I don't believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.
That particular question has driven me to write, travel, read, and think since I was old enough to remember doing any of those things. It is now once again the question that is ringing most loudly in the storm of my thoughts. Why am I here? Why am I in Colorado? Why do I want to write? It seems with writing, it is not about want, but some inner drive to create, to see things manifest from the immaterial of my memories and the images that come from absolutely left field in my head. I have done this kind of creation with directing and acting in the theater, firework shows, stand-up comedy, and of course storytelling both written and oral. I love an audience! I am pretty sure I am better at anything I do well with an audience.
Give me a nice meal to cook for 2 and it can be solid and quite good. Give me 4 dinner guests and that dinner will sing with compounding vigor. I hate being part of a crowd, but I love to be in front of one. I am not waiting in line to see, do, or eat anything unless the line is short and moving with alacrity; however, I would happily sit patiently while people wait in line to see me put on a show. I need an audience and I feel more fully myself when I have one.
Well Michael, how does writing fulfill this need of yours, you ask? You see, for me this blog is spiritual, my connection with God and the hero path the universe has shown me. Writing feels the same as designing the soundtrack for a fireworks show. The writing is the groundwork for a greater production of Michael David Housewright while the soundtrack to a pyro show is the melody and the explosions are the harmonies. If I write something interesting and people enjoy it, they will want more of it and therefore, more of me.
Travel, dining out, cooking, and encounters with crazies while working in a liquor store are all ammunition for the assault of the Michael show on the planet. I want to go about this attack through writing this blog, screenplays, and books. I want to do one man shows in theaters and readings on NPR like Sedaris. At the end of the day it is much like I told my technical director in college. "I do not do art for art's sake", I want to entertain, I want to make people laugh, cry, cringe, and crow. I am not on the fast track to deliver some literary masterpiece. I honestly just like to hear myself talk and enjoy the company of others who find my voice unique and/or irritating enough to curiously enjoy. I am not a train wreck, but I get the appeal. I am like Larry David in a redneck gentile costume. I call it like I see it and my mouth has gotten me in more trouble than I can remember so why not let it go even further and see if there is an audience for my humor and candor rather than fighting against my tendencies and coming across like a vacillating pussy.
The first group that challenges me are bloggers. I have been derided that I write too lengthy posts and post too infrequently to be a blogger. I tend to agree with this assessment, I am not sure I am a blogger as much as a guy who tells stories on a website and likes to take pictures of things. Most successful bloggers I find are semi-journalists or even professional journalists who enjoy the creative license a blog gives them to report the news in a manner that suits their individual bent. I don't really have news or recipes, or any formulas for what I want to write, I just want people to be entertained. I am also aware that my writing and my blog are not going to have a mass appeal. Great, because in my experience anything with mass appeal on a grand scale I tend to find rather milquetoast and limp. I come at you with cazzo duro and if I need literary Viagra to keep it that way, then I will lean on Hemingway and Krakauer for my emotional chops, concision, and fact-finding. When it comes to honesty I want to be the Slim Shady of forthright. I am not going to publish every 3rd day on some schedule, because my thoughts and impetus to write do not function on a timeline. I write when I want, what I want, and how it sounds best to me on a given day. I write because it is the closest thing to a daily audience I can muster.
I am also challenged heavily by my own sense of perfection. I read this morning that Katie Parla, one of my favorite food writers on earth sometimes spends 6 hours on 250 word blogs. You see, I get this, I share in this kind of lunacy because at the end of the day I want to first and foremost impress myself, and when you've drunk Vogue Musigny it is never that easy to go back to Beaujolais (at least not in the same meal). Once something has been good, the internal pressure to keep it there overrides all sense of time and space. I can imagine Krakauer sitting there in anguish over whether to use pejorative or deprecatory, and I know that anguish. The more I read, the more I learn, the more damned difficult it is to choose the next word out of my keyboard.
This is what happened with wine. Some of you know that in 2001 I started down the path for MW. It took me less than 2 years of study, tasting, and meeting MWs to realize the deeper I went into it, the more myopic my focus would become and the less of me I would indeed become. I don't need to know at a moment's notice the premier cru vineyards of Chablis or the latest DOCGs in Italy. I discovered what I loved about wine was the wine itself, the place where it comes from, and the people who make it, drink it, cook around it, and those happier because wine exists. I am in no way denigrating those who pursue mastery, I just knew that mastery of wine in all its subjectivity would leave me painfully deficient in a dozen other areas of life I would enjoy knowing better. Now, I am certain others are capable of much more than just an MW or MS while in their pursuits; not me though. I know the things about wine that I love, and I retain the details that allow me to be acceptably well-versed in the subject for myself and my individual pursuits. If I had stayed with wine, I would be a prisoner to my own perfectionist tendencies and likely would have grown to hate the industry.
I have a very close friend who has tasted and enjoyed more great wine than anyone I know at our age. When my buddy is faced with drinking pedestrian bottles of wine, no matter how tasty they might be to the standard 2-3 bottle a week consumer, his face is wrought with frustration that suggests he simply cannot even enjoy this perfectly charming, if innocuous bottle of wine because of his elevated standards. Is it not true with all things? If you have great sex with someone and then they die, or leave, or decide to change sexual orientation and the next person you are making the beast with 2 backs with is not exactly their equal, are you happy? What if you have a great job and all is great then the company is indicted by the feds and the CEO gets a 10-15 year set of in-shower bent-over rows as the company and your job are liquidated? Is your next job "selling real-estate" for your uncle at C 21 going to get you jacked when your last job had a gym, a Starbucks, and a smoking hot secretary that smelled like happiness? It is our own standards that create expectation and breed misery.
I had to get out of wine because I was miserable. I remember one time sitting and tasting wines that some poor California farmer toiled to make and listening to a colleague tell the supply rep that the farmer should pull up his vines and plant lettuce because grapes should not be grown there. This is the kind of shit said in tastings all the time by dilettante buyers and inexperienced sales people in wine shops around the country. While travel-weary supply reps fight for that last second placements to earn a 6 day canned trip to Burgundy. On this "trip of a lifetime" they have the pleasure of tasting 150 green wines a day while listening to some jaded French importer who cheats on his wife with the fat girls on the trip wax on about terrior. I was right there in the mix as the "quality" whore more than happy to deride some poor sap or laud some over-lauded esoteric masterpiece. I thought I was skilled and supremely confident my wine selections made me and my place of employment superior in some way.
However, I came to realize no matter how good I thought I was, I actually had little choice in the path my programs took. Oh, I hear buyers around the country right now screaming that I am wrong; "I do my research and my list is dictated by me." Come travel with me a bit my friends and in each American city you will see on the shelves and on the restaurant lists the work of the distributors' salespeople of the year. Cities are sheep led to the capitalist slaughter and for every bottle of Ribolla Gialla on a shelf or on a wine list there are 25-30 different labels of Malbec from Argentina. Wine buyers are given the perception of control and power by their bosses to assuage the mental and physical damage of 60+ hour weeks. I once had a boss from the financial sector who offered me a wine job at a disgustingly low wage and when I asked him about the dollar figure and why so low, he simply said, "I don't know, you wine people just seem willing to work for so much less than other people." That has stayed with me since 2004, along with many other interesting assertions he made about the character of wine people (most of it absolute rubbish). In essence, the interplay between buyers,clients, distributors, and business owners is a complex dance that I like to call the "Stockholm Waltz". If you want to be a buyer with creative license (at least a modicum of creativity) you must own the business. Even owner/buyers are faced with the undeniable truth that every buyer in every city in America is subject to trends, fads, and their own inner circle of local wine pros who want to be like other wine pros in other cities which are perceived to be on the cutting edge, more sophisticated, or simply "better".
For some, this life is LIFE, for me, it was just another carefully disguised rat-race of whose whos and who will be or who won't be. I am here now in Colorado because of opportunity and luck. The opportunity my wife has to travel as a specialized and talented RN and the luck that I had meeting her and that she found me interesting enough to bring along with her on this life ride. I am also lucky that I spent only 15 years in the wine, food, and travel industries before realizing at only 40 years of age I could return to my youthful dreams of storytelling. Do not get me wrong wine people, I love many of you like family and the events I encountered while in the industry have given me great writing material for years to come. Wine has given me joy, travel, amazing meals, and more experience dealing with lies, liars, disingenuous customers, sycophantic suppliers, fair-weather friends, and tyrannical or inept owners than one industry should ever offer in such a short career. While that may come off as sarcasm it is not meant to be, as I am truly grateful for my wine days because they have led me back to the most important question of all. Why am I here?