I had a glass of wine tonight. Actually, I’m finishing my third glass right now – half way through the bottle. It’s a 2005 California Coastal Estates Cabernet Sauvignon – probably cheap, but I honestly wouldn’t know. The bottle had been stashed for who-knows-how-long in my sister’s room behind a locked door. The door itself was wallpapered (doorpapered?) with Got Milk ads, and pictures of Justin Timberlake and other teeny bopper heart throbs from the mid-nineties, all ceremoniously torn from magazines and glued or taped to the door with tender care by Sister in her tween years.
The room had been vacant for years, but was still kept it just as it was, so many years ago. Inside, the walls are painted purple, and there is a shelf completely covered with dance awards of varying heights, like a miniature skyline of shiny, plastic, trophies. There is a bean bag and a giant stuffed animal dog, and there are countless pictures of her then-boyfriend, now-husband hanging on the walls. Oh, and there is a massive stash of booze.
Or, I should say there WAS a massive stash of booze, before I got my hands on it. You see, Sister’s room is one of the few rooms in the house with a lock on the door that actually had a key, so mom had used it to hide all the booze from my other sister. Other Sister had made it a point to guzzle anything alcoholic within reach as part of her typical teenage rebellion. So the room became a safe repository for all things alcoholic – my kind of place.
If she had company, mom would unlock the room and mix up cocktails for her guests, then lock it all back up again to ensure the young one didn’t get herself into any trouble.
At some point, mom lost the key.
When I returned home, she told me about the booze-room and it was almost too much for me to handle. It was like keeping an innocent man imprisoned – the alcohol had to be liberated. The safe had to be cracked.
In an attempt to pick the lock, I destroyed countless bobby pins, along with my health-care card, which luckily had been expired for years. I tried a knife and a screwdriver and I Googled and YouTubed everything I could find on lock picking. No luck.
I thought I would try the window, so I inquired about a ladder, only to find that it was somehow, impossibly, on the roof – and thus unreachable without a ladder. This boggled my mind, but with thoughts of whiskey and tequila keeping me motivated, I persevered.
I finally found a rickety old ladder on the side of the house, nearly buried in dead weeds and spider webs. I hauled it to the front of the house, dusted off the Black Widows, and said a prayer under my breath.
Dear Darwin Awards, please don’t let me die trying to break into a second story window to get a bottle of Bourbon. Amen.
I slowly made my ascent, one rung at a time to the second-story window, which by the Grace The Glenlivet was easily opened and I slithered into the room like a serpent. I gathered the stash of liquor and moved it all to my closet for safe keeping.
It was an impressive collection, with everything from Angostura Bitters to Sour Apple Pucker. Occasionally, over the last few weeks, I mix a gin and tonic or a vodka cranberry to numb myself to sleep, but for the most part, I’ve been on a healthy detox these days– preferring workouts to piss-ups.
Tonight, however, I wanted a glass of wine. I perused the collection of bottles and found that bottle of 2005 California Costal Estates Cabernet Sauvignon. I opened it with a wine-key that I’d traveled with all over Australia and New Zealand for a year-and-a-half, and never once used – all their bottles have twist-off caps these days. I poured the wine into a purple, plastic water glass (not pictured), and took a sip.
And it was glorious. It was so good, I clicked my tongue and quickly took a longer pull on the glass, letting the wine sit in my mouth and tingle my taste buds into complaisance. Oh sweet Dionysus! Why had it been so long since I’d last drank a glass of California Cab? The whole time I was in Australia, I drank nothing but goon – the best option for homeless alcoholics at $10 AUD for a 4 liter box. It can’t really be considered wine, but somehow it falls into the same category. I recently read an article about how to make your own Pruno, which for those of you who don’t know is prison-wine, often brewed in toilets using a foul mixture of ketchup and oranges. And yeah, goon is something like that.
So you can imagine the glory I felt at that first sip of wine, and at every sip thereafter. It was beautiful. It was epic. I proceeded to drink half the bottle while watching The Soloist. The wine helped me to get emotional at the point where Ayers and Lopez reconcile, and regardless of boozy, tear-filled eyes, I totally recommend the movie. It’s about music and writing and homelessness and friendship and it’s based on the true story of Steve Lopez, columnist for the Los Angeles Times. When Lopez was writing the columns and living the experiences that would eventually become The Soloist, I was concurrently writing a column for my college paper in Los Angeles, and would often look to Lopez for inspiration.
And really, I think that’s what the movie was about – finding inspiration.
So, right now, I’m feeling a bit boozy, and a bit inspired.
And I’m so glad to be drinking real wine tonight.