Friday, March 15, 2013

Four Days in Ohio – The Man Who Loves Women More Than Wine

Michele Scamacca could have easily been invented by Italo Svevo or Alberto Moravia. Of Sicilian extract, born in Apulia and raised in Friuli, he’s as comfortable with Pasolini as he is with Tornatore. And his story pans across all those worlds.

He was one of the Italians I traveled with this week in Ohio. He is the agent, the broker, the finder of wines. And his specialty is wine of the Veneto, just to shred the lettuce even finer. Michele reflects a complex portrait; a subtle neuroticism that reflects Woody Allen and a head that stands in for Il Duce, a sexual appetite that rivals Mastroianni and a dollop of Uncle Fester. Michele struggles with an existential problem: He loves wine but he loves women even more.

His wife must be a saint. She appears to crafted her own satisfying life in design, and is going about her business. Not that Michele is really a dog with teeth. Even his bark is more of a purr. But he is like the dog chasing the ball. He never lets it go and he never stops.

I admit I like the guy. He doesn’t lie about who (or what) he is. He isn’t in control of all of his emotions, who is? But he recognizes his desires and he laughs at them as easily as we make fun of them. In other words, Michele doesn’t take himself too seriously.
What I noticed about him was that he would be magnetically drawn to whatever woman was near him, be it the actress turned vintner or the sister of the local sales rep. Michele simply loves to love women.

What about his wines? He seems more interested in the (former) adult actress’s Sangiovese, among other things. I think he sees wine as his job and women as his passion. Maybe he doesn’t have it all that wrong. Wines come and go, but love, well isn’t love forever? In Michele’s world, forever might be a sequence of nights strung together like lights that line the yacht in the harbor. But my sense is that he just hasn’t found the depth in wine that he seeks in women, or love.
Many of us see ourselves as our job. And when it is done and over, we sit in our chair, watching the Hollywood Squares, wondering what happened to our life. Michele, meanwhile, sells enough wine to make a decent living, but that doesn't seem to fulfill him. So he turns to his passion, women.
Women might read this and conclude Michele is a dinosaur, a relic from the time when men roamed the world in charge of everything and everyone. I don’t see Michele as being that powerful. In a sense he is more of an Arlecchino, a reflection of the tragi-comedy of life. We are all players, some of us just never look in the mirror to adjust our cap or straighten our nose, but all of us, to an extent, play this little pretend game of the “serious life.” Michele is down the road apiece from those of us who still hold out hope that there indeed is justice or balance or even sense to this life we all live.
“Which Amarone do you like?” he roars to me across the table. What can I tell him? He’s trying to get me to go his way, just like his propositions to the women he encounters. Maybe it’s the Sicilian in him, or maybe the Friulan or maybe Michele is the quintessential Italian, with all the moving parts and a full grip on a life he can’t quite figure out. None the less he is on board for the ride of his life.

We should all have such engaging passions.

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