Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Sometimes we cry

Things are finally getting back to normal around here. For a while I wondered if they would.

It was chaos from the latter part of May through the middle portion of June. Two, sometimes three times a day I would find myself sobbing like a two-year-old. The reasons might not have been always apparent—but on reflection they always were good.

I blame a handful of people for disrupting my life in this manner, five to be precise, and I am willing to name names. There is Giovani Twigge, Scott Tyree, Joe Brancatelli, Joel Ann Rea, and lastly but by no means leastly a woman whose official station around here is My Associate but whose legal tender documents point to one Joan M. Lang.

I hope they're all very happy with themselves.

What happened, you see, is I had a birthday, a notable one, if you must know, though by no means a welcome one, at least not by me. In order to celebrate the occasion these five individuals conspired—for nearly a year, mind you, and behind my back—to substantially inconvenience their own very busy lives for the purpose of (gasp!) demonstrating their affection for me.

They did this by organizing a secret 15-day food- and wine-intense journey to Italy. All I was told was to pack a bag and to carry a passport.

I was informed of this by Ms. Lang alone. The trip was a gift from her to me and, like the majority of our vacations, we would be traveling alone. I simply didn't know where to.

And so you can imagine my surprise when, not 24 hours after landing in Milan, and in the middle of a romantic outdoor lunch of burrata and coppa and risotto and vitello tonnato and a fine bottle of Roero Arneis, two of the aforementioned conspirators—Messrs. Twigge and Tyree in this case—sat themselves down at our table unannounced and demanded to be fed. (It's worth mention that they arrived bearing gifts from two other dear friends, Jimmy and Mary, some swell bubbly to be precise.)

Overwhelmed does not in the slightest give this magical moment its due. It required more than two long minutes for me to get a word out.

The tears came a lot faster than that, of course.

And they hung around for the several days that our foursome was together. Not only was I treated to a night at the world's most famous opera house, La Scala in Milan, a bucket list item I felt sure would never be crossed off...

But the next morning we loaded a couple cars and headed to one of the world's most prized wine regions, the Piedmont, where we ate and drank and explored in ways that stay with you for a lifetime. I mean, what could be better than drinking a fine Barolo at lunch—in Barolo!

About a week later Ms. Lang and I were alone again, this time enjoying an afternoon snack at an outdoor cafe in Genoa. We were missing our dear friends Scott and Giovani, who had gone off to Venice. I was just in the  middle of explaining how I could never repay them for their generosity and love (did I mention the surprise birthday lunch at a 3-star Michelin in Alba?) when...

"Is this seat taken?" asked my friend Joe as his wife Joel navigated around another side of our table.

Now, you should know something about these very dear friends of ours. Joel's father Ev is in his 90s and has been living with Joe and Joel for a few years now. He's a good guy, Ev, but his health isn't so good and it's important that he have around-the-clock care. Because of this Joe and Joel don't get to travel together these days.

To make this trip to Italy happen they needed to hire not one but two home healthcare workers. As if that weren't enough they also asked their goddaughter Julia to move into their house so that Ev would have a familiar family member around to keep him company.

The few days we spent discovering Genoa together is among the most memorable experiences I've had. But it pales in comparison to what I know these two wonderful people had to go through just in order to show up.

Talk about owing people.

While we're on the subject...

May I present to you the capo di tutt'i capi of astoundingly well executed, extraordinarily generous, completely unforgettable birthday travel.

This woman I can never repay, not for as long as I stand upright, and for reasons too great in number to explore.

Dammit. Here comes that two-year-old again.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The way you wear your hat

My father was not big on wearing hats, at least not after I came along. This may have had something to do with president Kennedy. In 1961, just four years after my birth, JFK broke tradition by not wearing a hat to his inauguration, the first U.S. president to do so. This bold choice freed American males like my father to henceforth go topless anywhere and anytime they wished, and so many of them did.

Dad was the kind of man who might have benefitted from hat wearing. He had the looks for it, certainly. But he also had no hair. This photograph of him with his dark (and yet thinning) hair is rare. Soon after most of the man's top went completely uncovered.

I only became a hat wearer a few years ago. This was not born of necessity. Unlike dad I still have a full head of hair, actually a very full head of hair, like my mother. I'm lucky that way.

Yet, on days like today, I find myself wishing that I wasn't so lucky. It'd be swell, I often imagine, to look in the mirror and see a bit more of my father looking back.

This still could happen one day, I suppose. But at this age, which is more advanced than his when he died, I'm not optimistic that it ever will.

Too bad. A father's reflection belongs in a son's life.

Happy Father's Day everybody.