Friday, April 26, 2013

Good shit

The second class in UCLA Extension's wine program is a lot harder than the first one. It's twice as long and rather than an overview of grape varietals, it's a detailed look at the winemaking process, from growing to producing to bottling. I say detailed, and it is, but really we're barely scratching the surface. Wine making involves an estimated 3000+ decisions: choosing a vineyard site, selecting a trellising system, purchasing the correct tractor tires for your terroir... It's baffling. Where in Intro to Wine I was top of my class, in Vintage I I'm lagging behind. And I feel like trying to catch up is mad futile because even if I do catch up, I'll still know nothing.

The sheer amount of information one must master and then put into practice to make a bottle of wine is astounding. Even then, so many uncontrollable factors can come into play. Add to that people are often gambling their life savings to open a winery and this can make for an extremely high-pressure situation. Which sounds a lot like my and everyone else who reads this blog's move to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the arts, except with more outdoors time and less drinking all the wine in one's possession alone and without joy. Show me a screenwriter-winemaker and I will show you someone on the liver transplant list. It's kind of weird that I have that list. I feel like I shouldn't. I think someone probably screwed something up.

Today in the course's self-published textbook I read something I feel applies to any work, whether it's wine making or screenwriting or even a real job. "There is an old saying in agriculture that 'the best fertiliser is the farmer's footstep...'" I thought that was really beautiful, even when I looked it up and found that the author had gotten the saying wrong (the correct one is a Chinese proverb: "The best fertilizer is the gardener's shadow"). The idea, however, is the same, and I really like both the word "footstep" and correcting people. The surest way to be good at something is to work at it. Damn, I hate when Malcolm Gladwell is right. Jk, I don't, his books are so easy to read, they're like trashy intellectual novels. And they make you sound so smart at parties.

But even when one works hard, there's always that unexpected spring frost, that script that sold with an identical concept to your own, that unexpected event that is the opposite of serendipity. At these moments, one can only cling to the work done. After all, fertilizer is shit. But hard work is the best shit there is.* Other than donuts.

Taking pride in work itself is a way to stay sane. To feel you've accomplished something even when by "society's" "standards" you have not. To maybe even go to your five-year college reunion (which I am so not doing because there's pride and then there's just ignorance of the shame you deserve. I froze the rest of these donuts so I wouldn't have to throw them away when they got stale. And I've been eating them pretty God damn steadily). When hard work, rather than success, is the short-term goal, achieving the long-term goal is even sweeter. Or I assume it is. I have achieved zero of my long term goals. Oh, but I'm super good at text messaging. Like, fantastic.

So farm with many a footstep. Throw yourself passionately into your pursuits, however foolish they may be. Freeze donuts, once they thaw out it is like you just bought them, they really keep. 

*Except the shit of people who take probiotics. Man, that shit sounds like gold. People are so proud of it. Is there merit to this? Part of me wonders if maybe these people just really need a thing. Like, ok, I'll be the dude who talks about how great his shit has been since taking probiotics. Dude. That's not a good thing to have as your thing. Read a Malcolm Gladwell book. Don't be this guy.

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