Monday, January 17, 2005

Frostino riding down Etna
Posted by Hello

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Snowmen from Mt. Etna

I've been witnessing a funny Sicilian winter pastime. They love to drive up Mt. Etna and play in the snow. Of couse, the colder and rainier it is, the more snow on the upper slopes, generally above 1000 meters. On Sunday, especially, there is a steady stream of cars all morning long going up the mountain. There are several very popular, large restaurants that do a huge business on Sunday.

They dress up in snowsuits and play in the snow! They bring or rent sleds, ski, have snowball fights, and build snowmen. The funniest thing they do, though, is build their snowmen on the HOODS OF THEIR CARS. Then they proudly drive down the mountain with Frosty (or Frostino?) blocking much of their view until he slides (melts) off and splatters on the road. Often I'll be coming home from work and see dozens of former snowmen as new roadkill.

I have not personally taken part in this game, but my houseguests recently did. They drove up about 20 km. to the "big snow," played in the snow, and built the snowman on the hood of the car. They drove carefully and slowly back to Nicolosi with him. When I came home from work, it was in my driveway but still intact. Unlike the others, he had a happy home for a few days until he melted. He was a cute little fellow, too . . . .

The Parking Culture of Sicily

Parking is not a problem in Sicily once you understand how it works. Think of it as an expanded, refined form of valet parking. You have to know what you are looking for, or, better yet, WHO you are looking for. That would be a "parking guy." No matter what the signs say, it is the parking guys who control the parking and make it possible.

If it's a place you visit frequently, like downtown Catania, for instance, it's good to find a parking guy and maybe even form a relationship with him. That's what my friends Mike and Leslie have done. Mike likes to go to the market in Catania every Saturday morning. Parking is impossible unless you have a parking guy. Mike has two, so he always has a place to park his car. Leslie also has one in Catania. Believe it or not, he's right in the middle of a bus circle!

I have a place I like to park, too, conveniently near the cathedral and Elephant Fountain. Parking guys control the limited spaces there. I don't have a personal parking guy, but I'll go with whoever is there. This is how it works: you cruise the area slowly seeking one. Once found, I gesture to him that I want to park and he graciously directs me and helps me negotiate a place. Then I pay him a Euro or two for his help and, most importantly, his watching my car while it is parked there. I can come back whenever, and he reappears, smiling. I tip him another small coin and drive off. All of us are happy in the manner.

Without him, I would probably not find a place, and, secondly, it would not be safe to park the car. Like most Italian cities, Catania has plenty of petty crime. Oh, and I also will not suffer any damage to my car. All Sicilian cars are damaged (dented, scraped, broken). It's just part of the territory. However, I want to preserve the Mini as long as possible in its original state of good repair. The parking guys help make that possible.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

2005 in Sicily

Happy New Year! I learned to say "2005" in Italian on New Year's Eve. It has a really nice sound to it: "DOO-ay MEE-lay CHINK-way."

I received the funniest horoscope from Yahoo on New Year's Day:

Maryellen's Daily Sagittarius Forecast
Quickie: You don't have to live on an island. Build a bridge. Land is not as far as you think.

(Uh, yeah, I kind of do have to live on an island!)