The Sicilians are laughing at me. We Americans, who take ourselves so seriously, have let life pass us by, once again. The car is packed, the beach house is ready, they stand by the car waiting for us to show. It’s time to go to the beach, it’s time to go to the “island”. But there is work to do, and wines to sell and taste, and markets to develop and, and, and the heart pounds like the ball at Times Square, waiting for the hammer to drop and smash it into a thousand pieces.
The lights dim, the crowd looks up, and the death-defying act plays out with no net. Some choose the beach and the others, we seriously self-absorbed Americans, we choose to work, to push the limits, to taunt the muse with our obstinate work ethic. Or is it rote, is it not knowing what to do with the time if there wasn’t some task, some challenge, some irresistible opportunity to sell, sell, sell? Conquer the world, again, this time with Italian wines? "Cu Sgarra Paga*" isn't just for the tightrope act.
The Italians have got this right. Go to the beach, go to an island, get away. Go away is more like what I have been hearing, but I’ll take the hint. It’s time to take a haiku, grab a towel, hit the beach.
California is a closer hop than Pantelleria or Ischia, so back home we go. I have a little visit to make to the Alma Mater, for a little graduation day luncheon and toast in the Mission Gardens with a few old friends. Then over the hill to Monterey; this is my dream, my fantasy island.
A deserted stretch of beach, the Pacific happily waving in the background, a group of students and the master. She’s the little old lady in the white cap. What would Imogene say? She’d probably laugh and tell me to take my camera out and start taking picture of things, that’s our meditation. And with digital technology, less silver, less chemicals, just spending more time out there among the essence. So, whether it’s Cannery Row or the salt mines of Trapani, one can zone out and take some respite, the buen retiro that is needed from time to time.
That is where the California of my mind seamlessly weaves into the Italy of the same shared pathology. It’s most likely flawed, but hey, it’s my fantasy and it counters this casual-Friday existence we’ve fooled ourselves into. We don’t work 4 days, many of us don’t just work 5 days. How about half a day or more on Saturday and 3-4 hours on a Sunday? And how about this, if we didn’t where would this duck soup of an industry be? Even more in the tank? Probably not, except for those of us who take ourselves too seriously. But seriously folks...
I remember telling my Pop that it wasn’t about the money, it was about the passion, the art. Well, OK, I got my wish, it wasn’t about the money. But right now, the sun is crackling around the edges of my towel and the water is cool and blue and deep.
A dry Moscato, made from the Zibibbo, a wind blowing off the water up into the hills, the fig tree dripping with fruit, the bees swarming the flowers and the ripeness of the island. All the area is buzzing, humming, nature conducting the ripeness movement. Breeze, buzz and Zibibbo, sitting under the portico, in a shady spot, a couple of figs, a few slices of prosciutto, a chunk of Caciocavallo, happy mandolin music chirping out Bella Luna, “De plane, boss, de plane, she has landed.”
Drag yourself away from the work, the world, the drama, from time to time. My Sicilian family didn’t wait for me, they left, as they have for years. If it is Mondello or Monterey, get thee to a beach, to that unreachable place, before they pick your pieces out of a car with a pair of tweezers. Maybe the great Wallenda can walk across the tightrope without a net, but why do that when a plate of figs and cheese and cured meat waits for you on the patio?
Me, I’m going to Point Lobos, to stare at the tide pools. All with a lilting Sicilian song in my head, keeping the wolf at bay and the work gremlins away. "Surdu mutu orbu sugnu**."
* Who Fails, Pays
** Blind, deaf and dumb am I
All Photographs by the author