For Halloween this year, I’m masquerading as a small-town Italian. I have many of the characteristics down pat (no pun intended): the slow bicycle rides; the affinity for gelato, cafe, and Park Club; the friend who drives a school bus; the other friend who runs a sports store with his wife; the friend who goes bird hunting just after the sun has risen; scarf wearing; a local watering hole where... well, everybody knows my name.
The Penguin Cafe has become our Cheers only it has more style and panache, decked out as it is in simple, Modern furniture and art; it serves much more wine than beer, and tasty aperitvo instead of peanuts and pretzels; you cannot watch the Red Sox or Patriots on the TV; and... right, it’s in Italy. And I don’t think anybody works for Poste Italiane, which is fine because the last thing those people need is anything else slowing down their infamously leisurely post service.
Mark met the owners, Mario and Paula, through an American who stayed here briefly over the past two summers. Now, Mark and I are greeted warmly when we arrive. We often end up staying past closing time, chatting away with a revolving series of characters. Personaggi. Just like in Cheers, the Penguin attracts many types: the longer haired charming suitcoat; the barkeep who laughs a lot and keeps everybody guessing; the wild-eyed sage on the corner stool. At a recent festa del vino, we even had the opportunity to rub elbows with the director of a vineyard. (Maybe that would be like sharing a pint with Jim Koch?)
All of us are drawn by the place and especially the penguini, as the staff are known. And the wine is excellent. Of course. [In truth, as inquiring minds might want to know, I have consumed nothing bad here in Italy. Even the strips of pig back, while far from kosher, were tasty.] As with the baseball team, it's nice to be included. To feel part of something larger than myself. Even if it is a bar... especially if it's a bar.
Happy Halloween to you and yours, wherever you may be. I’m sure that among the lot of you there are some mighty costumes. Maybe even a Sam Malone? A Papajima? Daniel LaRussa remains tough to beat, on and off the mat, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't give it a go.
Oh, and if you’re in Boston seeing the tourist sights, you can skip the Cheers bar. ‘Tis a silly place.