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November 4, 2011     Post-Gazette
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November 4, 2011

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POST-GAZETTE, NOVEMBER 4, 2011 Page 13 00/'anna 00Babb00nonno by John Christoforo A Nostalgic Remembrance i i ml mmtlt Last week I left off talking about a trip to Italy back in the day. Sal Meli, a friend since childhood, had gone to Sicily to visit his parents who retired from their jobs and returned to their roots. Sal .called me late June from his family's condo in the .out- skirts of Agrigento, a south- western city in Sicily. He convinced me to take the summer off and join him in the city he was born in, stay on the island for a week or so and then tour all of Italy at our leisure. I liked the idea, cancelled the few bookings I had, called Alitalia, booked the flight and flew to Europe at the end of June. After landing in Rome, I took a shuttle to Palermo where Sal, his father and uncle were waiting for me. They had taken the train from Agrigento north to Palermo, booked two hotel rooms and awaited my arrival. We spent a couple of days in Palermo sightseeing and I became the student of Uncle Gus, Sal's mother's brother. He showed me one of his favorite cities and explained the history of the area from day one to the present time. Gus had been educated in the states and spoke English without an accent, almost impossibe for most Italians who learn English as adults. What I didn't know about Sal's father and uncle was that, before WW II, they were both policemen with the rank of captain. When the war started they joined the mili- tary and were given the same rank. Gus quickly rose up to the level of general and became part of Mussolini's inner circle. Becoming dis- enchanted with the direc- tion the Fascist party was heading, he helped plot the overthrow of the Italian dictatorship and surrendered to the American forces in 1943. After the war he be- came an attach4 for the Ital- ian Republic in the United Nations. In retirement, he returned to Italy and received both police and military pen- sions that were due to him. When it was time to head south, I rented a yellow FIAT and we headed for Agrigento. En route I was stopped by a police blockade. I didn't know why. I was within the speed limit and hadn't done anything to pro- voke a stop. When two offic- ers approached the car, they asked for my driver's license and the book. I didn't know what they meant by the book, so I handed them the rental agreement. The officer con- ducting the investigation threw the license and the rental paperwork in my face and yelled, "Io voglio il libro, subito." (I want the book, now) I didn't know what he meant and asked for an explanation. They were ready to pull me out of the car but stopped as Sal's father and uncle flashed credentials that were housed in their wallets. The next thing I see is two Ital- ian cops standing at attention while the two older men got out of the back seat. Gus started yelling at the two policemen about abusive treatment and demanded an apology and an explanation as to why we were stopped. It seemed that a rental yellow FIAT with a Naples license plate was reported stolen and my car was a yellow FIAT with a Naples plate. They then explained that the book was the auto in- spection book that Italian drivers keep in their glove compartments. Sal's father then chewed them up one side and then the other for" the way they treated us. The next thing I see is one of the officers saluting the two older men and apologiz- ing to Sal and me. They then called'to let other police units on the same road know that we were not driving the car they were looking for. Again, we were on our way. As the day progressed it became quite hot and the car didn't have air conditioning. I told the others that I needed water and was going to stop at the next town to buy a bottle of San Pellegrino. Uncle Gus told me that within a few miles was a natural spring with a water pump aside of it. The water was ice cold and it was free for travelers. I said OK, and followed his direc- tions to the location. When we arrived, I parked and headed to the spring. I approached the water pump holding a plastic cup from an earlier purchase. Just as I bent over to pump the water, some- thing or someone grabbed the collar of my shirt and pulled me back. I spun around defensively, but stopped short when I saw a small old man wearing a neckerchief and a Smokey the Bear type of hat. He was leading a donkey by a rope and pointed to a water trough that was next to th pump. As. he pointed, he said, "Scusi, signore, ma mi shecheridu eru primu." (Sicilian for, excuse me sir, but my donkey was first) I backed off, bowed and said, -- FOR YOU WHO APPRECIATE THE FINEST-- THE MUSIC FOR ALL OCCASIONS 781-648-5678 "Prego." With that, the don- key drank from the trough and I pumped myself a glass of cool water. Looking back, I saw Sal, his father and uncle laughing at the situa- tion. Gus was the first to say something, "John, this is rural Sicily; the donkey takes precedence over everything here." The rest of the ride south was uneventful. We arrived in Canicati, the sub- urb of Agrigent 0 where Sal's family condo was located, just after sundown. Sal's mother had dinner ready for us and if I remember correctly, she was one heck of a cook. After dinner we strolled to the center of town, sat at an out- door cat6, sipped coffee, and enjoyed dessert while watch- ing the passersby. Later that night back at the condo, I heard Sal's mother on the phone with a woman she referred to as Auntie, "Her comment was, "Yes, I'll have the professor over to your house after breakfast." I was too tired to ask what she was scheming and headed to the bedroom I was assigned to. The next morning I woke up smelling espresso and something freshly baked. After we ate, Sal's mother informed me that we wei-e going to her aunt's house. The woman evidently was the matriarch of the town and she wanted to meet her great nephew's pal from America. We walked to a walled-in gothic looking building. Sal's mother opened the front gate that led to a rectangular gar- den with the building cover- ing three sides of the grass and flowers. We headed to a large door with a knocker which Sal's mother used to let anyone inside know they had company. An old lady caretaker opened the door, welcomed us saying that the Signora was in the living room. We were escorted to a large almost ballroom-like room with a platform at one end. On the platform was a high back Gothic chair. In the chair was a diminutive old lady sitting all dressed in black. We were introduced and she asked me to sit on the platform at her feet. She began questioning me about my parents, grandparents, what part of Italy they were from, where we lived in the states and then asked why I wasn't married. I told her I hadn't found anyone I had enough interest in to settle down with for the rest of my life. She said that she could remedy the situation. I looked at,her not understand- ing as she clapped her hands together'. As she clapped a second time, a door opened and a parade of the single girls from the town came strolling past us. Most had better mustaches than I sported at that time. I looked at Sal and yelled, "Get me the Hell out of hereI" To be continued ... GOD BLESS AMERICA The Socially Set (Continued from Page 7) Noted chef Mary Ann Esposito appears at the Boston Center for Adult Education on Wednesday, November 9, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., for an evening of "tradition, great food + drink and fun," as she prepares wonderful dishes inspired from her newest book, "Ciao Italia Family Classics." (File photo by Hilda M. Morrill, 2007) in the heart of the BCA com- plex, which boasts four theatres, a gallery, the Bos- ton Ballet School, 50 artist studios and other facilities. There are more than a dozen "hot" restaurants and nightspots within a five- minute walk, making it a focal point for cultural life in the city. "The show has grown up with the evolution of the Boston Center for the Arts, the art market in Boston and the changing demo- graphics of the South End, Back Bay, Downtown and other neighborhoods of Boston," comments Tony Fusco. "We couldn't be more pleased to be launching our 15th year," he adds. For more information, call 617-363-0405, or visit Enjoy! (Be sure to visit Hilda MorriU's gardening Web site, In addition to events covered and reported by the columnist, "The Socially Set" is compiled from various other sources such as news and press re- leases, PRNewswire services, etc.) World Eo Art Project (Continued from Page 5) charter, and guides all that the group does. Giovanni DeCunto Giovanni DeCunto is a lo- cal Boston artist who is well known in expressionist circles. Mr. DeCunto lives in the North End where he has a gallery to showcase his art for local connoisseurs and has graciously volunteered to help promote the artistic vision of this project. Nazarro Community Center The Nazarro Community Center is a local center fo- cused on school age children and expanding their horizons by offering multi-faceted pro- grams that consist of every- thing from music, art, and the humanities to local sports leagues run by the Center. The NCC prides it- self on having age based pro- grams that allow peers to interact with other children near their natural age. The Event There will be a special event soon at a location to be disclosed where the art piece will be showcased and sold. This event will formally launch WECO. 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