howard Stern look like Mother Theresa with his foul mouth. But for a moment, I was his kid, and he wanted to make sure I'd be safe. "Take mace with you, and don't travel at night, and if someone has you in a chokehold, shift your weight to the side and hit 'em in the balls."

But it's not the Boogey Man I'm scared of.

I've been slowly hyping this trip, which will take me all the way across the Western US and back again to taste good wine and meet people, for a few months now. What if I don't live up to my own hype? What if I haven't hyped it enough and no one reads about it? What if I run out of money? What if I get out there and it turns into a death march, trying to keep up with my self-imposed ambition of talking to all these winemakers? Or worse, what if I find myself in the middle of the Guadalupe Mountains and say, "Fuck it, I'm gonna stay here and commune with the Lord instead"?

Okay, that probably won't happen. Far as I know, there's no wireless coverage out there.

And why, pray, am I doing this krazier-than-shit thing again? Especially now, that I'm in the middle of the most heartbreakingly friendly divorce on the fucking planet? Shouldn't I be staying around, finding a new job, getting back to the grind and getting on with my life instead of traipsing off like a trust fund dilettante into the wild blue yonder? Who do I think I am? I'm no real journalist, why should these people talk to me?

Thing is, this is me, getting on with my life. It's me taking an opportunity to invest in what I love most: writing. There's probably a lot of winemakers out there who did the same damn thing, and left their unfulfilling jobs to pursue something their family might have thought was nuts.

That, by the way, is one of the reasons I think people should talk to me.

Ultimately, this trip is to test a belief that I hold very dear: if you make a bold step, the Universe rises to meet you. If this is true, I can't possibly fail.


Thursday, February 09, 2006

Dolmas and old times

It's a remarkable thing to have a friend you've known since the two of you ate glue in kindergarten. Hell, even before that, Gini and I were in St. Luke's Episcopal preschool together, and have gone to the exact same schools ever since. Well, almost anyway; we went to different colleges in picturesque Denton, Texas, but we still lived in the same town.

She spent last weekend with me, and we finally did the thing we've been talking about for-effin'-ever: we made a Sunday afternoon of shooting the shit and handrolling dolmas from her late mother's recipe. Her mother was the patron saint of dolmas, and Gini and I know that when we perform this sacred ritual, Vickey is up there lookin' down and smiling.

Vickey was amazing. A big, lovely woman with a smartass streak. She was like my second ma when I was little bitty.

Gini and I grew up across the highway from one another. My dad was a banker, hers worked for the Santa Fe Railroad. As kids, I remember her parents taking us to Greek festivals, where a great crowd of churchgoers, stuffed full of souvlaki and tipsy on red wine would stamp around in a circle, shouting and singing. In the fifth grade, we both loved KISS. She was into Paul Stanley, but I was more about Peter Criss. We're veterans of both public and private schools, and because of that experience have rather loud and proud opinions of both. Both of us had regretably early sexual experiences forced upon us.

We remember that evil bitch Angela from the eighth grade, whose mother and grandmother worked at the private school, and how once you had already lobbed the barb about her overdone makeup, she would dig her nails into your soul and rip it out in front of the whole play yard. Oh, God, and the guy who would get you really stoned in his bedroom then start reading hardcore horror stories about babies with maggots in their heads (this guy's a writer and marajuana advocate now, God love him). It was so fantastic to me that I could start talking about nearly anything I'd been through or anyone I knew and she remembered it all. So cool to have a friend like that.

So we made us some dolmas. Instead of the original pound of chili ground and stick of butter (drool), we decided to go with ground lamb and a lighter touch on the fat. You steam these little bundles of delish in lemon juice and water, and they're divine. The cucumber business is a yogurt sauce with garlic and mint. For me, making these dolmas is forever conjoined with talking about my kidhood with Gini. And memories of her mother.

Sigh. Another example of how the experience of good food isn't fully appreciable without good company.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Writer's block blows

Why do I have to fucking write? Writing sucks the greenest of all donkey dicks! I've been sitting at this desk for hours today trying to give shape to this essay, and the harder I try, the deeper into a quagmire I push it. It's like being constipated. It's enfuriating and nauseating, and this...this is what I want to do with my life???

I'm trying to write an essay for a local Writer's League contest. The prize is five hundred bucks and publication. I'm not after the prize, I'm after the accomplishment of wresting a clean story from a thick muck of difficult memories. I know it's in there. But I'll be damned if I know what to chip away to reveal it. I think at first, oh, here: this is an easy chunk of the story to hone into three thousand words or less. Oh, goody, and here's a theme. But I go to follow that thread and the whole thing starts to writhe around and hit dead ends and all these questions I think of in an attempt to regain my structure point me round and round until I begin to wonder who's home from work that wants to go out and get a beer.

Oooh, you...you stupid effing story! Don't you make me come back there! I will kick your ass right now, in front of all the other ideas, then how'll you feel? Huh? Huh?

Friday, February 03, 2006

My two cents on the Rumsfeld toon

The evidence is mounting up...we're headed into Uber Righteous Land, a land where people only speak when spoken to, and political humor is restricted to light chuckling about the President's drawl.

The Washington Post Cartoon by Tom Toles was policital satire at it's most searing, and instead of rising to the statement made by it, we get a bunch of rediculous self-righteous indignation about the tastelesness of it.

NEWS FLASH, people: Political Cartoons are supposed to be tasteless. They're supposed to be ruffling. There written to make strong statements about what's going wrong in politics. This isn't your sweet grandmother's tea party, this is the effin' USA.

NEWS FLASH 2: The joke was on Donald Rumsfeld and the lackings of the Military leadership, NOT brave soldiers who are now amputees. Why do I even have to point that out?

This shit makes me mad enough to set kittens on fire.