It took me a while to track down Joe again, but once I did he had a ton of stuff to say, and sing. And sing. (Previously.)
Me: What is this place?
Joe: It’s my grandmother’s store.
Me: Did she live here?
Me: Was it originally an antique store?
Joe: No, it was a dry goods store, they sold bolts of cloth.
Me: Have any developers tried to snake this place away from you? It’s pretty prime real estate.
Joe: I’ve been made a lot of offers, but I don’t bother with them. This is my property. It was my grandmother’s property, it’ll be my children’s property.
Me: When was this building built?
Me: How long have you lived in this neighborhood?
Joe: Since I was born, 1959.
Me: Do you live here?
Joe: I live back there. This is a retail store.
Me: What do you think of all the recent changes to the neighborhood?
Joe: I think it’s great. Life is youth. Youth is life. You need the new blood. You have to have young people. Otherwise, what do you have? You have old people that die.
Me: [nervous laughter]
Joe: You want a glass of wine?
Me: It’s kind of the middle of the day for me… [he begins pouring me a glass of wine] Well, okay. [I take a dainty sip.] What is this?
Joe: I make it. It’s Merlot.
Me: Make it?
Joe: I make it with lemon and confectioner’s sugar. In a bag.
Me: Oh wow. [I take another tiny sip.] Is there like, a make-your-own-wine kit you use?
Joe: No, you buy the concentrate, then you fool around with it. My grandfather showed me how to make the grapes, so I learned from him. Have you ever been sung to in Italian?
Me: No, I haven’t.
Joe: Would you like to?
Me: I think I would.
Joe: Okay. Sit down in that chair. [Ernesto] De Curtis wrote this song in 1932. It’s called Torna a Sorriento, you ever heard of it?
Joe: It’s a song of longing and love. De Curtis had to go to Rome, and on his way to Rome, he had to figure out how to stay in contact with his girl, who was in Sorrento. So, what could he do when he was by the sea? So this little spit of road on the Via Solara, it goes out there by the side of the Mediterranean. While he’s there, smelling the salt of the sea, so she would be doing the same thing in Sorrento. So he smells the sea, it becomes part of his memory. He knows if he’s doing it there, she’ll also be doing it in Sorrento. So here’s the song that grampa sang to gramma.
[He sings, magnificently]
Me: Very good! [I am getting a little buzzed off his bag wine.]
TO BE CONTINUED