“Sometimes you need to go forward to go back in time.” That was the word being transmitted to me in a dream on the 21st floor in downtown LA, mere miles from where I was born. I awoke to the sound of traffic below – it was 4:00 AM. It was going to be another long night before I started seeing the light, But I was a million miles away, in Cosenza, on the road to Bucita, in Calabria.
It’s often hard to try and understand why certain pieces of the puzzle are scattered on the table as they are. This week, I found myself walking around the Hollywood Forever cemetery, looking at gravestones. One of the first things we did when we walked into the little Calabrese town was to go into the cemetery and look at the names. The immersion into life (and death) of Calabria forged a life of wine and service in wine. Today as I walked around Hollywood Forever, visiting the graves of Mel Blanc, Rudolph Valentino, and innumerable unknowns, I thought of the symmetry. Not one mile away, I worked for a time after I got back from Calabria, fired up with food and wine and family. Later in the day, I’d attend a wine dinner in an Italian place specializing in Southern Italian wines, with the promise of a rare wine from Calabria. Looking back now, I wonder how these seemingly unrelated events weave into a life.
That was my Pied Piper moment, the aroma of the figs. Never in my life had I smelled anything so delicious, not until I would drive around Hollywood a year later in October in the late hours of evening and smell the jasmine. Both intoxicating aromas that were Siren calls to me. Odd to compare Bucita with Hollywood – the two couldn’t have been more different – the connection, was it Δημητηρ, Demeter? Whatever the connection, this confluence, if only in my mind – both places have a hold on me – both are connected now and have been long before I ever started dreaming things up and long after I am beyond thought.
Last night a wine, Magliocco, from Calabria, was poured. I was in a crowded restaurant, wine dinner, filled with a youthful pulsation. For more than one brief moment, I dove into the glass. I was no longer in Los Angeles, but immersed in the glorious funk of pre-memory – what a mythology teacher called the primordial slime. All of a sudden, a one sided lecture by an enthusiast over the 2009 vintage of Friuli didn’t matter (did it ever?). The small menu, printed in 8 point type on butcher paper (causing it to be all but illegible to anyone with eyes older than 30) rendered irrelevant by the wafting chorus of the thousands of souls reaching from the glass of Magliocco. Time traveler again reaches his destination. Back in the village. Back to September of 1977
It’s nap time in Bucita – no one is moving – so much work to do with the harvest – so pressed for time – even a nap is a luxury – but necessary. Coming up to strangers is not a priority. As we walked to the town, at high noon, we walked through it and all the way to the end of the town to a bridge where we stop. We had come all this way, but with no introduction, in Southern Italy, who would want to talk to us anyway, what good could possibly come from it?
To be continued….