August 2018

First things first: Books I finally found someone who would take around 500 of my books.  No one – and I have tried for 2 years to find someone – wanted books of any kind – even for free.  Hooray. Picking what to let go and what I needed to keep was easier than I thought it would be.

I kept the Nabokov and Peter De Vries and let the Louis de Bernières and Isabelle Allende go.

I kept all the books that were signed by  the authors. I used to manage the Mysterious Bookshop in New York City and some of these books are still important to me – those by Stanley Ellin – he was an intelligent and kind man. I went with him and his wife to a Quaker meeting in Brooklyn once. The experience left a lasting impression.  The Bill DeAndrea books – we had front row seats for the Broadway production of Sleuth – another exceptionally kind person. I kept all the Tony Hillerman books (both autographed and just plain paperbacks, as well as his autobiography and history books). He was another kind man; he drove me around Albuquerque and up to Santa Fe when I was thinking about leaving New York and moving to New Mexico. My life would have been different had I made that move. Not better. Not worse. Just very different. I also kept his books because in November 2016 I was numb with shock. It was so good to slide into the Hillerman universe and sit on a mesa with capable Joe Leaphorn surveying the austere beauty of the landscape. I could be sure that Leaphron would figure out all that was wrong and make everything right by the end of the novel.

Most of the biographies went – all of the poetry stayed.

I also ran across the last card I received from Vinnie Brosnan. The inscription inside: The last great adventure.

When I would turn up at the annual Sherlock Holmes BSI Dinners in New York, Vinnie was always waiting to welcome me when the big elevator doors opened. The dinners I attended after he was gone were…sadder.  Vinnie and I put together a Sherlock Holmes Calendar using images from his vast collection of film stills. He and his wife and son even came to Verona for a visit, a thoroughly nice family. I was very fortunate to know him.

30 August Off to Baldo-land

Antonella Bampa, top-class sommelier and local Slow Food representative, very kindly invited us to a truffle-themed dinner to mark the establishment of L’Associazione Marchio Baldo, a group of wine and food producers located in the area that lies between Monte Baldo (a mountain range in the Italian Alps) and Lake Garda (Italy’s largest lake). The event was held at Villa Cariola. Originally constructed in the 15th century, it is now a luxury hotel and popular venue for weddings. The dinner gave us a chance to taste the wares of members of the association. Among my favorite products: a fruity, mild and well-balance beer from Birra Monte Baldo, succulent and flavorful sliced meats from Salumeri Lenotti (ww.salumidelmontebaldo.it) and the delicately smoky truffles.

I was so impressed by the quality level, I asked Antonella if the producers were looking for importers.  “No,” she said. “Most of the producers are too small for that. The main goal of the association is to encourage tourism to the area.”  What can visitors do here besides eat well? They can hike, bike, horseback ride, go canoeing and the truly adventurous can para-glide from Monte Baldo all the way down to the lake. And let’s not forget daily cooking classes at Villa Cariola (www.villacariiola.it).