Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Il Gentleman Loser (Capitolo Una)

by Graeme



I couldn’t make up my mind
if today was a good or bad one.
I stopped off
in the Gentleman Loser for a drink.
Then I’d decide.

In his book, Neuromancer, William Gibson claimed Gentleman Loser is a bar in the Boston-Atlanta Metropolitan Axis, supposedly a regular hang where console cowboys – or flash drive horsemen – access their secret Matrix.

I have never been to Boston, nor do I know Atlanta, and woefully for me, I lose my reading glasses regularly. Who is to say that either now, or sometime in our future-past, there is (or was or will be) a Gentlemen Loser in either? All I can tell for sure is – there’s one in Palermo.

Safe from the scooter-riding thieves, green Fiats and silver Audis tailing me around the Quattro Canti, and a landlord determined to confiscate my passport: set back from the shopping and financial district, through an alleyway with a window display composed of wolves and birdies, Piazza Ungheria forms an enclosed acreage of rectangle.


Broad pillars of Guli gray augment grand eight-foot arches holding up the pre-war Razionalista-style buildings. This creates an elegant walk-around hallway underneath, with a creamy marble floor from the 1840s. I ankled here from Piazza Verdi, en route to another place, a joint called EXIT: which I never ended up at. EXIT is a nightclub, and at the time an editor had me flying the world to write about bars and clubs. This was all two-and-a-half years ago, yet I haven’t written about Sicily until now. How so?

As they say there, “Camina chi pantofuli finnu a quannu non hai I scarpi.”

Translated, it means, “Walk with your slippers until you find your shoes.”

I took a seat in what felt like an open space – east to west – on a long, black leather settee, beneath sails, and right beside a very discreetly placed home bar which is taken onto the water (at the harbor I never got to). There was a twilight feel that afternoon, and my watch face became temporarily condensed by a glassy wave of jazz and blues. The color scheme for placeholders and napkins was chestnut brown and scarlet respectively. I made a note to steal one or both, and then I remembered something I overheard in Napoli, laying down my notebook.

The fixed bar, I could see, was really a shiny, silver coffin-in-the-wall, for collecting and depositing. Before finding my leather settee, I had whispered nothing and yet I’d received a handshake which felt like dipping my hand into a vice, from a man wearing Car Shoes. He brought me back an aperitivo accompanied by stuzzichini.

I scanned the menu, looking for an alcoholic cousin to the granita I’d sipped around lunchtime, at Caffè Spinnato on precinct central; anyway, I was given Tortino Piacentino (manzo, menta, orva, prezzemola, prosciutto, mozzarella, pan grattato) – Choice of Three/€4.50 – Antipasti/€4 Primi Piatti/€4 Secondi Piatti/€4-€5 Cantorni €2.50.

And then, quite politely, I requested a Fredo Negroni.

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