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Showing posts from April, 2010

Cooking and Eating

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On our arrival in Sicily, we seemed to be off everyone else's schedule. We kept arriving too early or too late for meals. The wonderful guy at the Palermo tourist office, the only bloody tourist office that was actually staffed in Sicily, as near as we could tell, gave us a couple of notes about eating in Sicily. Breakfast is light - usually espresso and a roll. Then there's a break around 11 a.m. for espresso at a local bar. Lunch is usually 1 p.m. and probably the biggest meal of the day. Dinner is late ( 8-9 p.m.). You show up for dinner at 6 p.m. and you are going to spend two and a half hours outside a locked door with a big neon "Loser Tourist" sign flashing over your head visible to everyone but you.


We cooked a fair amount on this trip. Dining out can be expensive, especially with our  tastes in wine. Since we had apartments with pretty well equipped kitchens, it was pretty easy to dine in. There are some trade offs cooking for yourself. You don'…

The Dead

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A couple of years into our one night stand, I learned that Carolyn had a high tolerance for gore. I also learned she liked cigars (oh yes, if you're a man, I'm living your fantasy), but that's another story.  I knew I found my life partner when she went off at length on why "Hellraiser" was better than "Hellraiser II". To this day, we pull out "Army of Darkness" or  the Dark Castle remake of "House on Haunted Hill" when we need to feel the love. Mind you, it's a certain style of horror that works for us. We like horror that follows certain rules and delivers a certain moral lesson. It's alright for someone to get their head sawed off, so long as they deserved to have their head sawed off.

So it was no surprise that one of our first scenic stops in Palermo was the Capucin crypt to view the thousands of mummified bodies arrayed there. This wasn't our first crypt. In 2006 we visited the Capucin crypt in Rome beneath the chur…

Driving and Crying

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We circumnavigated Sicily by car going counter-clockwise. The theory was we would lose less time transferring between train or bus stations and having the car to stash things in would save our backs. We'd also have more flexibility to make spontaneous changes to our itinerary.

It kind of worked. I suppose the aspect of our plan we didn't really think through was - in order to drive around Sicily, we actually had to drive around Sicily. This means engaging with Italian road culture which has more in common with a first person shooter video game than what most Americans would recognize as driving. If I can impress any single thing on you with regards to driving in Italy, it would be that the rules of the road - all the rules of the road - are like the Pirates Code: they're more like guidelines. Speed limits? How fast does your car go? Lanes? What's the point? Turn signals? Just leave them on, eventually you're going to do something.  Stop signs? AH HA HA HA!

I should…

Peter Thomas

I'm supposed to be telling you about our trip but I had to stop for a moment. Peter Thomas passed away a few weeks ago and he's being remembered today in Ashland. He died of cancer. A very obscure liver cancer, I think. He was on his last legs before they figured out what was killing him.  He must have been about my age. He was the development director at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It's not cliche to say that theatre people take care of themselves in their own way. The remembering is more important  than the laying to rest for those of us who are or were in the business.

We were friends though not close ones, and it had been years since we spoke at length. He and Paul-James and I roomed together back in 1984. I was the straight one, though you couldn't tell by looking at me. I've been trying to find a picture of us but I don't have any. I'm so sorry. Eventually we all moved out and moved on.

Peter was much closer to my sister Mallory, who way back i…

Selinunte

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Selinunte is on the south coast of Sicily, maybe 40 Km west of Agrigento. Like most destinations on the island, getting to it is a run through pretty unremarkable country. We always think that beautiful destinations are like climbing mountains. The closer to your goal, the more beautiful the surroundings. The truth is, most of these places are surrounded by the unspeakably ugly, the byproduct of people profiting from beauty.

Selinunte is a long gone Greek city. A bitter rival of Segesta, the more photogenic ruin up north. You'd probably hate this place. The ruins themselves are pretty, um, ruinous. Close to the ground, shall we say. A couple of renovated temples, but mostly piles of bigger temples laid low by time, earthquakes and Saracens. Add to that, minimal services, bad lighting and a kind of seedy neglect and you have a recipe for a sad scenic destination. I can say with great certainty, it was our favorite stop in the Greek ruin department.

There's a joke about native Ne…

Palermo

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I don't want to give you the impression that Palermo is full of garbage. Wait... Yes I do. It is. Actually, much of urban Sicily is. Several odd things happened as our trip progressed. Our already tentative Italian got worse and we began to photograph the garbage we had been stepping around for two weeks.

On the one hand, it's horrible. It smells, it's ugly. It feeds rats. It means you have to walk in the street. On the other hand, you do feel like nobody is going out of their way to make the place look like something it isn't.  You know you are welcome in a home where people know you well enough to not bother vacuuming before you drop by. Or maybe they just don't care. Or maybe they do but the vacuum is broken. I think the last one is maybe closest to the truth in Sicily.

The problem has been around for quite awhile in parts of Italy where Camorra or Cosa Nostra have strong presences - mainly Naples, Southern Italy and Sicily. I found blog posts going back to 200…