Thursday, October 18, 2007

Don Pasquale Redux

Goshdarnit, dagburnit, it is impossible for me to get blogging these days. I nonni were here, I've still got to finish these dang grad school applications, and one has to keep an eye on La Bimba now that she likes to balance herself on the narrow end of a yoga block in the middle of the room that has no rug, just skull-cracking tile floors. Every time she is out of sight and I hear her rendition of, "uh-oh, spaghetti-o's," which sounds like, "uh-oh, doh dee doh" or "uh-oh, guaglio," I know something has been dropped, shredded or destroyed.

Well, I guess I have to begrudgingly admit that The Husband was right...again: I probably shouldn't have broadcast my Jewishness to Don Pasquale. Here's why...

A few days after his offer of sympathy for the Jewish experience of WWII, Don Pasquale and I got to talking again. The conversation went a little something like this (give me a beat!):

DP: Terrible, what happened to the Jews. But what else could he have done?
Me: Who?
DP: Hitler.
Me: What?
DP: I mean, killing 8 million (sic) was too much, but he had to do something to stop the Jewish takeover of the world.
Me: Um, Don Paquale, now you're being offensive.
DP: Ma quando mai! Don't get me wrong. I have great respect for your people, but you have to admit that they have economic control over the world and that before WWII they were ruining Germany and Hitler had to do something.
Me: Sorry, Don Pasquale, I don't see it that way. Gotta go. Say, "ciao ciao, bimba"

The next day my parents arrived in Naples. One morning during their visit they stepped out with La Bimba and I went to take a dance class. On my return, Ciro the garage attendent stopped me.

Ciro: Don Pasquale told me you were Jewish...
Me: (Hoo boy).
Ciro: ...and I'm afraid I offended your father.
Me: What? Why? (Did you scream Raus Juden in his face?)
Ciro: I saw that he was carrying a Leica and I was a photographer, you know, took pictures for a sports newspaper, and I have a Leica too...from the German invasion. It has a swastika on it. I told your father all about it. I love the camera, not the swastika.
Me: Oh, I'm sure he under...
Ciro: Then I told him about my watch. I have a watch that belonged to an Italian Jew. In 1938 he told a friend that he had to escape from Italy, to hold the watch for him, that he would be back. The friend waited 60 years. When he died, his son sold the watch. Now it's mine.
Me: Senti, Ciro, my father doesn't speak Italian. I'm sure he didn't understand a word you said.
Ciro: But he kept saying, "mia figlia, mia figlia," and I'm sure I offended him!
Me: He probably just wanted you to tell me what you had to say so that I could translate. Don't worry, I'll explain everything.
Ciro: Thank you. And if he wants to come over to see my Leica, I live on the first floor.

Of course, my father didn't understand a thing. When I told him what it had been all about, he said, "I didn't know what he was talking about and Nazis were the last thing I could have imagined."

Now an update on the offended signora from the basso on the steps, whose grandson's picture I refused to look at. I saw her husband. I said hello. He sneered at me and turned away. And he doesn't even know I'm Jewish!

And I found out where J-Dub comes from: it is the letter J and an abbreviation of the letter W from the word Jew. Isn't that bizarre? So the Sephardic term for an Ashkenazi Jew just means Jew. Now I'm confused. I guess all that hurt and feelings of being a pariah were for nothing. I learned about it here.


Laurie said...

Oy veh.....this just gets more and Thanks for sharing it!

Roam2Rome said...

You're applying to grad school? fun!
Speaking of fun, ahm, nice neighborly conversations you have there! Speaks volumes of your patience, though :)