Well homeys and homettes...here's the update you've all been waitin' on:
I was planning on doing a story on Hungarian wines, most notably the Furmint grape, sometime in the first week of March in honour of my artist friend, Gabor Mezei. Plans changed though, when on March 2nd, I got an email inviting your humble Deacon to attend an exclusive sampling of the wines of Romania at an "undetermined location" on March 5th. I would be "paid handsomely for my expertise and opinion" and if I was interested, I only had to reply to the email and the details would be sent by courier. The sum of cash the benefactor offered was so frickin' large that I couldn't resist, and to my surprise, a package arrived by FedEx about 2 hours after I said yes. In the parcel was a bundle of cash in Romanian Lei and a plane ticket to Budapest, for the following day.
I packed a suitcase with my best yellow Zoot-suit, a purple mink coat and a Gucci shoulder bag full of Norman Hardie Pinot Noir and Henry of Pelham Baco for the plane ride. The following morning, I grabbed a limo for Pearson airport and was rushed through security and onto the first class section of a Boeing 767. Within' 20 minutes we were airborne and the Veuve Clicquot Grande Dame was flowing freely. I wasn't too concerned that I didn't know where I was going, as the cash was an indication of the sincerity of my benefactor, "Vlad".
After the Champagne was gone, I finished up the Norman Hardie Pinot and decided to catch a nap. We landed in Budapest, about 9 hours later on a gray, rainy morning. We deplaned, and I was met by an officious mofo in uniform who directed me right back to the runway, where I boarded a jet-black Learjet 31. I was the only passenger and as I walked through the downpour toward the stairs, I couldn't help but notice the garlands of St. Elmo's Fire that clung and crept up the tail of the tiny jet in the super-electrified air. Inside the passenger compartment, all was red velvet and black lace. The bulkhead was decorated with numerous cheerful prints depicting A-320 Airbus crashes. In the absence of a flight attendant, I locked and armed the door myself and sunk into one of the opulent seats and was soon comatose again.
The flight was horribly bumpy. We traveled Southeast if my reckoning was correct and after about 3 more hours, landed in Bucharest, Romania, where a glistening black carriage was waiting, its two coal stallions wet with the evening mist. The driver said nothing, his face swathed in scarves. He tossed me a paper bag, filled with salami, cheese, bread and some chicken Paprikash, which was good, but thirsty. On the seat was some horrible local plonk, but because of the heat of the paprika in the chicken, I quickly got through 3 bottles and fortified myself further with the Henry of Pelham Baco Noir. I then fell into an uneasy sleep, my dreams populated by visions of Robert Mondavi, Bono and Hitler. I vaguely recall beating them all senseless with a Jeroboam of New York State bubbly. From time to time I awoke drowsily on bleak mountain roads as my driver tirelessly negotiated the tight turns and horrific heights of the Borgo Pass. Day and night mingled in the fog and rain, and black stunted trees that seemed to have burst from the very depths of Hell, leaned over our carriage like dark talons.
I awoke just before dawn to the howling of wolves as we broke through the cover of pines into a vast open space. Above us loomed an enormous castle cut from coarse black granite. I grabbed my Sony digital and got the only picture that survived the trip. We passed under a portcullis and clattered over a courtyard of cobblestones. Jumping out of the coach, I stared up at the distant battlements of the dark towers and felt like I was standing at the very gates of Mordor.
I approached the massive steel-banded oak doors and noticed the driver and coach had already departed. My luggage was on the ground beside me however, so I seized the iron knocker ring that protruded from a gargoyle's mouth and hammered "Shave and a haircut". My host, Vlad answered immediately and opening the doors, flung them wide, declaring "Welcome to Transylvania! Enter Deacon! Enter of your own free will!" Vlad was tall and thin with a long, aquiline nose and wore a black suit with a long, highly lurch cape. I stepped over the threshhold into what looked like the lobby of the Hilton. There was a Goth receptionist, sipping Absinthe and flirting with someone on the phone and a bell captain wearing an extremely realistic flying monkey costume and mask. "Take the Deacon to his room, Nikko" commanded Vlad. "The sun will be up soon and I need to rest. Forgive me Dr. Fresh, but I am...shall we say...nocturnal? I shall see you this evening. You will find all you require in your room." Then he split, leaving me with Nikko.
"Listen peckermonkey" I said. "I'm tired and gotta get right to bed. Grab my grip and let's go." He mumbled something resentful but incoherent, and we headed to the elevators and before long I was settled into room 317, which locked behind me. To say it was jank would be to credit it with too much style. It was cold and damp, the bedding was black and the walls were red and black sponge-painted in the manner that's still in vogue in some parts of Pickering. There was a huge fridge full of horrible crackerpecker wine, with names like Transylvanian Trap, Mephisto Merlot, and a few dozen cans of Coors Light - the Silver Bullet. The only reading materials on the bookshelf were back-issues of Hematology Journal and Impaler's Digest. The phone was dead and there was no cell signal. I picked up the room service menu, but the restaurant didn't open until sundown. I wandered around the room, noting the portrait of Bela Lugosi over the bed, the Iron Maiden in the corner, the stuffed goat's head on the dresser, and the total absence of mirrors. I began to feel vaguely uneasy, but couldn't figure out why. In lieu of food I knocked back a few litres of vile Saruman Syrah and fell asleep, not awakening until after sundown.
I found my room door unlocked and took the elevator down to the main floor and crossed the lobby to the combined restaurant and bar. As I approached, I could hear a relaxed lounge version of AC/DC's Highway to Hell. The clock on the wall said midnight and Bon Scott was just finishing his set, accompanied by a pianist, drummer and string-bass player in extremely realistic skeleton costumes. "I'm here forever!" he shouted. "Make sure you try the veal. Thanks and good night!" Bon was hustled out a side door to a smattering of applause from a party of ghouls in the far corner, and I grabbed a table and sat down. Within a couple of minutes, Vlad joined me. "Thank you for coming to Transylvania!" he said warmly, revealing a pair of very sharp canine teeth over a bloodstained lower lip that made me unaccountably uneasy. Vlad explained that he was getting married on the next full moon to his fiancee, Elsbeth Bathory and had hired me to choose the wines for the wedding. "They must all be local wines" he proclaimed. "It will take you days to try them all!" he laughed and drew has cape around him and swirled out through the restaurant door. I waited a moment, and then pretended to be looking for the men's room and wandered over to the iron door where Bon Scott had gone. The lock was a simple three pin lever that was common in the 18th century, but easy to pick. I determined to slip through later and find out what Bon was doing here. I thought he had died in 1980. ..
My Goth waitress brought me a tray of slimy raw oysters and some steak tartare that was pretty foul. I had to get out of this dump soon or die from starvation. I hung around until the lounge had mostly emptied out, except for a couple of lizards in a booth drinking rusty nails from skulls. Then I slipped over to the corner door and picked the lock with a fork. The staircase was lit by smoking torches and I circled downward for what must have been 300 feet until I reached bottom. I was in a dungeon. I grabbed a torch and shone it into the first cell I saw and Bon Scott stared out at me.
"Hi Dr. Fresh" he said emotionlessly.
"Bon, whatch'all doin' here? I thought you were dead" I replied.
"I am dead!" he grinned, his eyes glinting, revealing two long canine teeth. "But Count Vlad likes my singing and won't let me leave. If I don't escape, I'm gonna play the longest run in history. Longer than Siegfried and Roy at the Mirage. Now get me out of here!"
"You aint goin' nowhere, Zombie Boy!" I answered and continued down the corridor as he screamed and pounded the door of his cell.
"Deacon Fresh? Did I just hear your voice?" came from the next cell. A smiling face with normal teeth peered out from the barred door. It was Denzel Washington.
"Denzel?! Wassup Homey?" I asked in shock.
"Vlad's men grabbed me in Toronto when I was shooting a film" he answered. "They thought I was you."
"Happens all the time. Don't sweat it" I said. "What's this mofo Vlad up to?" I asked.
"The sumbitch has produced a Transylvanian wine with vampire blood in it. He was going to get you to endorse it and bring all the world under his spell. Anyone who drank it would fall under his power."
"Lemme get you out of here..." Further down the corridor was a torture chamber and I grabbed a mace from a hook on the wall and running back, smashed in the door of Denzel's cell. "Come on. We gotta quit this dive!" I said urgently. "I phone the Deaconess every day, no matter where I am. She hasn't heard from me in about 3 or 4 days. With any luck, she's called out the marines by now." Denzel and I sprinted up the staircase and emerged in the deserted restaurant. It was 4 AM and still dark out. Suddenly I heard a commotion in the courtyard and about 20 flying monkeys darted through the lobby, armed with scimitars. They fluttered up to a high window above the chandeliers and flew outside in battle formation. The Goth receptionist went to pull an alarm, but Denzel got to her first and cut her head off with a sword from a nearby suit of armour. Climbing up onto the reception desk, we were able to see out the windows set in the lobby wall.
We heard a sudden blast of small arms fire. The troops had arrived! Our Kalifornia Konnexion Rozeen and about two dozen homeys from the South Central Wine Possy were unloading on the flying monkeys with Glocks, picking them out of the sky like clay pigeons. "Come on!" I shouted to Denzel, and we leapt up the wide marble staircase to the mezzanine level and out a door onto the parapet. Rozeen and the boyz were driving the monkeys back, but about a hundred timber wolves were pouring from the hills to reinforce the simian army.
"Look out Deacon!" yelled Denzel. Behind us, Bon's skeleton band was closing fast, armed with axes and bottles of nitric acid. I kicked the pianist in the rib-cage, splintering it, and we sprinted up the main staircase onto the wide, flat, roof, just as a Hungarian Army helicopter rappelled a group of men in black body-armour and respirators onto Vlad's helipad. "Get down!" yelled one of them as he blasted the skeletons with a stun grenade. He pulled off his respirator and Uber-Sommelier John Szabo stood grinning.
"The wine community looks after its own" he said, crescent kicking the head off another skeleton that was trying to stand up again.He handed us machine guns and small vials of liquid. "Throw this at the bastards!" he said. "They can't stand its purity."
"Holy water?" I asked.
"Ontario VQA wine" he answered. "These evil mofos have no defense against it." There was a sudden roaring engine sound from the courtyard, and Denzel and I leaned over the parapet and saw Konrad Ejbich in the turret of an Abrams tank, driving the wolves back with a flame-thrower. On the roof nearby, Tony Aspler had set up a 50 calibre water-cooled general purpose machine gun and he began providing support fire, hosing down a group of zombies as Count Vlad appeared from a doorway to our right. We flung the VQA wine at the cracker and he staggered back hissing and singed, just as Billy Munnelly decked him with a Shillelagh and crossing himself, Beppi Crosariol drove a stake through Vlad's heart. In seconds he disintegrated into a pile of dust.
"Where's Zoltan?" I asked John Szabo.
"In the castle, pressing the flesh" he answered. "We've got an event coming up and he thought it would be a good chance to network."
Munnelly dropped a flare and the helicopter landed, with Prince of Wales Chef Michael Pataran at the controls. He handed us all chilled sake and grilled Teriyaki beef skewers and we lifted off. Down below, the homeys were dealing with the last of the resistance; Adam "The Sadist" Sutherland neck-cranking werewolves and the undead, while Rozeen threw molotov cocktails into the lobby. The flames and the acrid smoke rose in a dark column behind us as we headed to Bucharest and the private jet my wine friends had chartered.
"Too bad about Bon Scott" said Denzel reflectively. "It makes you wonder how many other entertainers are actually dead but still performing. Keith Richards for sure." I didn't answer though. I was too tired, and greatfully accepted the glass of Barolo that John Szabo poured for me as he went into a fascinating story about the Nebbiolo grape and a group of Italian Zombies he'd had to exhume and destroy, early in his wine career. Then Aspler regaled us with an amazing account of his early days with the BBC and MI6, clearing a dozen poltergeists from a cork factory in Portugal. I struggled to stay awake and listen, as Billy told us how he once drove a Banshee back to hell with nothing but a bottle of Guinness and a cork-screw.
I love the wine industry, I thought, as I dozed off to the soothing beat of the helicopter rotor.
And it was great to hear Bon sing again...
Deacon Dr. Fresh
Van Helsing of the Vineyard