BERKSON: Wine Bottle Lowers The Wall

LETTER from TERRY BERKSON

Wine Bottle Lowers The Wall

Terry Berkson, who has an MFA in creative writing from Brooklyn College, lives on a farm outside Richfield Springs. His article have appears in New York magazine, the New York kDaily News Sunday Magazine, Automobile and other publications.

Before the advent of COVID-19, to celebrate our 44th wedding anniversary, Alice and I drove down to Key West, and were lucky enough to get a room at The Grand Guest House in Old Town.

It’s a great place if you like to share a breakfast table with fellow tourists. This time during our brief stay we met a couple from Brussels, three people from Germany and an ex prize fighter named Joe from New Jersey.

People seem to be at their best when traveling, and all were good company and had interesting life stories to tell.

John, the Guest House manager, must have overheard us telling our story because when we returned to our room later in the day we found a basket loaded with chips, cheese, crackers, Ferrero Rocher chocolates and a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon wine.

There was even a card that read Happy Anniversary! Compliments of the House.

The next day we took an ice bucket and much of what was in the basket to the beach at Fort Zackery. The swimming there is great and it’s another place to meet people from all over the world.

Around mid-day, to get out of the sun, we found a picnic table under a palm tree at the edge of the beach and began to unpack the basket of goodies we had brought along. Disaster struck when we pulled out the bottle of wine and realized that we had forgotten to bring a corkscrew.

The Sauvignon Blanc that led to new friendships.

I thought of a similar predicament that occurred after a reading given by one of my favorite writers, Jim Harrison. The wine was there but there was no conventional way to open it, leaving Harrison, myself and a friend, “toastless.”

Now at the beach, there was an animated crowd of foreigners sitting at a nearby table. We considered moving to a quieter spot but they seemed merry enough to be in possession of a corkscrew.

So, I approached them to ask if they had one and they tragically replied, “No.” It turned out they were Mexican tourists who had disembarked from a huge ocean liner that was docked near Mallory Square.

Moments later, after consulting his smart phone about ways to open a bottle of wine without a cork screw, one of the Mexicans, who we later learned was called Teddy, approached with a solution.

“Do jou hab a knife?” he asked.

“Yes,” we responded.

“I thing I can open eet.

I pictured pieces of cork floating around in the wine bottle. But Teddy was very capable and using the knife he managed to push the cork into the bottle without getting too much wine on his bathing suit as a crowd of his companions cheered him on.

We offered to share the wine, but they refused, telling us to have a good time on what they had learned was our 44th.

Alice and Terry Berkson of Richfield Springs pose with new friends on a 44th anniversary excursion to Key West.

In later lingual as well as hand-sign conversation with our south of the border neighbors, we learned that in Mexico it is difficult to get financing for buying an automobile and that, given
good grades, higher education in their country is more available and a lot less expensive than in the United States.

Teddy took a group photo with his smart phone and somehow transferred it to our phone by way of Air Drop and not e-mail, which was way above my knowledge of internet technology.

Back at the Grand we shocked John the manager by telling him that his bottle of wine had caused an international incident. Then we explained that our having forgotten the corkscrew – that he had remembered to put in the basket – had served to lower the wall between two countries.


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