Meatballs and Primitivo with my father Zane

The best advice anyone ever gave about blogging was “remember that all blogs are vanity blogs and always write what you feel.” Well, here goes…

“Everybody had their hands out. Everything was for the taking. And now it’s all over. And that’s the hardest part. Today, everything is different. There’s no action. I have to wait around like everyone else. Can’t even get decent food. Right after I got here, I ordered some spaghetti with marinara sauce and I got egg noodles and ketchup. I’m an average nobody. I get to live the rest of my life like a schnook.”

—Henry Hill, Good Fellas, 1990

Last Wednesday’s dinner with my father Zane at Giovanni’s in Munster, Indiana brought to mind the above passage uttered by Henry Hill in Scorsese’s Good Fellas (he had the Veal Piccata, I had the Spaghetti with Meatballs).

Those of you who have followed along here at Do Bianchi haven’t heard much about my father, Zane. In fact, you haven’t heard anything at all. He left the fold of our family when I was a teenager and, truth be told, none of us — my mother and my brothers — have ever entirely recovered from that fissure. The circumstances of that schism began to unfold when I was 11 years old (1978) and in many ways, my Italophilia was borne out of the fact that my closest Italian friends (most of whom were musicians that I met when I was around 19) helped me to see the “transgressions of the father” in a light (Pasolinian?) disparate from that which shines down from Mt. Soledad onto the sun-filled spelunks of the La Jolla Cove where I grew up.

Today, he lives in Highland, Indiana (not far from Munster), a “bedroom” community (as he likes to call it) of Chicago. After leaving our family, he lived in Phoenix, Arizona for many years, and then Israel, where he made the aliyah and continued to work in the defense industry (his second career). About twelve years ago, when he was convinced that he wouldn’t be arrested by the FBI for espionage (as he tells the story), he decided to return to the U.S. for his retirement.

In Italian new wave cinema of the 1960s and early 70s, directors like Antonioni created landscapes that reflected their characters’s stato d’anima (state of soul). The cold temperatures and intonations of grey that greeted me there (above) felt like they came from within me rather than from the environment around me.

Ultimately, Highland, Munster, Hammond, and Gary, Indiana are towns that could have been depicted in Bruce Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town (have you seen the recent documentary?). The main employers here are the steel mills and Giovanni’s is arguably the best place around.

Zane doesn’t care much for red wine but he did share a bottle of Primitivo by Cantele with me. It was one of the two bottles that spoke to me, together with Araldica’s Gavi by the glass (Giovanni’s has an impressive website, with its wine list available online).

A friend once wrote: as “the son of a psychiatrist, Dr. J. is capable of finessing virtually any situation with seamless ease.”

I don’t know if that’s true but like every other human being on this planet, I have one father. It wasn’t and never is an easy trip. It had been too long since I’d gone to visit him… but I’m glad that I did.

As I look back and reflect on my visit and use my blog — my web log, my journal, my diary — as a therapeutical tool, there’s one thing that has come into sharp focus in my psyche: sometimes a meatball is just a meatball.

15 thoughts on “Meatballs and Primitivo with my father Zane

  1. Jeremy,

    Thanks for the honesty. It’s not easy to sort out ones own issues in private, let alone on a blog. But you’ve inspired me to give it a go.

    Grazie e Buon Anni.

  2. I wonder if Procopio LoDuca, the gentleman who founded Giovanni’s, was related to the LoDuca’s of Milwaukee, the brothers who imported Eko guitars and LoDuca accordions

  3. Thanks, everyone, for the kind words of support. That was a really tough but necessary one for me. Means so much that you took time out to let me know that you had read it… really means the world. Thanks… :)

  4. Hi Jeremy, A very tough post to do .. and thank you for sharing … as you say you only have one dad ..and you had the courage to go and see him, at least he shared wine with you. I lost my father at the age of 10 when he passed away. It has been hard for me in the last 44 years without him and I still need him around me..

    I am dealing with a very hard issue at the moment regarding my youngest son (27) who has just been diagnosed with Asperger and ADHD , and now has just this weekend split with his girlfriend, she asked him to leave as she found it too hard, so he had to come to us, not that I mind,, but I have alsohad a stressful 6 weeks with other issues, so now he is homeless too, and he needs to go back to his town , where he also has two little children from another relationship.. and college and his specialist doctor… life can send us tough and stressful issues.take care Anne

  5. @Anne thanks for the kind words and the support. :) They mean a lot (you practically feel like a member of the family to me and Tracie P, btw!)

    I’m so sorry to hear about your son’s health issues. Tracie P’s cousin is severely affected by Autism. So we have both seen the fallout of such illnesses directly and how they affect the family.

    Know that you and your son are in our thoughts and our prayers. And know that you always have some friends on this side of the Atlantic. Thanks for sharing here…

  6. The ability to be fluent in two languages…able to express oneself so eloquently is God given…at least as I see it…to be willing to express ones heart with others takes courage and the ability to truly see that life is what it is and is what you make it…thanks for sharing and for being a part of our lives…

  7. well i love you 2B. and no matter what difficulties you’ve faced in your life, they’ve only made you into the kind, sensitive, and amazing person that you are. :x

    sposina tua

  8. @Rev B thank you for the kind words and the support. I felt like it would be wrong for me to omit this part of my life… and it is part of my life and it wouldn’t have been true to myself not to write this story. Some day I hope you can meet my father and in the meantime, I know that I am truly blessed to have found my new family here with you and Mrs. B. in Texas.

    @Tracie P I love you, too, TP. And I know I couldn’t be the person that I am today without you. You are my courage, truth, and beauty… Couldn’t do it without you…

    @Vinogirl the world was a much smaller place back when I was a kid growing up in La Jolla. And you know, we all made it okay, my brothers and my mother, too. Everyone turned out fine and my father is very happy and settled in his life. Thanks for reading and thanks for the kind words and support.

  9. Jeremy,
    Touching post. Bravo. It sounds like a mixed time but much of life is that way I suppose. I’m sure that Primitivo from our friend Cantele helped smooth the waters. Yes we all only have one dad and 99% of life is showing up, I think that’s Woody Allen said. I’m sure it meant a lot to all concerned.

  10. I read this post just now. Sorry mate. I’m very happy to know the bottle of Primitivo, even if for few seconds, lightened that burden.
    See you soon in Texas, man.

  11. I was a friend of your brother Aaron at Lab School in Chicago, and although it was years ago, he was significant in my life. I would love to see you reminisce about him and his impact on your family.

    I know you may think it strange getting this note from a stranger, but in my mind he lives on eternally.


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