Sunday, December 11, 2022

The Inexorable Fiasco of Trying to Turn Back the Clocks to 2019

The past few weeks I’ve gone to a couple of wine and spirit dinners, a b2b wine tasting and an art talk at a gallery. All of these events were well attended, and in this quasi-post-Covid era, this is what I observed.

For one, many people are just glad to be out and about. Not all. One fellow I talked to said he got along just fine, during the height of the pandemic. He is an introvert, working from home and really had time to fix a lot of things, slow down the pace of his life and take stock of his life. “My partner and I were going out every night, always on the go. It was exhausting. I know the horrible parts of the pandemic and I don’t mean to make light of it, but I was so relieved to get off that carousel.” And here we were, again, in a large group, a crowded dining room, with noise levels so high you could not hear the person across from you. Had we not learned a goddamm thing?

My fixation lies with several aspects of the world of wine which I now find perplexing. They are:

·       Travel

·       Professional wine tasting events (b2b and educational)

·       Wine (and spirit) group dinners

Admittedly, this isn’t a blanket indictment against folks who are engaging in these activities and are thriving. This is a more personal view of them, my place among them, and how I feel about these kinds of things now, in the particular segment of the pandemic we find ourselves in. So, let’s dig in.


For the life of me I cannot make myself get on a plane and go to Italy. Or anywhere that requires a passport. I’m not afraid of getting Covid. But I am apprehensive about those around me and their rebound back into their old habits and lives. That part of life, in my opinion, is over and gone. Covid, Trump, January 6th, Twitter, Elon Musk, you name it, they disrupted the world as we know it. We can’t go back. Well, I can’t go back. That world doesn’t exist for me anymore.

It's been almost four years since I have been to Italy. Yes, I miss it. But going three, four times a year became so routine, that maybe I started taking it for granted. Now, I think about what it is that I like (and don’t like) about Italy. And I ask myself if my life is better or worse for not being there. And I cannot come up with any valid reasons to claim that going (or not going) to Italy will affect my levels of happiness and contentment. In other words, I have found a world within that regulates that. Not travel. Not drinking great wines. Not any thing.

Oh, I miss many things about Italy, starting with the food. And the feeling one gets in particular parts of Italy when the hair on your arm raises. San Benedetto del Tronto. Palermo. The Tuscan countryside. Barbaresco. Assisi. Matera.

But I also know now that I can call that up in the here and now, and not be dependent on Italy to satisfy any sense of self-entitlement which I might feel is due me. There isn’t. It isn't "my" Italy. Italy doesn’t owe me anything. Especially happiness.

So, for now, I center myself here on my little island at home and do the work. That was a life lesson from Covid and this age of disruption. I don’t have to worry about drone attacks or lack of electricity, or food shortages or threats to life and limb. And complaining about not getting a good deal on a business class ticket from Dallas to Milan just doesn’t seem relevant in this moment. So, once again, I stay put, keep doing the work, and be patient.

Are there places I’d like to visit? Yes. On my list right now is Argentina, Portugal, Vietnam, Italy (of course) Israel, Berlin, Benares, Shanghai and London. But it can wait. For now.

Professional wine tasting events (b2b and educational)

These are taking place all over the world – Italy, America, China, everywhere. The model is basically a row of tables and a supplier standing behind them pouring their wines into glasses, while everyone stands and queues and tries to make notes and conversation, tasting, occasionally spitting. Yeah, optimal conditions.

And again, in 2022, we return to the old patterns. Who was it that said “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Einstein? And even though we’re not searching out the secrets of the universe, still we cling to our old habits, as if they might comfort us and return us to a time when the world was more to our liking?

I cannot look back with relish at a past that replaces the future. But many of us in our world, seem to have adopted that strategy. Reclaim what was lost. Get it back. Must not lose what I had.

In reality, that time and place is so far away, in terms of time and space, that even if one had a warp drive and a time machine, one could never get back there.

But still, we persist.

For myself, to stand at a table and talk about wine feels dated. And highly inefficient. Blame it on the zoom tastings, that had us all talking to each other, tasting wine, seated, and then on to the next activity.

But I know the extroverts in the audience would disagree. They would tell me they need to press the flesh, to have the visceral connection. I’d rather take a hike, which is what they might tell me to do, in any event. So, we would agree on one thing.

Wine (and spirit) large-group dinners

I’ve been to two recently. They were quite large (60+ people). The seating was a bit jammed. The servers were challenged to serve. Oh, and the decibel levels were through the roof.

I know there are people who love a din-filled room. For some of us, it triggers anxiety. If you are claustrophobic, it can be torture. I am not. Being an introvert is reward enough in situations like this.

I guess I just don’t get it. Like my table mate at that recent dinner, getting off that carousel was a welcome relief.

Years ago, I noticed this. At my little Italian store, in the back room they would cram 60 folks in to listen to a winemaker from Italy and to eat and drink. The tin ceiling, the concrete floor, the constant pitter patter of voices, would blow my brain up. There was little for me that was pleasurable about that kind of experience.

Oh, I get it. Some folks like to go over the Niagara in a barrel. Been there, done that. Now, I just want to watch it all from a height and a distance in which I can see (and hear) what is going on.

But still, the wine dinners keep rolling out. Back to business as usual. Again, the words of Einstein bounce around the old cranial cavity, as if inside a pinball machine.

Look, we all lost something. Family, friends, health, time, opportunity. But going back won’t reclaim any of that. If I learned anything at university, it was to keep moving forward. Regroup, rethink, retool.

The wine trade, and the Italian wine trade, has not made enough of those steps forward. 

And because of that, they are falling back. 

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