“Different people in different parts of the world can be thinking the same thoughts at the same time. It’s an obsession of mine, that different people, in different places, are thinking the same thing, but for different reasons. I try to make films which connect people.” ~ Krzysztof Kieslowski I met Chad the day after my 40th birthday, the day after the 1985 Ridge at Chez Panisse. I was eating next door at Cesar with my Jamaican friend (and painting professor from Holy Cross) Bryan McFarlane who flew in from Boston for the occasion. My friend Andrew (who brought the bottle of 1985 Ridge the evening before) was having lunch with Chad at Chez Panisse, wanted us to meet, and so we did. But it wasn’t until a few weeks later over a bottle of Domaine Tempier Bandol Rose and conversation about Kieslowski’s Three Colors when Chad and I realized we spoke the same languages.
I consider Chad amongst my wine pals who have introduced me to that world… He teaches at Saint Mary’s College and works for Paul Marcus Wines in Rockridge; but I have also come to know Chad the poet, the philosopher, the teacher…and most recently we co-hosted salon wine dinner #38 together, that took place on January 25th 2014…. and where worlds of wine and poetry intersected in such a poignant and touching way.
Left: Chad opening a bottle at a dinner I co-hosted with wine-maker Andrew Mariani at his Scribe Winery in 2012 Right: Chad, in contemplation, at the dinner he and I co-hosted earlier this year, with wine-maker Paul Draper as a guest.
Interview #30, with Chad Arnold Berkeley Rose Garden, Wednesday May 7th 2014, noon
For the interview Chad chose the Rose garden in Berkeley, which reminded me of my first months in California back in 1996. I would come to the garden to get above the city, like I did in Kingston, Jamaica ~ to Jack’s Hill, to breathe. I also have beautiful memories of going to the Rose Garden with Peter Sellars during his Invisible Worlds class that he was teaching at the time, which coincided with his production of Peony Pavilion at Zellerbach. Just as taste can evoke memory, place is so potent in the mind’s eye, and such a perfect setting to talk to Chad about his world and its making. On TERROIR through SPACE ~ “I have a number of defining experiences that begin in language including early memories with architecture. My dad was a painter and an architect and when he died on February 27th 1975, I was 9. So I was trying to connect with him in a way that was more than just a picture of him; I found that through architecture and his paintings I could see more of him – I could see what he liked, what he thought. I remember flipping through the AIA Standards – I had never seen such a large book and it was, as my mother explained, THE book for architects. For a little boy of 9, I started to see him as he was, or rather as I imagined him to be. So I started designing houses, if you could call them that ~ places where my whole family could live, some daft effort to bring him back. And as I was drawing these houses, I felt closer to my father, and even studied it in high school and college until I realized I liked philosophy and poetry more – and also realized it wasn’t a particularly lucrative field – I mean Frank Lloyd Wright designed over 1000 buildings and saw more than 500 completed, but was never particularly wealthy so it seemed a difficult profession. Up until I was about 18, I felt architecture was the only language that could connect me with my father, even though he was no longer with us.” Architecture was a way for me to have, as Pound said in A PACT ~ “to have commerce with my father.” A PACT I make a pact with you, Walt Whitman – I have detested you long enough. I come to you as a grown child Who has had a pig-headed father; I am old enough now to make friends. It was you that broke the new wood, Now is a time for carving, We have one sap and one root – Let there be commerce between us. “For me architecture allowed a language and it gave me the ability to describe the thing I was considering. Architecture is visual language. As portraits are expressions of people, architecture is the expression – the language – of the spaces people were in. POETRY was a more fundamental way for me of expressing things; it was “a place of talk.” As it turned out, I ended up disagreeing with my dad politically and aesthetically, but ultimately we learn as much from those with whom we disagree as with those we are aligned with. Where my dad would reject abstraction … I endorsed it.” On POETRY ~ “Poetry is something everyone can do. Prose, I think, depends more on structural elements, syntax and sequence, and because it depends more fully on these systems and rules, it differs from poetry, or some poetry, in any event my poetry. But you still have to know the rules before you break them, and that’s where my mother came in: she was an English teacher and that helped me a lot. I came to poetry very young. Two key moments set the stage for a life in poetry: the first was flipping through my Father’s copy of the collected poems of T. S. Eliot – his notes were all lattice and lace – they were written in red ink and they were like flowers, and they were beautiful – tucked between Eliot’s lines, printed in black of course, it seemed like an aesthetic metaphor of how we learn and relate to the poets who came before us; we weave our thoughts into the history of poetry, Harold Bloom called this the “anxiety of influence” but I’d rather think of it as simply the new blooms (puns are always intended) in the growth and evolution of the language we all share. I was fascinated with the attention he gave the poems. The second moment was both unfortunate and fortunate – so many things begin this way – a failure often leads to some positive life change, some alteration in the way and direction we are looking – I was “asked to leave” The Hun School of Princeton, a private high school, after my freshman year, and so I went to Princeton High School. It was about this time that I first discovered the connections between music and poetry, I listened to Dylan Thomas and Frederic Chopin and though they are different for many reasons, I heard them in the same way, I mean I felt or was given a similar feeling with each.”
“I met my wife Sue Kauer at West Chester University, 25 years ago. I was studying philosophy and we listened to T. S. Eliot reading The Wasteland. This was when Sue and I were first dating; we were also listening – on vinyl – to Ezra Pound read his (Pisan) Cantos, something I had done before, but listening to him trill his R’s was amazing ~ he voiced the past! Aside from Pound’s lunacy, I suppose it’s a testament to our love. So there we were hanging out listening to Pound read his Cantos, and Eliot moan darkly his Wasteland. I’m just glad it didn’t make Sue think I was also a bit off the beam.”
Left: Sue, at one of the studio dinners. Right: Sue, Chad and other guests at Scribe Winery, watching the rocket launch.
“Poetry was for me at first music, song, but I am drawn to the page to studying words. Each poem is a doorway. You start to unpack a poem and you discover worlds. Like C. S. Lewis’s closet ~ there was the whole world of Narnia once you walked through it. It reminds me of Blake.”
Auguries of Innocence To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour. ~ william blake “Poetry asks us to go slow; it asks us to look at these trees (points). It takes a long time to look at a tree. ~ To see a World in a tree… It’s a way for me to commune with nature as well as my father, and my mother, too, who raised my brother and me. It was a great gift. Poetry is also really democratic. It has the ability to allow ever greater meaning. We grow up with right and left justified language. Wide communication is the goal of punctuation and syntax, and some poetry flies in the face of that. And in this way, and somewhat paradoxically, poetry is even wider than any rule could offer…This ties back to the role of abstraction. My dad was a realist. Rembrandt and Vermeer. Both beautiful, of course. Abstract poetry has something in common with abstract painting. It forces the viewer to respond. Jorie Graham and later work by Brenda Hillman reminds me for example of de Kooning’s great painting Excavation. We are forced to work, to dig. de Kooning was a very philosophical and, in ways, elliptical painter. Pollock, Rothko. The viewer has to do some work. Abstraction allows us to participate.”
Dinner #38. Guests: Jordan Mackay, Anthony Sueuga, Josie Peltz, Steve Matthiasson, Lloyd Bernberg, Jill Matthiasson, Matt Rorick, Suzanne Lettrick, Sarah Scott, David Lynch, Kristen Talley, Matt Gerloff, Chad, Paul Draper, Drake McCarthy, Maureen Draper, Sue Kauer, Kim Addonizio, Ted Talley
On BOOKS ~ “A bookcase is a series of doors like poems, and, though some perhaps open to wider spaces, all books are. The Brothers Karamazov, Don Quixote, The Stranger. The list is long. There’s a whole, rich culture thousands of miles away, and yet these cultures can be found in books… and this is reassuring in a world where people die. I have 5 copies of Ulysses. Four are virtually destroyed, held together with scotch tape and rubber bands. I love Ulysses for its humor and its risk. When Sue and I painted our house, we donated 600 books to the California prison system. It was very cathartic ~ the return of these worlds to others who might enjoy them. I grew up gathering books (I love the smells…) and now giving some back is like a gift; and if you follow the metaphor of reading and connecting to people and with people, it must extend to strangers.“
Left~A poem for me. Chad chose MFK Fisher. Center ~ Chad and I with Kim Addonizio. A gift from Kim, including “For Desire”(!!)
On teaching WINE APPRECIATION CLASSES (at St Mary’s College) ~ “What song does Scarpa ’99 Barbaresco invoke? Chopin’s Nocturns. The power was still there laced with iodine and blood and a great relaxing ease that has softness. LUCIFER by Pollock is a frightening painting. I ask the students in the wine class to step into another mode of language. ~ I asked them to consider the wine in front of them and compare it to a poet, or painter they like. We want things to be primary, to be identifiable, but there are secondary, tertiary flavors. Wine ages. There are many “versions” of cherry. … iodine, penny, dried blood, saddle. With a willingness to enter the folds of language, we find new spaces to inhabit, new language gives us more room to give, to add to the tapestry of the cultures we live in… I think it was Mark Strand who said “surely life is more than moving form room to room.” Even a wine class forces the student to expand everything. I call it “The Philosophy of Wine: AN Introduction” ~ but the “an” is italicized to illustrate that it is only one of many introductions, in fact, all my wine classes are introductions~ ! In the last one at St. Mary’s College there were 8 wines, 2 rose (a rose of pinot noir from Alsace and a still pinot noir from Oregon) ~ 2 versions of a grape that they thought was a red wine. It’s great fun to give some one a template to work with.. hitting all the right points, and then to allow people to then go out by themselves…”
On my first transformative WINE experiences ~ “A $6 pinot noir. In santa rosa, CA 1989. I never knew who the producer – I didn’t know to concern myself with such a thing – but was blown away with the layers of flavor; and the transport to childhood sensations was profound. I was like, yeah, I need to try more of these! I met Sue in March of ’89 and in June she said she wanted to move to California and I said “that’s great I’ll come with you.” A Romanee` Conti is unarguably a great pinot, but it only has the same power of experience that happened with the $6 pinot depending on where you are in your life – that’s the equation: the wine and the self…You can only ask two things from a wine: that it taste like its “self,” the variety, and that it taste like the place where it was grown. The French word “terroir” essentially covers these ideas. Terroir is certainly a notion directly associated with wine. but more significantly terroir is related to people. I finished the last class of my philosophy degree at UC Berkeley, and studied under the Nietzsche scholar who just died, whose name I forget right now. I was young and all young men it seems have something to do with Nietzsche ~ the idea of eternal recurrence was fascinating to me ~ it’s the opposite of nihilism. I remember my mom asking me if I was a “determinist” then, and after I said yes, she paused and said well, what are you going to do, just sit around on the couch and wait for life to happen? Of course not. Acceptance that the world is going to do its thing is one thing, but participating in it and enjoying it are another and they are not mutually exclusives ideas. You live your life over and over ad infinitum.” On Carl Sagan’s STAR STUFF ~ “We are birthed and consumed by stars. And maybe birthed again. If you embrace it, there is a great peace that comes with active determinism… we must participate, make, as best we can, better the world, but accept that free will is a delusion… We can be “set free” as it were if we accept our lives, all the while making them better, and better for others!”
Above: Lloyd, Chad, Wolfgang and Matt at Gilian’s 50th, February 2014
On CHAD’S terroir ~ “There’s a heavy rain in August in Princeton NJ. and when it hits the ground it reminds me of my childhood and the steam that comes up from the concrete; and now I’m 3000 miles away and a wine professional and i drink a chenin blanc.. say a Francois Chidaine, Mont Louis.. and there is a transplantation of CHAD.. I’m either in the Loire Valley or New Jersey, or both!”
DRINK: cold EAT: twice THINK: allowed BE: present DO: do LOVE: always REMEMBER: always WHERE: Nepal WEAR: Costco LIVE: Berkeley LISTEN: Nocturnes SEE: Clearly SWEAR: Fuck. it’s such a cool word, it inflects so many things, and never really has to do with sex.
Left: Chad with Lloyd, and Chad’s potatoes under a peacock feather; Right: Merusault, including an Henri Germaine.
~~~~~~~RECIPE / Chad’s baked potatoes/in his own words~~~~~~~
find the largest russet potatoes you can wash them slit them open lengthwise put them in a pre-heated oven at 350 for 3 hours then turn up the heat to 450 for another 60-90 minutes depending on the over and the way they are cooking
they should be hard as a rock and they might burn a bit at the edges
cut open and butter and salt [no sour cream]
they should lose about 25% of their meat to evaporation and should taste savory, nearly dessert-like they should taste and smell like custard…
“He wrote me: I will have spent my life trying to understand the function of remembering, which is not the opposite of forgetting, but rather its lining. We do not remember, we rewrite memory much as history is rewritten. How can one remember thirst?” ~ Chris Marker, SANS SOLEIL
I always think of thirst in terms of what I desire to drink, hunger with what I want to eat, longing with words from my favorite poems…and just as my grandmother’s ricotta gnocchi invoke the perfection of childhood ~ certain moments treasured ~ the white burgundy grapes that are transformed into a Meurseult and a reading aloud of Kim Addonizio’s “What Do Women Want” at a dinner weeks later…do the same.
Willi’s wine bar, Paris, with Lloyd, 1998. Years of drinking wine, but at this moment I got it. It became my Proustian madeleine. And from then on, it was that same perfection and sense of place that brings us “home.” It’s that taste that goes beyond a memory of thirst fulfilled, and now complemented by the texture of chad’s baked potatoes, the words of MFK Fisher describing her radiator tangerines, and Sue’s voice, reading “somewhere near the center of every memory is a single flower, forgotten in the scrapbook your grandmother asks you to open…”