Sunday, June 15, 2014

Back to Agropoli

     It’s exactly twenty-four hours till we head for the airport for yet another summer in paradise.  At least, as close to paradise as I’ll ever come on this side of the Great Divide—or the other, in all likelihood.  The last few days have been filled with the usual chaos of finalizing grades, putting the classroom in some semblance of order, getting the finances in order, preparing the house for some summer guests from American Dance Festival, Amy’s old alma mater, and packing for six weeks in a foreign land.

But increasingly more a homecoming than a venture into the unknown.  Oh, there’s still enough of the nervous excitement to keep me awake half the night, as before, and frustrated by my inability to sleep at the very time this sixty-four-year-old body most needs rest.  But this year the anticipation has far more to do with seeing dear friends who’ve been sorely missed.  Not to speak of the food, the climate, the spectacular scenery, the archaeological treasures, and the thousand other things we love about the Cilento.

Our anticipation is perhaps greater this summer given the fact that this year’s trip was not really on the agenda.  If you’ve followed this blog before, you will remember that Sandy and I take tour groups to Italy every other year and then piggyback off that travel to extend our stay.  Ergo, we still have to pay a chunk in air fare, but not nearly so much.  But this past year our twenty-five-year-old, professional dancer, NYC-loving daughter broached the subject to her mom of spending some time in Agropoli with the old geezers.  How many more times can we expect that to happen?  So we began laying the groundwork to make it so.  Then, as luck would have it, Amy was offered a permanent position with a dance company.  And soon discovered that the troupe she had just joined would have a major showing in July, typically a lull in the performance season.  And obviously couldn’t even consider jeopardizing her future with the company to ask for time off at the height of rehearsal time.  We finally begged her just to approach the director, lay the cards on the table, explain that if her absence would even remotely imperil her prospects she would cheerfully cancel the trip, but since the plans were made, if by chance, maybe.....  Which she did.  The director looked at the calendar, said, “Sure, here’s a block of time when we won’t be rehearsing, so go with my blessing.”  Or words to that effect.  The upshot is that we will be introducing our American carissima to our Italian carissimi, a dream come true for us sentimental saps. Next year we start on the other three!

Actually, there are some fairly compelling reasons for making the voyage this year anyway.  Last year I finished the first draft of my second (third if you count the dissertation) book, this one on ancient Roman viticulture and winemaking, and began making revisions.  That process went well until I bumped into the fourth chapter, which, wouldn’t you know it, was based largely on a chapter in the previous book.  I don’t know what it is, but trying to assimilate the new material with the old has been like trying to graft a third arm onto a human body; the stitches are holding and the arm functions perfectly well, but dear God, that’s one ugly dude!  Painful as it is to admit that your baby is butt ugly after they just underwent plastic surgery, that’s where I am.  In the event, I’ve just decided to start over and rewrite the whole darned chapter.  Which will take a chunk of the summer.  Dave is not looking forward to the prospect—and, understand, I adore writing—but if you’re facing an intellectual slog, it might as well be where the inspiration is right outside the door.

Then, too, Fernando messaged several weeks ago to let me know that the Italian translation of the first book, undertaken by a wonderful young woman named Irina Balbi, is now complete and we need to finalize a version for publication.  We’ll need to decide whether to go with a straight translation or to incorporate new material and remove some of the warts (of which there are many) from the original.

And then there are those palmenti, the open-air treading vats for wine, chiseled into native rock at some indeterminate time in the past and increasingly abandoned and forgotten in Italy.  We want to make sure that doesn’t happen by finding, describing, and plotting the GPS coordinates and altitudes of these little beauties.  I say ‘we’ loosely, since my Italian colleagues are really doing the work here. But what magnificent work they are doing!  Over the course of the last nine months my Cilentane friends have located three new sites, and a new colleague over the border in Basilicata has apprised us of several more.  Nothing revs my motor more than boots-on-the-ground archaeology. To say I am eager is an understatement.

Finally, there’s the delightful prospect of just hanging out with those so dear to me—Fernando, the Astones, Katiuscea, and most of all my precious Sandy, with whom I’ll be celebrating thirty years of wedded bliss come June 23.  I could blather on maudlinly about this incredible woman, but I’ll let it suffice to say, we may very well be celebrating the big day in the back seat of a Range Rover, trundling up the side of a mountain to gape at a hole in a rock.  And she’ll be loving it as much as I.  That, my friends, is a keeper.

And the icing on the cake will be our other adventures into the rich cultural and natural treasure of this region.  In a previous blog I mention Roberto Pellecchia’s book, The 100 Wonders of the Cilento and Vallo di Diano.  Now, I am thrilled to say, in a beautiful English translation.  Last year at the end of the summer we counted up the sites we’ve visited and the number was a respectable 37.  

But that leaves 63 unseen!  So much to see and only six weeks to see them!  What a glorious prospect!  Hope you’ll come along for the adventure.

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