Picture It -- Sicily, 2013 (or "I Am a Bad Paparazzi")


There's an old British guy staying at the same bed and breakfast as us in Syracuse, Sicily. He reminds me of a ferret somehow. Long neck. Vaguely rodent-like grin. But less hair than a ferret. Lots less hair. And ferrets are slenderer than this chap. Lots slenderer. He greets us as he emerges from the bathroom. This is a strange and somewhat awkward place to be greeted. After he greets us, he continues to speak, a prim and proper British monologue that, I realize several minutes in, could very possibly never end. I briefly consider punching the baby that Shannon is holding, because then maybe British Ferret Gentleman would stop talking because, well, that American just punched a baby, maybe I should stop talking to him.

Later that night, me and Shannon see him window shopping from down a narrow street. We turn and go the other way, because it was act of God that he stopped talking last time, and we don't want to trouble God with silencing the same British Ferret Gentleman twice in the same day. The next morning I feel a little bad for stiffing British Ferret Gentleman after he refers to the Asian guy at the breakfast table as "that Japanese chap," because my mom taught me we should be nice to people who say "chap." No, actually she didn't teach me that, it was Roger Moore. But then later when I hear British Ferret Gentleman endlessly monologuing to the bed and breakfast owner, who by the way doesn't really speak English, I feel better about being a jerk the night before. And that's really what life is all about -- finding justifications for being a jerk.

When our airplane lands in Palermo, Sicily, the guy at the Avis rental car counter gives us a Peugeot, which makes me feel happy. When I was in second grade, my friend Curtis got a Peugeot bicycle. We made fun of him because no one could pronounce the name of his bike. Pee-you-gee-ot? Peh-uh-geh-oot? My bike, on the other hand, just said “ST Racing” on the crossbars. Easy peezy to pronouce. Even Stacy, the girl down the street with cooties, could pronounce it. Also, you knew from the name that you could race it. You knew it would go fast, like a race car. Whereas you weren’t sure what to do with Curtis’s bike. Maybe sit on it and smoke a cigarette like a French dude.


One evening we roll into a little village on the crest of a hill in the shadow of Mount Etna. We ease through the busy town square where flocks of old guys in tweed berets and old sport coats are smoking like freshmen and arguing about meatballs, or maybe taxidermy. I don't know really. I can't understand Italian. I really want to stop, get out of the car, and mix with the locals. You know -- I want to not understand them at closer range. I want to yell "Paparazzi!" -- because that's Italian -- and just start taking pictures of everyone. But I don't, because Tess is fussing in the back seat. Sigh. Paparazzi must not have kids.