This past weekend’s arrest of an art-gallery owner in East Hampton for serving wine during the opening of an exhibit stoked the fires of an old debate I used to partake in.
As anyone who either knows me or has read this blog knows, I am a big fan of both beer and wine. I’m clearly far from anti-wine, but my loyalty belongs to beer for years of service, personal preference and, sometimes, plain old logistics. I’m not about to be caught dead sipping a chardonnay at a Yankee game, or ordering a glass of merlot at a bar after playing softball. Those are beer times. But with a nice dinner or at home relaxing, wine is fine.
That being said, the attitude of law enforcement when it comes to the two beverages has always befuddled me. And what really brought it to the forefront for me were several experiences while playing softball on the Great Lawn in Central Park.
Fact: Beer and wine are both alcoholic beverages. Fact: Beer and wine have similar alcoholic contents — if anything, wine is stronger than beer. Fact: Consuming either one in public is against the law. So why did police officers patrolling the park bust softball players’ balls for having a few beers during or after games, while, mere yards away, people waiting to get into Shakespeare in the Park were allowed to sit on picnic blankets and sip wine unmolested from clearly visible bottles and glasses?
In fact, the senility that sets in after turning 40 is clouding my memory as to which mayor it was, but I clearly remember a story in one of the tabloids featuring either Mayor Giuliani or Mayor Bloomberg drinking wine in the park while waiting for a performance.
So even though I’m not anti-wine, I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder about wine’s image as the drink of the elite and beer’s white-trash reputation. Selective enforcement is bullshit, period.
With all of that being said, I have very conflicting opinions on the East Hampton incident. The beer loyalist in me was happy to see stuffy wine drinkers in an art gallery go through some of the hassles I’ve gone through. But both the wine fan and the practical voice in my head were amazed at the utter silliness of this arrest.
The woman was serving wine during an event. She wasn’t selling wine. She wasn’t throwing a loud, raucous party. I wasn’t there, but I’d be willing to wager a significant amount of money that people weren’t craning their heads out of an art gallery and yelling, “Show your tits!” at passers-by. So, what exactly is the problem?
Maybe I’d have a different view on things if I hadn’t spent my whole life in Manhattan and Hoboken, where driving is rarely part of the equation. I’ve very rarely been confronted with the dilemma of car keys in one hand and an adult beverage in the other.
But I really don’t think the fear of drinking and driving was behind either this weekend’s gallery incident or the harassment myself and countless other softball players have endured in Central Park. I believe in both cases, someone in the law-enforcement community was bored, had a hair up their ass or was looking to fill a quota.
Perhaps that someone needs a drink?