Monday, July 30, 2007

Puddle of Love

La Bimba did something that so thoroughly melted my heart-self, it lay in a puddle at her chubby little feet. She was playing by herself while I did some emailing, both of us in the same room, my pediatrician friend E. told me this was not ignoring her, it was giving her the space to learn on her own, never interrupt a child's play!, he told me, okay, okay, we get it, you're not neglecting your child, move on. She was having little bursts of cranky whines, mini frustrations, so I went over and sat a few paces from her. She put down the bolts she was playing with, crawled over to me, stood up with the help of first my knees, then a boob, ouch, then my shoulders, and wrapped her arms around my neck, resting her head on my shoulder. We sat there for a few moments, just hugging and breathing. La Bimba popped her head up a couple of times to look at me, to touch her forehead to mine, and then snuggled back down. Then she unhooked her arms, plopped down on her butt, and crawled back to the bolts.
I felt so loved and so much love, and so needed and so capable of being there, something I don't always feel, something I suppose every mother worries they won't be able to be, there, just there. And then let go.

Non mi hai visto my ass

Well, back in Naples, back to fuming at the absolutely normal behavior exhibited by the natives on the funicolare. They cut in front of me and La Bimba then they turn to coo at La Bimba. I loathe them at those moments.

Us, them, me, them, me against them, will it never end?

I found the Sicilians, since we're generalizing here without fear or shame, very friendly, their cities clean, their food an overwhelming disappointment. I kept hearing that I was going to go wild for the food, that Neapolitan cuisine is one step below Sicilian, but instead I found the food too heavy, too salty, too extra virgin olive oily. There were some interesting combinations like oranges with sardines and pepper, and some frightening things like pig lip salad, oh yes, but overall la cucian siciliana did not hold a candle to quella napoletana. Or maybe we just ate at all the wrong places.

I want to return to Palermo and explore it and I want to return to Catania when it's not over 100 degrees F. It was 113 in Modica, a town just southeast of Ragusa that is so gorgeous, so Euro Arabo fantastic, that it was pity we couldn't stand outside for more than one nanosecond before becoming dust. We also had our best meal there, pasta with puree of fava beans, ravioli with the sweetest, gentlest ricotta, veal steak, and lemon granita.

On an unrelated note, I am winning the word race! La Bimba currently has more words in English than in Italian: baby, horse, fish, cheese, hello, ball, bubbles, vs. babbo, cane, grazie, ciao, and one other in Italian I can't remember. As for what she calls me, it's a cross between the Neapolitan mamma and the American mommy, so no one can claim it yet. It sounds kind of like mahmei. The point is I am winning.

How pathetic do I sound?

We were in Palermo for only a few hours, but we got to visit the Capella Palatina in all its mosaic glory...well, almost was under quite a bit of construction. Then we got roped into a guided tour of the royal palace where the government officials work and The Husband commented in room after room how the politicians suck our blood. Other Italians on the tour agreed. When we got to the top of a flight of stairs where sat a middle-aged gentleman, a guard of sorts, The Husband said, "Are you one of the antiques?" The guard liked that. How does The Husband do it? He teases people and they laugh instead of punching him. It's quite a talent.

It's nice and breezy outside, even a bit of cloud cover. The wind is blowing our plastic furniture around the terrace. A lovely scraping sound. La Bimba sleeps. I try to tap into my writerly side. And as soon as I digest my cotoletta and fries, I will do some yoga...or maybe just take a nap. A prestissimo!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Back in the Saddle and it's so hot my butt's stuck to it

We are just back from Sicily and I have much to report. Of course, now is not the time to report it, but I didn't want to go too long without giving a shout out to my wide, wide readership. Wouldn't want y'all to think I'd left the blogosphere permanently. Wild horses couldn't keep me away.

Naples is nice and empty, hot and sticky, and our floors are so dirty that La Bimba's knees look like they are performing in a minstrel show. The Husband and she are out and about, and when they return and sweet baby girl takes a nap, it is frenzied clean-up time.

La Bimba traveled beautifully, partied hard, met lots of adoring fans, didn't learn to walk. My father was hoping she'd take her first solo steps before his very eyes, but no such luck. She is doing great holding one hand now. The above picture is of her on the dance floor at Club Med. Club Med really knows how to take the Sicilian out of Sicily. More on that later...or tomorrow.
p.s. La Bimba walked just moments after I published this post. The funniest drunken sailor walk I have ever seen. We are so proud though not as proud as she is of her own bad self!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Free mints? Toothpicks? Cell phones?

The Husband, La Bimba and I were having lunch at Zi' Carmela, a pizzeria-trattoria near the sea that is sometimes fabulous, sometimes mediocre, and always overpriced, when The Husband got to chatting with the table next to us. The table didn't actually speak, that would have been interesting...oh the stories! The spills! The cigarette burns!..., no, the three diners, a woman and two men spoke. One man in particular was quite the chatty cathy. He had tattoos and a few mismatched teeth, was very thin and tan, and looked like a feisty old man with a sordid past. He and The Husband talked about Naples, the quartieri where they both grew up, the man's fruttivendolo father, the man's grandchildren, the fact that the waitstaff at Zi' Carmela's wasn't treating them right. The man is a friend of Don Antonio, the kindly ex-waiter of Zi' Carmela's. Don Antonio had a shock of white hair and gave the joint a hint of class. His replacement is a tall, thin, pimply kid who gives the joint a hint of cluelessness. Anyway, it was a warm and friendly dining experience and my sfilatina, a calzone-type thing with prosciutto, mushrooms, ricotta, pepper and mozzarella was worth the 7 euros.

Shortly after the trio left the table and headed up the street, The Husband noticed a cell phone left behind, right where the old man's half-eaten frittura had been just a moment before. He was holding La Bimba, so I took the phone and ran up the street to return it to the man. When I caught up to the group I said, "Hey! You left your phone." The woman looked at it and said, "That's not mine," and turning to the man, "Is it yours?" The man gave the phone a classic Neapolitan chin-thrust, lip-jut and after a pause said, "Yeah. That's mine." He took the phone and without saying Grazie, tucked it away and got in his car.

I returned to our table to find the chef asking his 7-year-old son whether he had seen his cell phone. "Is it silver?" The Husband asked. "Si." "Is it a 3?" I asked. "Si." Ohmigod! "We thought it belonged to the dude who was sitting there!" "Did he say it was his?" the chef asked. "Si."

Che gente di merda!

Che schifo!

Lui aveva una faccia brutta!

And on and on and on. Everyone stood around marveling at the fact that a GRANDPA would knowingly take a cell phone that didn't belong to him. That's a teenager manoeuver. I suppose the guy figured the americana was a bozo...which she was...and that her bozoness gave him the right to make off with a free phone. The chef was very understanding...Zi' Carmela a bit less so...the 7-year-old just shrugged. The Husband and I howled with laughter when we were out of earshot.

We apologized up and down. The chef said he was glad to know what happened to the phone, to not have to live with the mystery. He called Don Antonio to let him know what happened. He may or may not get his phone back.

Reflecting on the man's delay in taking the phone, his expression that lacked recognition of the object, his failure to thank me, it became blaringly obvious that he was bullshitting. The Husband would have figured that out immediately, given the guy a friendly chuck on the shoulder, and taken the phone back to the restaurant. I might have also caught on had I either just moved to Naples or had I been living here for longer. I have become accustomed to bizarre responses to actions, to a lack of grace when it seems to be required, to an outpouring of kindness when it is least expected, so the man's oddness didn't seem suspicious to me until after the fact. Neapolitans are known for cunning, they tell you themselves not to trust them, but for an American girl, even one from Brooklyn, it is hard to get the signals straight. And this is what makes it a neverending mystery for me. And so fun. And so annoying. And so great.

Il pranzo della domenica alla napoletana.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Why can't I enter a title anymore? Yesterday and today...I don't understand Blogger.

Finally, someone was brutally honest today. A woman in the department store where La Bimba and I were shopping said, "What a beautiful baby? Are you the mother?" to which I replied, "Yes." The woman looked at me and said, "She is more beautiful than you" to which I replied, "Much."

Finally, what they are all thinking has been spoken. I feel so relieved.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Lots of people smoke while driving their mopeds here in Naples. When I smoked -- I was never "a smoker," too inconsistent to warrant the sobriquet -- I liked to do so above all in a bar with a beer. I didn't even like smoking outside because the second-hand smoke I needed to enjoy smokng first-hand is too diluted in the great outdoors (though I did take some pleasure smoking around a campfire...a different sort of second-hand smoke). Smoking with coffee was okay, but too early in the morning. Smoking between courses in a restaurant in Italy before the smoking ban felt so naughty after not being able to smoke within fifty feet of outdoor tables in Berkeley, it made every smoke that much tastier.

The last cigarettes I was smoking were Gauloises reds. The last cigarette I smoked was in July 2005. I am still breastfeeding La Bimba, so no smoking...yet. I cannot say with conviction that I will never smoke again, but I hope I don't because it is a disgusting habit and my teeth are already yellower since my coffee addiction. I had never had a cup of coffee in my life before I moved to Italy, something I was annoyingly proud of. Now I can't wait for that cappuccino freddo. With a brioche. I had stopped eating wheat in California. The intestinal tract is a fickle friend.

Smoking on the beach always made me feel ill. I once took a drag off a Russian cigarette and had to immediately find a toilet. Who needs Miralax? I smoked Camel Lights in Madison, Wisconsin because that's what my friend S. smoked. I smoked Winstons, not lights, in Seaside Heights, New Jersey and lost about 15 pounds that summer since I paired those fags with Seabreezes and no dinner. Or lunch. I don't mind Marlboro Reds, but the Lights are gross. The Husband smokes Pall Malls, sometimes Blue (lights), mostly Red, when he runs out of the Marlboros my parents and other Americans bring him through the Duty Free.

In college, Colleen smoked Benson & Hedges. I don't like 100s, too long, can't balance them between my fingers. I can't blow smoke rings or french inhale. I never understood why people smoked menthols. Do they really have fiberglass particles in them? And why are they marketed to black people? My mom used to smoke L&Ms. Z's parents won washing machines and other large appliances by being faithful to Viceroys. Philip Morris is a huge supporter of concert dance. My grandpa Jack couldn't talk on the phone without smoking. My grandma Daurcy smoked on the couch in the den, in front of Tom & Jerry and a plate of Sara Lee pound cake that rested on the small, square, dark blue and green tiled table. The door from the den to the garden was sealed shut by then, Papa Myer's tomato plants a distant, juicy memory. Their house is a vacant lot today.

Huber beer cost $5 a case in Madison in 1990. Those went well with smoking. Wine, preferably, red goes great with smoking.

I hope La Bimba never smokes.