In February of 1999, I got my first chance to visit the island of Sicily, the land of my Grandfather's family. I took the train from Salerno to Catania. Was sooooooo cold. Oh, but I thought the further south I got, the warmer it would be. Haa haaa. Train went through a BLIZZARD... got stuck somewhere in Calabria. Twice. Finally we arrived in Villa St. Giovanni and waited... and waited... for the train to be disconnected and transported onto the ferry to take us to Sicily. Sat there on train forever. Finally, we got moving, only to get STUCK on the tracks somehow. They jerked the train back and forth trying to get the train un-stuck, but to no avail. There was some announcement over the intercom, and people began to grab their belongings and exit the train. It was now getting really late, like about 10:00pm; already we were 5 hours late. We all exited the train, and stood around wondering what to do next. I cannot remember if we were on the ferry or not, but soon a conductor came and led us onto a ferry, were there were several tracks, but as yet no train. We all stood around in the cooooollllllllld for so long looking like a bunch of refugees. I remember seeing one old gentleman that reminded me of my Grandpa Alessi. He wore the classic Italian hat, and smoked a thick cigar or cigarette. He had the classic Palermo nose, and tweed coat. Just like Grandpa Alessi.
My grandfather's nose was so big, and he smoked so much that it was stained with nicotine. Worse than that, he had his two fingers amputated because of holding a cigarette so much (at least that's what my mother told me.) Ohh, and he drank like a fish too. I remember more than once I was in the bathroom at home when he barged in to use the toilet. Instead of telling him I was in there, I would hide in the shower. What would then happen is an indelible memory to me... the endless stream of, yeah, you know. I promise you, it was what seemed like eternity to me. It was worse, because I always feared getting caught hiding in the shower. Never was the job complete before he passed gas... yeah, in the same volume as he urinated. No one farted like my grandpa. I remember my grandfather on a fishing trip in Arizona. We were just kids, but I remember he got his fishing line stuck in the trees, got soooo angry and cussed like a sailor, wading into the water, teeth clenching that ever present cigarette, farting away as he flailed away with his fishing rod!
Well, this old gentleman was an old fart like my grandpa.... ohhh.. was he mad! Steaming mad! Being treated like a refugee on board the ferry!!!!!! His wife was trying to calm him down, but he wouldn't be comforted. He paced back and forth smoking his stogie... I watched him, and waited for him to let loose with a tirade of curses. I confess it made the whole affair worthwhile!
Ohh, back to Catania. We finally made it sometime past midnight. At the train station I took a taxi to my hotel that I had booked ahead of time in Aci Trezza. Got there in the pitch black middle of the night. I checked into my room and opened the curtains to a view of the moon shining on the 'o Isole Ciclopi.'