Friday, March 31, 2006


This is really one of those times when I wish it were completely and totally safe to post questionable photos of myself all over my website. Specifically, the photos of F and me covered in squid ink and more, looking like we got into a brutal food fight in the back of a Sicilian beach restaurant in Mondello. So instead, picture it: Us, the table, the walls, everything, splattered in various colors and sauces, the two of us completely uncaring about the native Sicilians staring in amusement. There's black ink dripping down our faces, off our teeth and lips, and staining our clothing. We're covered in various liquid substances from the messy, interactive food we've ordered. Of course, there are bottes of wine - empty and in-progress - all over the table. And all the while, we are laughing hysterically, drooling black ink, red sauce and vini all over everything in our immediate vicinity.

See, if I show you this photo of purported Sicilian Mafiosi meeting in Piazza Indipendienza:

Then I also want to show you the next photo of our Palermo series where I go and join the Mafia, integrating myself directly into the group, between two ancient men professing about whatever the hell it is they're meeting about. I'd also want to show you F standing in a large group of white-haired Mafioso-esque wives and widows in the Cappella Palatina.

Or I'd show you photos of us running drunkenly down the boardwalks and beaches of Mondello. I'd show you us biting the heads off of giant squids (I obviously didn't follow through with my promise of playing it safe with my culinary choices following my food poisoning). Alas, I would show you photos of us strolling down main shopping streets, or wandering aimlessly through busy Sicilian markets with a lovely afternoon vini buzz. I'd show you the two of us hysterically mimicking the statues in front of the Fountain of Shame. I can show you part of the fountain, just not our impresson if it:

I would show you the more civilized lunches we had throughout Palermo, and then way up in Monreale, a hilly town high above Palermo. But since I cannot and will not do this (I have my reasons, you know, as does F), I will show you the view from Monreale:

Sigh. I would love to show you inside the chambers of the rather harrowing Convento dei Cappuccini, where the monks there have prepared an incredibly disturbing display of corpses, some skeletal looking, others preserved with skin, flesh and eyeballs still attached. Perhaps the most disturbing corpse was the three-year-old girl buried in a glass case who literally appears to be staring at people who approach her. But see, my lack of photography here is not personal prohibition in this case - they don't allow photography inside.

After a while, we adopted the Sicilian Mafioso culture and started lying about everything. We did not pay for one bus ride anywhere in the three towns we visited. At every museum or landmark that charged admission, our response was always, "We're archeology students" - this always got us in free everywhere!

Our hotel was thankfully not in the touristy area of Palermo, so we were able to dine and drink at authentic restaurants with natives.

Since I arrived in Palermo still on the brink of post-food poisoning, my behavior at restaurants was ridiculous and, thinking about it now, was probably a bit offensive. My stomach shrunk so much and was still in a bit of pain following my weekend from hell, so I rarely had an appetite. Still, though, attempting to be native as possible, F and I would order three course meals. I would take three bites of each dish and the hefty, colorful Sicilian waiters would approach my table to ask what was wrong with my food. I would tell them nothing, that it was wonderful (actually, no, this is a lie: F would tell them this in Italian), and then they would all stand around staring at me like I was some sort of anorexic waif. Traveling around Sicily ain't ultimately pleasurable without an appetite. But at least I could drink. And now I'm feeling a helluva lot better.

Sicilians are great liars. The best in the world. I'm Sicilian. My father was the world heavy-weight champion of Sicilian liars. From growing up with him I learned the pantomime. There are seventeen different things a guy can do when he lies to give himself away. A guys got seventeen pantomimes. A woman's got twenty, but a guy's got seventeen... but, if you know them, like you know your own face, they beat lie detectors all to hell. - Vincenzo Coccotti (from True Romance)