Tatyana and I are staying in a stone cottage on a wine farm called Azienda Agricola Caparsa (47 Via Caparsa), near Radda in Chianti. The owner, Paolo Cianferoni, is a dead ringer for Steven Spielberg if you take away the beard, and if you de-age Spielberg by ten years. Paolo told me yesterday that original Sideways author Rex Pickett stayed here some years back. So between Pickett, Spielberg and myself the place has a definite Hollywood aroma.


Paolo’s electric bolt fence is more or less dead center in this photo. You can’t see it all that clearly, I realize, but does that matter? It’s there, okay? I’m telling you.

I told Paolo that Tatyana and I were planning to hike over to Radda in Chianti, and so he pointed to a shortcut path through his vineyard. He then pointed to a metal gate at the top of a far-off incline. The gate was electrified, he said, to keep out deer and whatnot, but that I just needed to open it carefully and watch where I step.

So we got to the gate and I delicately opened it — no shock. Thinking I was in the clear, I stepped through and, being a bit sweaty and breath-starved, missed the fact that a thick, coiled, half-camoflauged wire was lying in the dirt three or four inches from the gate. My ankles touched it and suddenly I was James Cagney at the end of Angels With Dirty Faces. My body convulsed. I felt as if my kidneys had been punched by a guy with brass knuckles. The electric current was mild (i.e., high enough to dissuade animals without killing them), but it definitely rocked my attitude.

For a while there I felt like (a) a huge dumbass (I actually still feel this way) and (b) four movie characters at the same time, above and beyond Cagney.

Character #1 is Allen Garfield‘s character in William Friedkin‘s The Brinks Job, particularly in that scene in which Garfield’s character opens a door that says “do not open.” [After the jump] Character #2 is Richard Pryor‘s proverbial-white guy-walking-through-the-woods, which Pryor peformed in Richard Pryor in Concert [ditto — go to 3:25]. Character #3 is Ben Kingsley‘s Don Logan in Sexy Beast: “It’s the bolt, it’s the buzz, it’s the general fuck-off of it.” Character #4: Boris Karloff‘s intrepid monster in Frankenstein, a fellow who isn’t harmed by electricity but revitalized.


(l.) Caparsa vineyard owner Paolo Cinaferoni; (r.) Steven Spielberg.