Sicilian Trog 3

A friendly reader wrote in to observe that Ched P. Rayson had come out of hiding.  He may have been wondering what happened to me.  Did I, perhaps, get kidnapped by the grandsons of Salvatore Rosa?  Or link up with the mysterious Sybaritic Navrozov (Sybaris, by the way, was a city in the Greek West) and woke,  finally, after days of reveling, to find “the dawn was gray”?  

The explanation of my absence is much more banal.  I contracted some sort of gastroenteritis that attacked me in the weakest spot of my digestive system, the esophageal ulcers I have been treating and enduring for over 25 years.  The pain was so uncomfortable that at first I thought it was a heart attack or at least the onset of angina pectoris.  My wife began agitating for a trip to the Pronto Soccorso, but even thinking about that rigmarole was enough to give me more of the shivers and shakes the bug had triggered.  

To cut short the whining, I could not sleep, because lying down made the pain worse.  I could not walk, because the spillover of acid—or something—seemed to have damaged my respiration and walking a quarter block left me completely out of breath, with chest pains hinting at something quite sinister.  I could eat nothing for two days then tried some bread soaked in milk. 

On Saturday, I finally was able to fall asleep in the afternoon, but my slumbers were cut short by the expected arrival of Il nostro amico Russo, who had driven down with my landlord, a lawyer in Palermo, who returns to his home periodically.  I was not the most entertaining of hosts, though I did bring out a good bottle of grappa di amarone, barricata.  I had managed to drink a glass or two the previous Thursday and now had to watch as Navrozov ruthlessly swilled glass after glass.  I begrudged him not my liquor, but I did resent his enjoyment.

It is always a great treasure to spend time with an old friend, especially one who has proved his loyalty, time after time,  in difficult times.  He was among the  few who remained steadfast during the most recent difficulties.  Some people think of him as a sort of Russian Oscar Wilde--without the funny business--but his also a stalwart.  As a mutual friend once remarked, he has a good character.

We talked about everything, from old friends to novels to life in Sicily.  "We tired the sun with talking," as the translation of Callimachus has it, "and sent him down the sky."  The first review of his novel is out--in The Spectator no less, a magazine we both used to write for.    It was quite nasty in a self-defeating way.  As Navrozov opined, if she had wanted some wobbly prose to attack, he could have given the reviewer much better examples than the pellucid one she chose, but she is probably far too obtuse to have understood any difference between good and not-so-good.  If she did have any standards, she could not have written a piece that so clearly highlighted her deficiencies--and her envy.

I slept late—there was no question of going to Church—and the Russian showed up a little before 2 to escort us across the property to our landlord’s 900 year old house that was undergoing extensive renovation.  Despite the desolation of any construction site, the ancient house was impressive—massively thick walls, chaotic arrangement of rooms, and a parapet from which we could look out directly on two of the finest temples in the Valley—the Temple of Juno and the Temple of Concord.  Now, I should say that we have a similar view from our little house on the property, but, beautiful as it is, our vista cannot be compared with his.

View From Our Temporary Home


I was happy to meet our landlord, who has made this three months’ sojourn possible.  I really should say nothing of a man I have only met once, except that he is as hospitable as he is imaginative.  I can see why he and the Mad Russian are friends:  They are both instinctively poets of everyday living. 

In my three decades of going to Italy, there is always an occasion where I find myself at a table, eating delicious pasta while trying to follow so many conversations in Italian that my mind begins to shut down.  On this occasion, I could only heat a half cup of broth with some tortellini, and the mind shut down in the first few minutes.  I did the best I could, but they must have thought me an idiot.  The only solution was to attempt to look grave and stick in the occasional pithy remark.

I hope to write more and more to the point tomorrow.

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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

5 Responses

  1. Harry Colin says:

    Wishing you a speedy return to full health, Dr. Fleming. In your quest to do so, be sure to avoid Dr. Taza of The Godfather fame; if he shows up, just let him guzzle your grappa while you hide his black bag.

  2. andrei navrozov says:

    Now that Dr Fleming has recovered, where is Sicilian Trog 2? We have the prefatory Trog, as well as 1 and 3. What happened to 2?

  3. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    That is a mystery on the level of “The Mystery of the Disappearing Grappa”.

  4. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    PS We just finished a bottle of strange local white–“Zibibbo”, if I am correctly interpreting the label–and going out for pizza. After a lunch of chicken and rice in broth, we walked down to the Museum and went behind it to explore a Roman temple and a Greek agora. Someone was in near ecstasy.

  5. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Zibibbo turns out to be a popular wine, mostly sweet but occasionally dry—as in their case–made with a muscat/malvasia type grape.