Sunday, January 18, 2009

" If we want things to stay the same, things will have to change. "

My grandfather Alfonso and Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa were the same age and from the same town. Both families frequented certain circles of Sicilian society. But when my grandfather was fifteen, he traveled to Texas and never moved back to Sicily.

I’ve often wondered why he never looked back. The family business was doing very well. I wonder if his father advised him to go to America in search of wider horizons. Perhaps my great-grandfather saw that Italy wouldn’t fit in my grandfather’s future.

When my father and his sister were born in Dallas, it wasn’t too much later that the family moved to Los Angeles. My sisters and I were born in Southern California and they still live there, as does most of my father’s family. Most of my family in California have very good business and are in good shape for the future.

Somehow, thirty years ago, I decided to move back to Texas, one step closer to the Italian reality that my grandfather left 100 years ago. And while I doubt I’ll complete my grandfather’s circle and return to Italy permanently, I somehow am attached to Italy more than my grandfather. All of this through a period of change, revolutionary change. It seems the last 100 years has been one giant change machine. And it looks like more is on the way.

I look at the life we hold up and want to continue, but know it was never sustainable. The large fast cars and even larger houses, the piles of money needed to warm a 9,000 square foot home that houses two, maybe three people, those days are coming to a close. Maybe not in two or three years, but in the next 50, most likely that will all be a memory of a time when folks took more than they needed.

If you’ve gotten this far, if you’re not a scanner of the first paragraph, then you’ll probably want me to get to the point.

Just like the book, “The Leopard", by Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa, which chronicled the last days of an era that had outlived its purpose, so now we are living in a time when in order for us to keep an equilibrium in our lives we must be agents for change, embracing it and moving with it. I am ready for this. Looking forward to it. This is our destiny and it is an electrifying time.

Further, with Italy and Italian wines, I feel purpose-bound to be a transmitter of that energy that will unbound us, to express the thoughts and necessities that those of us involved in Italian wine and culture must be cognizant of. I’m aware of the game. A line from The Leopard, “Forgive me for saying say, Colonel, but don’t you think all that hand-kissing, cap-doffing, and complimenting went a little too far?”, conveys a bit of the root problem, in places like Montalcino, Verona and Nuova York.

And because of the comfort zone that some folks in the Italian wine business have arrogated, I feel Italy is unwilling to go forward in these times. Some of it from hubris and some from lack of hope. But the numbers don’t lie. If Italy does not get beyond personal self-gain and self-inflicted drama, the market will leave them behind. There is too much energy coming from places like Argentina and Australia and California, wines and people who will tap into their spirit of place and send creations that will commend our new era.

Italy can do this, with the help of the many who can constantly recalibrate the momentum forward into the future, not stagnating along some tributary held hostage by narcissism.

“The Leopard” or “Il Gattopardo” is, for me, one of the greatest books ever written. Maybe because it taps into a level inside me that is molecular. DiLampedusa’s Sicily, from outward appearances, is gone. Without regards to the broken shards that are strewn all about, the steady flow of the molten dreg pushes us ever so steadily towards transformation.


Anonymous said...

Alfonso, I, too, love di Lampedusa's Il leopardo AND I hope that Tuesday will be cathartic for our ailing country and eye-opening at the same time. Keep up the poignant and entertaining blog entries. Ciao amico mio, Riley

Marco Zafferana said...

Bravo, amico. Your last sentence sends me to Linguaglossa and the slopes of Etna, listening to the clinker tell its story.

Anonymous said...

I have heard that an Italian surname of a town or place it typically an indication that there were Jewish ancestors in the family line.

Could it be that your grandfather was of partial Jewish descent and due to issues in Europe, he may have felt America would be a better place to live than Europe after all the Jewish people have gone through in past decades and centuries.

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