Sunday, August 16, 2015

A World Beyond Wine Blogging ~ Musings on a Ferragosto Evening

(L-R) Louis, Alfonso, Mary & Julia Cevola - Palermo ca. 1919
I’m stealing time right now. There’s a 2,100 word, multi-segment piece on the desk that needs polishing, with a deadline in a few days. And another two stories in the works, with a third to come. And there’s the day job, which isn’t the Monday to Friday kind. Along with that, my family has an inordinate amount of elderly folks to check in with, ages 97-101. And we lost one this week.

My Aunt Mary, whom we all called “Auntie.” She was the last of the small nuclear family my dad was a part of. With her now gone, a period ends. Now it’s on folks like me, to remember, to recast and to rekindle. Aunt Mary and I would talk from time to time. I would address her in Italian, she loved that. And she would ask me where my travels had taken me. I’d often call her from Italy and see if she could guess where I was. She and her husband Lou loved to travel the world, taking their golf clubs with them and playing golf, eating, drinking wine and gazing at art. My uncle was in the wine business, so he had an appreciation for finer wine. And someone in his family was an art dealer. They knew about the finer things in life.

Piana degli Albanese - 1971
I’d occasionally press my Aunt Mary on details about Palermo and the small village our family came from that spoke the Albanian language and worshipped according to the Orthodox practice. She knew some of the language and she had all the stories. And she’d help guide me through the labyrinth that any family is, telling me who to talk to and who to avoid. She had a sharp wit and she lived a long and good life. I have another hole in my heart. I will miss her.

And this wine blog thing? On the wine trail in Italy is coming up on ten years. In that time, the way we communicate has flattened and widened horizontally. There are many more platforms now, such that a blog seems a little antiquated to me. Pictures, a story, some comments and the stats. And do it again.

Southern California - ca. 1924

There are those who have fallen off. Looking at an old blogroll, there are many bloggers who just don’t have it in them anymore. Some of them have gone on to writing for publications, online and print. Some have written books. Some have had babies and started businesses. And there are those who are just starting their wine blogs. To them I say: Bring us good stories and make them your stories. Just do that and the rest will follow.

Should a blog be a be-all and end-all? For some, it might be. For those who need to generate income to live, a blog cannot sustain one in these times. There’s too much free content. And ultimately what we are doing on our blogs is volunteering our passion to the world at large.

Dallas - 1918
For my part, it’s part writing lab, part memory dump. I often go back to some post, whether it’s about Mt. Etna or Valpolicella, to refer to it. For now, I don’t have to remember all those things. I’ve planted it in the archives, and as long as the internet doesn’t remove it, I can access it.

This wine blog is now my own personal Wiki. Maybe there’s the making of a book in those 1,199 posts (this is number 1,200). At this point I’m not too concerned with that. I still have a lot of work to do in the day job.

Old California - ca. 1929
Speaking of that, last night I witnessed one of those “seldom seen” events. I was in a restaurant with family celebrating a birthday. When we all said our good byes outside, they went one way and we headed to the other side of the building, where the car was parked. Under the patio cover, a group of maybe 14 young people were sitting at a long table, eating pizza. And drinking Italian wine. It moved me, because we wouldn’t have seen this 25 years ago. Bottles of Prosecco, and rosè wine from Sicily. Chianti Classico and Vermentino from Tuscany. No, this was a result of many years of a developing movement to permeate a more Mediterranean culture into the arid high plains of Texas. No disco, no bright, shiny clothes. No chrome and leather and the big hair Dallas is known for. That was one of those moments that made the work of the last 25 years worthwhile. Just a group of laid back young adults eating and drinking as if it was Ferragosto and they were on vacation at Forte dei Marmi.

Wedding of Mary Cevola and Louis Oliva - California - ca. 1938

In loving memory of Mary (Cevola) Oliva

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W


Valerie said...

What a lovely tribute to your Aunt Mary. Sorry for your loss, Ace. Have to say, I often use my blog as a museum of sorts, to remember the awesome start of my "2nd life" after retiring from my first career; hoping not to fall too far away ... or off altogether. Also, thought of you this week at the SWE Conf - was lamenting not getting to come to your "What Women Want in an Italian ... Wine" workshop, and was looking forward to finally meeting you. I hope everything else is going well and will raise a glass to you & your dear Aunt Mary. Salute', Ace!

Alfonso Cevola said...

Thank you Valerie. I wish I had been able to make it to New Orleans for the conference, but, alas, there were other things on the horizon that prevented me from making the trip. I hope you all had a good time and I'm sorry to have disappointed anyone with my absence. It couldn't be avoided. Thanks for your comment and your kind words.

From Your Mindseye said...

A lovely tribute to Auntie, Al. She is the last of Dad's immediate family and now it is up to us to keep the history. We are so fortunate to have these elderly family members to question about the past and where it all started. Auntie recently regaled me with stories of Piana and Palermo and all the characters she encountered in her times there. I have been doing research on Ancestry and was able to send her a five page document that I created tracing our family history back 6 generations. She was astounded at all the names she recognized and the myriad of names she did not. She had a wonderful life. I will miss her too. She always loved hearing from you and I know she was grateful for your calls from Italy. It made her feel special and part of the world again.

James Biddle said...

My greatest complements from 40+ years of university teaching were variations on: "your class makes my head hurt." Your writing doesn’t necessarily make my head hurt, but it always makes me think. Reflections on family, culture, and blogging (oh yes, wine too) often chase me back to the ancient Greek distinctions between/among knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. The vast majority of contemporary life focuses on knowledge—bits and pieces of factual data available from whereever. While older family members are treasure troves of knowledge, when their memories fad they still have an ample stock of understanding (putting knowledge together in meaningful relationships) and even wisdom (skillful application of knowledge/wisdom). In my new role as family “elder,” I miss the wisdom of my elders. Unfortunately, most of the wine blogs I’ve found are long on knowledge but short on understand and wisdom. That’s why your blog is an important part of my thinking—it strives for greater understanding without tripping over mere knowledge. I know the challenge of writing, but I also know the joy of reading. Thanks for supplying moments of joy.

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