July 12, 2007

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Raiders of the sidewalk
One man’s action-adventure evening
By Tim Protzman tprotzman@sbcglobal.net

There are some things that are best left to the imagination.

While I love visiting wineries, I should have avoided the trip to the sausage factory. Great vats of meat. Huge grinding equipment. And the plump links swelling obscenely in their casings as nearly liquefied meat fills them from a stainless steel nozzle. It was kinda gross, but it didn’t deter me from loading up on free samples in the tasting room. And I bought a dozen Bratwurst to take home.

What I won’t do again is pay money to see a big-budget Hollywood movie. Not after my experience in New Haven, Conn., where they’re shooting the next Indiana Jones movie.

Let me say this first. I’m a complainer. I gripe. I often have a negative attitude. I don’t like to be told “no.” Especially by a 19-year-old production assistant, who stopped me from crossing the street because they needed an exterior shot of Yalies, circa 1957, coming out of a brownstone arch and walking on the sidewalk. I can understand they were filming and I did as I was told. But the arch wasn’t even part of Yale. It was at a church five blocks from Yale. Why disrupt an entire city if you don’t even use the real campus? Couldn’t they do it on a studio lot in Hollywood? And why Connecticut? It’s Indiana Jones — shouldn’t they be in Muncie or Terre Haute? If not, at least give the state credit. Change the character’s name to Nutmeg Jones or Indiana Preppy.

The worst part came during my encounter with His Royal Highness HF. I was late for a wine tasting. The street was full of spectators watching girls in poodle skirts and guys in varsity letter sweaters walk around the block. The production assistants, a group overly tattooed and casually dressed in black slackers with iPhones and earpiece radios, were droning on and on about the rules. No pictures. No talking. No pointing. Don’t wave. You’ll be escorted away and charged with something. But have fun anyway. Once the scene starts nobody can move, so I headed down a deserted side street to approach my destination from the other “less showbiz” direction.

No. This street is closed, the PA said. I just went back the way I came and ducked into a vegetarian restaurant with a back door that led out onto the forbidden street. They know me there. They know my quirks. Don’t tell him no. Don’t mention lentils. He only drinks wine, beer, liquor and tap water so don’t offer him goji berry tea.

Finally, away from the crowds, I couldn’t understand why this little side street was closed all the way from the set to the highway. Then almost like clockwork, a huge metal garage door started to open. Out came a black Cadillac limo. Not a big stretch job, but one of those discreet Wall Street tycoon cars. Then a green Saab convertible. Then another Caddy limo. As they approached I noticed the limos were driven by very big guys. Real Men in Black types. Some gray-haired dude was handling the Saab.

It slowed, then stopped, and the first guy got out to move the police department sawhorse that blocked the street. They were 20 feet from me. The gray-haired dude was on the phone, which, like almost everything else that’s fun, is illegal in Connecticut. It was him. It was … HF!!!

I felt faint! I nearly swooned. Blood rushed to my head and I heard music. It was that emo band Franz Ferdinand. Had my crankiness taken me to new heights of depravity? Could I really do the Gavrilo Princip thing?

All of us get angry. All of us get humiliated and pushed around. But normal people rise above it. Yes, I decided, I would be normal. Then he turned. He looked at me. Serenely, like a lion looking at a tour bus on the Serengeti. He waved and drove away. Thank you, HF. For being you … and making me a better person. No one will ever know how close we came. And I and my family will never bear the shame of my senseless blurting of:

“Hey, Harrison … Loved you in K-19!!!”

After all, it’s only a movie. And these are just wines:
2004 Christom Vineyards Sommer’s Reserve Pinot Noir ($42.59) From Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Elegantly Burgundial with nice fruit, low tannins, but something missing. Like the Harrison Ford film Regarding Henry, good script, great cast and acting but no Oscar nod.
J Lohr Seven Oaks 2005 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon ($8.99). Plain and forgettable like Hobey, the character Ford played on TV’s Gunsmoke.
2005 Toad Hollow “Eye of the Toad” Rose ($10.99). Made in Sonoma from pinot noir grapes. Not enough fruit. Acidic and with a sour leaden finish.
2006 Chateau Villerambert Julien ($9.99). Very good. Perfumed with violets. Nice acid and fruit hints of lemon, watermelon and persimmon.
2005 Bruno Giacosa Roero Arneis ($25.79). Roero Arneis is a sub region in Italy’s Piedmonte region. The grapes are arneis, a local varietal. It just might be the next pinot grigio. This wine’s like Air Force One —good first taste, nice finish, drags a little in the middle.
Chateau Picau-Perna 2004 Saint-Emilion. My favorite of the week. Took a good hour to open up. Make sure it’s served at 68 degrees for optimal flavor. Merlot and chocolate flavors. A touch of tobacco and plums. A sleeper hit from year of mixed opinions. Some say 2003 was better, some say 2004. All agree 2005 Bordeaux is great. HF movie scale rating: Blade Runner.