Another sleepless afternoon in Palermo. Tossing, the noise from outside on the Via Roma. The smoke, the heat, the life outside waiting, waiting for me to walk among the living and the dead. All of Palermo is throbbing to the heartbeat of a distant Etna. I can feel the heat, searing my youth with its eternal flame. I must get out of this room.
Again, slipping out. Taking the stairs down the four floors so as not to disturb any family with the sound of the ancient elevator. The man guarding the entrance to the family compound on Via Roma sleeps in his chair by the gate.
The 45 minutes it took me to walk filled up one roll of film. I had two more left. I would need them as I descended down into underground Palermo, looking for cool peace and silence. Dead quiet.
Paying my 300 Lira (about 40 cents) I went into the Catacombe dei Cappuccini.
Not that they, or any society, should look behind or below. Who really knows what those who came before did to prepare the way for us, or if they simply lived their life with the same disregard for the future that the Palermo of 1971 had for 1211, or the Palermo of 1871 had for 2011?
At the end of WWII in Sicily, the gods of wine awoke and began their journey from the far reaches of the island to the cities, to Palermo, Catania, Siracusa, Marsala, Trapani, Milazzo, Messina, making their way in a march slower than Garibaldi and his marauders. Grillo joined Catarratto and Inzolia, Carricante, Malvasia, Nerello, Zibibbo, Frappato, followed by Perricone, Calabrese, Nocera and Grecanico. At first they mingled among their indigenous selves. And then they would be joined by another set of invaders, Chardonnay, Syrah, Cabernet, Merlot, Viognier, Pinot Noir. A giant pot of minestrone, filled with all manner of stuff, into the primal slime of Sicily, once again chafing the palimpsest the ancients called Trinacria.
Since that first time I have lived another two lifetimes of my youthful years. But Palermo, on that hot and muggy day in August in the caverns of the dead, called me to awaken and live and love and feel. And eat and drink it all up. And all here in (and under) one of the greatest gardens on earth.
to be continued...