Sunday, July 25, 2010

Converting Butter & Cheese to Sugar & Tobacco

How my grandfather earned money to come to the U.S. encourages my perseverance. He and his brother had no money, they were poor, but they had plenty of butter and cheese. Putting their heads together, they took inventory of what they knew: money was short, paying taxes hurt, and they had plenty of butter and cheese.

Their thoughts turned to Switzerland, very near their village in upper Lombardy. There, they could sell what was abundant in their area of Italy; use the Swiss currency received to purchase (in Switzerland) goods that were in demand, but taxed, in Italy; then return to their village and sell the Swiss goods for Italian currency. Voila! Tax-free shopping!

This, however, required smuggling into Switzerland the butter and cheese, and likewise returning to Italy with the Swiss goods, sugar and tobacco. Knowledge of lesser-known trails in the Italian/Swiss Alps was also required, in order to avoid savvy law enforcement that patrolled the borders.

Their scheme worked more than they imagined; they raised enough lire to come to America, and over 100 years later their story is told in Half Italian. How many trips into Switzerland they made, I'll never know.

How many queries will I make before I find an interested agent, and how many attempts will that agent make to find an interested publisher? PERSEVERE.

- PJ

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