The Pleasure Principle

Moet Chandon Champagne, circa 2001. That's our special bottle of wine ~ the one we've been saving for some unknown event in the future we deem noteworthy enough for popping the cork.

Could it be tonight?

Don't get excited, now...I didn't sign a multi million dollar book deal or discover the cure for cancer.  But I just learned that tonight is Open That Bottle Night, an annual event created by Wall Street Journal wine columnists Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher.  They created the event 10 years ago as a way to encourage people to enjoy those bottles of wine they've set aside as "too special to drink."

And what makes a wine that special?  Oddly enough, it often isn't the vintage or the price.  Usually, it's all about the memory attached.  The couple says they receive literally thousands of letters each year from people who share the stories of the wine they plan to enjoy.  Some recall gifts from friends or family, or purchases made on once in a lifetime trips.  People will stash these bottles in their cellars as a memento of the person or occasion, rather than enjoying the wine as it was meant to be enjoyed.

It's a bit sad, isn't it? hoarding a bottle of wine as a memorable token, rather than simply taking a few moments to drink it and enjoy it?

But then, we aren't always comfortable with simple pleasures, we product-driven Americans.  Especially now, when all the buzz words have to do with "sacrifice" and "cutting back" and "the simple life."    Author Elizabeth Gilbert, addresses this very concept in the "Eat" section of her book, Eat, Pray, Love:

Generally speaking, Americans have an inability to relax into sheer pleasure.  Ours is an entertainment seeking nation, but not necessarily a pleasure seeking one.  Americans spend billions to keep themselves amused with everything from porn to theme parks to wars, but that's not exactly the same thing as quiet enjoyment.  Alarming statistics...point out that many Americans feel more happy and fulfilled in their offices than they do in their homes.  Of course, we all inevitably work too hard, then we get burned out and have to spend the whole weekend in our pajamas, eating cereal straight out of the box and staring at the TV in a mild coma (which is the opposite of working, yes, but not exactly the same thing as pleasure).

Seems to me that opening a bottle of wine, most especially one with a happy memory attached, is exactly the kind of pleasurable moment which could rejuvenate even a badly battered American spirit.  

Our special bottle?  It was waiting in the hotel room in San Franciso where we arrived to celebrate our 25th anniversary.

Pass the corkscrew.

How about you? What bottle will you open tonight?  If you don't drink wine, is there some other special pleasure you've been saving for just the right moment?  Could that moment be now?