Public Relations

"All the cars you see around here," yet another taxi driver bringing me from the Grand Hotel Villa Igiea to the congested center of town began in a confidential undertone, "it wasn't always like that, you know. Before, it was all carriages." Then, after a pause that he reckoned was long enough for the average tourist to appreciate fully the historic significance of the news he had just imparted: "Would you like me to take you to the airport when you're leaving?" Well, I had news for him: I wasn't leaving.

Coming from Venice to Palermo as something other than a tourist is a bizarre experience, a little like what I imagine a Social Register Brahmin might feel on having to move from the Park Avenue apartment he finally inherited from his great uncle to the most socially desirable building in Des Moines. "Oooh," says practically everyone in Des Moines, "have you seen where Mr. Brahmin is living? That amazing new place behind the shopping mall? And you can see the park from every window? He must've paid a million dollars for that." I don't want to offend anyone, because of course I've never been to Des Moines and don't know if it has parks and shopping malls, but the point I'm making is actually not uncomplimentary. I can even believe that Des Moines is a wonderful place to live. It's just that it probably wouldn't be as wonderful as the...

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