December 2018

24 December  Il Cappero (Via Generale Gaetano Giardino, 2 – there is no website)

We meet up with Susan H. and go to Il Cappero. As we puruse the winelist, the owner says: “If you like a rosè, I have one from Donnafugata – it’s Sicilian”. We told him that we loved Donnafugata. Here is my note. Lumera 2017. Color: diluted cherry juice with slight copper overtones. Nose: freshness, a steely crispness.  Palate: clean, leaving a whispery cloud of mingling flavours (blackberry, mulberry, brambles).  The wine is made from Nero d’Avola, Syrah and Pinot Noir.

23 December  Cheers, Rita

I opened my wine closet looking for something suitable with which to toast my friend Rita. She did not work in the wine trade and had no pretensions, but she could recognize quality. And so, I poured us a glass of Donnafugata’s Sul Vulcano Etna Rosso Doc 2016. Mulberry-color. It has the brightness and freshness on the nose and palate that is a hallmark of Donnafugata. A pleasing whirl of fruit (mulberries, blackberries), with a long flavourful finish. Very versatile. I drank a glass on subsequent days with lunch: spaghetti with tuna, vegetable & tofu soup, shrimp/celery/tomato sauce on spaghetti. I also had a glass while watching an episode of Midsommer Murders (L’ispettore Barnaby).

I met Rita when I was twelve and she eleven. She lived a few blocks away from me in a huge white clapboard house on a corner lot. The previous owners had converted it to make an upstairs flat with a separate entrance. This became Rita’s domain. There has always been something of the gypsy in Rita and her bedroom and parlor reflected the best theatrical clairvoyant style. Gauzy scarves covered the tabletops and lampshades and, if memory serves, there was even a crystal ball.

The boys in our set all proclaimed undying love for Barbara Streisand and Judy Garland. These women are strong icons, particularly for Kansas boys and girls. We knew all the songs from Funny Girl and sang them with very little provocation. It is not that Black Magic Woman and Hey, Jude had no place in my life back then, but these popular tunes had to make room for the likes of Don’t Rain on my Parade and The Man Who Got Away.

Our pastimes included playing Wizard of Oz at the local band shell. We trooped up on the empty stage and acted out the story to empty chairs. I always wanted to be The Straw-man, because I liked his loose-limbed dance style, and occasionally doubled as Glenda. (“Are you a good witch or a bad witch?” asks Dorothy. “Why I’m not a witch at all, I’m Glenda!”). Peter got the part of the Wicked Witch of the West because he had the most evil laugh. Roddy was Dorothy because he was the shortest and because he insisted on it. He also made an effective Kim (the Ann-Margret role) in Bye Bye Birdie. Rita reserved the Tin Man as her own, “If I only had a heart” being her big number. We did not confine our spontaneous singing and dancing to the band shell. Gene Kelly’s Singin’ in the Rain exerted a strong influence on us and we were often to be seen swinging on posts and leaping on and off curbs.


The big day came when Rita and her husband Jim arrived in Verona for a ten-day visit. Jim had never been on a plane before and was naturally a little nervous about the whole enterprise, particularly the take-offs and landings. Rita, who had done some European trekking with her sister, assured him he had nothing to worry about. As the plane was coming in for its first landing the wheels stuck and the plane was forced to bump and jerk and slide along on its belly along the runway. Rita sat white-knuckled, afraid to speak. When the plane came to a stop, Jim, who had nothing to compare it with, turned to her and said, “You were right. That wasn’t so bad.” I think there is a lesson in life there if you wish to dig for it.

Goodbye, Rita. You will always be witty, insightful, creative and kind, and I was fortunate to know you.

December 17  West Side Story

Michael took me to see a restored version of the film West Side Story. I sing modified versions of many of the songs from this musical to our dog several times a week.  Who can forget “Who’s that pretty dog in the mirror there? Who can that attractive dog be?” or “Stanley. I just met a doggie named Stanley and suddenly that name will never be the same to me”.  The rhythm of “America” provides opportunities for extemporaneous lyrics.