Playing Pong with Nonno Carlo
Posted by Andy Steves in on September 15, 2010.
On Tuesday I decided to ride inland and uphill to Castelbuono. It was a beautiful day, and the views were amazing. People have asked me if I saw evidence of Mafia activity during the time I’ve spent in Sicily. The Mafia is careful not to attract any attention to itself so as an outsider, it is very hard to notice anything. That day though, as I was tooling around through this little hill town, a brand new Mercedes passed me and turned around the next corner. I thought it was strange because all other cars were the kinds you’d expect in a poor rural town with not much of an economy except agriculture. I didn’t really think anything of it until I caught up to the silver Mercedes in the narrow back alleys of the town. At each storefront, the car would stop, and shop owners came out and passed an envelope to the driver. They’d then chat for a bit asking about each other’s family and friends. The shopkeeper would then thank the driver profusely and return back inside and the car would continue on. Of course I don’t know exactly what was going on, but one could make an educated guess.
That night we had dinner at the girls’ apartment on the other side of town. As far as cuisine goes, Italy is definitely the place to study abroad. Each of my friends have picked up a different recipe to add to their repertoire, and it feels like every night is a feast. That night we had Chicken Marsala and a simple, spiced whole-wheat pasta.
On Wednesday, I picked a town called Geraci to ride to. On a map, when the road gets squiggly, it means the road is steep. I kind of knew that from before, but now I have a true sense. Distance-wise, I didn’t go very far, about 15 or 16 miles. But in that time I climbed over 3,000 feet, most of them near the end. I bought a €3 panino in the local and only grocery store of this mountain town and ate in the town's only piazza. I sat next to a couple old men who were shooting the breeze like they always do and I tried to listen in on their conversation, but I could only pick out maybe 10 percent of what they said. They were speaking in such a strong dialect that it seemed like another language to me. After a while I interrupted them and began a conversation in Florentine Italian about life in Sicily and how they’ve liked their life in the town. Only several hundred live there now and it was fun hearing them talk like they knew the life stories of each inhabitant. I bet they did too.
Nothing really worth noting happened on Thursday except for that evening’s dinner and post-dinner activities. That afternoon, we invited Carlo over for dinner. He brought a raw artichoke salad and a pack of sardines. Neither was very good, but it was great having him there. He was born in Sicily but was raised in Milan. His wife is Milanese and they’ve spent most of their life up there until now. He’s retired and involves himself in the marine equivalent of Italian boy scouts. I didn’t really catch it all, but he told me about it, and showed me pictures of teaching kids how to sail. After dinner, we roped him in for a game of beer pong. His wind up and toss, I could tell, were derived from a lifetime of bocce ball. His team was way behind until Carlo found his groove and sunk three in a row to win the game. With all of us standing stunned, Carlo said one game was enough for him and went to bed.
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