May 2014

May 27   I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. Demille
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAAldo called last night and asked me to come out to Soave. I am not sure why. He said something to Michael about me talking about Soave to someone…. “Oh, and bring your hat,” said Aldo.

We arrive to discover that a film (feature-length, they say) is being shot in the beautiful vineyard of Borgo Rocca Sveva. I (and Giovanni and Alessandra) have been cast (by Aldo) in the role of expert sommeliers. I am seated next to one of the main characters of the film.

I soon learn that there is no script…everybody just wings it. During each take the actor turns to me and starts talking….saying different things each time and I reply. He is lucky to be seated next to someone who can Wing It! The director and crew are from Argentina, the actor is Italian, the motor of the production is, I believe, a world-class sommelier from Miami named Charlie.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA30 wine tasting extras, the 4 sommelier judges (dats me and the gang) and the actors sit at our places and wait. The sky darkens as we shoot a scene. Rain falls softly on my hat. In no time big fat drops of rain pelt down. The director mutters stop. We pick up our chairs and run for cover. The sun comes out. We troop out and sit down and watch time pass. We feel the wind as it pushes the fluffy clouds away. The sky grows dim. We start filming again.

 

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA“You are a natural actress,” says Aldo. “This is the role you were born to play.”

My hat is a big success.

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8 . Mr. C. and meMay 27    I love Andrea Camilleri
My interview with Andrea Camilleri is up on the Publishers Weekly site. Hooray!!! Below should be the link. If not, just type Under the Sicilian Sun: Andrea Camilleri into Google and the interview will pop up. I am indescribably happy.
www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/authors/profiles/article/62426-under-the-sicilian-sun-andrea-camilleri.html

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Mr. Venturini
Mr. Venturini

May 26   Cheivo Fans at Venturini (www.viniventurini.com)
I have always liked Venturini’s Amarone – juicy, elegant, firm backbone, satisfying.
I took the opportunity of a Chievo fan club outing to tag along and visit the new winery. 40 fans were fed some swell grub and served some very satisfying wines. His Valplicella was lush and appealling.  It was a pleasure to try these wines again.

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May 21 Stanley at the vets
We take Stanley and a vial of his pee to the vets. We wait for 2 hours. In the waiting room are two big, growly, teeth-baring dogs, whose ancient owners occasionally whine the command “Sit” at them.

I feel that as the dogs ignore the “Sit” command. They are highly unlikely to obey the “Release your grip on the neck of the little brown dog” command.

I suggest that Stanley sit under my chair and I prepare to fling myself into harm’s way should one of the Big Dogs get loose from its ineffectual owner.

 

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAMay22 & 23   Soave Frolics
We go to the Vicentini winery where we meet up with a pack of very nice German journalists and wine buyers. As readers of this diary already know, I like Vicentini Soaves very much. Fruity, floral, elegant.

We arrive at the Villa Aldegheri for dinner. This very beautiful house and garden is a B&B for the fortunate few who know that it exists. “We don’t advertise, “ says Luisa, the owner. “We depend upon word of mouth referrals.”
Even people who lived in the zone were impressed by the view.

The following morning, accompanied by Stanley, we met at the Coffele winery for a tasting of Soaves from various subzones.

One of my favorite wines of the day is from Pra. The wine is called Otto and is everything a Soave should be.
We visit Filippo Filippi. He is just up the hill from Coffele. His place is idyllic. Bees hum, brilliantly colored flowers at every turn. His vineyards are surrounded by thick woods. His wines sell very well abroad. They are not typical Soave but they are interesting wines.

“Stanley is a real Venetian dog,” they all say.
“Stanley is a real Venetian dog,” they all say.

May  15, 16, 17, 18 Venice with Stanley
We go to Venice to stay with Michelle Lovric, (www.michellelovric.com ) who writes books (for adults and also ones for children) that feature Venice. She has invited Stanley to join us. She also suggests that I write Stanley’s Diary of the trip. You can find this in the Writers & Writing section of this website.

I had never written as Stanley before, although I did write for our dog Ed for many years.

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Edmund Cane, Journalist and Poet
Edmund Cane, Journalist and Poet

Ed got his first byline in Decanter, a well-known British wine magazine. I had already contracted to write about the first wine fair ever held in Brazil for another magazine when I got the call from Decanter. My byline could not appear over both stories, so the editor and I agreed to assign the second one to Edmund Cane (a.k.a. Ed Dog), my alter ego. From there Ed’s career blossomed until he had contributed to every major British wine publication. Each time his byline appeared I would whisk his copy of the magazine down to Annalisa at the Carro Armato and she would give him a meatball for being such a clever dog.

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I never thought of Stanley as a literary dog. He surprised me when I sat down to write his diary.
Here is an excerpt for those who are not in the mood to press a button and read the whole diary:

“On Saturday we go to the fish market and buy plates of fried fish and glasses of wine. We take our vittles to the quayside and sit on the stone pavement to eat our lunch. Seagulls swoop overhead. One drops something into Michelle’s plate. Every molecule in Michelle’s body seems to draw tight and shimmer for a moment. She offers the remainder of her fried squid to me. I love al fresco dining.”

 

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAKONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAMay 6 Kafka Springs to Mind
I find myself in a very large castle in a very small town (a few hours from by train from Verona). I am here to be part of a jury that will be tasting a particular indigenous variety with an eye to giving out prizes to the “best” ones. There are around 9 other jurors, plus two event organizers who will taste the 40-some wines blind. In this case blind tasting means that the wines are presented without the tasters knowing the name of the producer. .

 

I learned a new word. Personalità. This evidently means “bad winemaking”.
How do I know this? After the first flight of 6 wines, one of the organizers who was tasting with us said. “Wow, that number 6 has loads of personality.”

 

Then he asked the question I was dreading: “What do you think of the wine, Patricia?”

 

I said: “It is cloudy. It is a faulty wine, with off-odors that I believe are linked to a fermentation problem.”

 

He said: “But it’s made in an amphora! It’s traditional.”

 

I think: “Yeah, even the Romans realized that wines made in amphorae were not great – that’s why they added spices and sometimes heated the stuff up…”

 

At dinner one of the organizers tells a racists joke.
I have been asked to let them know when I write about the event. I don’t believe that I will be writing about the event.

 

STANLEY J. DOG VISITS VENICE

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We go to Venice on the train to visit Michelle Lovric (www.michellelovric.com), who writes books about Venice.

2- Michelle takes us to the Campo dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo to visit the Scuola Grande di San Marco. In a large room, with an ornate Renaissance ceiling, humans can look at primitive surgical equipment, including saws for amputations and slim picks for poking in eyes. The word “butcher” surfaces and I am interested in the place for twenty seconds. The humans go inside, I am content to sit in the sun in the piazza and meet dog friends and listen to their Venetian owners natter away with She Who Must Be Obeyed.

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Michelle asks if I would like to examine a dying bat crumpled against the wall of a narrow alley. I decline. I wait patiently while she takes a photo of it. Have you ever noticed how humans are attracted to every disgusting thing they find on the pavement?

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Saturday we go to the fish market and buy plates of fried fish and glasses of wine. We take our vittles to the quayside and sit on the stone pavement to eat our lunch. Seagulls swoop overhead. One drops something into Michelle’s plate. Every molecule in Michelle’s body seems to draw tight and shimmer for a moment. She offers the remainder of her fried squid to me. I love al fresco dining.

We go to Bacaro da Fiore, a crowded little osteria. I am fed meatballs and cooed over by the waiters. I lie down and they and their patrons are careful to step over me. People start telling She Who Must be Obeyed the names of their dogs: Franco, Dick, Zeus, Camilla. I fall asleep.

 

“Let’s get a picture of Stanley in front of Ca Dario, the most haunted house in Venice,” says Michelle. They hoist me up on the parapet of a tiny bridge and dance around trying to frame their shots. German tourists approach and I detect the enticing aroma of granola bars. She Who Must Be Obeyed loosens her grip on my hindquarters and I leap forward off the parapet and into the path of the tourists. “Dogs are very sensitive,” says Michelle. “He no doubt felt the ghostly vibrations.”

 

6aThey are cooing and coaxing and offering doggie treats to get me to pose with Michelle’s new book, The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters. I don’t like having my picture taken. I don’t like the sound the camera makes and I don’t like that bright light that sometimes stings my eyes. When I hear the camera’s opening tune my usually elegantly floppy ears press back against my head and my round eyes take on a haunted look. It is a very good book and I am sure I would enjoy it if I read books….but….this picture taking business…. She Who Must Be Obeyed pulls me into her lap and whispers sweet things into the back of my neck and massages my spine. I will not be so easily seduced into compliance.

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I come upstairs after my nap. The humans are talking about Aldus Manutius (Aldo Manuzio), the re-inventor of the semi-colon. He married well and unfortunately passed away shortly before perfecting the hemi-demi-semi colon. I go to each person in the balcony room and let them know that treats would not go amiss but they keep on talking about punctuation. I curl up under the table and go to sleep. I dream of meatballs.

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We go into an antiques shop on the Zattere. The owner, a man with long hair who is losing the battle with middle-age, gives me a dirty look. Michelle points at a small canon. “It would be perfect for the balcony,” she says. Is she joking? I can never tell with humans. I spend a millisecond worrying about the brides in their gondolas who glide by Michelle’s balcony on the Grand Canal, and the young men in dinner jackets who whiz past in motor boats. Dogs and cats are in no danger because she unabashedly likes them. Here are some pictures of fine floating dogs she took from The Balcony.

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“Stanley is a real Venetian dog,” they all say.
“Stanley is a real Venetian dog,” they all say.
Stanley J. Seadog
Stanley J. Seadog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We go home to Verona on the train
We go home to Verona on the train

Interview with Andrea Camillieri

 

3Camilleri, for those who may not know, is Italy’s best loved author and the creator of the wry and observant Sicilian commissario, Salvo Montalbano. He reached international fame at the ripe age of 70 and is therefore a true inspiration for all aspiring writers.  I interviewed him for Publishers Weekly at his apartment in Rome.

Here are two rather nice quotes from Camilleri that I won’t put in my article:

“When I don’t have any ideas I might write a letter, for example, to a man I’ve just encountered at a kiosk. It’s a letter I know I’ll never send, but it serves as an exercise. Without that, you get stuck. What’s behind writing? It’s not that the artist writes when he gets inspiration — it’s the work of each day.”

“Two great masters for me are Hammett and Chandler. Perhaps Hammett above all because of his behavior during the Communist Witch Hunt in the 1950s. He ended up going to jail for his views. Now, this was a man who drank nearly a bottle of whisky a day. So going to jail for him was like having a double sentence. It took a great deal of courage.”

5Camilleri very kindly signed books for Stefania (who made her family take their last vacation to Sicily so that she could visit all the sites where the Montalbano TV series is filmed) and for Susanna (whose favorite book is Il birraio di Preston.)

Susanna was very pleased when I told her that that book was very significant in the development of Montalbano. In fact without it there might have never been a Montalbano. You see, Camilleri was stuck when writing Il birraio di Preston so he decided to set himself a “creative exercise”: writing a mystery novel. He wanted to see if he could write a linear plot – going from chapter one through to the end and linking each chapter logically. So there you have it, Montalbano started out as a remedy for writer’s block.

Before going to Rome for the interview my husband went to a small hand-made chocolate shop to buy a box of candy to take to Camilleri. (I had done my homework and discovered that he had not drunk wine since 1947 – yes, 1947.) The shop assistant asked my husband if the chocolates were for a woman and he told her they were for Andrea Camilleri.

Shop Assistant (in awe): He’s one of those people that you think don’t really exist.
Michael: You mean like a mythological creature?
Shop Assistant: Yes, exactly!