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PinotFile Reader C.J. Newton “Uncorks”

C.J. Newton recently sent me a song written about Pinot Noir and I have included both the poem and the story behind it in the writer’s own words.

C.J. Newton is a writer living in Petaluma, California, who loves Pinot Noir and speaking French. Author of the novel Costa Azul, he contributed “Serendipity and the Writer” to The Writer magazine and won a prize in the Shasta Poetry Festival of 2003. His other novels include Horse of the Emerald Isle, retelling the King of Arthur legend from the viewpoint of an Irish horse.

A childhood visit to Montreal set in motion his study of French starting in the seventh grade. Moving to San Francisco by age 21, he began his discovery of wine tasting. Travel to Paris acquainted C.J. with Muscadet, Côtes de Rhone, and Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Residence in New Orleans completed his personal French tricolor of France-Quebec-Louisiana which gives the Gallic inspiration to his musical and literary compositions.

In 2007, after Hurricane Katrina, C.J. went to New Orleans as a voluntourist. His first assignment was to march in a French Quarter neighborhood parade on Bastille Day with a blue balloon. Prowling the Quarter, he was inspired to write a screenplay called Batting Second, about “New Orleans, Baseball, Love and Ghosts.” Frequent crossing Toulouse Street, he gave the main character, a left-handed screwball pitcher, the name Screw Loose Toulouse.

Screw Loose finds help turning around his team, the Orleans Blue Sox, by listening to a baseball playermanager ghost from the 1930s. On his visits back in time, he falls in love with a woman from the past named Elizabeth Delacroix, a love that can never be. But they enjoy a romantic date and hear a song in a cabaret sung by a chanteuse in French and English: “Pinot Noir.”

C.J. actually wrote that song as a contribution to the Pinot Noir Festival of 2008 hosted by retailer Vine and Barrel in Petaluma. “It came to me in French first,” he says, “And then I translated back into English.” He laughs, “Since I’m a screenwriter, I can write one of my own songs into the script. Why not?”

New Orleans continues to inspire him. In 2011, a stay on Orleans Street produced the song “Bonsoir Mon Rêve. Bonsoir Ma Merveille.” In 2010, C.J. ran with the “NOLA Bulls (www.nolabulls.com), which is an annual recreation of the Pamplona event. The organizer can’t use real bulls, so they use the next best thing: roller derby girls wearing horned helmets, armed with plastic bats. Sporting red beret, sash, white shirt and pants, C.J. made it a few blocks but was cut down before Canal Street, bored by a roller girl named Boom.

In Petaluma his favorite places to enjoy wine are the Vine and Barrel and La Dolce Vita Wine Lounge. He likes the rustic country French atmosphere of the Vine and Barrel, and the glamorous romantic lighting in La Dolca Vita. He concludes, “Baseball and wine are similar, they exude lore. You remember the place and time you try an appellation the first time, like a ballplayer’s first at bat. Wine connects you with history, including your own life story.” To view free links to all of C.J.’s works, visit www.BattingSecond.Wordpress.com.

When you read the song, imagine someone in a cabaret, accompanied by an accordion, singing it in a style like Maurice Chevalier. The song is included in a screenplay registered with the Writer’s Guild in Los Angeles called, “Batting Second, A Story of Baseball, New Orleans, Love & Ghosts, Featuring Screw Loose Toulouse.”

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