I re-planted a fancy vineyard today. 

 Last night, as I was driving up the hill to see my fiddler friend, I saw a fawn, nursing beneath its mother.  They were in the middle of the road, and I scared them dumb as I braked.  They looked at me and hopped off.    Last night, after the deer and after the fiddling, I stayed up too late, those fiddlers, they do that, they make you talk about your feelings and  the air was clear and the Sirius was out, so today I woke up tired and sad, and already kind of defeated.   

Planting a vineyard is supposed to be some sort of spiritual endeavor, but it’s grim and hard labor.   I guess on one of the mountain vineyards I take care of, before it was a vineyard, before it was some hippy nudist colony, it was a back-to-the-land spiritual cultish thing, where wealthy people seeking something would pay good money to plant a grapevine themselves.  What a beautiful con job that was, as good as Tom Sawyer’s whitewashing the fence, because the planting of a vineyard is just a whole lot of sweat and dust and bullshit. 

The shovel, at a certain velocity sparks, it flames when it hits a big rock, and if you don’t know how to let go of the shovel at the last minute, you’ll feel the rock lightning down to your spine and into the soles of your feet.  




Now, I don’t know how much you know about  him, I can’t be sure how in tune you are with the cosmic macho powers of the universe, but listen, nobody is more macho than Julio Cesar Chavez.  Nobody.   I remember hearing that for one of his biggest fights, maybe the one with Hector “Macho” Camacho, he didn’t really traditionally train  or spar or anything, he just dug fencepost holes around his rancho.

He punished “Macho” Camacho, Mr. 41-0 with 18 KOs, that little puto with his fancy assed hair and his clown pants,  and went home to his ranch, like it was nothing as hard as a hard day working under the sun like a real man, digging holes in the unforgiving earth.   


It was like 4 years ago when I got my first 9 hours of planting a vineyard, of breaking shovels and rocks, and I understood.  I take pride in that I get the respect of my coworkers for being a gabaacho who works in the fields as hard as they do.  It’s unheard of.  They don’t understand.  I just tell them that I’m from Iowa, and that we’re different.

The killdeer is in the plover family of birds and is smart and pretty and I just love em.  Today, in the face of my crew of 2 tractors and maybe 50 men with shovels and picks, a mated pair of killdeer sang a beautiful warning song and defended their four spotted eggs laid in the bare dust of a recently laid out vineyard.


 We taped off the rows and wouldn’t let the tractor through.  We warned all the guys, but we had to go close to the nest, you know, we had to work.  The two retreated in our presence, singing loud raucous warning songs, beautiful really, and there we were, a bunch of dirty macho cowboys, each of us keeping an eye on all of us, protecting their four, fragile eggs from one another. 

I think they made it.  I think it’ll be alright.  They seemed like they’d be good parents. 

I didn’t bring Sancho with me to work this morning.  It was maybe 90 degrees in the boring sun, and he doesn’t really care for it when I just have to stand and slowly work all day.  He gets bored and he gets hot, and just sits under a tree and looks at me, like, “is this really what you want us to do with our lives?  Really?”


So I didn’t bring him to work, and he insisted on a long walk in the woods when I got home, I was all at once thirsty and hungry and smelly and dirty and I still had work to do, but after a quick shower, a cold beer in my pocket, I took him out.  As we got to the woods, and I should tell you- it’s an urban woodland, you know, it’s a abnormally low, and once a bit more proud but now polluted and urban creek in the working class part of town.  But in the creek, (Sonoma Creek), strangely, and I wouldn’t have believed it had I not seen it, I saw that a lone salmon had made it all the way up the creek from the bay and expired here, a few blocks from my house.  Had it made it?  Did it find another and spawn?  I guess I wish I was a bit more optimistic.  The scene made me sad deep down, you know?  Like even though I braked so as not to not kill the doe and the fawn, even though I made sure nobody fucked with the killdeer eggs, I didn’t really do enough.  The salmon are leaving the earth, you know? And I love the taste of lox.  I love my spicy salmon sushi rolls.  The whole thing was really kind of my fault.    


Also, the deer, the killdeer, and the salmon, they all kind of looked at me accusingly, like my coworkers do when we talk about having kids, seeming to ask me why I’m fucking around, why not just leave it in one night and make some kids?    I don’t even know what to say anymore. 

Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez was a beautiful, 17 year old , migrant, and  pregnant vineyard worker, who died last month before her boyfriend could give her the gold ring he’d saved up for.  They were both from a small little village in Oaxaca.  Their manager wouldn’t give them enough time to go and get water on a day that was 95 degrees out.  She died in the dust, in her boyfriend’s arms in a vineyard in California.  

 It was a Wednesday.  


The Laundromat

October 13, 2007

Nothing better informs me of my place in society than by going to the laundromat.

Here, with the other bachelor vineyard workers during a day of rest in the rains,

here, the wives and mothers of past and future vineyard workers,

and some fucking hippy eating broccoli,

here is where I sit, my pay turned to coin,

the coin turned to soap and water, washing away the:

(blood of the harvest) + (mountain soil) + (my sweat) = 2 times through the washer in order to get clean.

a twenty + 3 hours of my life.

The process,

the fluorescent lights,

the guy eating broccoli: they all make me need to leave and go walk outside. It’s stopped raining and the sulight is silver in the puddles.

This neigborhood, you have to cross the street and all of sudden there’s sidewalks, the roads are well-maintained. All of sudden you’ve stepped into big S Sonoma, the real town, the better side of the tracks. I like the other side, the working-class neighborhood. I like the spiderwebbed asphalt roads, the well-painted houses and tiny little yards of working people who’ve clung onto their homes.

In my neighborhood, across the highway, farther away from representative city government, there’s no mail service, but more chickens in the backyards.

It’s going to rain again next week. We’ve had a few inches. The fruit: it’s going to start falling apart in a week, the vineyard’s going to be muddy, a mess, and men will fall, trailers will slide, and then it will be all over, and time for a rest.

Corporate Malbec

October 9, 2007

The moon this morning was just a little sliver, and the sky was clear.  Everybody’s talking about the rain that’s supposed to be coming tomorrow night.


The crop maybe ruined.  (not really, don’t worry, the thin-skinned varieties are all in and just the thick cabernets and Syrahs are out there but fine and will be, really.  I swear.)

So it was a day to pick, and to pick as much as possible.  We started with Malbec, and, listen, I eat a lot of grapes and am learning what’s good and what’s not so good.  Overcropped, little canopy management, the poor little vines could have grown tastier fruit, but the corporation that runs the place had other plans.  Whoever decided that they wouldn’t pay to try hard on the Malbec.

It made me think about what my ladyfriend was saying about me this weekend, that I care more about the politics behind a wine than how it tastes.  I think that by that she meant that when I taste wine I will speak of the company behind it before I say something.  After a few years doing this, I generally know a little something about the entity, corporate or otherwise, who made the wine.  So when I talk about the wine I’m tasting, I explain what I’m tasting by explaining what I know about them, and how I disagree with everything they do and stand for.  I can’t help it.

I just don’t think that the corporate structure is the best mechanism for the creation of good wine.   I also don’t think that the type of people who would decide to use something like, say, Roundup, are the type that have a feeling for nature and thus, don’t — can’t — make a great wine.  They’ve already shown that they’ll cut corners.  They’ve already shown that they don’t understand nature, the universe, the things that are more important than profit.

I know, I know.

I know that there’s all sorts of wine growers in America that get great ratings and make good wines that also use Roundup in the vineyard.  There’s a lot of good wines made by corporations who pay their cellar staff poorly.  And there’s plenty of hairy-faced organic vintners who make a lousy wine.

I just think that the goal should always be to do the best possible, make the best possible whatever.  I know that in the here and now, profit is more important than philosophy.

I drank a wine last week.  It tasted like it was overcropped, the vines were unhealthy and didn’t produce a lot pf phenols.  The aromatics, the mouthfeel, were oak-related.  I could taste that they had it wrong.  They could have spent more money in the vineyards, saved money on barrels, and made a better wine.  It was a $17 burgundy whose name I forgot.  I forgot everything about it but that it tasted like they knew the wine would be lousy and threw in some of those big fucking teabags full of burnt oak chips while they fermented it.