Alan Rickman gets Bottle Shocked

Bottoms up.As part of a new podcast series produced for the Arts Council of Sonoma County, dig on this chat about wine biz flick Bottle Shock with star Alan Rickman.


I Was a High School Dropout

Abandon all hope ye who enter here.I’m a high school drop out. ?This peculiar footnote in my biography is not one of which I?m proud nor particularly cognizant on any given day. It is merely a fact of my boyhood, akin, I suppose, to being tall or olive-hued come the end of a Petaluma, California summer, 20 years past. I say peculiar for the high-minded tone I affect in this column so that your narrator can make comic swan dives into the low-brow, but then such fancy pants sleight-of-hand probably isn?t uncommon among dropouts.? We?re an odd lot ??in fact, there are three in the newsroom as I write ??and we each have a story that involves some order of adolescent righteousness, the kind of personality tic that later drives scribes to truth and booze in equal measure. I prefer the latter when asked, so you?ll forgive the bombast and drudge that comes reflected through the glass.

The Petaluma River wasn?t really a river until a convivial Congressman got it called such back in the ?50s so federal dredging monies could keep tidal traffic and tourist trap riverboats afloat. The slough carved the town by east and west, a convenient accident of geography, which fomented a natural sense of ?us and them.? This kept us waist-deep in rancor for our cross-town rivals. This served both sides well when working up the bloodlust necessary to fuel a high school football game, but was an inconvenience on par with being from the wrong house of Verona in the realm of teenage romance. And for us west-side boys there was nothing more tantalizing, of course, than an east-side girl.

At 15, what we know of love is miniscule compared to the nuanced understanding that only accrues with age. I recall my experience of love at the time as something akin to blunt force trauma ??all reason is eclipsed, dizziness reigns and a sudden strabismus overtakes the eyes such that stars one sees are inevitably crossed. In the experience of my adolescence, love was the first brush with a sense of the eternal for the simple fact that I wanted it to last forever. As it turns out, it doesn?t, but it reincarnates into endlessly new and varied projections.

Consider the sandy-haired chatterbox with the slight overbite and penchant for clove cigarettes, which afforded her junior varsity sophistication and zested her lips with smoky sweetness. She wasn?t an outright beauty, but a girl whose face time promised to refine. In retrospect, I realize that every conception I?d developed of her was part of a collaborative fiction devised by my cronies and I, our first fumbled interpretations of the hieroglyphs of women. This exercise, as futile as it might have been, was cut short when a boy from our school, an upper classman rearing for a football scholarship and sprinkled with a beard that was prematurely his, interceded in a manner that is all too predictable.

By most accounts it was a race ??an impromptu display of mass and muscle realized with a pair of pickup trucks piloted by our guy and an east-side kid who seemed unable to wear a baseball cap any way but backward. The specifics are hazy, though at the time everyone seemed either an expert witness or an expert liar. The west-side kid, perhaps more accustomed to the predictable grid of number and letter streets on our side of town, could not manage the velocity he would attain on a mountain road, such that when he blindly crested one of several hills, he had little option but to plow into the car attempting to turn left. The girl inside died instantly.

Teenagers have a preternatural ability to fathom absurdity. Theirs is a peculiar vantage from which all rules seem arbitrary, including the immutable laws of nature, which sometimes seem little more than constellations of chaos. Why ridicule life with brevity? Why bother with sophomore year? The symmetry of these na?ve queries seemed reasonable as anything, though admittedly were ever only part of the equation.? Perhaps, I thought, I had learned enough that year.

Oh, ate, oh, ate, oh, ate

Eight is the date. My Ladies of Sonoma Calendar tells me it will be August 8, 2008 on Saturday – the first and last time we’ll enjoy the auspiciously octo-centric date of 08-08-08. The date is the second to the last of its kind we will experience in this century seeing as September 9, 2009 is just another spin around the sun. Having slept through 07-07-07 last year and narrowly escaping the sacrifice of my corporeal being while covering the Sonoma Satanic Society shindig on 06-06-06 (the “next of kin” request on the media invite should have tipped me off), I’m determined to make of the most the eight-date by changing my name to Octavius, dining on octopus at precisely 8:08 p.m. and crank-calling Hawaii by serial-dialing in the 808 area code. After playing the Beatles’ “Eight Days a Week” eight times, I’ll give the dharma wheel a spin and merrily skip down the Eightfold Path to enlightenment whereupon I’ll realize that I’ve become eight times the fool I used to be.

• • •

Astronomers at Sonoma Mountain’s Bergerstrom Observatory have announced the discovery of Gliese 581 C, an extrasolar planet orbiting the red dwarf star Gliese 581. The blue-green planet appears to be in the habitable zone surrounding the star, with the correct atmospheric conditions to be suitable for life as we know it. “This is not only a marvelous discovery for the scientific community, but a boon for commercial real estate,” observed astronomer Kyle Dawson, who is seeking seed money for an off-world colony. “It only took about 200 years to trash the Earth, from the onset of the Industrial Revolution to our End of Days environment. With what we now know about ecology, we could probably trash Gliese 581 C in about three weeks. Can you imagine the kind of party that would be?” Dawson added, then smashed a beer can on his forehead.

• • •

Due to the increased encroachment of civilization on natural habitats, several animal species have undergone rapid evolution, according to zoologists at the Sonoma Biological Institute. Among the fittest currently surviving are those species that have adapted new modes of camouflage. Zoologists have discovered a chameleon-like newt that looks almost exactly like a 1983 Honda Civic. The “doormat ferret” can lay nearly as flat as its namesake, but don’t step on it – it is the natural predator of flip-flops. A species of jellyfish dubbed the “violet sploosh” makes its home in empty wine bottles. Those unfortunates who inadvertently drink the neurotoxic sploosh may exhibit signs of mild intoxication, followed by a compulsion to end typewritten sentences with the word “sploosh.”

• • •

“’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves, Did gyre and gimble in the wabe” read the opening lines of “Alice in Wonderland” scribe Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky.” Long thought to have been a poem written as ear-pleasing nonsense hewed together with English, a local scholar has discovered that the work actually borrows heavily from ancient Norse. Carroll embedded the poem in the “Alice” sequel “Through the Looking Glass,” a children’s book, though when translated, the poem is far from age-appropriate. The Jabberwocky, according to Sonoma State University professor Anders Gulbrand, is a saucy love letter to a bar maid which enhances the understanding of such Carrollisms as “bandersnatch” and “tulgey wood.” When asked what such phrases as “He took his vorpal sword in hand” might mean, Gulbrand simply sighed and said, “If I told you it goes ‘snicker-snack,’ would that help?”