Secondary Fermentation – Daniel E
Have you ever had a chance to get crocked on really good champagne? It isn’t really so much like drinking as it is like taking drugs. Drugs that you inhale… because it seems to effervesce on your tongue and disappear as it goes down your throat. And you feel more high than drunk. For me, it’s only happened once, on a rainy night at a big fancy hotel in downtown Dallas, and I didn’t really plan on getting crocked. It’s just that, every time my glass got half empty, young white jacketed Mexican waiters with slicked-back hair appeared at my elbow like hummingbirds to top me up. Gradually, I, too, was flying.
This was a party for the debut of a brand-new French champagne and I was only there because my boss and his wife had just had surprise twins. He had to get home so he handed me the invite and told me to find a tie and borrow a jacket from the security booth.
They had a tie in Lost and Found, but it was pink. The two guys on duty laughed their asses off when I put it on, but I didn’t care. I needed a tie and this one was nice. The material was thin and slippery.
This was my first job after college at the fanciest small hotel in Dallas. It was called “The Chateau on Turtle Creek.” The cast of “Dallas” stayed there when they were in town to do exterior shots. One time, I saw the guy from “Kung Fu” get drunk and play the piano in the bar. I was the beverage receiver. Mostly, I took deliveries and restocked the wine cellars, the bar, the restaurant and the kitchen. I attended weekly wine classes and there were some other perks such as the spare invite that evening. It included free valet parking. I was impressed.
I drove my raggedy-ass Pontiac the few miles into downtown, found the hotel driveway, parked behind a Mercedes, and handed over the keys to a dismayed looking valet in a red jacket.
The tallest downtown skyscraper in those days was outlined in five miles of green neon and you could see some of it through the tall rain-wet windows of the hotel’s second floor parlor where the elegant party was underway. I’d missed whatever opening presentation had taken place and the sixty-some-odd guests were getting progressively more voluble as they delicately pinched only the stems of their glasses. That was something I always looked for ever since I’d learned to do that three weeks before. This was the first time I’d ever seen flutes used rather than wider, more saucer shaped champagne glasses. I was impressed.
I only knew one person there, a wine guy, and, after I talked to him for a minute, I wandered around a bit nodding and smiling. I talked to a couple of people, mostly agreeing that this stuff was good. And, as I said, they kept it flowing. And so was I.
I felt drunk but sharp and fine-tuned despite a newly developed tendency to not walk so well. I found a spot near a tall curtain and a small tree in a big pot where I could look up at the green neon and still watch the party. I stayed put, but I felt like I was kind of staggering in place. This stuff was good.
The neon and the rain and the occasional flashes of lightning reminded me of a planetarium laser show without the smooth jazz. When I looked back at the party, this beautiful, robust girl in a short plaid skirt was walking right up to me. She was all lit up and looking right at me. She said, “You’re pretty drunk aren’t you.”
I said, “You’re awfully pretty yourself.”
She smiled, even laughed a little, but she said, “That’s pretty lame.”
“I can do better.”
A waiter appeared, refilled our glasses, and was gone. I smiled and shook my head.
“What’s so funny?”
“Nothing. The waiters remind of altar boys.”
“Oh, not another Catholic boy.”
“Well, used to be. That’s why I’ve still got this thing for girls in plaid skirts.”
“I’m a woman.”
“I noticed, but your skirt still reminds me of watching those 8th graders play field hockey.”
“You’re starting to sound a little pervy there, sport.”
I tried singing like the Big Bopper, “Oh Baby, you know what I like!”
She said, “What’s pink, 12 inches long, and hangs in front of an asshole?”
I said, “Ummm?”
She grabbed my tie and gave it a tug. Then she pulled my face down to hers and kissed me. Her lips were plush. I licked the top one just a little bit and just barely nipped the bottom one. We stopped. She looked right up into my eyes with my tie still in her fist.
She said, “It’s silk.”
Then she looked down, licked her lip, looked back up and said, “You wanna be friends?”
I spread my arms palms up, cocked my head and said, “I thought we were, baby.”
She was still smiling, but she said, “I’m not your baby and I ain’t ever gonna be, but we can be friends for a little while, understand?”
And I said, “Okay, it’s a deal.”
A whole lot of other stuff happened that night like her asking for a ride and then hooting with laughter when the valet brought my car around and, later on, her calling me “Jeff” at a very critical moment, but I’ll get to all that some other time. And the thunderstorm – remind me to tell you about that.