Thursday, May 04, 2006

from Palermo: chaos with a splash of color

UPDATE FIRST: Remember yesterday’s post? Lost passport, desperate calls, strategizing, hoping for a way to keep most of the week intact, to not lose days and reservations, to make it all somehow repair itself in the one business hour that we have in Milan before we need to head for the airport.

And it does. Pure magic. I show up at the Consulate in Milan 45 minutes early and join the line waiting for the office to open. An official comes out and asks if there are any Americans in line. I step out. Suddenly there is a long line and there is me. Officials come out, I tell them that in three hours my plane will leave. They rush me through forms, photos, payments and I am out of there with new passport in hand in 61 minutes. [It helped that I had all my other papers with me, not lost or stolen.] Yay staff at American Consulate in Milano. And so truly and terribly sorry for all those who come with visa applications, who are still probably waiting in line.

And finally, Palermo.

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In my youth, I had traveled through eastern Sicily, but I never made it to Palermo. Seedy, dirty, colorful, exploding with people, everywhere people: standing in groups in narrow doorways, leaning out windows, together in balconies, watching the world go by and talking. Gesturing, talking, laughing, flirting, kids playing, men, everywhere men in groups. Why is it that our men do not know what to say to each other and here and in France, men cannot stop? Unleashed, they tell endless stories from days that cannot have had so many stories within them?

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We walk through the medieval quarter, through endless dark streets, buildings close together, balconies and shutters almost touching. Is Wednesday laundry day?

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A cookie stop and then a Palermo aperitif stop (Campari and soda and a Sicilian orange). Ed looks dubiously at me as I stir this bright red drink in a tiny local bar, with the formidable mother-in-law sitting at the side, shouting out observations to the daughter-in-law behind the counter (of the “get them their check!” type).

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oasis of calm

Late in the evening we are back at the Inn. A simple good meal of antipasti and perfectly cooked spaghetti, with shrimp and zucchini. I look at the wine list: can you recommend a Sicilian wine? They are all Sicilian, Signora. Of course. And proud of it.

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spaghetti with shrimp and zucchini