One thing I really like about religion in Europe is that it has evolved into a comfortable form of mythology. They love their saints, particularly the ones that never existed. Yesterday as we were driving to the Comune di Serdiana to visit a winery, my handler, Paola Loi, told me that her generation has created a new saint—Saint-Precarious—to protect them from losing things like medical benefits, pensions, insurance. I laughed but she said, “It’s true.” You watch. A hundred years from now they’ll be holding festivals celebrating Saint-Precarious that rival the Santa Greca festival in Decimomannu.
The Argiolas winery is to a Napa winery what a B&B is to the Ritz-Carlton. There are no giant parking lots full of buses and limousines, no picnic areas shaded by olive trees, no tasting rooms full of artisan vinegars and wine country cookbooks. In fact, unless you know exactly where you’re going, you probably wouldn’t be able to find Argiolas. When Paola stopped the car, I didn’t know if the winery was somewhere behind the flamingo-colored wall to our right or the old adobe building across the street. Turns out we were headed for the flamingo building.
We walked up a cobblestone drive towards a warehouse. Paola went inside looking for somebody—anybody—while I hung out front taking in some of the old winery equipment that testified to the fact that the Argiolas family has been in the wine business since the early 1900s (Antonio Argiolas, who started the winery, is still hanging in there at 102, though I think his days of stomping grapes are over with).
Anyway, I’m looking at these old grape presses and stuff when I spot Him—Jesus—standing in a plexiglass box high up on the wall. God only knows how long he’s been stuck there, like an old raggedy bear in a two-bit circus, watching everyone come and go for decades on end while being restricted to his little box. It must get hot up there in the summer. And dusty. Not much to do other than spread his arms and bless each year’s harvest. Maybe having Jesus in a box in the winery makes the Argiolas family feel good but, frankly, I’d find it a little creepy. It reminds me of this monkey I once saw in Malaysia. It was on about a 3-foot-long chain that was staked in the middle of a barren yard in front of a little fisherman’s hut. It was put there to crack coconuts. People would come by and toss it a coconut or two and the monkey would break them against a rock and then they’d give the monkey a piece of fruit or something. That was the monkey’s life; crack a coconut, get a banana. All I could think about was freeing that monkey. But I didn’t. I just got on my bike and rode through the village.
And now I’m standing outside this winery on Sardinia and I don’t know where Paola has gone or when she’s going to return. And I’m wondering if I could climb up to the ledge where Jesus is hanging out in the plexiglass box. And what He might do if I freed him.