June 6, 2010
“I know you,” said a tall man with olive eyes as we crossed paths last week.
I racked my brain. Had we met?
“We drink coffee at the same bar,” he laughed. “All stranieri, strangers, are famous here.”
“Do you know Louise from England?”
I shook my head.
He pointed to a low, crumbling building adjacent to the cathedral and pulled out a ring of keys. “The church is trying to sell this building. Do you want to see inside?”
The two dank rooms inside were pigeon-pooped and depressing, but I saw two old chairs I liked in a pile of junk.
“I gift them to you, Signora.”
I politely protested.
“But they’re worthless!” he said.
Old Sicilian church chairs—seats lovingly caned with a thick, rough twine—have been replaced by pews.
Heading up the stairs to my house, a salvaged chair under each arm, I felt another rush of Sicily-love.
There was also regret. Why had he let them go so lightly?
ADDENDUM: It’s true that the little church chairs were riddled with wood-munching bugs—tarli, as they’re called here. But there’s a simple solution. My friend Roberta (left) taught me the antitarlo recipe: Buy a syringe at a farmacia, don pink plastic gloves, fill the syringe with toxic goo, plunge it into each and every pinhole (there were millions), then wrap the chair, Christo-like, in plastic and let rest for 2 weeks. Unwrap and enjoy with a glass of Nero d’Avola.