This is what I saw from where I sat. Sebastian had gotten out of the car to talk to the mysterious man in the light blue shirt , I only ever saw his stomach. He and Sebastian and Gregorio from the back seat and another mystery man in a window had a 5 minute chat about where we would find Luccheses because this guy was emphatic that he was not one. Sebastian gets back in car and we continue to drive deeper into the "abandoned" part of town. It was basically very run down, lots or rusticos and very few families still lived there. Those families we were told were Luccheses.
We finally get to the entry of a street called Via Gustavo Modena. There is nothing around but dilapidated buildings, very cool looking though. The two men get out of the car and Joe and I quickly follow. Not twenty steps I realize I left my bag with ipad, passport and wallet in the car which the men had left just in the middle of some abandoned street with doors open. The NY er in me ran back to get it and so I was now a few steps behind the guys.
As we follow the men along the small alley way type streets Sebastian every few seconds while looking up and around is yelling LUCCHESE! LUCCHESE! CI SONO LUCCHESE QUI!!!! ( are there any Lucchese here). It was comical and surreal and completely wacky! Guess what , it worked because from a small palazzo a family emerged and they were in fact Luccheses.
They had been just about to sit down for lunch but we interrupted that. Sebastian proceeded to introduce himself and Gregorio and then tell the family which consisted of a woman about 40, her husband and mother and father, about Joe and his grandfather and that he was from America and looking for relatives that still lived in Aragona.
We were there a good 20 minutes or so, maybe longer. While they were all talking I just snapped away taking photos. Joe was showing photos on his Ipad and the copy of the birth record and these people were truly interested. I would jump in and translate for Joe every now and then. Why did this American speak Italian, was she one too. No, I am the American friend that lives in Firenze, always followed by " Firenze? Che bella citta'!!!" Sometime during this Joe's backpack ended up on Sebastians shoulder.I don't know why that was so funny to me, but it was. I thought, casting agents must come to these places and just hang out because I swear I felt like we were dropped into a frame of some Sicilian film with characters right out of central casting.
Somewhere toward the end of this scene Sebastian ( and I could not believe the chutzpah in this guy) says to the woman," What, you aren't going to invite us for lunch, something to eat? This guy is family! He is a Lucchese! " She was taken aback, almost embarrassed as she told him she wasn't epecting 4 extra people, she didn't make enough. I said, "Sebastian!!!" and I apologized to the woman saying it was ok, we weren't hungry, just thankful for their time. Turns out the father ( and I cannot remember his name ) was probably a cousin of Joe's, but then again I think anyone from Aragona with the same last name was related somehow.
In his best Scorsese impersonation, Sebastian directed Joe to stand with the man for a photo and then directed the man to give Joe a kiss on the cheek (un bacio). It was very sweet, heartwarming, it was nutty, it was Sicilian and it wasn't over.
All the way back to the car we thanked the guys, but they weren't finished. The Family had told them of a man called Angelo Lucchese and where he lived and so that's where we headed next except now Gregorio sat in the front with Sebastian and I was demoted to the back seat.
Before we got into the car Gregorio's phone rang, it was his wife. From what I can tell from eavesdropping and guessing what she was saying the conversation went something like this:
Wife: Where the hell are you? You left 2 hours ago to get bread!!!
Gregorio: It's not my fault! I ran into Sebastian , he told me of Americans looking for family in Aragona, I came with him and them to help find them
Wife: Well, we've been waiting for you for lunch!!!!
Gregorio: Eat without me I'll be home soon
Not a few minutes away we arrive at another street and stop in the front of an archway that led to a courtyard accompanied of course by the toot toot of the horn. We all get out and as we enter the courtyard Sebastian starts yelling, " ANGELO LUCCHESE! DOVE SEI?" ( where are you?) A woman peeps her head from a second floor window and tells him to SSHHH! Her husband is sleeping! Sebastian asks if her husband is Angelo and she says yes so he says " Wake him up!!!" Joe looks back at me as to say can you believe this!
We were hysterical, the nerve of this guy! It was GREAT!!! And so she did and down the stairs from the upper floor apt. walks a sleepy eyed old man , Angelo Lucchese. The entire scene from the previous stop replays like Groundhog Day ( I took video, Joe still hasn't sent it, it's hysterical!) The 4 guys talking, the woman watching and occasionally piping in from the upstairs window. She eventually came down and did invite us for coffee, I politely declined as we were getting short on time. It was decided that Angelo was definitely a cousin and he thought that when Joe's grandma had come 30 years before he was the one who had shown her around Aragona.
Just like before Sebastian instructed for Joe and Angelo to pose for a picture.
Well it was getting late and we still had to return to Agrigento to get our bags that we left at the hotel and catch a bus for the almost 3 hour ride back to Palermo as we had a 7 am flight the next day. Had we permitted this would have gone on all day probably ending in dinner at either Gregorio or Sebastian's home with one pissed off wife that they had brought strangers for dinner without notice. We kind of wished we had more time, but we didn't, so I told the guys we had to get back and they drove us to the garage where the little blue bus that had broken down had been repaired. We had 20 minutes til it would leave back to Agrigento.
We gave them our email addresses and I took a few pix with the men and we hugged and thanked them over and over for being so awesome!!
Looking back and thinking about that day and the players it occurs to me it wasn't just Joe's experience or mine, but the others too.The vendor at the fruit stand would surely repeat the story of the 2 Americans and the litto. The family on Via Gustavo would surely tell their story of the American Lucchese as would sleeping Angelo. AND, both Sebastian and Gregorio surely would tell the story at their respective dinner tables that night of how they drove around Aragona with a couple of Americans looking for relatives.
Now I can't tell you exactly how Joe felt about this day only what he told me. He said it exceeded every expectation, over the top, were his words and thanked me way more than he needed to. I told him I thought the way it all unfolded was almost otherworldly and I really believe that, as corny or weird as that sounds. I told him I thought his dad ( who has passed ) aligned everything for him. From running into me in NY where he does not live, to the old guy on the bus, to Sebastian being at the fruit stand, it was all too easy to happen naturally. It's my feeling it was of an angel's assistance in the way of his father.
For me, it was a a day that showed the best in people, the kindness of strangers, the warmth of the Sicilians, the fabric of family, the essence of Italy. The reason why I felt that no thanks to me was necessary was because it was really one of the best experiences I have had while living in Italy. They say you haven't been to Italy til you've been to Sicily, I'd agree with that :)