Franziska Von Stenglin “Johnny’s Bar” at Malta Contemporary Art
People from Żebbuġ never liked Paul much, they believed he was spiking the petrol with water. Since his petrol station was the only one in Żebbuġ, they’d always come back for more, but most of them refused to have a drink at his bar or buy protein cans from Paul’s son, Sandro. Apart, of course, from the few alchies, my first friends from Żebbuġ.
The bar occupied an area of no more than 12 square metres. In the centre, there was a large billiard table that made it difficult to approach the bar. Not Paul nor Sandro, nor much anybody else, was ever interested in playing pool but it always stood there.
Two tables with three chairs each were placed on each side of the room. The wall was packed with framed photographs of Nazi soldiers with some WWII original letters from the front, written in German, along with a couple of small photos of Mussolini.
Behind the lime wooden bar, stood Mary, unsuccessfully trying to balance whispering and screaming at customers. On her left hand side, hanging tough, was a life-size poster of Sylvester Stallone and behind her, looming large, a poster of Ronald Reagan.
That was my place to rest, regroup and have a quiet drink. As it happens, in the late nineties, Paul had to sell his bar to a young chap who modernized it completely, bringing DJs and sexy girls. Exotic, enigmatic and magnificently chaotic, Carpew was too strange to survive the wave of new trends. Paul and his wife moved to Arizona, in United States, where today he runs a drive-in cinema.
Slavko Vukanovic, extract from “Carpew” first published in Uncommon Malta and Gozo
at Malta Contemporary Art
until 2 June 2018