Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Circus Begins

Delirious with jet-lag the day after I started chopping vines, I made the mistake of asking Daniele if it was OK to do this. He said no, the owners were liable if I got hurt, but he said it staring off into space as Italians tend to do when they really think something is your own private business.

Sally and I discussed it that evening and agreed that: A) We absolutely needed to know as much as possible about the property before we committed thousands of dollars of our savings to it, and B) I would absolutely not sue if I did hurt myself. So, I put on my gloves and went back to work.

Two mornings later Stefania called to say we needed to go to the bank RIGHT NOW! to get a bank draft to transfer to one of the ten owners to get the chicken coop volumes added on the maps in Siena so the property would be ready to buy when the entire ten-member clan sat down together at Mr. Kopini the notary's office at 5:00 p.m. on May 15th, 9 days. It was the first we had heard of this date.

I won't go into the complicated way money is handled in Italy at this point, nor will I bore you with the crazy loopy way we had to assemble our weak dollars, convert them to Euros, and wire transfered them to our bank in Montalcino to cover the checks we were about to write in fractions of 26ths. Suffice it to say that when the 15th rolled around, our best efforts would inevitably, but not predictably, be thwarted.

Over the week I hacked and flailed and pulled and stacked, surprised by how well the first vines I'd unsmothered were doing, and by how many vines and fruit and nut trees were actually alive under the strangling canopy. During breathers, bright red field poppies, yellow broom, purple wisteria, green winter wheat, cherries and salmon pink peaches in bloom, were the more distant impressions I took in. While the cuckoo's woodwind complaint mocked me, Sally crawled around staining her knees and keeping an eye our for vipers, but not for the beautiful cock pheasant that spooked her when she nearly bumped into it and set it to flight.

For some reason, though we'd wired it from New York with time to spare, our money was not showing up at our branch bank account. Sally made countless calls to the States only to be assured that it had indeed been wired. Somehow it had disappeared in wire-space.

On the morning of the 15th, $150,000 was still not in our account. But our Italian bank had figured out where it was: It was now back in our New York account, where it had been rerouted, quite arbitrarily, by someone at the main office in Rome.

In a few short hours, we would meet the sellers holding checks that were essentially worthless.

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