Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Hammer: San Leonardo Gonzaga 1999

This wine was so good. It was meant for greatness.

He was always shy, quiet, introverted. But when he got a guitar in his hands, he bent the world to his will in the garages of Jackson, Mississippi. You watched a small dose of fame twist lesser musicians into blowhards who would rest on their laurels (or their parents couches) for the rest of their lives. Not this guy. He got more critical of himself the more accolades he collected. He pushed forward. You thought maybe this was going to be a happy story. The girls finally noticed him, record companies wanted to talk to him. The last thing you saw coming was drugs. You watched him waste away. You begged him to stop. To eat. To sleep. He wouldn't. That night, he started wobbling on stage at The Feenicks, and as he finished the second to last song, he pukes on stage. You knew he was drunk, but it was blood. Drunk people don't puke blood. The applause dies abruptly, people are gasping and waiting for him to collapse. But he doesn't. In slow motion you see him raise his arm to his face and wipe blood away from his mouth.

"The show isn't over."

The crowd explodes with screaming and thunderous applause. He steadies the guitar and looks at you, his eyes are watering. You know the truth. He is dying in front of you. They fire up the last song, and the whole building is shaking, he's screaming, with red teeth, into the microphone, into oblivion. You aren't sure if its real or not, but he's turning white, even as he finishes. You call 911. He throws the guitar on the ground and staggers backstage in huge exaggerated steps. You found him in the bathroom, sitting down, with an unlit cigarette in his mouth. The toxicology report might as well've just said, "Yes."

It was the best show anyone ever saw at The Feenicks or anywhere.

San Leonardo is a Bordeaux-style red made in Trentino, Italy. It will blow your mind with its humble brilliance- you'll drink Milwaukee's Best with it on the roof till the sun comes up. You'll bring it subway meatball subs after it plays its heart out in shitty dive bars. You'll burst into tears when the paramedics look up at you and say, "I'm so sorry." You will remember it long after it is gone.

Monday, December 17, 2012


Tell me gang, have you heard of my friend, Tanger Zest?

Tanger has a pinstripe suit. It looks like a regular suit, but when you get really close, you can see that the stripes say "TANGER TANGER TANGER TANGER"

He didn't buy the suit. It was given to him as a gift. It would have cost ten thousand dollars. Tanger kicked the door into that nice apartment complex that that was burning down on 41st and Leewood. The fire trucks pulled up to see Tanger, holding a toddler in his jacket. "He's got mild first degree burns and needs oxygen." Tanger says, handing off the kid, wrapped in his sport coat. He walks away wordlessly as a sports car pulls up, a suited man is on a cell phone, shouting and cursing, who the fuck is this asshole, what the fuck did he do to my son. The fireman secures the oxygen mask on the little boy, and a card falls out of the jacket. Its a tag from getting the suit tailored, with his buisness card stapled to it:

"That asshole saved your son's life."

What did Tanger do? He never answered the question the same way twice. Tanger was not a doctor.

"I run a charity called Hats for Dogs. Did you know 94% of dogs don't or can't wear hats??"

"I design weapons. Cool weapons that only attractive people use. They use them and they say cool things. Just like in James Bond, but for real. They make cool noises like BIEW BIEW BIEW." 
"I'm a toothpaste expert. Or consultant rather. But its not just how I pay the bills, I LOVE toothpaste. I'm an avid collector of fine toothpastes. You should see my collection." This seemed like a potential truth- Tanger always smelled faintly of mint and orange.

Nothing Tanger did quite made sense. He was always one standard deviation away from sane. He would put mustard on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. He ironed his clothes again after having them pressed at the drycleaner. When asked why, he would just smile and say, "I like em CRISP!" Tanger would volunteer at the local animal shelter, and give the dogs grandiose names names like Sebastiano Quintanilla (a west highland white terrier that was somehow permanently dyed neon green), Elisabeth Scheherazade (a three legged labradoodle that smelled like peanuts), and Lieutenant Dietrich Momotegi (a pitbull that was kicked out of police training for not biting people). They noticed the dogs with goofy names always got adopted. He penned a massive list of names. He put ice in his beer. He drank his orange juice piping hot. He only slept on his couch. He always carried an unshuffled deck of cards- in case anyone wanted to play, which they usually did. Half the fun, he said, was shuffling a fresh desk of cards.

Tanger was powered by some otherworldly energy that kept him going long after other people would have gotten tired or given up. Some people speculated that Tanger wasn't actually a man at all, but perhaps an angel. People that knew him better would describe him as perhaps a mischievous sub-deity. He wasn't nice to everyone, just people he felt deserved it. His favorite thing was to pester the wicked while doing something nice for someone he wanted to help. He stole happiness from the ungrateful and doled it out to those in desperate need. One time when I met him for lunch he plucked a flower from the vase of a couple on their cellphones at the table, begrudgingly celebrating something, and gave it to the woman sitting alone- a large awkward hat concealing her hair loss from chemotherapy. She asked why, Tanger said, "Why not? Ladies should get flowers all the time." She was laughing, as he moonwalked away. The busy couple never noticed. 

Tanger had all the obscure tools you needed to fix all the little stupid things that broke, ever. Tanger knew things. Tanger spoke languages, and had connections. He walked into restaurants he'd never been in, and the room lit up,

"Welcome back, Dr. Zest!"

Tanger would bring you the junk food you found irresistible when you were too upset to eat. He would listen if you ever had anything to say, or he would just meet you up if you needed to silently kill a bottle of wine. If he thought it would help, he'd start spouting off nonsense. He would shout the name of the wine in a singsong voice, especially if it was Italian: "CODA DI VOLPE! THE TAIL OF THE FOX.

Tanger put sugar on his pizza. He said that's how they eat it "back home". One time you tried it and maybe you were drunk, but it tasted pretty good. 

Tanger would be doing something stupid, like putting glitter in a return envelope to a credit card company, and someone would say something like, "Tanger, that doesn't make any sense."

"It doesn't have to make sense."

"Why are you putting glitter in an envelope??"

"No. The question is why aren't you putting glitter in an envelope?!" 

"Goddamit Tanger." This is how all attempts to discern his motives ended.

It was useless arguing with Tanger. He always got his way, mostly because nobody cared to stop him. To this day, he is always doing something mildly nuts to ensure the world moves forward in a zanier, more colorful, and happy direction. And really, who would want to stop that?

Tanger is a force of good in the universe