Blog Advisory: Strong language, graphic depictions and wanton women.
There is no real reason to continue. I have fallen off the Italian wine trail. Ken Burns did it to me. I sat there and looked at all those bloody war pictures. It was like someone taking a carton of cigarettes to a desert island and smoking them until they were gone. Finally cured.
And then I walked into my garage in the morning. I smelled gas, decaying hair, skin and bone. Like someone had left the freezer open and all the deer and pheasant conspired to repulse my olfactory sense. Overload. And then I saw a dead rat, the size of a small cat. The source of this aromatic inferno.
I was thinking about a description I had once read, of a soldier who had walked into Auschwitz. His account was dominated by the smell of the place. The gas, the decayed and burnt flesh.
My garage smelled like he described Auschwitz. And I was heading out to lunch. Yes, definitely off the Italian trail.
After about fifteen minutes, I landed inside a little bistro, took a corner seat and set up shop. Like Giuseppe Baldini, the perfume maker. The wonders of the wine world explode on screen. The catalogue of wine that was before me was something to marvel at. Wine, rows and rows of wine in warehouses, reduced to a simple spreadsheet. Meursault, Amarone, Pinot Noir from Arroyo Grande, Gaglioppo from Calabria. Like bergamot and lily and oudh and sandalwood, all the wonderful essences of aromas. So too,
Moments later I walk into a boutique wine shop, run by a very fine, young man from an American mother and a Persian father. The shop wafted aromas of leather and sweet cedar, a smoky habanera cigar box, as if one were in the middle of a humidor surrounded by great wines, oils and tobaccos. A feast for those blinded by their senses. As if in a dream.
I was heading to the Maserati dealer. They were having a party later that night and I stopped by to see if they had chosen wines for it. An attractive young lady, well-tanned, with better curves than the Maserati, was dispatched to offer assistance. “Why don’t you donate some Pinot Grigio and Prosecco for tonight’s party?” Sure, and how about that Quattroporte for a week, in exchange? Everything is negotiable.
The catering company had already ordered the wines. They were good enough, but they were not the Italian that the Maserati was. Nor as well-tanned.
A young chef would present food from a menu he would be serving in a new restaurant. A swirl of controversy surrounded him in the local press, as it seemed someone in his investment circle had decided on a derivative of the chef’s name for the restaurant. No one bothered to vet the name for any possibility that somewhere on the Italian peninsula it might have some derogatory or unpleasant connotation. There are 15 ways to tell someone their mate is sleeping with another person. There are scores of names for a woman’s most private part, and also a man’s. One does not call Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous painting the Mona Lisa, in Italy. There it is called La Gioconda, where it doesn't refer to any of her parts, public or private.
To make matters a little more comical, the name also referred to a very tired brand of Italian wine. As if it weren’t bad enough that one would name their restaurant the slang for bulls_ _ t, they also were bill boarding the tired old wine of the Veneto. Perfect. And I would have to step into that fray, someday, and try to make sense of our part in their wine program? Maybe I should spend a week in San Quentin, preparing for further humiliation. Yes, it’s a dream job, in a dream life. Our fondest dream.
So, that evening, the young chef is splaying out polenta and small pieces of unidentifiable protein, the band is playing peppy music, Prosecco is having foreplay with orange juice and a new model of 2-door Maserati is laying under wraps waiting to disrobe amidst the Kubrick-like setting. Soon-to-be trophy wives were circling the room in search of future ex-husbands. Dallas. Big D. Shark-o-rama.
The well-tanned curvy one spots me and grabs my hand to welcome me into this scene. One of only 3 faces I would recognize in that menagerie, but not enough to keep me from downing the prosecco, finding an emergency exit and heading to a safe haven.
Maybe that Italian wine trail isn’t such a bad idea after all.