Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Redefining what "off the boat" means in Sicily...

     My dad Rocco is "off the boat," as the saying goes. When he was twelve, my grandfather Nonno lost his job as a cooper, a wine barrel maker, to mechanization. For Rocco that meant no more climbing olive trees and swimming in the Mediterranean. You can imagine the homesickness that set in soon after he recovered from the seasickness he suffered from traveling to AMERICA on a boat filled with crazy Sicilian immigrants.  
    For me the mechanization of wine barrel making meant I would be born! Sweet. Aside from all the wonderful traits I inherited from my dad, I have been officially cursed whit his seasickness! I deny this affliction, but when I look at my track record, I have gotten that icky-hung-over-I-want-to-vomit-but-can't feeling every time: Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Halloween Booze Cruise, etc, etc. Imagine me in a white furry Easter Bunny zombie costume and woozy.
    The best beaches in Sicily are accessible only by boat. Best because they are desolate and not packed to the brim with yelling, smoking and eating Sicilians. I had to see the best beaches, so I got on the boat packed to the brim with yelling, smoking and eating Sicilians. In Sicily, even if you don't know it, you know someone with a boat, and they are actually happy about taking you out. And, the minute I got on board my cousin's wife's dad's friend's fishing boat, I felt it; the inevitable queasy feeling. 
    Seasickness is like a slow creeping snake, but once it takes hold you cannot escape. They hadn't cut the engine and anchored yet, but I had to do something to shake that horrible feeling. There was only one option. 
    "Captain, can I jump off the boat?"
     I was practically overboard when someone yelled, "No, la medusa!" 
    " WTF is a medusa?" Splash.
     Oh, just a gigantic jelly fish? Anything was better than seasickness. The water was smooth and buttery, warm and perfect. Feeling like a millions bucks I climbed aboard, but there it was again, that gripping feeling. Into the sea again, this time I swam to shore. 
     The rocks on shore were jagged, but they weren't moving. A chivalrous sun bather helped me onto solid ground. I found shady spot and planted myself on the rocks. Looking back at the boat, I resolved that there was no way in hell I would swim back, no matter how bad ass the captain was. 
      I was in self-preservation mode and my plan was to climb up the mountain without shoes, water and sunblock (remember that this beach is accessible only by boat), find a road and hitchhike back to town. My dear Aunt Grace, god rest her soul was an infamous hitchhiker in Sicily, so what's the worst that could happen? Dehydration? Torn up feet? Severe sunburn? Kidnapped by the mafia!? Anything was better than getting on that boat.
      All the while I was on shore, I had left my dear friend Melissa back on that boat which was filled with my crazy Sicilian family and they were frantically concerned about me, even though I was happy as a clam on my cozy rock perch. 
     "Jen, que cazzo fai?" they were yelling. (Jen, wtf are you doing?!)
     "Call my mom and tell her pick me up on the road up there!" Looking back I saw steep mountain terrain, and looking down I saw no shoes on the palest of feet and I was thirsty.
     There was a lot of commotion on board, like a disturbed and worried hive of bees with crazy flailing arms. Then Melissa jumped off the boat ... with a giant yellow blow-up donut.
    She would later say that she swam across the Mediterranean to get save me. More likely she couldn't take the crazy that was happening on the boat. I don't blame her.
    "Jen, what the hell are you doing? You left me on the boat and I don't know what anyone is talking about. They are all freaking out. You can't just swim away to shore like this!"
   "Just call my mom and tell her to pick me up. Or I can totally get a ride from someone."
   "That's ridiculous. What am I going to say to your Mom? We left Jen on some beach. Pick her up at a road that doesn't even exist. You are crazy."
   "Melissa, I am not getting on that boat."
   So she swam back. Another man overboard: my cousin's brother in law-ish, who happens to be a hot Sicilian soccer player-ish, to the rescue! I explained to him my plan and in his Sicilian English-ish he said, "But Jen, you are crazy!"
    When a Sicilian person calls you crazy, its time to reexamine your life. He had a better plan. So I jumped back in the water and swam  to a small speed boat that would safely return me to town along with my shoes, water and sunblock. And a killer view. I am not talking about the mountains.
    Hot. Sicilian. Hero. Times 2!

1 comment:

Rocco Galatioto said...

Very nice article. Just love it.