Put a 1958 Christian Drouin Calvados close to any lush, chances are they’ll polish it off within an hour’s time. Set a generous dollop of gooey Nepalese opium near some dopesick junkie — chasing that dragon should occur quicker than blinking an eye. Leave an uncut ounce of Peruvian cocaine in the vicinity of a coke fiend, they too will immediately dip into that unaccountable seduction.
Who was kidding who? Back in February when Jeanette booked our flight (April-May) in and out of Milan’s Malpensa, did she or LouLou actually think the temptation being so close to Sicily would go without taking action? Did any of us for one minute really have confidence believing our upcoming (late July through mid-September) air tickets in and out of Palermo might fully satisfy an addict’s yearly Sicilia fix?
It started innocently at the Duomo; I’ll blame our change of itinerary on Milan’s main attraction. As I saw it, the intricate Gothic spires denoted funneled wet sand drizzled on a seashore, forming miniature summer make-believe castles. So much in fact, whatever wonderment housed inside Duomo di Milano had at that point vanished, as did the addict’s drink, o, or blow — a fragile switch instantly flipped. Milan tourist cafes featuring “Sicilian” caponata, panelle, pasta con sarde, sfincione, cassata and cannoli don’t fool us; we recognize the difference between Sicily’s authentic cuisine and insincere imitations.
Popularized by Las Vegas drag queens and cologne soaked Russian thugs, Donatella’s Versace never wowed me. If Gianni were around we probably would’ve gone into the Versace Milan flagship store, but I’m as convinced in Donatella’s couture ability as I am in Milan’s Sicilian cooking capability. Excluding relics Gucci and Armani, Milan’s contemporary fashion scene leaves us with Moschino. Since Franco Moschino’s untimely 1994 death, the Moschino brand was triumphantly resurrected through Jeremy Scott’s brilliance. Bearing in mind, the most exhilarating creations Milan offers arrived from Scott, headquartered in Los Angeles, it’s yet another excuse to skip town. Our recent stay in fundamentally fashion sound Bangkok must’ve sharpened my esthetic sensibility. Milan men preening in electric-blue suits, tapered dress shirts, slender ties (no socks, floodwater slacks) showing off waxed eyebrows, alongside pencil line beards and moustaches are ultimately outfits incomplete without their flouncy scarves — getups seemingly uncomfortable, while terribly affected.
Political upheaval, sadistic dictators, extreme poverty and growing terrorists groups caused sovereign countries to burst at their seams. The impact of immigrants, from Africa, in particular, is evident throughout Milan. Sidewalks in front of top name boutiques lost browsing effect — diminished by flea market style vendors selling knock-off handbags. Jeanette and LouLou receive African catcalls and creepy gawks by immigrants who loiter Milan’s Metro stations. We witnessed similar transformation to Rome’s once majestic landscape last summer; heard, although brushed off several Italians bitter complaint, “Milan is much worse.”
On the semi-related subject of immigrants: my grandmother, Anna D’Angelo left Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily for Ellis Island in 1917. I wonder how many African grandchildren will bring their kids to visit Africa in 2117, enjoying holiday after holidays there? My guess hardly, if any.
Castellammare del Golfo is a pleasant thirty minute drive from Palermo’s Falcone-Borsellino Airport. Casually cruise on the meticulously maintained autostrada, akin to Highway 29 in Napa Valley; Sicily however, boasts curvaceous marble quarry hills and matching bone color huddled towns. Visiting Castellammare during spring this year will be a first for us. Of five dozen acquaintances we’ve befriended these past eleven years, most have only seen their global bedouin amici in late June, July, August and early September. Gina and Franco at their macelleria, alongside Elena and Mariano, who own and operate Panificio Furco should be startled to see us; Francesca with Lydia watching over L’angolo Del Buongustaio will too. Our loveable eighty-five-year old, quasi-retired Monsignor Navarra won’t care what month it is; depending on the time of day, he’ll say buongiorno or buonasera, then hug us, slightly above a whisper expressing his usual, “Brava, brava, brava.”
The Milan objective was to stay in a groovy city, sketching an outline for my admitted, well overdue, socially responsible hair and skin care line — slated for launch, Autumn 2018. In naiveté I regarded Milan as Italy’s design capital. It took coming here to learn Milan is sadly like too many world-class cities today — a tainted image of its previous glory. Milan’s 15 minutes ran out.
Anna D’Angelo pursued reluctantly the American dream; little did she know her grandson would return a century later to absorb whatever vision I could from every Sicilian nuance. Richness, forever captivating Jeanette, LouLou and I on Signora Colombo’s taut eighty-six-year-old olive skin must be paid homage within our upcoming beauty brand. Famiglia di Schiavo set sail to Scopello from Castellammare three years ago on Italo’s ebony ketch. Speaking in Italian I asked Italo, another vibrant octogenarian, how his face was still smooth as a baby’s ass. Much of Italo’s communication is conveyed singing a verse from some 1940s through 60s well-known American song; subsequent to his lyrical awareness, the two word response came in English, “…. grilled fish.”
Twenty-two years ago I walked with my friend, Debra along St. Mark’s Place in the East Village; an elderly gypsy woman was sitting on a stoop reading tarot cards. I was to leave New York that next day for Sicily, accompanied by my mother, Jean. She was flying in from San Diego to JFK, the rendezvous point, setting off for our maiden journey, seeing where her mother lived seven years before Jean was born — a present for Jean’s seventieth birthday. I don’t recall the exact card this gypsy drew, yet distinctly recollect its directive. She claimed the trip I was about to take wasn’t strictly for pleasure, adding this journey would also have a definite business connection. Perhaps my twenty-two year old tarot reading is coincidentally falling into place now, or that gypsy woman really knew her stuff, and I’ve been pathetically slow out of the gate. Habits can be pricey, most gamblers will attest to this; other expensive addictions as ours found compromise — Sicily is a multigenerational investment.