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.

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