It seems that every few years, I’ll go through a puritanical phase of faux elitism. In the past, this manifested itself in wearing round glasses, puffing a wooden pipe, and deliberately reading old books that reeked of acetate decomposition. All this, of course, to convince myself I was part of some cognoscenti—the intellectual class that pondered things like Adolf Anderssen’s Immortal chess game, and its sociological applications.
But then again, I’ve realized my life has been nothing but a bunch of phases, of varying degrees.
I’d bet that most boys, somewhere around the age of nine, go through a “magic phase.” By that I mean magic tricks; sleight-of-hand, artifice, ruse, subterfuge, legerdemain. Or, at nine, “tricks that make Darcy Skalisky want to go steady.”
Oddly enough for me, that phase never ended, and a significant part of my living has been fleshed out with a deck of cards, obscene performance fees, and an over-the-top personality that is wholly unafraid to invoke the latter against the quality of the former.
Then one day, I witnessed an atrocity of self-immolation that has never left me: A wine and cheese tasting incident on a cruise ship.
I figured when they announced the event that my friend and I would be able to rubberneck and eyeball every erstwhile Aristotle Onassis ON that ship. And we were not disappointed. Right there, dead center on the plush lido couch was the archetypical ingot-totem himself with an entourage of seven androgynous, slinky twentysomethings in fantastically expensive clothing. I have no idea who he was, but he was clearly old and rich. And seemingly in control of their very opinions.
As the snobby emcee announced the entire double helix of minutiae about the wine and its complementary cheese choice, my buddy and I keyed in on the queue of sycophants that looked like they were ladled right out of the third verse of Hotel California. Every single drooling clinger picked up, held, cradled, caressed, swirled and sniffed the glass the exact same way and exactly one millisecond behind I.M. Loaded III and his 24-karat chain mail.
The coup de grace came when one particular wine apparently committed high crimes and misdemeanors against his palette. He spit the wine back into the glass, shook his head and said “bah!”
A NANOSECOND later the chorus of seven sang the sad refrain. Minds Tiffany twisted and all.
The prevailing question here is, how in the world did I, 400 words in, manage to wreck this oil barge on a reef not related to fly-fishing? In all actuality, I didn’t. It’s a parable of sorts. A plea for calibrated elitism. Not the “great gulf between me and thee” country-club kind of boorishness that makes grown men take on some kind of interbred dialect when pronouncing “golf.” But the cartoonish, bellicose, Tartuffian snobbishness similar to Jack Nicholson’s character in The Bucket List.
So instead of drinking obscure tea with my pinkie finger extended, I rattle off the characteristics of Kopi Luak coffee, and how it is comprised of beans chosen and eaten by the Asian Palm Civet (Paradoxurus Hermaphroditus) and excreted into a pile of fiscal awesomeness for the locals. I’ll carry on for minutes, holding forth about aroma, and the ferret’s innate ability to select the finest beans.
Then, someone asks me why I even care about such things.
“I don’t,” I’ll reply. “I just like useless trivia. let’s go get Starbucks.”
And back to earth I go.