nonpareil ricotta fruitcake of Sicily.rnTherefore, I’m going to buy a summerrnplace here, a decision as irrevocable as itrnis closely reasoned. I have now spent arnmonth at Villa Igiea, the sister hotel ofrnthe Grand Hotel delle Palme, goingrnaround with Alfredo and his manyrnfriends, one of whom, Maglio M —, is arnformer mayor of Palermo and an incorruptiblernregionalist who has done timernfor not ever having joiired the nationalrnpolitical mafia, a crime that the politiciansrnin Rome call corruption. (“Soon,rnthe’1l be putting you guys in jail for notrnhaving visited Brussels,” I jostled him,rn”and then you’ll remember fondly therngood old days, when all you had to do tornget along was buy hnrch behind thernOuirinale for a couple of gluttons.”)rnMv conclusion is that, like Venice,rnPalermo is capable of retarding socialrnprogress, and hence is a desirable place tornlive. But while, in Venice, social order,rngood manners, and unadulterated foodrnare guaranteed by the unwritten constitu-rnHon of that independent republic—by itsrnmorbidly inward-looking aristocracy, byrnits fantasHcally antiquated and intricaternguild system, by its topographic insularityrnand historical peculiarities — here inrnPalermo, the same result is all fai da te,rnwith the mafia as the do-it-yourself underwriterrnof traditions, morals, manners,rnand social attitudes. In Venice, anrn/Vfrican immigrant would be unlikely tornpursue a local woman, because just gettingrninto a taxi to follow her boat wouldrnset him back about $100. In Palermo, hernvould be unlikely to pursue her becausernthe first guy who did had his private partsrncut off and exhibited on a lamppost in hisrnneighborhood, with an explanatory noternattached.rnE’er careful not to mix genres, I haverntended to avoid meeting any of the localrngrandees, members of the fabled Sicilianrnaristocracy to whom many in Venice, inrnparticular, are related by marriage. Theyrnhave more or less abandoned Palermo,rntheir great houses now crumbling tenementsrnoccupied by legal and illegalrnscpiatters, and it is quite clear that theirrnnames and escutcheons count for nothingrnin a place that has had to survive withoutrnthem for so many generations. Thernpower here—the power to resist progress,rnI mean, that being the only species ofrnpow er I am interested in at this late stagernof my intellectual development—is entirelyrnin the hands of the nahve Paiermitanrnmiddle class with the right connections.rnAs far as I have seen, tlicy are usingrnthat power to good effect, feathering theirrnnests and dowering their daughters insteadrnof building universities and openingrnart galleries.rnConsider the result, which hardly recommendsrnthe magical place that everybodyrnaround here seems to think I comernfrom. Even though I intend to live andrnhope to die in Venice, it has taken me 14rnmonths of anguished social climbing tornfind an apartment to rent on the GrandrnCanal. I’ve had to wear masks of wealth,rnamiabilit)’, and crushed velvet; I’ve had tornpretend that I was Marino P’alier risenrnfrom the dead; I’ve had to gamble on reputationsrnof friends and plead with presunredrnenenries. I’o find an apartment tornbuy in Palermo, an entire piano nobilernstaring down the most beautiful squarernin the city with its eight balconies —rnor maybe it was 12, I can’t rememberrnnow—took an afternoon. A local architectrnand his building team are alreadyrnthere, inside the long-abandoned Ottocentornfolly, ripping up the floor andrnputting in the reqinsite nriddle-class appurtenancesrnof water boilers, air conditioners,rnand door handles. Naturally, werndidn’t just walk in there. You don’t startrnfeathering your nest in Palermo unlessrnyou’re told you can. Social order beforerneverv’thing. We are protected, you see.rn”Well, I sure as hell hope so,” is all thernsham Venetian actually manages to say,rnbetween mouthfuls of freshly made ricottarnfruitcake.rnAndrei Navrozov is Chronicles’rnEuropean correspondent.rnLetter From Virginiarnby Marshall FishwickrnNew Politics in Old VirginiarnIt took 114 years, but by 2000, Virginiarnhad become a Republican state. ‘Whatrnbrought about such a great change in thernOld Dominion? Let’s take a look back.rnReconstruchon was the low point ofrnVirginia histor)’. In 1865, a defeated andrngutted state lost not only its cities, towns,rnfarms, and one third of its territory (whenrnWest Virginia was cut off in 1863), butrneven its name. Virginia became MilitaryrnDistrict Number One. Collapse, humiliation,rnbankruptcy, revolution — all arernproper words when describing ReconstructionrnVirginia.rnHow could this happen in the Motherrnof States and Presidents —the acknowledgedrnleader of a nafion, which had producedrnthe author of the Declaration ofrnIndependence, the leader of the successfulrnRevolutionar)’ Army, major voices inrnthe Constitutional Convention, and fourrnof our first five presidents?rnVirginians were marooned in whatrnLewis Mumford has called The BrownrnDecades. There were browns everywhere:rnmediocre drabs, scorched brown earth,rnsober autumnal colors. Brown becamernthe color of renounced ambition and defeatedrnhopes. General Lee retreated to arntiny village (Lexington) to become presidentrnof a barely fuircfioning WashingtonrnCollege. Matthew Fontaine Maury,rn”Pathfinder of the Seas,” wanted to set uprna Confederaey-iir-exile south of the border;rnindeed, a number of Virginiansrnmoved to Mexico. Others favored guerrillarnwar, joining the Invisible Empire ofrnthe Ku Klux Klan. Albert Taylor Bledsoe,rnclassmate of Robert E. Lee and JeffersonrnDavis at West Point, founded thernSouthern Review. He warned his belovedrnhomeland that it was in danger of beingrndestroyed by Northern carpetbaggers andrngreed. He died in Alexandria, Virginia,rnexhausted by ten years of controversy.rnBut Bledsoe’s warnings would be repeatedrnby a number of Southern intellectualsrnand philosophers whose 1930 volume,rnI’ll Take My Stand, remains a classic.rnVirginia’s protests went unheeded.rnHenr}’ H. Wells, carpetbagger and confiscationistrnfronr New York, was appointedrngovernor of what had been Virginia. Inrn1867, a constitufional convention held inrnRichmond would have disenfranchisedrn95 percent of the whites and disqualifiedrnthem from holding office.rnAdopting this constitution seemed unthinkablernto most white Virginians; rejectingrnit, however might have broughtrneven worse consequences. Perhaps, theyrnhoped, they could get some clauses repealedrnin return for peaceful acceptance.rnThat is exactly what happened. PresidentrnGrant allowed a separate vote on the constitution,rnthe test oath, and white disenfranchisement.rnOn this compromise basis,rnthe constitution passed by a vote ofrn210,585 to 9,136. The test oath and disenfranchisementrnclause were rejected,rnthe constitution passed, and Virginia wasrntaken back into the Union on Januar)’ 26,rn1870. But there were still dark daysrnOCTOBER 2001/43rnrnrn