Monday, September 8, 2008

Blue Collar Dreamz

With an Ivy League diploma sitting figuratively in my back pocket, it is logical to ask why I would want to give up the glories of office work to be laboring on my hands and knees. After one day of winery work, I concur that this question is 100% valid.

Since I read The Great Gatsby in high school, I’ve been chasing The American Dream. What I’ve quickly come to realize is that there’s no “green light” in Tri-Cities, Washington, unless pickup trucks, pregnant women and legalized gambling are signs of something.

For this adventure I wanted it all: A picture perfect road trip done “the American way” followed by hearty labor and the reward of drinking cold brewskies by the sunset as I watched my grapes ferment. Ahhhhh.

In reality, what I got was a giant warehouse on the edge of town, with not a single batch of grapes for miles. (They all get unglamorously trucked in.) Though the winery I’m working for uses some cutting edge (these days I do not dare to use the McCainian word “maverick”) technologies, the place lacks beauty. There are no pleasant odors emanating from oak barrels, just 18,000 gallon stainless steel tanks. There are no cellars, just skylights. There are aren’t even corks, as its been proven in recent years that despite how unfashionable screw-tops are, corks are infested with microbes 5-7% of the time, permanently damaging the wine they conceal.

I loved exploring the Pacific Northwest on our road trip to get here, but I quickly realized that The American Dream was DEAD when I witnessed Gliner’s ability to continuously check his Blackberry every three seconds (despite my demands that he throw it in the goddamn Pacific) and forget about the management job he quit two weeks ago. (Truth be told, the Blackberry came in handy a few times for practical purposes like settling disputes about The Celine Dion Theatre and The Air Force Academy, but overall, I still want the device to vanish.) At times I wanted to kick myself because though it is a gas and time saver, my purchase of a GPS a few weeks back only further contributed to the demise of old-fashioned road trippin’. Some elements of “the dream” were still there: Discovering gorgeous beaches, eating omelets at authentic non-chain waffle houses, rolling into towns with no place to stay and leaving it to fate to decide for us where we would lay our heads for the evening, getting pulled over for speeding in a small town…but these positive elements were too and far between.

Nonetheless, we arrived in Tri-Cities, Washington, a place that feels more fake than L.A. (a huge accomplishment indeed). The people don’t feel fake, only the “little boxes on the hillside” structures, strip malls, chain restaurants, etc.

Another aspect of town that is kind of sad reminds me of my days in Norwich, England: A disproportionate number of late teen/early 20s women are walking around with XXL pregnant bellies or already have a full litter in tow. While getting haircuts yesterday, Gliner and I were informed that there’s not much else to do in the Tri-Cities other than have hardcore sex…these may be cities, but they have ZERO culture.

Back to laboring…At 7:30 this morning, Gliner and I arrived to our new Winetastic home. Our boss is super-chill, and Gliner, previously a restaurant manager, predicted that I would ultimately hate him, not because he’s a bad person, which he’s not, but because we would be completing low-level manual tasks while he sat in his office all day, clean as a whistle.

Gliner hates the hourly wage laborers who formerly worked under him because all they would do is take long breaks and return from high-carb lunches with about as much energy as a 98-year-old in a coma. Now he’s on the other side of the table, but he refused to take a break…As per my usual stance against hard labor, I suggested to Gliner that the two of us form a union, and he quickly rejected my proposal.

In recent months, I’ve come to think that maybe Hobbes hit the nail on the head…”Life is solitary, nasty, poor, brutish and short” – at least for the majority of the population…

The best thing about spending three hours alone this morning washing out 18,000 gallon tanks with a hose was that I had some MAJOR thinking time, and I was able to put my life in focus and think up a few new snazzy ideas…More notes from the not so simple “simple life” coming in full force tomorrow.

PS – Gliner just texted me and he is up $125 at the casino at this moment…will his winning streak continue?

PPS – The title Blue Collar Dreamz is a parody of a spoof blog my buddy Ryan used to write for:

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