Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Going Postal

I went to the post office the other day with a letter to mail to the USA. After waiting a lifetime before a single person who was paying his bills at the postal products window (he was supposed to be at the bancoposta window, bastardo!), I approached the bespectacled matron. My letter was half way under the bulletproof glass when she said, "The machine is broken." (NB: everything is a macchina in Naples: the car, the stroller, the coffee maker, the camera and, evidently, the machine that spits out stickers with appropriate postage). So, I asked her, "Well, how about a stamp? How much is it to send a letter to the United States." And she answered, "MA CHE NE SO IO" (Well, how should I know?). How should she know? HOW SHOULD SHE KNOW? SHE WORKS IN THE FUCKING POST OFFICE, THAT'S HOW SHE SHOULD KNOW!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Sesame Street

The other day I was walking down Via Nicotera, a smog-choked street at the top of the Spanish Quarter, pushing La Bimba in her stroller, dodging piles of garbage, stray chairs, stray mechanics, old ladies, mopeds parked on the sidewalk, when I came to an impasse. The sidewalk, not built for two people walking shoulder to shoulder, was completely blocked by several mopeds. Usually, I can squeeze by a single moped, jostling La Bimba a bit, cursing under my breath, but not this time. This time I had to walk into the middle of the street. I have had to risk life and limb, mine and La Bimba's, on more than one occasion, but this usually involves a quick jog into oncoming traffic and a quick jog back to relative safety. This time I had to stay in the middle of the street for about a block before reaching the elevator to go down to the Chiaia district (there are a couple of public elevators in Naples that bring you to streets above or below, saving you a hike; these elevators have men working on the top and on the bottom -- they make only one stop in each direction -- and they are free; I would love to learn how the public transportation budget allotted for these pubic servants, who eat their lunch, read the paper, and shoot the shit with folks in the neighborhood, slaving over the pressing of a couple of buttons; pardon the tangent). Anyway, so I am cursing away, now over my breath, constantly looking over my shoulder for oncoming traffic, when La Bimba's little Grover doll (named LO SPERMATOZOO by The Husband) falls into the middle of the street. I see a moped speeding toward me, one of the stroller's wheels is stuck in an abyss in the street, and I think, "This is how we die. Trying to rescue Lo Spermatozoo." But just as am I ready to scream at the oncoming motorino-ist and at the rest of the godforsaken natives, the driver, a young napoletano with his girlfriend on the back, both helmetless, pulls to a stop, bends down, picks up Grover, and hands him to me. I say, Grazie, he says, Prego Signora, and he goes along his way, up onto the sidewalk and into the day. Just when you thought you understood a populace.

Monday, January 29, 2007


I had a nightmare last night. Something about being chased by a man with very strong hands. Then I wrapped my best friend Jennie in my big black duffel bag and took her on vacation. There was a lot going on in the middle there, but I don't remember.

Last night I saw a dance performance for the first time in 100 years. Compagnia Danza Flux at Art Garage in Pozzuoli. The piece was the result of a choreographic research process the company engaged in with local dancers in January. Lots of improvisation, changes of music, a video of some of the workshops. These sorts of performances can be very boring, but the choreographer, Fabrizio Varriale, and his assistant (I don't know if she'd call herself that), Chiara Alborino, did a fine job exploring rhythm, tempo, space, gesture, unison, voice, contact. Bravi!

Of course, the Baby didn't let us watch the whole show. She was so tired but couldn't fall asleep with all the lighting changes and friendly southern Italians in the audience. Still, it was a balm for my soul and made me want to dance dance dance. I've got an idea for a piece, something around thanking the audience and saying good night first. Something about moving backwards.

One great choreographer friend in the USA is applying to residency programs. I love reading her project descriptions/personal essays. It's almost like being present for the choreographic process...but not. Oh, how I miss rehearsal! Piano piano, con calma, sei impegnata adesso con la bimba. These are the things they tell me and they are right.

The Baby (should we change her blog name to La Bimba...yes!), La Bimba is sleeping. As if you didn't already know that if I am blogging, she is sleeping. Wow! And just now, on cue, she has awoken (awakened? I don't remember English.).

Saturday, January 27, 2007

I am not alone

Ohmigod! I am not the only person blogging from Naples! Astounding! I have been very shy about my blog, but I think it might be time to introduce myself to other expats blogging from Italy. I need to network. I need some comments, some props, some kudos, some che ne so io...

Gorgeous day today. The Husband, the Baby and I took a long stroll along the sea, stopping for a miniature bottle of Yoga peach juice (one euro) and buying a new stroller (McLaren, red with black and white polka dots, fancy). The Baby looks very stylish in her new "macchina." It even matches her hat, a patagonia fleece, red with blue trim and three blue spikes (no, not spikes...maybe feathers...branches?...what the bleep is the word?!) sticking out of the top. I call it the mirtillo rosso (cranberry) hat. The Neapolitans say, "What a cute hat! It has ears!" What creature has three ears that grow out of the top of its head? I bet some pet of Pulcinella's!

Speaking of Pulcinella, once the Husband and friend G. were very stoned and had a 20-minute conversation/argument about Pulcinella: who he is, what he represents. Only in Naples.

I am supposed to see a dance performance in Pozzuoli tomorrow. I am desperate to see a dance performance. I was a dance critic for many years in San Francisco. I have performed, I have choreographed, I have an MFA. And now the only dancing I do is in the kitchen in front of the Baby to keep her entertained while waiting patiently for her pappa. She particularly likes when I move in 3/4 time.

Ah, dancing, dancing...and I miss you. My hamstrings are ham strung, wreaking havoc on my lower back, knees, ankles. And I am going to be 36 very soon. On Groundhog's day, il giorno della marmota, or some such thing. Candlemas. The day that falls exactly between the winter solstice and vernal equinox. Big day for pagans.

Yesterday, for the first time, the Husband said he could live somewhere else in Italy. Hot dog! He mentioned Viareggio. I had to bust out the map of Italy to find it. I guess it's famous for its carnevale. Sometimes I think we will never wrest ourselves from the clutches of Naples. But I am committed to getting out before the Baby can make her first friend. I don't think I could bear to see her riding around on a moped without a helmet and with her butt crack hanging out, though perhaps fashions will change by then.

Friends in Procida just had a baby boy, Pasquale, 4 kilos. Now that's a big bimbo. Auguri!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Kvetch-n-Stretch no more

It was short-lived, the blog Kvetch-n-Stretch. I have taken the advice of my advisor J., journalist par excellence, New York expat in Rome, and changed the title of my blog to fit more accurately the obsessions contained within: living in Naples. Though it remains true that I am Jewish, thus I kvetch; I am a dancer, thus I stretch; I am very talented, thus I can kvetch and stretch at the same time, these facts are not at the forefront of my blogosphere. So, consciously biting off the fame and fortitude of Frances Mayes, I give you Under the Neapolitan Son. If you've been reading, you know this is not a metaphor, for the Husband is a Neapolitan Son if there ever were one.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Oscar the Grouch

It is literally howling outside. The wind is blowing over all of my neighbors’ potted plants, shattering the terracotta pots and scattering them across terraces. It was hailing earlier. The choppy sea prevented the ferries and hydrofoils from sailing, leaving stranded the natives and daytrippers of Capri, Ischia and Procida.

The Husband and I were once stranded on the little fishing island of Procida, two Christmases ago. We tried twice to take a ferry back to Naples only to wait in vain at one of the port bars, sipping espresso and eating cornetti in the morning, continuing through the afternoon prosecco-and-savory-snacks aperitivo, returning to the rented cottage. This was before the Baby, before my libido was placed on the dusty top shelf above the more easily accessible row of must-sleep-now tomes. Poor Husband.

And poor me. Still pity-partying a bit. I got out today at least. Did a little shopping at the casalinga (housewife) store: napkins, paper towels, garbage bags, i.e. things I had entirely ceased buying in California. I blew my nose exclusively in doo-rags back then. I even used doo-rags in lieu of maxipads. I used cloth napkins, real hand towels. I composted. There are recycling bins in Naples, but they are randomly and scarcely scattered across the city. The nearest one to my house is a 15 minute walk down 81 steps and across a city park. I am sorry to say that I will not be carrying the Baby in the Baby Bjorn, a knapsack full of diapers, toys, change of clothes, water, food, etc. on my back, AND my recycling down the hill and through the park.

Neapolitans create an inordinate amount of garbage and the powers that be don’t know what to do with it all, so it sits in enormous piles, long and high, creating a public health emergency one imagines exists only in Calcutta. There is a report on the garbage crisis on the news almost every day, the camera panning the various pile-ups, the plastic bags, broken open and spilling forth their putrid contents, clamoring for their close-up. Garbage is famous in Naples; the paparazzi can’t get enough of it.

I went to the bakery for bread, the pastry shop for sweets, and the supermarket for cereal. I came home and made spaghetti carbonara (pancetta, eggs, garlic, parsley, olive oil), a Roman dish, but the Husband still ate it. The Baby ate blended beef, carrots, zucchini, and broccoli, all organic I am shocked and proud to say.

The Baby was up from 3am to 5am last night and not in a good mood. Was it her teeth? Did she have the same headache her father and I had? Was it her tummy? She finally fell asleep snuggled up next to me. When I released her from my sweaty embrace, she fell open spread-eagle, taking up my side of the bed. She may weigh only around 25 pounds (who knows how much she weighs) and be around 2 feet tall (remember: it’s bad luck to measure a child – it will stunt their growth), but she can really hog the bed. I gently folded her little arm across her chest and fell asleep on my side, stiff as a board. Grumble, grumble.

The Baby is asleep. The Husband is at work. I am thinking about eating the other half of a canoli. Or maybe some ice cream. I finished Zadie Smith’s White Teeth yesterday and was sort of disappointed. Great writing, but somehow lacking heart. Shit, she was only 25 when she wrote it. I hear The Autograph Man is better. I’ll have to try that one. For now, I’ve got Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia on deck. I love a good travel memoir.

I should probably put a warning at the top of this post: may bore you to sleep; do not read while operating heavy machinery.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

How do you spell relief?

I spell it LONG DISTANCE PHONE CALL TO GREAT FRIEND IN CALIFORNIA. Not as catchy as r-o-l-a-i-d-s, but infinitely more soothing to my lonely soul. I have been having a pity party these last few days. Not an all out bash, no drunken swinging from the rafters. Just an intimate little soiree with some hot tea and more bran flakes out of the box. I just miss my friends. It's lonely at the bottom of Italy. (Wink to know who you are).

The Baby had her first visit with a homeopath. She was great, both the Baby and the Dottoressa. She prescribed sambucum (would a shot of the licorice liqueur do the trick?) and belladonna (how italian) and then sulphur. I don't know if any of this is going to help, but it seems better than the steroid, cortisone drug prescribed by the other, public health, assigned Dottoressa, the one in the musty office packed with sick kids and their teenage moms, the one who let the pharmaceutical company rep in for a half hour while the kids wheezed and coughed and gagged and sweated, the one who has a secretary who demands a euro tip when you leave. That Dottoressa stuck a stick in the Baby's mouth and then prescribed the drug Bentelan and then said, "But it's really nothing." If the Baby has nothing, then why prescribe a big fat drug? BITCH!

I have a hacky cough now. Great.

Yesterday, I burned the Baby's mouth on some too hot soup because I was distracted. Then I nearly launched her from her stroller when the wheel got stuck between the curb and the street. She does not have a five-point harness. She does not even have a three-point harness. Just a lap belt. She is fine. She even laughed. But I cried. I felt like such a bad mom. The good mom did at least strap her in. I can't be held responsible for the enormous chasms that innocent stroller wheels fall into all over Naples. And I don't hold the Baby in my lap in car, she has a car seat. And we don't all three of us ride a moped without helmets. And I don't smoke while breastfeeding. Gee. I'm not so terrible!

Obviously, I am in need of some warm pats on the back. No one is around to provide, so I have to self-pat. Not pet. Who has time for self-petting? Am I talking about masturbation on my blog? No, I didn't think so.

Neapolitans think black pepper is bad for you but hot pepper (peperoncino) is not. You mustn't drink cold water, eat cold food (explain ice cream, please), drink milk in the afternoon, cook with both garlic and onion at the same time. Non si fa. It isn't done. A favorite answer to Why.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

I've Been Working On the Railroad

I don't always remember to brush my teeth in the morning and sometimes I fall asleep with the Baby and fail to brush my teeth at night. Though it is rare that this happens on the same day, it happens, and when it does, I wake up with a thick film over my teeth and this is nasty.

Sorry to do this, but I have to reference Sex and the City again, this time the episode when Carrie decides she is dating New York. I, too, once thought New York had a strong personality, and that one could fall in love with the city, have a romance with it. But after Naples, New York seems rather bland. Naples doesn't just have a personality, it is a person, someone you have to deal with every day and don't always want to, like a charismatic co-worker that often goes too far and slides into annoying...and sometimes into evil. So, I married a Neapolitan not realizing that his big brother Naples would be interfering with our lives all day, every day. Unless I don't leave the house, which sometimes is the case.

I am so sad to be too tired to pursue this train of thought. Ciao ciao choo-choo...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Wednesday Morning Drive

Last night, while trying to fall asleep, I had a Lionel Richie medley running through my head. Not the good stuff, like when he was a Commodore, but the treacly stuff: Stuck On You, Say You Say Me, All Night Long (okay, I admit to grooving a bit to that one). All this is to say that you never know when 80s music nostalgia will come to haunt you in the night.

The Baby keeps falling over from her seated position and kvetches until I come reposition her. She is nearly nine months old and I believe she should be able to find a way out of her predicament. Am I being too harsh?

The Husband worked from 7am to midnight yesterday and will do so again today. The Baby and I have to go to the pediatrican and to the university, where I am to sign a contract for a translation I did for the Agriculture Department in November. The kind-ish woman at the International House told me I had to bring some ID and a marca da bollo, a sort of stamp with a value on it that, I don’t know, verifies something for the state, or is a tax. The point is, why the f*** do I have to pay for it? It’s nearly 15 euros, 14.62 to be exact. Oddly enough, I had purchased a marca da bollo for exactly that amount about a year ago for the Husband, who turned out not to have needed it. I have kept it in m wallet ever since and today is the day it shall serve its purpose!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Woe/Whoa is Me

Dang! I have the flu. Double dang! I just lost this post. Do over. The Baby is better but for a wee cough (sounds just like her daddy!) and the Husband is better, but La Mamma feels like cacapupu. The Husband and I had a typical gendery fight this morning when he didn’t read my mind and get me juice and feed the Baby without my asking. I got all pissed off and jumped up to start preparing her no-brainer breakfast (rice cereal out of the box and banana) and he told me that giving someone the ole VAFFANCULO is no way to ask for help. But the point is I didn’t want to have to ask after having spent the last four days waiting hand and foot on either him or the little one. The Husband has never prepared the Baby’s pappa (NB: pappa means baby food as opposed to daddy which is “paPA” or the pope, which is “PApa”), so he wanted me to show him how, which I did, and then of course, as Murphy’s, Sod’s, and every other mess-with-your-head law proves, he found a piece of plastic in the food and had to fish it out of the Baby’s hungry little mouth. The one time I am not vigilantly hovering over his every move, she nearly chokes! Now I have to decide whether or not to write to Earth’s Best and tell them how I’ve lost faith in them, how I have to turn to Nestle baby food because it’s better that my baby eat a bunch of genetically modified stuff rather than plastic, and hope that they will send me a bunch of free teething biscuits. And my case is weak. The plastic could have come out of the non-organic banana for all I know. I wasn’t there! Oh, the guilt! The pain!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Scary Toast

The Baby has the flu and was up crying all night, so now I have to worry about getting our throats slit and being set on fire. Sounds like a stretch, but not if you’ve heard about what happened in the Como district of Italy this week. A couple of neighbors decided that they could no longer take the screaming family next door, so they went over and, yes, slit their throats and set them on fire. The victims: a grandmother, a mother and a 2-year old boy. If I understood the Italian news correctly, the neighbors’ were arrested after the bug the police planted in their house was reported to have recorded the wife saying, “Aaahhh, isn’t it so much quieter now?”

One day, when I was in San Antonio, Texas in 1991, a diner (or taco joint or doughnut shop – memory fails) that we passed several times a day going to and from our hotel to the wedding events of my then boyfriend’s cousin, had written in those big plastic marquis letters on its signboard, something to the effect of, IF YOU DINE IN MILWAUKEE, DON’T EAT THE BONES. This was the diner’s way of being funny about the Dahmer murders of that same year. Either the day before or the day after (memory, again…I should get that checked), the sign said, NOW FLORIDA COPS KNOW WHY THEY CALL HIM PEEWEE, this in the aftermath of Pee Wee Herman’s movie theater disgrace. If those San Antonio diner owners up and move to Como this year, their sign might read, HEY, MR. CLOONEY, MAKE SURE YOU BRING THE PACIFIER.

The Grand Lake movie theater in Oakland, CA, uses its marquis to print political statements such as IMPEACH BUSH, NO WAR, and other left leaning pleas. I like that about the Grand Lake even though there is some conflict between their message and the Hollywood blockbusters they like to show. I have a greeting card that features the Grand Lake marquis with IMAGINE written in red letters on it. I like that card and have yet to send it to someone. I suppose I am waiting to come up with the right person and what I would like them to imagine.

These are the thoughts that came to me while rocking my hysterical, feverish Baby to sleep for the zillionth time in the last 24 hours. I think she’s feeling better, knock wood (or touch iron as they do in Naples).

The Husband’s sister called and I could tell from her tone of voice that she doesn’t believe I’m taking the baby’s temperature often enough. In Naples, everyone is a pediatrician except the pediatricans. Today is the Husband’s 40th birthday and I did nothing to help him celebrate because of Little Sickie. He even cooked and went out and bought a cake. Now he wants to smoke a joint and though I would like him to be stone sober in case I need help helping Baby, he would just like to be stoned, which is his right because he is now an old man. A few friends are coming over to share the cake and coffee. All of them are gay men except one who is a woman and who is Spanish.

Today, the Baby and I watched a game show in which people dressed in giant pink hand outfits (imagine a football team mascot costume and imagine a hand instead of a gopher or a bear and you’ve got the picture) would hear a song and then had to launch themselves on top of a photo of the correct singer that lay on the floor like stars on the Walk of Fame. This strange, Sumo sort of Name That Tune would result in a pile-up of Hamburger Helper hands. The last one on top was eliminated until there was just one hand standing. This from the land of Michelangelo, Da Vinci and Umberto Eco.

Oh, there’s loads to say about Italian pop culture, particularly television culture. But it will have to wait. It’s time for cake.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

il bene, il male

Things to complain about vis-a-vis Naples:

1. Dog shit everywhere.
2. Mopeds that drive up your ass, don't give way, and blast black clouds of exhaust in your face.
3. People standing around, taking up the entire width of the sidewalk, sometimes sitting on chairs (the sidewalk as personal terrace), ignoring your calls of "Permesso! Attenzione! Move your fat asses!" until the last moment, at which point they move just enough to let you by (it is uncanny how they know the exact amount they have to shift in order to let you pass; and it is terrifying that they never move one millimeter more).

Things to be grateful for:

1. I can eat prosciutto crudo every day, for it is a staple food.
2. Everyone -- man, woman, and child -- stops to coo over my baby. I will refrain from putting the fact that they usually say, "How beautiful! Looks like her father, huh?" on the complaint list.
3. You can stare at people without getting in trouble.

This is just a start, a tiny chip off the boulder that is my Neapolitan experience. I had to stop because I am currently obsessed with the Baby's first fever. Freaking my ass out. She is sleeping at the moment, but probably won't be for long since I keep going in to check on her breathing every 15 minutes. First child. Poor bubeleh.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Mamma mia

The baby said "Mamma" today and I have the husband as my witness. The baby was kvetching (and stretching) away and finally, exasperated because I was typing instead of picking her up and Babbo (Italian for "Daddy") was supine and immobile on the couch due to a nasty flu, she shouted, "Mamma!" I knew she was a genius.

Despite his raging flu (he didn't even smoke or have four cups of espresso...not even one!), the husband went to work this evening. (I think "the husband" needs to be "the Husband" and "the baby" shall henceforth be "the Baby"). The Husband owns a wine bar in the historic center of Naples. It is a lovely, tiny place, completely built and designed by him. Very rustic, lots of dark wood and a collection of antique pots and pans, a couple of pistols, a rotating exhibit of photos of Naples, a couple of framed postcards from the 20s featuring half-naked ladies, and a ceramic penis (erect) attached to a ceiling beam. The penis is supposed to bring good fortune. It's always fun to observe a customer discover the penis for the first time, a sort of "Whoa! Hey! Look at that cock!"

I bumped into Danny Glover at Whole Foods in Berkeley once. I was waiting impatiently behind this very tall black man, while he painfully slowly disengaged a shopping wagon from it's snug fit within it's forward brethren (oy). I was tapping my foot and sighing and huffing when the man turned and I saw it was Danny Glover. I was so caught off guard that I exclaimed, "Whoa! Hey! Danny Glover!" He looked at me blankly and went into the store, where I am sure I saw him shaking his head at my imbecility and not at the outrageous prices. What's a couple of extra dollars on every item scanned for the guy who made 400 Lethal Weapon films? I wonder how he feels about Mel? Did he know during filming that that bug-eyed, crazy character Mel played was really a sane, gentle soul compared to the maniac that is the real Mel?

As a Jewish person I feel it is my right to call Mel Mel. I think I will even begin calling Hitler Adolf. I have a distant cousin named Adolf. Had. He is deceased and was evidently born before that other Adolf's rise to power. I wonder how many people sitting on their porch swings in the summer heat, rocking gently and sipping lemonade, think to themselves in a nostalgic whisper, "Ah, remember the days when Adolf was just a name like John or Mike?"

This usage of the word "wonder" is starting to remind me of Sex and the City...I couldn't help but wonder. That was one of the things that bugged me about the show. That and the abysmal season finale. Enough said about that. That is way ancient history. Of course, I have had no contact with new HBO series because I live in Naples -- remember? -- and do not subscribe to SKY cable tv.

Though I told the Husband that he was deranged for going to work in his fluescent state, I am pleased to be in the house alone except for sleeping Baby, blogging and going in and out of the kitchen for snacks. I just ate a sausage out of the giant broth I made for the Husband. I finished the ice cream earlier. There are still some cookies. Maybe I will bake a cake later. I haven't baked since the arrival of the Baby. While pregnant, I baked constantly, all recipes from The Joy of Cooking. Had to have guests from the States bring me baking powder and cream of tartar. Tartar. Now I've done it. I had to type "tartar" and now I am craving fish and chips. Wrapped in newspaper.

Have I mentioned that I torture myself about my friendships? The ones I left behind in California? I am getting better at not torturing myself, but I still do it. I still imagine they all hate me or, worse, that they hardly think of me at all anymore. I have a long history of fraught friendships. One way I make myself feel like a better friend to those with whom I no longer have contact is I buy their books. Many of my old friends are writers. My hope is that one day, they will buy my book, see my film...I know, I know, you told me last time...I have to write them first.

Snack time!

Monday, January 8, 2007

Home, er, Sweet, uh, Home

We are back in Naples, where it is raining, after five glorious, sunny days in Barcelona. The husband, mine, began to warm to the idea of moving there, but still appears to be itching for digs in a smaller, seaside, Spanish town. At least Spain feels like a possible move from Italy. You fly over the Mediterranean and you're there. It's practically across the street!

The Spanish -- the Catalans, at least -- do not fawn over babies like the Italians -- the Neapolitans, at least -- do. The Spanish do not give you dirty looks and curse you for bumping into them with your stroller.

Naples looked so gray when we landed, not just because of the rain. The city is so dirty. There are piles and piles of garbage everywhere because the city, the region, the country has not figured out where to dump it. This is a Camorra issue, for sure. The Camorra, in case you didn't know, are the Neapolitan mafia. We Americans just throw the term mafia over all organized crime like a slice of Kraft American cheese over a hamburger. (That's probably a simile that only works for me). The Sicilian mafia, cosa nostra, is called the mafia here in Italy. In Campania, they are the camorra, in Calabria, the 'Ndrangheta, in Puglia the Sacra Corona Unita (United Sacred Crown? Sounds like a charity run by nuns. Creepy.). Call them what you will, they really fuck things up.

There are neighborhoods (quartieri) in Naples that are Camorra zones. Every now and then, a war breaks out, people are killed, chalk body outlines grace the cobblestones. Italian television shows a body covered with a sheet, its (his, usually) feet sticking out, and sometimes a shoulder, the body lying next to a car (the victim is often about to get in his car when he is gunned down...or maybe he was shot in the middle of the street and the cops just roll him closer to the curb...gosh, this is morbid). Then Italian television shows the backs of people's heads, some asphalt, the gate in front of the victim's house (or maybe the intercom), several people's lower legs, maybe a couple of Carabinieri (or, more likely, their car). I do not understand the filming techniques of Italian tv cameramen.

The Carabinieri are one of the four law enforcement arms in Italy.

Pizzo means extortion in Italian. Thus, Naples is famous for both pizzo and pizza.

Neapolitans who live in Camorra-controlled areas often defend the Camorra because they feel they are the only people looking out for them. Most Neapolitans feel abandoned by the Italian government (most of the inhabitants of southern Italy as well). The police are scoffed at. They might as well be playing dress-up in their gray and blue uniforms with fuchsia piping (yes, fuchsia). Sometimes the local women will attack the police if they catch them trying to arrest one of their sons in the piazza downstairs from their apartments. The police will chase a mugger into his quartiere, catch him, and then meet with raving napoletane, screaming banshees waving their fists and smacking the shit out of these castrated officers of the peace. It's quite a show.

The amount that I rag on Naples and the fact that I get defensive when other foreigners rag on Naples is proof that I am becoming Neapolitan. I will admit that I missed Neapolitan cuisine. I have a hankering for some pasta and some contorni (vegetable side dishes). Of course, there is no food in the house, so I have to wait for the husband (my husband shall henceforth be called "the husband") to return from his spin around the center of town with a stop at Gianni the Salumiere for much needed staples such as prosciutto crudo and some sharp goat cheese. For now, I will eat bran flakes out of the box.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Bon dia

We are here in Barcelona -- me, hubby, baby -- staying with our friends in the Sant Antoni district, about a 10 minute walk from La Rambla. Barcelona is what Naples could be: a tidy port city, throbbing with tourists, boasting a more or less traffic-free historic center, tons of bars and cafes, etc. But Naples will never change. One should never say never, but in this case, I must make an exception.

That Naples will never change is both a blessing and a curse. It is an awfully backward place in many ways, superstitious and suspicious (of foreigners, of change), stubborn, limited. Neapolitans have perfected certain things -- their cuisine, the art of the nativity, their song -- and have decided to leave the rest up to others. Nevertheless, there is something noble in their unified resistance. Naples is probably the only city in the western world that has not succumbed to globalization (I have not been to Marseilles, however). Yes, there is a McDonald's and a Burger King, compulsive cell phone (ab)use, Levi's and Nikes, but the mom-n-pop shop still reigns, your butcher grinds the meat right before your cellophane-wrapped-hamburger-searching eyes, and the natives still inhabit the historic center. The Neapolitanness of Naples is thick and deep. Something to appreciate.

I find this entry dry as a post-partum pucchiaka. I don't know how to spell pokhiacca but I bet you've figured out what it means.

Hubby and friends have gone out to party leaving me with sleeping baby. Fine with me. I am about to gehe schluffy myself. I would like to write all night, but there are things I want to say that I fear are best left for my journal, for longhand, for ink and paper. I am still terribly uncertain about the value of this blog.

My husband cooked for everyone yesterday, typical Neapolitan dishes -- spaghetti con frutti di mare, calamari con patate e piselli, all delicious, but Jesus Christ, we're in Spain, we eat Neapolitan food all day every day at home, doesn't he want to taste some tapas, down some doner kebabs? We did have tapas today: a giant fried ball of mashed potato (a sort of Catalan knish), bacala and beans, anchovies and olives, paprika potatoes. We were supposed to check out the Picasso museum, but it was too beautiful out, electric blue sky, mild temperature, perfect for strolling among the narrow ways and wide boulevards. I believe I could live happily here. Tomorrow we are meant to check out Tarragona, but I might prefer to stay in town, do some shopping for a new sweater and a box of non-Honey Nut Cheerios.

Okay, bona nit, adeu.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Peter Tosh... on the boom box, bad Italian acting is on the television, husband is watching bad Italian acting on the television, baby is asleep, and I am headed the way of baby. We are taking a family holiday to Barcelona tomorrow, so I will be neglecting il blog. No one is upset about this but me. Until next week then, rompipalle.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Mr. Sandman

I am really too tired to write something of interest to myself on this the first day of the new year, but it seemed imperative to write something period. Naples on New Year's Eve is what I imagine a city under bombardment is like: constant, loud-ass explosions for hours and hours. Since every Tom, Dick and Luciano has his own arsenal of firecrackers, fireworks, firebombs, you never know where or when something is going to be set off. So you don't leave your house on New Year's Eve in Naples. I was even too chicken to go onto the balcony. The entire city was shrouded in smoke by 5am when I, of course, was awake due to a baby demanding breast.

We went to my husband's sister's house today and ate ourselves into a stupor. Luckily for me, I can tune out the conversation because though my Italian is fluent, my Napoletano is more or less non-existent. So, after lentils, squid, pasta al forno, steak, sausages, salad, and four trays of pastries, I just glazed over and let the screaming discussion wash over me. They are so fucking loud. I thought my family was loud. Compared to these folks my family seems under a monastic vow of silence.