LOOKING AND SEEING ARE NOT THE SAME
(Two views of Tintin and Snowy)
(A book you should know about)
(Preview of exciting things to come)
I have a picture of Tintin and his dog that has moved me since the first moment I saw it. I don’t recall where or when that took place any more; it wasn’t at one of the “official” Tintin merch shops, because that stuff is all trademarked. This drawing wasn’t made by Hergé.
Tintin is sitting at the end of a dock in Venice, looking out over the lagoon. He is holding Snowy with the easy care reserved for only the closest of friends, and the two of them look out at the evening water. There is a little fingernail of moon, and a few stars, and the water is very calm; indeed the entire tableau is one of perfect stillness. Tintin’s face is in three-quarter profile. He is facing the light. His feet are a foot from the water. Behind him, four gondolas sit empty; they would bob in the water but the water doesn’t move. A street lamp is lit, and a raven perches on a pole at the far right, facing toward the man and his dog.
I’m not sure what you’d call the color. Being a wine-guy I’d say it’s the color of a medium-bodied Provençal Rosé, fading to a surmise of paleness as the water holds the vanishing sun. Though the entire vision is meditative, Tintin himself doesn’t indicate reverie. His gaze is too fixed. And Snowy, who knows what he’s thinking? When I first saw this curiously haunting little picture, I felt gratitude and relief. I was channeling what I thought was Tintin’s “moment,” a quiet perch at the water’s edge, no more adventures for now. Tintin is always doing, and here he is just sitting and thinking. I like that the artist saw the basic mystery of our intrepid hero, the boy reporter, whose inner life, if he has one, is turned away from us. We catch a glimpse of it now, but we still don’t know it.
Some time in the last few months I cast a quick glance at the picture, which is placed where I see it often, and I had an instant of shock. It didn’t seem peaceful at all. Now it felt like Tintin was the last man on earth, we had wiped ourselves out and even the moon was vanishing and there was no one left, and the raven was demanding “What have you all done?” And Tintin has no idea, no idea at all. All he has is his dog and the water and the empty world. Yet for all it is horrific, it is still beautiful somehow, as if at the end of the great catastrophe, there is still this pink gloam of twilight and a strange, unknowable man sitting there with his dog.
It seems facile to interpret this re-vision as some sort of covid metaphor. I mean it might be, but I rather think I just saw the picture through a different filter. Nor do I believe I am obliged to choose which of these filters is accurate. The picture is beautiful either way. Both ways. Whether it shows us a hero’s respite from all that struggle, or else a hero’s looking mute and stunned at the poisoned world, wondering what happens now, it is still beautiful. I couldn’t tell you why or how. Beauty seems to want to be absorbed but not known. It may saturate us but it won’t explain itself. I look at this picture and think I don’t have to know, I don’t have to understand, I just have to look.
A BOOK YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT
A man named Dwight Furrow has published a remarkable book called BEAUTY AND THE YEAST: A PHILOSOPHY OF WINE, LIFE, AND LOVE. Mr. Furrow is a PhD in philosophy who teaches at San Diego Mesa College. His book answers a question we wine folk are often asked, though seldom out loud, by people who don’t fathom our passion. “Wine? What’s the big deal?” It’s a question my own books have striven to answer, in my intuitive, barely-educated way, but in place of my lyric entreaties, Furrow has constructed a splendid cartography of thought that answers that question explicitly, thoroughly and at length.
For non-philosophers it is sometimes a dense amble, and there are times a reader might wonder what good is served by deconstructing at the author’s level of insistence. But with that being said, I think it’s a book that everyone who cares about wine should read – or try to read! Because, to use a wine metaphor, the text is sometimes opaque to the “civilian” yet it is always fruity. Neither stern nor austere, but written with love, from a man who seems to want us to know we don’t need to be defensive about our curious passion, because he has our backs. I recommend his book, and him.
MORE (POTENTIALLY) EXCELLENT NEWS
It is more and more likely that I’ll be able to taste the new vintage from “my” growers, and post those impressions here. They’re sending samples to me.
Though I ache with missing travel to Europe to visit them, there are consolations; this is a dream come true for a taster. I can taste by myself, in my own environment, at my own tempo, from my own glasses, at the temperature of my choosing, over as many days as it takes to assess the wine’s development, with and without food, indoors and outdoors (where every wine tastes more vivid), and just one vintner at a time. Best of all, when I’m done with a grower, I go live; I don’t have to wait until everything is tasted before I can publish anything.
If this works out, as it may very well do, I hope to start posting by late Spring/early Summer, and I’ll go on until the last cow’s back in the barn.