…from today's New York Times:
Then we combed Valletta, marching up and down the hills looking for evidence of the now-sleepy city’s illustrious past and marveling at the cute Victorian-style balconies. On Strait Street in the heart of the Gut, the entertainment district once frequented by visiting sailors, I was hoping to find the Metro Bar, where a key scene of Pynchon’s unsummarizable “V” takes place. We asked old-timers and were directed to a doorway filled with cinderblocks. The Metro Bar was no more.
Like the New Life Music Hall, the Smiling Prince and the Blue Peter — whose faded signs hung over locked and cobwebbed doors — the Metro had shut down sometime after 1979, when the British naval base closed, and I was left to wonder what lay within. Did it still look, as Pynchon wrote, “like a nobleman’s pied-a-terre applied to mean purposes”? Did “statues of Knights, ladies and Turks” still line the “wide curving flight of marble steps” that led to the second-story dance floor? Or had the Metro’s owners carted off the decorations that had lodged within the imagination of young Pynchon (who presumably visited Valletta during his 1955-57 stint in the Navy)?
Today, all that remains of the Gut’s glory days is a 90-year-old tattoo parlor and a few graybeards who remember the noise and chaos and fun. “But now it’s too quiet here, too quiet,” one of them told us. “If you come at Friday night, Saturday, Sunday, you can bring shotgun and you can shoot and nobody, nobody take notice.”His nostalgia was palpable, and another Pynchon line seemed apt: “Monuments, buildings, plaques were remembrances only; but in Valletta remembrances seemed almost to live.”