Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Get Set...


We went back to the Comune and went straight to the Dirigente (director) as per the suggestion of La Signora (last name Starita, henceforth, La Starita). The Dirigente greeted us nicely and then turned foul. "What are you doing? What am I supposed to do about this? Oh, you were here on Thursday? And you spoke with La Dottoressa (Starita) and Roberto? No one told me you've already been here. They should have resolved this by themselves. What can I do? You, Signora, screwed up when you didn't put your daughter on your residency. You should have known that. Yes, the child follows the mother anagraficamente, follows her residency, but how I am I supposed to know she hasn't been living with the father all this time, hm? And how could you have known to tell the people at the Comune di Chiaia that you had a daughter? They should have asked you. Ah, Roberto, yes come in. Roberto, we shouldn't be arguing about this in front of the public. This is a question of immigration. No, Signora, not in terms of nationality or citizenship, immigration in terms of residency. Yes, I know, the term is used differently in this case. Go downstairs with Roberto. Go. Work this out amongst yourselves. Good-bye."

Got that?

So we follow Roberto, who has a limp and can't run, so wait up! and he sits behind his desk and he moans about the bureaucracy and he asks me which are left and which are right between the democrats and the republicans and do you think they are going to vote for that one with the black face (faccia nera, swear to Gesù) and see here, see this on my computer, this is an American woman born in Newport Beach and here is her son also born in Newport Beach but with residency in Naples because he's my grandson and I didn't want any bureaucratic problems for him so I entered them in the database, così, and where were you born? New York City? Brooklyn? But Brooklyn isn't a city, right? It's a quartiere, so how can you have been born there? I'll put New York, like on your carta d'identità, type type type, here you go, now all three of you have the same residency, the baby is part of your stato di familia, find me a basso to live in in New York, won't you? Ciao!

So, lovely readers, who share my pain over this bureaucratic song and dance, it was all a charade, a cabaret, old chum, all to cover asses. When he felt he could do so without getting chewed out, Roberto simply changed the data in the computer and, Ecco fatto!

The Husband and I uncorked a bottle of prosecco after that vittoria. Whew!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Get ready...

Today we went to the Immigration Office in Via Epomeo in the Soccavo district. We went there because we had received a blue postcard in October, asking us to come. We were invited. I called in October to find out what it was about, what papers we should bring, etc. and the guy on the other end of the line said, "What's it about?" I said that the card didn't specify, so he said, "How should I know? Bring everything you have." This put us off going, of course, and then we went to NYC and then it was Xmas, New Year's, Epiphany, flu season, and so on.

So I coaxed The Husband into going today. Two different gas station attendants pointed us in the correct direction of the office and we still had to turn around and go up a one-way street the wrong way. Nevertheless, we arrived, parked in front of several miraculously empty dumpsters, and went inside. The first man we asked for information from told us to ask someone who knew better. (The Husband had asked him, "You are with the Comune, right?" "Si." Still, he didn't know jackshit). The second man we asked told us to go to the first floor, last door on the left. We took the stairs. At the top of the stairs we saw a door marked Immigration Office, so we went in there. We showed our postcard to a guy seated at a desk in what looked like a recently rented office -- bare and in shambles (not at all recently rented, just bare and in shambles) -- and he said, "I didn't invite you here. Go to the office down the hall on the left." So far, everyone was male, graying or balding, wearing sweater vests, and CRANKY.

At the office at the end of the hall on the left we were met by Roberto, a burly man (graying, sweater vest though of fleece), who said, "Vi voglio bene ma che ci fate qui?" ("I love you, but what are you doing here?"). We showed him the card and he found our file right away. Great sign! Right?

Wrong. After some chitchat about Italy being a fifth world (Robero's words) country in terms of services and first world in terms of taxes, Roberto explained...well, he explained...I mean...he said,

I HAVE NO FRICKIN IDEA WHAT HE SAID! Not because I didn't understand the half-Italian, half-Neapolitan he was speaking, but because he never said anything. After many questions put by me and unanswered by Roberto, a signora came in to help. She was nice and pleasant-looking, but she was no help either. Both Roberto and La Signora were evidently on our side, wanted to help, but their hands were tied because of Le Veline (Roberto's words, remember the TV dancing girls? That's what he calls the two women above him who are responsible for our as-yet-undefined bureaucratic mess). Le Veline were the ones making the mess, not the officials at the Comune di Chiaia (our comune, where La Bimba was born), and certainly not Roberto and La Signora.

I asked very clearly, "What exactly is the problem? Why were we called here? I still don't understand what we are doing here." Finally, as we left the building (with an appointment to return on Monday, so stay tuned), The Husband explained:

I don't know if you, fair readership, gentle, innocent, all-trusting, law-abiding readership will be able to handle this explanation The Husband gave according to the explanation given to him by La Signora.

If you are squeamish about the creative logic of Italians, do not read on. Rent a gory horror flick instead.

Okay. Deep Breath. Here goes.

La Bimba was born in Naples. Her birth was recorded in Naples. She has an Italian passport. The fact that she is my daughter and The Husband's daughter is on record. She is an Italian citizen by birth. However, when she was born, I was still officially a resident of New York. Thus, her birth was recorded as "occasionale" (in bureaucratese this means something like, "oops, an American had a baby on Italian soil"). I did not become an official resident of Naples until 14 months after her birth and since the baby follows the mommy, bureaucratically speaking, the Comune di Chiaia recorded her as having her residence in NY. From the Italian perspective, La Bimba was born in Naples and then took the next Alitalia flight to NY and has lived there ever since. She never "followed me" back to Naples.

What does this mean? It should mean that all we have to do is declare that she lives with us in Naples. Then the Comune will change her residency and basta così. Simple. Logical. A tiny glitch in the bureaucratic chain. But because of Le Veline, according to Roberto and La Signora, we can't do that because Le Veline say that La Bimba has to IMMIGRATE TO ITALY.

I'm sorry, I need to repeat that with the requisite caps.


This is by far and away the apex, the tops, the Coliseum of Italian bureaucratic insanity. I have never heard of anything so jaw-droppingly absurd in my life. I am hoping for a serious shakedown with Le Veline on Monday. I am banking on jumping up and down on their desks, scattering their crumbling files hither and thither, and making such a scene that the crumbling, shabby, everyone-smoking-at-their-desks Comune on Via Epomeo kick back over espressos in tiny plastic cups, the frosted tin foil pieces blowing out the window, and remember the time L'Americana threw a hissy fit in the office of Le Veline.

I'll probably let The Husband do the talking.

We are doing this so that everything is regolare when we leave. Roberto's advice, "Leave now. Go to the US," said only with a hand gesture.

I will miss this, oh yes, very much.

Monday, January 21, 2008


Yesterday, The Husband, La Bimba, and I were in the car on our way to Capodimonte to hang out in the sun. Because of the traffic on Via Roma, The Husband decided to go through the Sanità, a Neapolitan neighborhood like no other. People think the Quartieri Spagnoli is deep space Napoli, with its tight vicoli and videogame-speed motorino traffic. But the Sanità is a world apart, a neighborhood lost in time. It's hard to give words to the feeling one gets in the Sanità. You have to take a stroll or a drive through it. Anyay, yesterday was a sunny Sunday and the inhabitants of the Sanità were barbecuing in the square, hanging out the wash, standing around, sweeping their steps. A couple of motorinos driven by 10-year-olds whizzed past. The streets are steep, narrow, and wind up and over the city. Some apartments have amazing views of the Gulf of Naples and the trash-besieged city that curves around it. More than once, a car came toward us along an unmarked one-way street. Sometimes the other car backed up to let us pass, sometimes we hugged a crumbling wall to give way. At one point, The Husband asked a local, an older man who was holding back his young grandson, a cutie pie on a little trike, dying to cruise into oncoming traffic, "Is this a one-way street going up or going down?" The man replied, "It's one-way going up if you're going up and one-way going down if you're going down."

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Free Association

Today La Bimba did not take a nap. Thus, she fell asleep in her high chair in the middle of her dinner of tortellini and veggie meat balls. Why, oh, why didn't I take a picture?

The garbage is piling up in certain spots in Naples, though the real crisis is in the provinces. There is a sad dumpster on Corso Vittorio Emanuele, piled high and overflowing with trash, and at the top, row upon row of wilted friarielli (more or less broccoli rabe), like lifeless bodies in a yet to be covered mass grave. I don't like passing that dumpster on my way home from the sundries shop.

Observation: many, many female academics, at least in the field of performance studies, are named Barbara. I have a good friend here in Naples named Barbara. She is The Husband's ex-girlfriend. I tell you this to show you how evolved I am. La Bimba calls her Ba-Ba. When I lived in San Francisco, I threw a Barbra-Q, a Barbra Streisand-themed barbecue. I had five of her CDs rotating in the player and her films playing on the TV. Great voice, that Babs. But after a few hours, I thought about hurling both the CD player and the VCR out the window onto Cesar Chavez Street.

Cesar Chavez Street used to be called Army Street. When they were planning to change the name, certain nostalgic? miltaristic? residents put posters in their windows that read, "It will always be Army." If you check a current SF map, you will find that those residents were wrong.

Now that we have but a few months left living in the city by the Gulf, I have promised myself to visit at least one Neapolitan cultural monument every week. So far, La Bimba and I have seen Chinese contemporary art at the PAN (she particularly liked the video of the naked man walking the Great Wall), the wonderful collection from Pompeii and Egypt at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, and the chiostro at Santa Chiara. We are three for three! I hope we get to the Capodimonte before the Carvaggio-to-Picasso exhibit closes on the 20th of this month.

The Husband turned 41 yesterday. Auguri vecchietto!

Striscia La Notizia, a satirical news program, gives Golden Tapirs (my favorite animal as a child!) to people in the news who are acting like bozos. Today they gave one to the mayor of Naples, Rosa Russo Iervolino, whose voice is eerily reminiscent of the muppet Grover's. She said she was not responsible for the garbage crisis in Naples, that no one listens to her, that the best laid plans keep getting foiled, and that "tutto l'ambiente" is to blame, not one single person. Bozo.
I sing La Bimba to sleep every night (except tonight when the tortellini understudied for me). Since this blog is going to be the way I remember little stories about the little one, I will record her playlist here, adding to it as I remember tunes:

Most Played:

Time After Time (with Eva Cassidy's version in mind)

Fire and Rain, James Taylor

You've Got a Friend, James Taylor

Landslide, Stevie Nicks

Corner of the Sky, Pippin soundtrack (don't laugh!)

I'm Still in Love with You, Steve Earle

If still not asleep, repeating, "yeah, yeah" (her way of saying "again"):

Reason for Waiting, Jethro Tull

Killing Me Softly (with Fugees version in mind)

American Medley: I've Been Working on the Railroad, Home on the Range, Swing Low Sweet Chariot, You Are My Sunshine

Out Here On My Own, Irene Cara

Sing a Song (according to internet, written by Joe Raposo)

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Grazie assai

Just a quick entry to note how much I am enjoying the kindness of the strangers who comment on my blog. It warms the lupini of my heart. Thank you!

Dear New Yorker with Neapolian Husband in the Bronx,
Are you living in the Morris Park area? I just read about it in the Times. Who knows? Perhaps we'll be neighbors?

La Bimba is still sick though seemingly on the mend. Did I mention that she now says GARBAGE? How fitting for the ongoing crisis in Campania.

We haven't been out of the house since New Year's Eve day. I am beginning to lose it. We did get to see The Wizard of Oz in Italian. Lions and Tigers and Panthers?! Why panthers? It doesn't even sing better that way in Italian. Orsi would have worked just as well. We also watched Madagascar in Italian and then again in English. The Husband should be trilingual by now...