September 15, 2009
Though male, Dionysos was always somewhere in-between the sexes. He was raised by women and worshipped by women; his religion was suppressed probably because it was run by women. In the Bacchae by Euripides, Pentheus is told by Bacchus to dress as a woman to learn the secrets of his worship, and it’s likely that the giant dildos his worshippers carried around might have been used by his male worshippers in a practical sense. Though bearded, he was effeminate, and like a lot of great Greek men, stories were told of his bisexuality.
In a lot of ways, he’s like the grape flower: with both male and female parts. The grapevine is able to self pollinate, something I’m glad to be incapable of doing.
It reminds me that we are all somewhere in-between. It makes me think of my newest vineyard employee: a transvestite man from Mexico, young and strong and gay with painted fingernails, earrings, a swish in his walk and an ability to outwork any of the macho men with moustaches who joke and laugh but cannot keep up. Jose Antonio: I like that dude. I like that he is willing to put up with a few jokes because he is who he is and there isn’t anything anyone can do about it. He could hide who he is, but he doesn’t, and he doesn’t care what they say, and besides, some of theose moustachioed men probably come knocking on his door late at night, lonely and hungry for his soft embrace. He does good work and sings to himself love songs and I would love to have a whole crew of transvestites, just so long as they’re Mexican and can sing.
When last I wrote on this here blog thing, I had found myself suddenly unemployed, alone in a haunted house, not knowing anyone in Oregon who could tell me where to find a new job. Within three weeks, with the buds swelling and ready to burst in the vineyard, I’d found myself a good job with a good company run by a smart and knowledgeable man. I am a vineyard manager again, of over 200 acres of dry-farmed, own-rooted, and sustainably-farmed Pinot Noir, Gris and Blanc in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. It is beautiful, and I am grateful.
Since then it’s been a flurry of work and of life. I bought chickens and now eat their eggs. I planted tomatoes and now eat their fruit. My dog and I have dispatched two delicious deer. I have loved and been loved. The vines awoke, burst forth with green life, and now the fruit hangs heavy in purple and rose, sweetening, ripening, yearning for its seeds to be born aloft in the belly of a bird and deposited beneath an oak tree somewhere good and rich and warm.
Also: I bought a fiddle, and am learning to play. I sit on my porch and I imagine myself an old man, drunk and happy and teaching a granddaughter how to play Sally Goodin.
8 years ago, I was in New York City. I had just moved to that goddamn place to give it a go: I was in love, trying to be an artist and a writer and a doer of good things. On the morning of September 11, 2001 I rode my bike from Brooklyn to Manhattan, stopping on the bridge to look at the skyline and contemplate things.
A year later I was picking grapes in France, and now I am entering my eighth grape harvest, having reinvented myself and become a professional in my field.
When the towers fell I made for myself a 15 year plan to buy myself a piece of land to farm wine. I probably had my boxing gloves with me that day, with a plan to go spend my afternoon fighting people for fun at one of a couple of gyms in Brooklyn or Manhattan. Things changed after that, and I began to dream of a peaceful life devoted to the art and poetry of making something true like wine for and by myself.
I am alone tonight in a 200 year old rented farmhouse, my faithful pup Sancho asleep at my feet. I am in-between having a dream and realizing it. I am going to be 35 soon: In-between old and young.
We are all in-between something, always and forever and that’s alright.
March 22, 2008
Monday was March 17th, a date celebrated in Ancient Rome as Liberalia. Liber was the name of an early Roman version of Dionysos, a God of Fertility and of wine. The day was like a Bar Mitzvah for young Roman lads, and afterwards– after the procession of giant phallus symbols, the public drunkenness and whatever it was that they did– they would switch their boy’s toga with its effeminate purple sash for an all-white grown man’s toga, and could vote and do pretty much whatever they wanted, I guess.
On Tuesday I saw my first spring barn Swallow, returned from his winter sojourn, flying about the barn. It is a beautiful bird, the swallow, and has been married to mankind since we first began to build structures. I mean, jeesh, Virgil wrote about them like 2,000 years ago flyinga bout the rafters of the roof.
Wednesday, was the Spring Equinox and as the earth was briefly balanced at 10:48 pm, the winter died and the spring began. Persephone returned to Demeter. It was sunny and warm and we’ve almost very nearly finished our pruning for the seasons, and have already begun mowing down and disking in our cover crops.
On Thursday, we disinterred a batch of biodynamic horn compost- those the cowshit-filled horns we buried on the fall equinox. We unearthed some wine we’d buried alongside them and drank the two bottles, some 12 or 15 of us thirsty vineyard workers in the shade of a fig tree just beginning to glow green with the spring’s new growth. in place of the horn compost we placed a crushed quartz-filled horn and another bottle to drink in another 6 months. Covered by soil, I danced my version of a Mexican hat dance over the site, and went back to work.
And today, on Friday, I did it all again at another vineyard, but this time I was filmed by a TV crew, and I was miked and interviewed, and directed to do silly things for the sake of telling a story, and will someday, in like 6 or 8 months, be seen by those who watch “In Wine Country” (on the Bay Area’s NBC 11) and I will become instantly, incredibly, and annoyingly famous. I will be blogged about by Perez Hilton. I will be seen stumbling out of clubs with my vagina hanging out. I will finally, finally be recognized while pissing in a bar.
It is a full moon tonight, and I really ought not to drink as much wine as I’m about to drink. As the last good Friday before all my anonymity is stripped away from me, I’ll enjoy it by myself, relaxing in the silence before the helicopters descend to capture me embracing whatever starlet’s career could best be furthered by being seen with the likes of me, the famous Winefarmer. Probably Natalie Portman, I hope she speaks kindly of me to the press after we break up. I hope, I hope I don’t accidentally lose that tape we made drunkenly screwing each other. I’m sorry for that Natalie. I’m sorry for everything.
February 28, 2008
Spring is here, you can feel it in the warmth of the sun after the rains, and everything is aflower: the fruit trees, the acacias, everything smells swollen and fertile. The wildflowers are beginning to glow, the fertile sap of rebirth is coursing, and did you see that goddamn lunar eclipse last Thursday? A full moon, in eclipse, glowing orange on a warm night at the end of February.
The rains quickly followed, I think the final big storm of the season; we’ve had enough, thanks. The little buds on the vine are starting to swell, and did you know Columella used the word “genitali” when speaking of the buds? I like that word better, really, to think of the delicate little buds as the moist little genitals of the vine. They are kind of furry. They’re so fragile now, and while pruning and training the vine to the trellis, it’s easy to knock them off and ruin everything.
The rains ended and it all dried out. We’re pruning still. It’s getting late, I know, but really, the danger of the spring frosts hasn’t yet passed, and though beginning to swell, the genitali haven’t yet burst with growth. Another few weeks of dormancy are left, maybe less. Each little genitali is still aslumber, dreaming of growth and sunlight and growing, dreaming of a primordial forest and a stout oak to grow up.
We came up with our own recipe for a biodynamic pruning wound paste. In includes benotonite and horsetail, and on each of the pruning wounds we paint a thin layer of white goopy goo to prevent eutypa infection.
I’m a little worried about the redwing blackbird. I just haven’t seen that many this year. and I wonder why, if they’re alright, or I’m just not tuned into their call as much as I used to be. They’re one of those birds common both from my childhood in Iowa and out here in California. In a way, I think of the redwing as a bird which accompanied me out here, and maybe there’s just some redwing blackbird party somewhere else and they’re all getting laid or something. That’s probably it. No need to worry.
Tonight I am drinking a bit of applejack, in honor of john chapman, a true American Dionysos, and my dog is asleep at my feet. Tomorrow the sun will rise again and we’ll be deep in the mustard fields of slumbering grapevines whose genitali are just beginning to stir.