It was 50 years ago, in 1956. Back to that primordial grape arbor in my grandparents backyard. The brick barbeque, the site of family gatherings, Sunday meals in old California. The Los Angeles Times recently did a story on old time California barbeque.
Sunday in the San Gabriel Valley of my childhood seems like someone else’s lifetime. The old Mission, with the bells, and the ancient pueblo church, hardly earthquake proof. I remember a tremor one Sunday, plaster fell from the walls. Not too long after they built a new church and closed the old one for services. In the garden there was one of the oldest grapevines I have ever seen. Planted in the 1860’s, still sending out shoots and covering a whole patio the size of a basketball court. A wonderful place to walk as a child. Many times I would return to this old courtyard, during times of inner foment. Seems like the old grapevine was always there for me, had heard it all. My confessor, the vine.
My dad and his friend Mario would camp in the hills above the valley. They’d cook over an open fire, real slow food. His friend Mario would go on to open an Italian restaurant in Texas. It was a simpler time, the calm before the storm. Mario was captured during a major battle in Europe. He lost half his body weight before the war ended and he was freed. He turned 90 recently.
Pop would be part of the early detection system on the Pacific. He patrolled Catalina Island. He had it easier. He didn’t make it to his 70th year.
When I look back at the pictures of these young and hopeful New Americans, I see endless hope and promise.
These were hard working people, not afraid to work 6 days a week. But they always took their Sundays to be with their family.
Today I went to a friends wine shop. Salesmen from the various companies, in a frenzy to ship their products, had made a mess of the wine set. A colleague and I worked to re-adjust the selection so that all the products would be shown in their best light. It's what I call my “rising tide lifts all boats” theory of setting a store. We spent the day there.
Saturday, I spent 5 hours in the shop, talking to people about their latest trips to Italy. One family just spent 25 days in Tuscany with a little time in the Cinqueterre and Rome. Another couple spent time in Umbria; Todi, Perugia, and Assisi. Folks looking to re-connect with something they felt in Italy.
My family had the great fortune to happen upon California when it was most like Italy. Memories of that are all that remain, for me. My California fell off the map some time ago.
But, I’ll always have Italy.
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Italian Wine Guy ®