Nearing the town, I came close to hitting Joe in a temporary moment of distraction as Joe waved his paddle directing traffic in the road on the outskirts of town. Un-phased by it all, Joe came to our window and invited us to park at his house along with advice on where to rendezvous later. Joe has a volunteer’s heart and is willing to help out wherever needed. Recently, he was asked to run for civic office. He didn’t win, which may have been a blessing since he had no idea what his job would have been. He thought possibly town idiot but I thought Director of Cultural Affairs more appropriate. That day, as part of the town’s volunteer security detail he was directing traffic. Later, he performed crowd control during the procession in celebration of Feast of San Francesco di Paolo and again afterwards during the much anticipated Flight of the Angel. Fact is, we’d driven to Pesco to see for ourselves what this flying angel was all about. We had no idea. Maybe one of those newfangled remote control drones? Considering how high up they were, I could even imagine something like a kite or glider in the shape of an angel that might be launched from a terrace in the evening out over the sprawling valley far below, but I wasn’t even close.
Pesco has a long and somewhat narrow piazza lined with trees. To one side of its length was the main road we’d used to enter Pesco and where we’d joined the procession. To the other side of its span was an inviting park sprinkled with benches and trees, which overlooked the Ofranto River
Valley. At one end of this plaza stood a three to four story temporary white structure. At its top, facing us, was an A-shaped pointed door, something like sliding patio doors, though not transparent. You could tell they could be slid aside to create an opening wider than a normal door’s width. It was obvious, because exiting from the would-be breach in the sliding panels was what can best be described as an industrial strength clothesline. The cables that made up the line, suspended high above the piazza, ran its length all the way to the far side where the priest and town detachment of Carabinieri had now positioned themselves.
He was now suspended horizontally beneath the makeshift cable clothesline and moments later, to the applause of the crowd, began his flight across the piazza. Modern flight control technology is all about fly-by-wire but it seems the Pescopaganesi (now there’s a mouthful) were way ahead of their time. Records indicate that the Flight of the Angel dates from 1898 when the first seraphim, Giovanni Gonella, was pulled along a wire by way of a pulley fashioned by the local Toglia brothers. The actual Volo dell’Angelo came about in gratitude for the miraculous cure of a sick child, believed cured through prayer and the intercession of Saint Francesco. Though I found no record, I wondered if the first of many Pesco angels could have been the healed Giovanni himself or one of the Toglia family children. I did discover, however, that the home the briganti had entered, only to be turned aside by what they found, was owned by one, Achille Miele, of the same last name as my friend Joe. I knew that somehow Joe had a hand in this, though admittedly somewhat removed!
Skirting the pig snouts once again, I finally did settle for some pig, but as added