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November 11, 2011     Post-Gazette
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POST-GAZETTE, NOVEMBER 11,2011 Page 11 00/00ctrl rtcl tiabb00onno Last week I was escaping a girl trap put together by my friend Sal Meli's mother and her aunt, the matriarch of the Sicilian town they lived in. We talked our way out of the situation and left the Gothic looking home. As we escaped, I wondered if they had a torture chamber in the cellar for Americans who rejected the town's single girls. Sal, his uncle Gus, his father and I did some travel- ing for the next couple of days. Gus sort of apologized for the happenings the day before, but added that I was in Sicily and it was 1872, not 1972. After that, we saw the sights. Sal's father brought me to an area of Agrigento and pointed to the hill in front of us. There were three Greek temples sitting on the top. Two were in a bad state of collapse. The third, the Temple of the Concord was in almost perfect shape except the roof had disappeared over the centuries. Sal's father then said that when tourists want to see Greek temples they come to Sicily, not Greece. Pointing to the three struc- tures, he said that they were built at the same time as the buildings on the Acropo- lis in Athens. He then added that Greece had had many earth quakes through the centuries, seen many wars devastate the countryside and now had air pollution from auto exhausts. This entire combination did a job on the old buildings. Sicily hadn't gone through any of those problems and the an- cient architecture was still intact. Next, Gus suggested we visit the remnants of a Phoenician market location. The Phoenicians were people from the Middle East, basically, where Lebanon is today. Three thousand BCE, they traveled the Mediterra- nean selling lumber. Most of the vegetation in the Med is tropical and solid wood is in short supply. Cedar trees were cut into lumber and sold in many ports all along the coastal areas in- cluding the south coast of Sicily. I marveled at Sal's father's knowledge of ancient history, as he detailed the events that happened when those Phoenician sailors worked their trade. The third stop was at the home of Luigi Pirandello, an Italian writer who won the Pulitzer Prize for litera- ture in the mid 1930s. His by John Christoforo A Nostalgic Remembrance m small estate was main- tained by the Italian govern- ment and had become a tourist attraction, mainly for Italians. When we had finished sightseeing, it was time for lunch, or dinner, if you eat according to southern European customs. Their main meal is in the after- noon and the lighter meal is at night, sort of the rever- sal of our lunch and din- ner. We stopped at a beach front restaurant that Sal's father liked. We looked at fish swimming in a large salt water tank and picked the ones we wanted for our dinners. As we waited, we pigged out on a variety of shell food. When our fishes were served, the heads were still attached. I think that the U.S. is the only country that cuts off the head of a fish when it is served. We just sprinkled a bit of sea salt and added a few drops of fresh Sicilian lemon to our main course and then feasted. Of course, a liter of "vino de la casa" (house wine) added to the flavor of each bite. When we had finished, we rented a cabana on the beach. Sal's father and uncle stretched out on two of the lounges that were shaded and were soon asleep. Sal and I opted for the sun, and later a swim in the warm waters of the Mediterranean. I thought we were in heaven. For the next couple of days, we let Sal's father plan the itinerary, and as a result, I learned more about Greek culture than I could have in Greece. Each time we returned to the Meli condo, Sal's mother had prepared a feast in the brick oven that accompanied the modern appliances in her kitchen. She made pasta al forno in that oven and Sicilian pizza. I think with each bite, I put on a pound. The days passed, and Sal and I made the decision that it was time to head out and see the rest of Sicily. That night, I called home to see if everything was OK. After Morn briefed me on the goings on, Babbononno got on the phone and asked me dozens of questions about Sicily. He hadn't seen it since he was in the Italian marines, a lifetime earlier. When I described Palermo with its wide avenues and modern buildings, he ac- cused me of going to the wrong country. His recollec- tions of that western capital -- FOR YOU WHO APPRECIATE THE FINEST-- THE MUSIC FOR ALL OCCASIONS WWW.BOSTONPOSTGAZETTE.COM 781-648-5678 of Sicily was from well before 1900. The next day, Sal and I said goodbye to his family and a few of the neighbors we had come to know. If you've ever eaten a Sunday dinner at an Italian home, you know that when it's time to leave, the goodbye process takes at least a half hour. Well, we started saying goodbye around 9:00 am, and were finally on the road by 11:00 am. Sal's mother had put a doggie bag together for the two of us so we wouldn't starve on our east- ward trek through Sicily. A couple of the neighbors asked us to look up relatives in New York and gave us the addresses. Sal's Uncle Gus brought us to I1 Banco di Napoli to exchange some traveler's checks. He as- sured us that we would get more lira per dollar from them than any other bank. Within the next couple of months of travel, we would discover that he was right. When we were finally on the road, we decided to just drive toward the east of the island and stop at what- ever locations interested us. Sal told me that he wanted to see Mt. Etna, which by the way, had erupted about a month before. I told him that I wanted to see Siragusa, Catania, and Messina on the east coast. We agreed that those would be key points to see before we headed for the mainland and off we went. I had to do all of the driving. The FIAT had a standard shift and Sal could only drive an automatic. As we zigzagged north and south while heading east, I discovered the beauty of that island. Most of it was farm country back then and when we stopped to eat, the food was fresh, vegetables picked that day or meat slaughtered just before it was cooked. Fortunately, we were not taken for tourists. Sal, although growing up in East Boston, had not forgot- ten how to speak Sicilian. At first, I had to let him do all the talking as the Italian I learned growing up was Avellinese, almost a differ- ent language from some of the Sicilian I heard as we traveled. Many of the words were foreign to me and Sal had to translate. We stopped at Caltanis- setta, Enna, Vittoria, Ragusa, Modica, headed north to see Mt. Etna, then south east to the coast of the Ionian Sea and Syracuse, Augusta and Catania. Our final Sicilian destinations would be the resort town of Taormina and the eastern capital of Messina. From there we would bring the car on the ferry that con- nected Sicily to the toe of the Italian peninsula, but that's a story for next week. GOD BLESS AMERICA and a Happy Veteran's Day to all who served for our country. The Socially Set (Continued from Page 9) Visitors to Old Sturbridge Village over Thanksgiving can celebrate the classic New England holiday in true 19th-century style with events planned on Thanksgiving Day and throughout the weekend. Costumed historians will demonstrate how an 1830s family prepared and enjoyed their feast. Although space is no longer available for the two Thanksgiving Day dinners served at the Village, reservations are still being accepted for a "Day After Thanksgiving" dinner buffet served on Friday, November 25. For reservations, call 508-347-0306 or 508-347-0385, or visit www.osv.org. (Photo courtesy of Kate Brandt) Jimi Hendrix. Other items of interest include a first edition of "The Molecular Biology of the Gene," by James Watson, and "Golf, A Royal and Ancient Game," by Robert Clark. Seminars and events punctuate the weekend and are free with the price of admission. Patrons can bring in their own books on Sunday, November 13, for appraisals. The Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair is sponsored by the New England Chapter of the Antiquarian Booksellers As- sociation of America. A por- tion of the ticket sales will benefit the Boston Public Library and the American Antiquarian Society. Noted "Senior Times" col- umnist, Kenneth Gloss is chair of the popular annual event and his famous Brattle Book Shop will be participat- ing. Ken will be among the experts giving free verbal appraisals of books bought or brought by attendees on Sunday. Tickets are available at ' www'bstnbkfair'cm and at the show's box office during show hours. For times, schedules and addi- tional information, please call 617-266-6540 or visit www. bos tonbookfair, com. ....... We hear from our friend Trish Wesley Umbrell that the Natick Community Organic Farm has wonder- ful Thanksgiving turkeys for sale. Turkeys may be ordered online. For more information, call 508-655-2204 or visit Natick Community Organic Farm at www.natickfarm.org and click on "Reserve Your Thanksgiving Turkey On- line." We understand that they usually sell out. The Natick Community Organic Farm is located at 117 Eliot Street, Natick. Thank you, Trish, for letting us know! Enjoy! (Be sure to visit Hilda MorriU's gardening Web site, www.bostongardens.com. In addition to events covered and reported by the columnist, lhe Socially Set" is compiled from various other sources such as news and press re- leases, PRNewswire services, etc.) Through the Eyes of a Stranger (Continued from Page 6) stained glass and statues, they were particularly taken by Our Lady of the Rosary. There were comments on the ceiling paintings and the high altar and the unanimous conclusion that Sacred Heart was built with love and deep religious fervor. The group left appreciative of the time we took with them and the hospitality that was shown them. It was about an hour after they left when we decided to take a short tour of the church, this time seeing it in an entirely new light, for we were look- ing at it through the eyes of our Texas friends. We felt thankful for their visit and the time we spent with them for they allowed us to once again see with restored clarity what had been taken for granted; the beauty and commitment, the religious devotion that went into constructing Sacred Heart Church. The understanding that what is true for Sacred Heart Church is true for every church. These are im- portant insights, reminders of the remarkable faith and deeds of our grand- parents and parents that were realized by seeing things not in the same familiar way but through renewed discovery that is inherent through the eyes of a stranger.