Friday, October 03, 2008

Revisiting the Familiar

There are so many things that we all take for granted, from our jobs and our place in life, to our health and our age. When you’re 20, you’ve been young all your life and there is nothing to tell you that it won’t be like that all your days. When you’re 40, you begin to feel little pains, and start getting some of those big-life experiences that reshape what was once recognizable and predictable. Sixty comes close and, who knows what is coming? One thing for sure, change will come.

My last trip to Italy was a revelation in the way that I see the country. No longer do I think all Italians are honest, wonderful artistic, kind people. Sure there is still a huge percentage of the population that does meet those standards, maybe even more than in the U.S. Not that there should be a comparison. But now I see Italy in a state of perpetual change. Places that I thought years ago were immune to the big city pitfalls are now giving in to some of those temptations.

20 years ago on a trip to Genoa, outside my hotel was a spot where young kids would go to shoot up heroin. I was staying at a four star hotel and it wasn’t in a bad part of town. That was just what was on the menu in those days for young folks living in a port. I would see hundreds of used needles on the ground, and the hollowed out faces of kids, their expressions blown out from the intensity of the drug they had just injected.

Driving in the countryside on the way to one of the wineries, we joke about the highway being the United Nations for hookers, because you see women from many countries standing on the side of the road at all hours of the day, soliciting for sex. A few years ago there were more Ukrainians and Albanians. Now there are all manner of African women. Years and years ago it was home grown Italian women from the south.

So things we see in an everyday context take on different hues when we revisit them year after year. And it seems that Italy, too, is becoming a coarser society. My last driving experience in Rome, when we were heading back to the airport, was a lesson in just how base it has become. But that is another post.

What does this have to do with wine? Or at least a wine blog? I cannot answer that. And while I am at it, I have been thinking about wine blogging. I am not all that interested in wine blogging. Folks stare out into their screens with their tasting notes and their wishes and their hopes and they pour them out and we are all supposed to drop everything we are doing to read someone’s blog? I have had too many people tell me lately that they can’t and they don’t care to keep up with wine blogs. I understand. For sure, I am not interested in mommy blogs about wine; don’t care what they ate during their trip to Cancun. And those existential quandaries that I have been sent lately by friends of bloggers, people who think I’d like to know about their crisis in Chieti. And so it probably goes with many of my ramblings as well.

I have been thinking for some time about cutting back or at least giving folks a breather, time to catch up with all these posts. But that would assume there are all kinds of folks laboring through these thrice weekly posts as though it were the NY Times or the BBC. They better not be.

I don’t think I want to slow down, the discipline of writing this much is getting close to what is needed to complete a book in a year. And though this is more free form, it still is an established discipline. So, I’ll probably keep up the pace. And folks can come and go as they have been doing.

Italy has been that way with travelers, letting them establish their own pace when exploring all that the country has. There is always that next village on the hill, the remote vineyard in a faraway region, a dish made at a little unmarked osteria near a seaside that draws one back.

For as often as one walks a street or visits a town, there is always something there right in front of you that has been staring right at you, and for some reason you might not have ever been able to see it. And that is the allure of Italy, why so many folks think it is such a romantic place. Because Italy also has an interest in the visitor, and one that, to those who can open their eyes and their hearts to it, will return your gaze or your caress with one that is bigger than life. All you have to do is look straight into the heart of Italy.

photos of graffiti taken @ San Benedetto del Tronto, September 2008


esping said...

Hi, A very interesting post that touches topics very relevant to me. I think this post has a lot to do with wine. Somehow I think that wine will reflect the society that produces it. A bit far fetched maybe but I it's something worth thinking about

Marco said...

I am a little burnt out on wine blogs myself. What interests me is your use of wine, food, Italia, Texas as vehicles to write about the daily round of life as you experience it. That's what keeps me coming back. U got da' sprezzatura.

Tony McClung said...

Please keep writing AC... I promise I'll catch up one day.

Gary said...

Blog as you wish, sir. I will read likewise. We are free.

I truly enjoy your blog :-)

I buy basic Sicilian wine - have been for years.

I read the blog more for the cultural portraits you write, than for the facts about wine.

I lived in Sicily for a few years courtesy of Uncle Sam and love to read the writing of someone like you who knows the country.

Gastropoda said...

Very artfully put. I think we stayed in the same hotel in Genoa, on my first trip; good thing we headed straight out and saw much more of the country (five stops in five days). And we were sorta surprised by the UN on the side of the highway last summer, too. Interestingly, it's the same over in Languedoc.

Great point, too, about the discipline of blogging.

Marco said...

Eyes and heart!

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