Wednesday, September 16, 2009


What is integration:? I am glad you asked.

When I was a dewy-eyed pompadoured freshman at Cornell at the end of the sixties it meant social justice. It also apparently meant that my black friends with whom I stayed up with until 3:00 AM playing hearts the night before would studiously ignore me when they filed in to eat at the Willard Straight Hall Cafeteria at the 'black table' the next day. Word.

Integration was already starting to confuse me!

When I was a musician in the seventies it meant that our band had white guys and black guys searching for the musical apotheosis of incipient white anarchy and black militarism, the military had become the venue for social progress for blacks (not punkass, sleepy, white guys in dorm rooms--sorry Marion and Joe), and all this military precision seemed to infiltrate the music, seep in like toxic waste into Ninja Turtle sewers, mutating, turning snarky slouching blues into crisp sparkling R&B routines, --integration now happened at mealtime too, even if it was MREs in stinkin foxholes, while the punkasswhitedudes screamed, 'so long as it's their ass not mine', and the screamin, screamin' radios, and immaculately unthreatening but precise dance routines, every radio blasting, burning it into the already crisp air 'War, Hunh. What is it good for', the Temps turning psychedelic?,

A ball of confusion. Word.

Then when I was a merchant marine in the eighties it meant watching the Cajun oiler named LeJeuene and an ex-marine 2nd Engineer named Varnish congregate in my cabin, two bookends drinkin' beer. Fraternization was frowned on yo know but to Varnish, LeJeuene the lowly oiler was akin, no, not akin, WAS royalty. The very name echoing back to the cordgrass marshes of his South Carolina youth where he had found manhood and purpose, a purpose that had grown fuzzy and abrasive as the cordgrass at the edges, like the marsh gases obscuring the crisp outlines of the new day. LeJeune, well, he duh' living brea'ding embodiment of dat integration, Cajun, militaristic and anarchic at once and both eventually falling down drunk, but happy, no thought of race no thought of rank, just two shipmates worshipping at the bloodyassholebuddyaltarofsemper fi. When Varnish reported for shipboard duty, he slammed head first into the brick wall that was the side of the MEBA Union Hall, flipping assovercrackers, twisting the handlebars of his Harley into a chrome pumpkin vine and cracking his skull on the mural painted there of 'La casa de Micky Mouse'. Carried up on the ship unconscious, like snoring, bloody luggage. Absolutely nothin',wakin up next mornin hungover and glassy eyed with a bandage on his head and LeJeuene right there with a beer in his hand and his best sweat stained Filipino shirt on.

Cajun confusing.

In the eighties it meant taking the chunks of software written at different times in different languages for different purposes, and making them all play nice in the company sandbox, --then came the internet, more anarchy, more militarism, more snark, more temptation-- internet porn. Checking my eBay bids while typing code. LPS disappearing like a scratchy black vinyl tide down some vanished Ninja sewer, run aground on the hard edged (literal and figurative) coral of luminescent CDs.

Digital confusion.

The nineties, OK let's skip the nineties. (After all this is a blog, 'sposed to be.)

OK so now we get to what does integration mean to me now, today? As a winemaker it means getting all the elements of a wine to operate efficiently and pleasantly as part of a larger whole. It is the happy anarchy of the fermentation, blending elements, mixing freely, then the long night of isolation in the barrel, waiting to be called on, soaking in the stern discipline of the wood, values of honor and duty. The tannin integration, hunh, what is it good for. The tannins may have joined the fruit to quell the riot of a misspent youth but they are still standoffish, hard edged in public and suspicious, but secretly they like to drink with the oilers in the Cadet's cabin, bumping into the slew of chemicals racing around the deck of the SS Leslie Lykes on their Harley roadsters. Slammin' into the wall headfirst by definition, something you only do part time.

Tannins when not fully integrated are what give you that biting sensation of finality in the back of your mouth. Harsh, brittle, other descriptors; tense, astringent, bitter but sexy, raw and devout like a combination of Elvis Presley and Alan Ginsburg. When they are correctly integrated they provide amplification of the wines other qualities, like an echo chamber, the fruit and body bounce off them, resonate like the acoustics in a really good concert hall where the Temptations are playing. REAL. What was two dimensional, like a war on the TV screen, suddenly present, and contrary to what they tell you,--reality doesn't bite.

So, like the lame bar pickup line we are inclined to ask 'where do you come from,--originally.' The answer is they come from the parts of the grape that we usually discard, the pits, the stems, some from the skins--the woodier parts that once protected the plant and insured its posterity. They live on, in the wine, but mellow with age, like sixties militants, and ROTC cadets who by the time they hit fifty are both wondering what all the fuss was about, they seek out their former adversaries, the colorful anthocyanins and the starchy tannins seek to bond with each other, together they become more rounded, more colorful, former enemies now fast and never to be parted friends.

I guess that is what integration is. To be honest I'm still not really sure,--

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