Maynard's Wine Signing in Boca, Going Through the Motions as a Fan

merkinmaynard.jpg
Maynard sporting a Merkin.
"What if he doesn't show? Are there enough fans for a riot?" asks a 20-something guy waiting in line at a Boca Whole Foods for Tool frontman turned winemaker Maynard James Keenan. He's in town on a promotional tour, signing bottles from his winery, Caduceus Cellars, and vineyard Merkin Vineyards. It's 1 p.m., and a line of about 40 fans snakes around the outdoor herb and pottery section directly in front of the store.

"It's too hot for a riot," responds David Chase, a 31-year-old who's smartly clad in a neutral off-white shirt and shorts. Without a cloud in the sky, the sun beats down on those in all-black, and makeup drips off in that unfortunate Crow/Joker kind of way. Although it's June, the "event requirements" say no "long coats." Who the hell would wear a trench coat in Florida in June?


I look around. No one is. But there are beanies, sweaters, black velvet skirts, and the requisite goth-renaissance garb. The few people to get in line at some ungodly hour in the morning are enjoying the shade of a concrete overhang. But considering you must be 21 to participate in the signing, the whole scene is just sort of pathetic (someone underaged could have brought his or her legal guardian, but there didn't seem to be too many, with the exception of a couple of kids no older than 8 whose parents are fans).

At 15, I would've walked ten miles in the heat to get this close to the elusive figure who never shows his face on stage. When I was 19, I drove 14 hours to see A Perfect Circle in New Orleans. A few days earlier, I had waited five hours at Mizner to make sure I was front row at APC. And the shows paid off. But now, I'd rather order the wine from my air-conditioned bedroom. I'm 25, sweaty, and people are starting to smell. One guy approaches me and Chase in an attempt to sell some hemp necklaces and gather enough money to buy a bottle of wine to meet Keenan. "I'm asking for a donation of love," he says. Although the guy is at least three feet away from me, his smell is overwhelmingly awful. If it didn't make me dizzy, I would have been steady enough to throw him a buck to help him out. At this point, I'm ambivalent about this whole event. Here are fans sweating to death to meet Keenan. Then again, he has to meet them, smell them, and probably answer a million asinine questions about winemaking.

I finally get my ticket. I'm number 31. By 3 p.m. the crowd is doubling every 20 minutes. We stand up, we sit down, up, down, just to get the blood flowing after hours of sitting on concrete. An hour later, the first 20 people are allowed in, but only to buy their bottles. Then numbers 21 to 40. The 13-year-old fan inside me wonders if I have anything in my teeth as some manager/promoter guy shouts, "Everyone must buy one bottle." He makes clear that if you're a mother who took off work and had to bring your 3-year-old, your kid better have a bottle also. If your teenager asked you to accompany him or her, you have to buy a bottle for each of you.

My ticket lists seven options for wine. I grab the Merkin Chupacabra, partly because it's cheap, partly because of the name, partly because its description reads "Stare and the Chupacabra, who dwells in your heart and not in your head, will vanish." The bottle's label looks like an old leathery scroll complete with Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, whose nether regions are covered by a cluster of purple grapes. (Fun fact: A merkin is a wig originally worn by prostitutes after shaving their vaginal area to get rid of lice. To avoid the stigma of a shaved vagina or to cover signs of syphilis, they would wear merkins to cover the area.)

About four people at a time enter a nondescript room. A black curtain separates the fans from the man. Walk around the curtain, someone grabs your bottle, and faster than you can say Chupacabra, you're out. I wasn't expecting much, but I didn't even see Keenan, who's a lot better-looking than I thought (beautiful eyes), sign the bottle. I asked a question, but his partner Eric answered for the most part. It's not that Keenan was rude; it's that the whole thing was as uneventful as bad sex, where you work at it and work at it and then there's no payoff. Now imagine you paid for that sex.

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