Sunday, September 23, 2012

One Night in Tennessee: Bardolino, Baptists & Band-Aids

The drive from Dallas to San Antonio is one I’ve taken dozens of times. About 4½ hours long with the saving grace that Austin is along the way. The other day as I was driving that highway, this time to Austin, I was a little sleepy. I’d had lunch and started in the afternoon, and for some reason I could barely keep my eyes open. It reminded me of another time years ago when I was driving with a friend and colleague, Eugenio Spinozzi. We left Dallas at 1PM in order to get to San Antonio for a meeting of salespeople and for a dinner at an Italian place. It was a holiday meeting, so we had a lot of the wines we were repping lined up on the table. Sometime after 11PM we finished and set on to drive back to Dallas. Eugenio had an early flight out of Dallas the next morning, so staying over wasn’t an option.

Anyone who has ever driven that stretch knows just one way is a bit of a haul. But to come and go in the same day is madness. There we were though, with full bellies, late at night and a little less than 300 miles to get home. At first it was no problem. We were energized from the meeting and recapping all we had talked about and what we were planning to do in the upcoming holiday selling season. Then around Salado, we started getting tired. There was an AM radio station that played old rhythm and blues and Motown hits from the 60’s. Eugenio lived in Chicago in that time and became a fan of the music, as foreign to him as Gianni Morandi or Rita Pavone was to most Americans then.

Eugenio thought we should get some coffee. “Let’s stop for an espresso.” It was near 3AM. I sarcastically suggested we opt for Cappuccino. Seeing as were out in the middle of nowhere, it was a long shot. As we rounded a curve, a gas station announced, “We now serve Cappuccino.” So we stopped.

The cappuccino wasn’t the kind one finds at the Autogrill in Italy but it was caffeinated. It did the trick. We were out of range for the music station so Eugenio started telling me a story about one night he had in Tennessee.

“I had gone down to one of the cities, I think it was Nashville, because I had an Italian shirt importing company and wanted to go see some of my customers. This was around 1968. In one of the shops I had met this cute young lady, Leanne, who worked behind the counter. I asked her out for dinner at one of the restaurants in town where I had made acquaintance with the Italian owner. She was probably 21 or maybe 22, long dark hair, pretty eyes, a real Southern lass. She was as exotic to me as I was to her.”

“After my work day was done, I went back to my hotel and refreshed myself before picking Leanne up. When I picked her up at her parents’ home, I found her father there waiting to meet me. He was a tall man, a Baptist minister, and he sized me up real good. ‘Make sure y’all get home before midnight. The girl has a job waiting for her in the morning and the streets after 12PM aren’t anyplace for a lady to be.’ I yessir’ed him and held out my arm for the young lady. I remember she was wearing a dress with spaghetti straps, so popular in those days. It was light and gathered at the waist, of which I could see she had a little one. I opened the door for her and we headed to my friends restaurant.”

“Being Italian I naturally ordered a bottle of Italian wine. There weren’t that many choices in those days, but I found a nice bottle of Bardolino, the kind that used to come in a wicker basket. It was fresh enough and my date thought the bottle was cute. ‘You can take the bottle home as a souvenir if you like, put a candle in it. Something to remember this evening by,” I told her. ‘Oh no, I couldn’t, my daddy wouldn’t approve of me drinking alcohol.’ I guess it was the ‘60’s but this little gal was out on the town and wasn’t going to miss anything life had to offer her.”

“The evening went well, really well, and we finished dinner about 8PM. People ate real early in those towns normally and the restaurants would close up. So we had a few hours. The wine, I must admit we had two bottles; after all it was just Bardolino. Like I was saying the wine had an effect and before I knew it she was suggesting we go back to my hotel room and listen to some music.”

“It wasn’t that I was trying to take advantage of the young lady. It seemed as much her idea as mine. Before you knew it we were kissing and her spaghetti straps were falling down. She stood up to take off her dress; it was dark in my little room. But the little light that I could see by, I noticed something on her breasts. Leanne was young and healthy; as I closed in I saw that her nipples were covered with Band-Aids. I had to keep from laughing. I didn’t want to embarrass her. She was in a passionate mood though and didn’t notice she had the Band-Aids on. I kissed her a little more and then moved my hands down to the area where the Band-Aids were encamped. It was then that she remembered and let out a little shriek. ‘Oh my,’ she cried, ‘I forgot I had those little things on.’ I asked her why they were on, seeing as she started the talk of them. ‘I well, you see, I was wearing this sheer little thing and I didn’t want to wear a brassiere. But I didn’t want you to get the wrong idea in case I became enlivened in that area.’ She was attracted to me but she didn’t want anyone to think she was a woman of loose morals. We both had a good laugh and the rest of the evening went as we both wanted it to before I got her home to her papa’s house before midnight.”

As we were sighting the city lights of Dallas in the near distance, Eugenio wrapped up the story in as few as words as I have ever heard him wrap anything up. “It just goes to show you, Alfonso, never underestimate the power of Italian wine. Even a shy little wine like Bardolino can coax a Baptist preacher's daughter into losing her Band-Aids.”

written by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy

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  1. oweembeWhat a loss, such a fine man, I could just hear him in your writing.


  2. this is a great piece of storytelling and I love the accompanying photos. Thank God for Bardolino! I met Eugenio with you at PoGos. That guy made me want to dive into the deep end of Italian wines and now I think I may understand why.(if you receive this comment multiple times it is because I have enormous difficulty reading the little security words I have to type so my apologies)

  3. Thank you for sharing this fun great story about my uncle. Made me laugh just trying to picture him there


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