What do you do when you’ve had a bad week? One remedy would be to take yourself to a bar.
Which is where I already was, anyway, with my friends Hope and Janis, since we were celebrating Hope’s recent marriage. After she heard about what a bad time I was having, with two friends’ recent deaths, Janis announced she wasn’t going to complain about anything herself. “It puts everything into perspective,” she said.
I should have known it wouldn’t be that simple. I had failed to realize that Hope and Janis were both wine snobs. They immediately began a contentious discussion about where you could find good French wines in Austin — nowhere, according to Janis; in a nearby neighborhood store, Hope insisted.
“You’re not asking for the right wines,” Hope said.
“Yes, I am,” Janis said.
“You have to know what you’re looking for,” Hope said.
“I know what I’m looking for,” Janis snapped. Then, she corrected Hope’s pronunciation of “Medoc.”
The waiter showed up and they began to cross-examine him about the wine. Was this bottle, for example, too “oaky”? Neither Janis nor Hope liked oaky wines; oakiness, I learned quickly, was a bad thing.
I didn’t participate in the cross-examination. I already had a margarita on the rocks with extra salt (for nutritional purposes). When you’ve had a bad week, you require hard liquor. You don’t spend precious minutes questioning waiters and sommeliers about wines. You also don’t spend precious minutes mentioning that the word “oaky” reminds you only of John Steinbeck and the Great Depression; you just sip your own damned drink and feel sorry for yourself.
Then Janis and Hope began to quiz the waiter about the wine’s tannin. As it turned out, tannin wasn’t good, either. I found this even more boring than the oaky debate.
So, after the waiter left, I changed the subject. Had I been noticing, I asked innocently, that Janis wasn’t as on-board with Obama as she should be? Could it be true she still wasn’t over Hillary’s campaign?
Janis (whom I’d already argued with many times in yoga class about politics) started pontificating about how Hillary’s campaign and her eventual election as the first female president would have been every bit as historic and transformative as Obama’s as the first black president. Hope, who was the only black at our table, began arguing that a black presidency was much more transformative and historic, given the wretched history and cruel treatment of blacks in this country.
I pointed out that I’d been the first one at the table to support Obama and that — as I’d mentioned many times before — Hillary would have been elected with far too much baggage (two words: Bill Clinton) to have been as transformative as Obama. Then the waiter came up to remind Hope that he was best friends with the most aggressive divorce lawyer in town, in case she wanted to get out of her month-long marriage.
We toasted Hope’s marriage. We toasted Obama. We toasted friends who had died. We paid our bill and walked out of the restaurant, arm-in-arm, still arguing, laughing at everything. I didn’t feel good, but I did feel better.
Hell, it’s not the hard liquor or the non-tannic, non-oaky wine that saves you and stays with you. It’s the friends, always the friends.
(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)