Last week’s trip to Prospect Park was so much fun. It just blew me away to see this beautiful park right in the middle of Brooklyn. The zoo was the best part of the trip for me. Seeing all the animals was better than looking at them in pictures. At the zoo I got to see them moving around, eating and sometimes I got to see them playing with each other. The only cage I wasn’t too thrilled about was the Monkey cage. Once I got over the smell of all the pee and poop I looked at them and you know what, they looked back at me. That’s when I got the feeling that the Monkey’s knew that we are the enemy that put in a cage. When I looked deep into their eyes I could feel the hate they have for mankind, Who could blame them. The other animals at the Zoo just seemed like they gave up. They just ate and sleept through their lives in a cage. I did enjoy seeing all the animals but I couldn’t shake the sad feeling I have about them being in a cage for the rest of their lives. The park is so big that we couldn’t get to see it all in one day. I hope that my sister will take me back there one day soon.
My father told me this morning not to make any plans with my friends this weekend. He said that he will not be going back to work until Monday because he and his friends are getting together to make homemade wine. They pooled their money to buy a truckload of red and white wine grapes. They are expecting the delivery of the grapes this morning. Everyone has to get together to unload the truck and put the wine grapes into the cellar of our building. Wow! The summer blew by so fast and I didn’t realize that the grape season started. I love the grape season and I am ready to help my dad anyway I can. We went down stairs to meet my Dad’s friends, their sons and our cousins to wait for the truck. I am happy to see Jimmy Pizza waiting there with his Dad.
While we sat there waiting Jimmy Pizza takes a string, about eighteen inches long out of his pocket and folds it in half. He then takes the two ends and ties them together forming a circle. Now he takes the string in a circle and stars to work it with his fingers into a rope design. Wow! My sister Isabella, told me about the string game but I never actually seen one. Then Jimmy turned to me with his hands out and says.”you go first, put you pinkie fingers here and there and swoop both hands down and then around under the strings and pull back.” I did what he said and I see the two parallel strings in Jimmy’s hands turn into a web design in my hands. “Holy Crap, I did it. We went back and forth playing this game for twenty minutes when I heard rumble of a truck approaching. The truck arrived with a shit load of grape crates on it. The men took charge and unloaded the grape crates onto the side walk near the entrance to the cellar. All the kids started to pick up each forty pound grape crate and slid them one by one down the chute into the cellar. Down the cellar we separated the red grape crates from the white grapes. Wow stacked them next to the hand crank grape crushing machine.
The crushing machine was on an empty barrel ready for action. I didn’t count them but there must be a couple hundred grape crates down here. Each person and kid in our group was assigned a different job. Some opened the wooden wine crates; others dumped the grapes into the wine crushing machine. The strongest men in our group turned the wheel of the wine crusher. Kids like me have to gather the empty wooden grape boxes and stack them in the back yard. This went on for most of the day. We crushed all the grapes into six wood barrels of red and three barrels of white. In the weeks ahead the grapes will ferment and turn into wine. When the head wine maker gives us the word that the wine is ready we all get together again to press the grapes and separate the wine from the crushed pulp and stems mixed in. Once that’s done the wine will go back into a wooden barrel for ageing. Pressing the wine is my favorite job. I will scoop up the crushed wine grapes from the barrel into a bucket. Then I take the bucket and dump the crushed grapes into the wine press. The press will squeeze the wine out of the crushed grapes.
As I lean over the wine barrel six or seven times, to put the grapes into the bucket I breathe in the air from the barrel. I love the smell from the barrel full of wine mixed in with the crushed grapes. It doesn’t take long for me to feel a high sensation. It’s about the same sensation that comes from drinking a couple of glasses of wine. I keep working but I’m high as a kite. Every kid I know drinks a little homemade wine at dinner. My mother and Dad will only give me a half glass at each meal. Sometimes I have a little wine for breakfast with peaches. The homemade wine is very strong and when I sip it, it makes me feel warm all over. But when I suck in the air from the wine barrel, I’m drunk. So if I start to feel dizzy I call over another kid comes over to finish the job. When the wine press is full of the crushed grapes the men take over. They turn the wine press and squeeze the wine out into a large metal bucket and then they pour the pressed wine into another wine barrel for ageing. I took a count of all the men and boys in the cellar, there’s ten of us working together to make wine this season. It’s a lot more people working down here than last year. The women help by bring sandwiches, soda, water, pastries and coffee. Even though we’re all working it’s turns into a party.
Everyone is laughing, singing, telling stories and just having a great time. We’re all feeling a high from the smell of the new wine in the air. As all this wine making is going on, a few men take a break for a smoke and play a Bocce ball game in the back yard. I’m a little high and I feel so good working with everyone when it’s the wine season. We all work hard and we are playing and having fun at the same time that we’re working to make wine for our family and friends. There is nothing like it, except maybe, for Christmas. I took a break too and I went into the back yard to watch the Bocce Ball game.
My Dad told me that everyone in Italy likes to play the Bocce Ball game. There a total of nine balls in a Bocce set. There are eight large balls made of hard wood. Four are red and four are green the ninth yellow ball is much smaller than the other eight. You can play this game with two or four people at a time. If there are four people playing each team of two players get two balls of the same color. They toss the small yellow ball about thirty feet. Then each team gets a turn to throw their balls one at a time as close as possible to the yellow ball. The first team player throws his red ball at the small yellow ball. His ball stops about one foot away from the yellow ball target. Then the green team player goes next and throws his ball at the yellow ball target. After every player is finished throwing their balls everyone walks to the yellow ball to see which team’s ball is closest to the yellow ball. If the red ball is the only ball closer to the yellow target than any of the green balls the red team gets a point. If there are two red balls closer to the yellow than any green ball the red team get two points. If one of the red balls is touching the yellow ball then that is worth three points. So if one red is touching and there is another red ball close but not touching the yellow ball, then the red team gets four points for that round. It’s not a complicated game to figure out the points. But if you watch them playing you will see more fights about scoring points than any other game I know. As you’re playing you can try to throw your ball as hard as possible to break up the other team’s balls and push them away from the yellow ball. This way your ball gets closer to the yellow ball.
Then they all look at their team balls around the yellow ball and fight about which ball is closer or which ball is touching or which ball is not touching the yellow ball. Now if the men playing are drinking wine at the same time it can get pretty ugly. The men finally settle on the score for that round, they pick up their balls and throw the yellow ball in the opposite direction to start a new round. When a team gets 15 points total they win the game. I asked my Dad who invented this Bocce Ball game and he told me that no one knows for sure. Many years ago explorers found a painting of people playing a game that looked like Bocce in an Egyptian tomb that dates back to 6000 BC. There are stories that the game found its way to Greece around 1000 BC and later it was brought to what we now know as Italy by the Romans. He also said these are only stories about Bocce Ball that were passed down from one generation to another. The Italians love to play this game and that’s why they brought the game with them to America.
Sometimes the kids get a chance to play Bocce Ball. After the men stopped fighting over the score we took a couple of shots at it. We started playing it after sucking in all the air in the wine barrels. I rolled four Bocce Balls at the little yellow ball and my balls rolled in all kinds of crazy directions .It was impossible for us to remember our score. So Jimmy Pizza said. “The hell with this, I’m going back to the wine cellar.” It’s Sunday, and we finished pressing all the wine out of the crushed grapes. I count four barrels of red wine and one barrel of white wine set aside for ageing. Come Christmas the wine will be ready to drink. That’s when our fathers will pour the wine from the barrels into glass gallon jugs for everyone to take home for their family and friends. Every year I look forward to the next wine making season.