Thursday, April 29, 2010

Canvassing in Milazzo

Back in Milazzo there’s a big screen in the piazza showing the inauguration of the teatro – which has been closed for twenty years. Part of the sindaco’s (mayor) final showdown for votes, the castle next to our house – which has been under restoration for the last two years – should be reopening this week too. Palm trees and flowerbeds are sprouting up everywhere. The historic Chiesa di San Francesco di Paolo – Milazzo’s adopted patron saint of seafarers – was opened a couple of Sundays ago with much civic and military aplomb and a fire and brimstone bishop giving hell to his sinful flock. Piazza Roma at last is opened, with its shining new slabs of concrete and indigenous (not) palm trees and strategically placed benches which a few pensioners have already laid claim to – and all because the sindaco is a partner in the soon to open bar of the piazza. This is also the motivation behind the newly paved pedestrian street in the centre and the cute shiny new bar with nice benches right outside. Guess what? The sindaco is a partner there too. Unfortunately, the dear sindaco has no partners in the borgo – the most beautiful and historic part of Milazzo, with the picturesque Spanish quarter, the Norman-Visigoth-Spanish-Bourbon castle and the plethora of bars and restaurants of which Pachamama is one. Not at all; instead, we have overflowing rubbish skips, broken glass on the streets because they are not cleaned regularly (ever?), and I counted THREE dead rats on the steps down from the borgo last week, and THREE dead rats on the steps that go from the borgo down to Vacarella.

There are also elections for the mayor-to-be's consigliere (council). But the candidates just make you laugh. THere are several female candidates - but rather than being pleased to see this, it only makes me despair - they are all Barbie dolls, freshly off the sunbed and out of the beautty salon and some no doubt from under the knife judging by certain dimensions given special attention in the photography - since here in Sicily you are judged locally on appearance - hence an aggressive sexual competition between women - with intellect lagging sadly behind. One of the local barmen has even candidated himself. Is there any hope for this place ...?

But this sindiaco is merely a puppet of the local MP, apparently, who is Berlusconi's henchman in north-east Sicily, and 'friend of the people' in the next big town, Barcellona. How does this affect us? Well.. now that the weather is better, the Barcellonese are starting to frequent the bars of the borgo again, flashing their money - since they are the rich and powerful cousins of Milazzese - smoking inside when they feel like it, and starting fights with whomever they choose as target fot the night. Last weekend our barman was a potential victim. Apparently he had put photos on Facebook of himself with the ex-wife of a Barcellonese, and this guy turned up with 15 supporters to teach him a lesson. Luckily for our barman, two of our regulars from Barcellona (usually drunk and under the influence I suspect of that white powder) were able to intervene and save the day. We don't tolerate this kind fo thing, especially not the smoking inside - and we have had a hassle-free winter on all counts, really - but now that these trouble makers are back on the scene we are depressed and fear that things could get out of control some day. Because these are the kind of people who laugh when you ask ('tell' gets you nowhere) them not to smoke, and carry on on smoking. Or start a fight because you have offended them by not allowing them to do exactly as they please. Because they are immune. Standing behind their right to flout the law and do whatever they please, is the figure of their 'friend of the people', the Berlusconi-representative in Sicily. Weekends are starting to take on a familiar pattern: We have nice diners until midnight; midnight to 2am the place is packed with music fans of the good bands we put on; from 2am to 4am (no, these people don't want to go home) the drunk (on two cocktails)start getting belligerent and problematic for us. In Ireland a burly bouncer would simply remove these undesirables. But in Sicily they are untouchable ... Hence our need to escape to the islands on our day off ...

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