Two oenophile buddies share their misadventures in this winsome collection of real-life shaggy-dog stories.
Beddows, a musician, author and yoga instructor, and Zeiger, a literary-artistic jack-of-all-trades, met while teaching at a San Diego high school. They began going to wine bars, where they regaled each other with (mainly) true anecdotes, collected here in polished form. The resulting tales, introduced with droll wine-tasting tableaux (“The exotic floral taste with the hint of black pepper makes Jack reflect on his first trip to Mexico”) run the gamut. Zeiger reminisces about his manipulative little brother, and Beddows about his sadistic older brother, who got a hilarious comeuppance after he donned plastic vampire teeth and snarled at a performing chimp. Zeiger sketches the stoned California Aquarians he knew in graduate school, while Beddows tells of being roped into serving as a stripper’s bodyguard at a riotous kegger. There’s a tale of a magical Christmas in Mexico, and of a horrible Thanksgiving dinner. Both authors tell of their traumatic breaks with California’s school bureaucracy: Beddows, when his class showing of the film Shakespeare in Love (1998) ignited a furor over Gwyneth Paltrow’s breasts, and Zeiger, when a callow administrator warned him that “we’re actually not in the entertainment business” after his poetic writing assignments elicited too much student enthusiasm. These stories are mostly good-humored yarns about comic contretemps that resolve themselves, with no great harm done to anything but dignity. The authors convey them in relaxed, genial prose that goes down smoothly, although occasionally they lapse into fantasias that can feel a bit overdone—Zeiger’s story of a trip to the emergency room, for example, includes a hallucinatory journey through his body with Sarah Palin and a wit named Testiclees. There’s not a lot of structure here; narratives generally begin out in left field and take their time meandering through several desultory episodes before arriving at a climax and running out of steam. Still, the authors give them enough colorful, well-drawn characters and amusing pratfalls to keep readers turning pages.
A pleasant collection of reminiscences and japes.