02 April 2013

To the Sicilians and Cambridge: Brute, brutta, Calogero

One of the reasons, the main reason, that I came out to Boston a day early on my way to VRA in Providence was to see the "Brute" show at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard. The Carpenter is the only building by Le Corbusier in the U.S. and it's a marvel of Brutalist architecture, a style I fell in love with in college as Davis Brody's Wooster Science Building was being built at New Paltz State. I hadn't read more than announcements about the show and was expecting a retrospective of the building. No. There WAS a large model of the building on the first floor and photos on other floors. The  gallery space on the third floor, however, was devoted to an installation of chairs with a dozen archival photographs. On the podium were six or eight Le Corbusier chairs and facing the podium were about 40 chairs of a wide variety, from little plastic chair to vintage rocking chair. Lots of thoughts: people come in all shapes and sizes; Le Corbusier was an inspiration to many and preached theory; singularity and diversity; furniture can be lonely without people, or not.

In Italian, at least in Sicily, "brutta" can be used for ugly. When we checked into the B&B Giucalem in Piazza Armerina, it was a nice country retreat, a bit of a respite after the rainy check-in into the B&B Proserpina in Enna. That was brutal: scary circular stairs, rain, reception area under construction, water shutoff for construction (they DID fix it in 10 minutes, after we called when we got back from supper). From the B&B Giucalem, the red house on the hilltop was afire in the late afternoon sun. I was amused. Giuseppe and his son Calogero, hosts at the Giucalem, thought the house was brutta.

Breakfast brought some very yummy plum jam made by Nonna (grandmother) from the trees on the property. The slogan for the B&B is "La casa negli orti" or the house in the orchards. We'd have bought some of the jam to bring you if they'd been selling it.

It wasn't the only time we ran into a Calogero. Our host in Capo d'Orlando at B&B Le Terrazze was Calogero Nici. He grew up in the Nebrodi mountains in the town of Ucria. His brother is an officer of the Nebrodi park. Signore Nici enthused in the evening (another after-dark arrival) about his love of the musician André Rieu. I said I loved classical music and Rieu sounded vaguely familiar. In the morning, he took us on a tour of a video of a recent Rieu concert at Radio City Music Hall. It isn't really my style of classical music; Christie described it as "schlocky" but appreciated Signore Nici's total lack of sarcasm or irony in looking at the musical presentation. I really appreciated his sharing his enthusiasm too.

The last morning we were in Sciacca, I went out for a walk up to the high part of town above the Via G. Licata near our B&B, the Conte Luna. And, there, I found the Porta San Calogero and, through the gate, the general market. Love the morning activity: people setting up their market booths; deliveries being made; streets being swept; coffee. And it doesn't hurt that morning sunlight is glorious, just like the evening sunlight on the brutta house on the hill above the Giucalem.


Anonymous said...

So what did you learn about San Calogero?

Sherman Clarke said...

Nothing at all except that the portal is named after him. Guess I better go look it up.

Sherman Clarke said...

"St Calogero (Calcedonia, 466 – Monte Cronio, 18 giugno 561) was a hermit monaco, revered as a saint by the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church and patron of many countries in Sicily." Hmm. Almost my birthday (19 June) for his feast day.