Columbus Day is, of course, the annual goombah gala which has nothing really to do with Christopher Columbus and everything really to do with marching down Fifth Avenue surrounded by bands, floats and contingents while bragging about how goddamned happy you are to be Italian.
As a wiser fellow than I once said, “Thou doth protest too much, methinks.”
Equally in the mood to protest are an integer of indignant indigenous Indians who have spearheaded (pun intended) a move to eradicate any jollification of Columbus’s landing—which we all remember from third grade actually took place in the Bahamas (and into whose banks Columbus promptly pumped his doubloons)—and not in America.
The crunk behind the Cree and Crow (et alii) critique centers on the subsequent mistreatment and near obliteration of the New World’s native population, which as an argument is rhetorical: Ethnic cleansing, whether intentional or the result of European-introduced disease, killed more Native Americans than the combined death tolls of the Holocaust, Rwanda and the Armenian genocide.
A True and Worthy Cause, No Doubt…
…Except that, were we to use mistreatment of the chthonic commonwealth as a reason to eliminate our annual chance to pay homage to Rockwell’s Four Freedoms—Freedom from Work, Freedom from School, Freedom from Junk Mail and Freedom from the Bond Market, we’d lose Christmas (Christian treatment of Muslims during the Crusades), Thanksgiving (annual massacre of more than 45 million displaced turkeys), Pearl Harbor Day (atomic bombs killed 200,000 Japanese civilians) and Arbor Day (mass destruction of Mato Grosso rainforest).
So, today, it is probably in our best interest to simply allow Italians to do their ‘thing’—up to and including allowing old ladies dressed in black to roll their nylons down to their ankles, perma-wrapping all the furniture in plastic, pinching kids on the cheek while stuffing money in their pockets, being surprised that the FDA recommends three meals a day instead of nine and refusing to admit what is blatantly obvious to the rest of us: On some level, each and every one of you relates to someone on The Sopranos.
All Right. This One Time, Kay, I’ll Let You Ask Me About The Wine…
As we all know, Italians have this whopping hard-on for ‘respect’ (rispetto). Remember mush-mouth Brando as Don Corleone, normally a pretty stand-up, water-off-a-duck’s-back kind of wise guy, getting all PMSed over some sorry-ass corpse poacher’s supposed insult:
“Bonasera, Bonasera. What have I ever done to make you treat me so disrespectfully?”
Therefore, I think that the least we could do is, if not drink Italian wine exclusively, at least avoid wines which may have connotations that the paisani would just as soon we didn’t bring up.
Imperium Sine Fine—‘Empire Without End’… Right Before It Ended
Italy—in the guise of the Roman Empire—once ruled most of the Western world, reaching its greatest expanse in 117 AD when it spanned two million square miles and covered what are, today, forty countries.
It’s been pretty much downhill for the Italians ever since, culminating in the ignominy of World War II, where they not only backed the wrong horse, but fell off that one before the second leg of the race.
What follows is a chronological list of Italian conflicts which, from calf to toe, Lo Stivale would probably like to forget:
Battle of Teutoburg Forest, (9 AD): Rome vs. Germania.
Uncharacteristically trusting, Germania’s Roman Governor Publius Quinctilius Varus consented to spread soldiers from his three legions across the countryside to help the locals, who promptly rose up and slaughtered them. Doh! Retaliation was equally disastrous, and rest of the army was soon defeated in Teutoburg Forest, south of the city of Osnabrück, resulting in 20,000 dead legionaries.
Wines to Avoid: P. J. Valkenberg Dornfelder Qba, Rheinhessen; Schloss Vollrads Riesling Qualitatswein, Rheingau; Pfeffingen Ungsteiner Herrenberg Spatlese, Rheinpfalz; Huber Bombacher Sommerhalde R Trocken Spätburgunder.
The Battle of Waterloo, (1815): France vs. Britain/Prussia.
Of course it counts, you nattering ninnies; stop fact-checking me and go drink some wine! Napoleon was crowned King of Italy in 1805. In any case, this final implosion of military leader and emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821), fought on Belgian soil, followed his disastrous Russian campaign and resulted in the Little General abdicating and dying in exile.
Wines to Avoid: Camel Valley ‘Cornwall’ Pinot Noir Rosé Brut; Three Choirs Late Harvest, Gloucestershire; Astley Veritas, Worcestershire; Hardys Oomoo Chardonnay, South Australia. (Makes the list because South Australian wine industry begun around 1838 by immigrant Prussians).
First Italo-Ethiopian War, (1895 – 1896): Italy vs. Ethiopia.
Confident of local support that never materialized, the Italians—though boasting the smallest and least productive colonial empire in Africa—figured they could bitch-slap the Ethiopians into obeying a controversial treaty and wound up being handed their culos in a casserole.
Wines to Avoid: ‘Tej’—Ethiopian honey wine, which you probably should be avoiding anyway.
The Battle of Guadalajara, (March 8–23, 1937): Italy vs. Ejército Popular Republicano of Spain.
Following his coup in 1936, Spanish Nationalist General Francisco Franco convinced magniloquent meatball Mussolini to offer up 7,000 men and a number of planes to help defeat dissenters and ensure that his ‘campaign against communism’ would succeed. It failed and the Italian economy was wrecked in the process.
Wines to Avoid: Borsao Reserva, Campo de Borja, Zaragoza; Coma d’En Pou, Bàrbara Forés, Terra Alta; Condado de Haza Reserva, Ribera del Duero; El Vinculo Reserva, La Mancha
Greco-Italian War, (1940-1941): Italy vs. Greece.
Trying to one-up Hitler—and marking the beginning of the Balkan campaign of World War II—the disdainful dipshit Duce blew it before he began, endless rethinking invasion dates—once changing his mind five times in fifteen minutes. Results were, of course, inevitable. The woppish windbag may have made his trains run on time, but his troops wound up outrunning them anyway.
Wines to Avoid: Boutari Grande Reserve; Sigalas Mavrotragano; Gaia Estate Assyrtiko; Estate Argyros Vinsanto
Multinational Force in Lebanon, (1982): Italy vs. Lebanon.
Well, the Italians chipped in to some extent, which is more than can be said for most of Europe. But, the final casualty tally probably speaks to the Italian fighting mettle, which hasn’t yet reached the peak performance of the Imperial Roman Army’s Praetorian Guard:
United States, 265; France, 89; Italy, 2. (No truth to the rumor that the two Italians were killed when the weapons they threw away discharged accidentally).
Wines to Avoid: Chateau Musar, Cuvée White, Bekaa Valley; Domaine des Tourelles, Lebanon; Chateau St. Thomas, Bekaa Valley; Coteaux du Liban, Blanc du Clos, Zhale-Bekaa.