Cruel and Unusual Punishment [a Short-short Story]

I cannot imagine a world without wine. I can imagine Paris without people who are not French. I cannot imagine anyone wanting to imagine such a heinous thing as a world without wine; I cannot fathom the thinking during prohibition that lead fucking Protestant gringos in American California to destroy three and four hundred year old Spanish vineyards. A world without wine is an ultra conservative thing? But then politics has nothing really to do with being against or being for wine; but then, I never understood iconoclasm of any order–Protestants, endemically anti-Catholic. I do not want to understand the endemic narrowing of the mind that happens with hyper conservative religious maniacs. [And as for the President of Iran, who loves to loathe things like the Four Freedoms–Freedom of expression must include insults in print to faith while it does not include insulting the faithful person or persons in the free exercise of the chosen faith.] 

I remember asking a Chicano friend if only white Protestants could be gringos, and he said no, not really, that gringo was for American, white American, and then I wondered if anyone by extension American could be a gringo, or was there another term for that, but we did not get into that discussion, but maybe you could say Israelis in relation to Palestinian Arabs were gringos, but then this does not make any sense except in analogy. And I also cannot imagine a world without Jazz, but wine, for sure, how could anyone live without drinking wine–I do imagine that there are millions of people for whom a life without wine is more than okay. However, wine is life, Il vino e la vita. Le vin est la vie, no? Of course this is true.

I cannot see me ever refusing to drink any good wine, anywhere, any time. I know too many people have no clue what they are drinking or how they are drinking when they drink wine, what goes through their heads in their choices I could not guess . . . I know too many Americans have their tongues stuck up their asses when it comes to their taste in wine, just as often their taste in food. But I do not want to begin a diatribe or go on a tirade against Americans and America in matters of taste. I know that Muslim proscriptions against alcohol would prevent me from converting to Islam, even on pain of death. I would prefer to die a martyr in the cause of western civilization and the place of viniculture in that civilization than be a Muslim. This is not a condemnation of the religion. It is an assertion of who I am, or what I am, or how I identify myself. Yes, Identity is ID Entity. I drink wine; I am a wine drinker, that is who I am.

I am not a vinter, although I wish I could be; no, really, I do. I am also not a wino, nor any other variation of alcoholic, but I could drink wine every day, and believe I should drink wine every day, although I regretfully do not. I would need to live in Italy or France to be able to do this? I do believe this–I would drink wine with lunch more often if American employers did not have sticks up their asses as far and as uncomfortably as they seem to here even in New York.

I do not imagine in fundamentalist Protestant America it is any better–although, I grew up with the stereotypical image of the southern moonshiner, although I imagine that is all about the dry and wet county conflict you have throughout many states in the South, even today. A world without viniculture, though, is a world I would prefer not to live in. I would not kill myself, though, if there were no wine . . . I do know that there is no condition that humans cannot get used to, that is, no level of descent, no degradation, no amount of corruption or decadence withstood that would be too much for humans to endure.

The world does present a choice of life with wine or life without wine. I choose to live with wine. The destruction of virtually all of the old Spanish vines in California during Prohibition was one of the great crimes of the 20th century, right up there with the Nazis stealing and destroying a lot of the art of the West during the Second World War. I do not expect anyone to get it who is not inclined to be outraged by this because they think you can or should only be outraged by atrocities against human beings.

I don’t know what to say to people who think that their indifference to the sensitivity, the perspective and perceptions of artists in their art has nothing to do with nor has any transference to or onto their feelings and responses to human beings. I do understand that it is possible for a person to be indifferent to art and passionately protective of human’s and their rights; I am just saying there is often an indication that is revealing when you find someone who is insensitive to art you also find someone insensitive to artists and thus find someone insensitive to a sensitivity for humans.

Perhaps if I had never had wine, this question might not come up. I do know Italians and Frenchmen for whom wine holds no special place, has no special merit, does not preoccupy their notions of what is civilized and what makes up an advanced civilization. This Franco-Italo-American is not one of them; my father, himself Italo-American, was also not one of these for whom wine held no special place. But wine is significant in the history of cultures or culture.

It is important in history, a great agent in the civilization of the world. It is alive, it is living, it is life, and I remember having heard a French woman one time in a bistro here in New York, an older woman, perhaps at the time nearing two decades older than I was–she was a waitress in a bistro here in Manhattan owned by a friend of a sister of a friend (as if that were not convoluted), and she used to say, the words I have herein stated I had heard, “If you drink only wine, you will live to ninety; if you drink only water, you will die at 53.” I used to raise my glass with the broadest of smiles and salute her with a big gulp.



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