Sunday, August 12, 2012

Ogni cosa è illuminata

It was like any other day. A little longer than most, perhaps. As I rose at 5:00 AM to drive 200 miles to work in Shreveport, I packed lightly and figured it would be a day filled with appointments into the evening, with the next day day to drive back slowly, no rush.

The drive to Shreveport was uneventful, save for an angry Texas pickup truck driver, somewhere around Marshall, who didn’t like that I was driving in the lane he wanted to come into from the ramp. I wasn’t passing and was in the right place. But he thought differently, waggled his middle finger as he roared around me in a flurry of smoke and rage. An apt farewell from Texas, I reckoned.


Once inside Louisiana, everything mellowed out. It was as it always is for me, as if I landed in another country. The salesman would meet me at the hotel I was slated to stay at. Peace.

At the hotel, one of those riverside casinos that dot Louisiana waterways, I noticed the smell of stale cigarettes and old concrete. A casino is a sad affair, even in the glitz of Vegas. Along the side waters of the Red River, this place screamed failed dreams. I worried what the room would be like.

My sales colleague picked me up and we hit the streets early. First stop, retail shop of a once-upon-a-time colleague from work. He had since been retired and headed back home, to buy the old store his family started several generations ago. The place had just been re-set, but the Italian section looked forlorn and abandoned. I offered to re-set it, thinking in the back of my head, if I could come up with some empty slots we might be able to get a sale or two. As it was, there was room for only one. But the set was missing a Brunello. So we liberated one more case from the warehouse to the general public.

Tony LaBarba 1915-2003
Several restaurant stops, no lunch, hitting it hard, we sold in every account. By all measures, it was shaping up to be a good day. I was hitting the balls well, even though we were going into the Notte di San Lorenzo, combined with the anniversary of the death of one of the most beloved wine guys in the business. So while I wasn’t remorseful, I was reflecting on the events on the ground, in the heavens and among those who are no longer with us. All of this with the Louisiana laissez les bon temps rouler effect hanging around to make the day all the more gratifying.

Last stop a retail shop, where we opened and tasted a dozen Italian wines in an open house setting. Folks came early enough (5-ish) and they hung around, tasted the wines, socialized and bought a fair amount of Italian wine. Not the mainstream stuff either. Shreveport is a town with an unusually high proportion of quality Italian restaurants. The folks seemed interested, even engaged. There is a little Sicilian contingency in town, so I felt more than welcome.

As the last event came to an end, I opted not to stay in the hotel, and figured I’d drive home. It was still early (7:30), the skies looked clear, and I was neither hungry nor tired. So I went for it. Maybe I’d see some of the meteor showers along the way.

I was driving home, listening to the most wonderful music of Sarah Jarosz, who has a voice I fell in love with before she was born. Her devotion to the mandolin is also endearing. Within minutes of stepping over the border back into Texas, the emergency defense alarm interrupted my reverie and announced that everyone in the area noted should seek shelter. Not knowing exactly where that would be, but sensing I should get a move on it, I decided to push the car a little.

Here I was listening to wonderful music, thinking about Tony LaBarba, whose legacy was still alive nine years after his passing, and coming up to the August commemoration of the Perseid meteor showers. I was in a good place. And then all hell broke loose.

Texas, not known for subtlety and restraint, was aglow with lightening. One didn’t need car lights; there were so many electrostatic discharges that I at once felt exhilarated and nauseated. And I was heading straight into the path of whatever storm there was out there in the darklands. One thing for sure, it was shaping up to be a calamitous night.

Meanwhile 18 wheel trucks screamed by me at 90mph. They were sitting up higher and probably were on the radio to drivers ahead. So I got behind one of them and slipstreamed on his momentum for half an hour or so.

It wasn’t so much that I was uncertain as much as I was expecting, at any minute, something that would alter the course of the day, if not my life. It was that intense. And yet I couldn’t slow down or seek shelter. There was nowhere to hide. Everything was illuminated.

Finally after 150 miles (and 90 minutes) all that was left of the storm was in the rear view mirror. White knuckled and exhausted, I pulled into my home.

Once inside, I felt the need to open a bottle of wine to calm me and also to celebrate victory over a series of events that very well could have gone the other way. The first bottle I spied, on my table, was the Nino Negri Inferno. The classic label, just recently brought back to America after a several year hiatus from the market. I guffawed, spit out my laughter to the point that it shook the table and the wine bottle on it. That was it, it was destiny. After having survived an East Texas storm of Biblical proportions, I would celebrate with a bottle of Inferno.


*"Megghiu sudari chi trimari."


*"Better to sweat then to tremble."

written by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy
wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy + Tony LaBarba

1 comment:

jeg said...

Thanks for posting the photo, even glamorized, of the man.


JEG

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