Earlier this month I shared wine with F. Scott Fitzgerald in Rockville, Md. That’s where the honest and almighty writer is buried next to his brilliant wife, Zelda. I drank a firm, straightforward Italian red — a barbera-nebbiolo blend — about four-fifths the bottle before leaving the last glass for Scott.
I can’t say for certain the Fitzgeralds drank much red wine. I can’t imagine they didn’t; Scott’s stories often reference booze, of course, but more frequently it’s gin or champagne or port. Yet I submit that on many occasions the once-so-happy couple sipped whatever was placed in front of them. Surely that often included red wine.
Anyway, I don’t set myself up as a scholar of 20th century American lit or alcohol or the Jazz Age, though I can modestly hold my own in conversations about the three.
Fitzgerald and wine converged in my life around the same time, amid my undergrad career in Charleston, S.C. I was drinking shit wine then, but it nonetheless aided some decent work in my English and poetry and media writing courses. So did Fitzgerald. Both functioned as tools for inspiration, tone-setting and lifestyle. Wine and the Writer were — are — so persistently optimistic. (Indeed, I consider wine optimistic.) Both were — are — perhaps optimistic to a fault. But fuck it, if a man’s primary shortcoming is determined and delusional optimism, that’s probably someone I’d enjoy having a glass with.
I’ve drank alongside the Fitzgeralds three times now. Each visit I tell myself I should make the 40-mile trek more often; to pay respects, sure, but more importantly because we learn from the fallen. They’re such striking reminders of the things we need to do before we wind up wherever it is they are.