Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Thanks Easter Bunny!

I am still chomping on the giant chocolate eggs La Bimba received for Easter.

Last night I dreamed a woman in a store? in a hospital? had Pasquetta written on her name tag.

We went to The Husband's sister's house for Easter dinner, a fifty course meal that included fettucine al brodo (pasta made by the nuns), pasta al forno, grilled lamb, veal, pork, ribs, sausage, and wild boar, lamb with peas, various cold cuts and cheeses, hard boiled eggs and ricotta, bread, lettuce and fennel salad, sautéed mushrooms, peppers, ricotta pear cake, mixed pastries (made by the nuns...no I don't know which nuns), wine, Pepsi, many liqueurs including artichoke...are you feeling full yet?

During the blessing of the table (a palm dipped in holy water and then flicked at everyone at the table), we were asked to stand. I had a forkful of fettucine moving toward La Bimba's mouth, so I hesitated a moment. In that moment of hesitation, the father of The Husband's sister's husband, a man of about 78, began to cry and sat back down next to his wife, who had not stood up due to her age (kind of like when my great aunts pleaded elderly so as to avoid sitting on boxes during shivah). I looked at the nonno, then at the nonna, who looked back at me shaking her head, shrugging her shoulders, and rolling her eyes as if to say, "There he goes again. What a putz!" One of the nonno's sons was sitting next to him and didn't give him the time of day. I was sort of paralyzed by the event, and had not yet stood up. Then The Husband nudged me and said, "Alzati" and I realized I should really stand up because otherwise the whole family was going to think I killed Jesus personally. I stood up, I got a drop of holy water in my eye, and then we all sat back down and set to eating. The nonno just whimpered away until a nice piece of grilled lamb was placed in front of him. He seemed better after that.

La Bimba had a blast playing with her cousins, eating chocolate, and finding surprises in the bowels of her cavernous eggs. "Eggies!" she cried every time another one, wrapped in colorful cellophane, came her way. I am already planning for her second birthday in April. La Bimba is nothing if not a party girl.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Special Report

I was stretched out on the sofabed next to La Bimba, reading about binary genders and the heterosexual contract while La Bimba watched Elmo learn how to get ready for school, when it occurred to me that I had not shared one of the jaw-droppingly yowsa Neapolitan stories ever!

The Husband likes to watch a program called Report. It's a news program that devotes each episode to some Italian cultural/political/social/economic lunacy like the southern Italian garbage crisis or slave labor and the Italian fashion industry. Most episodes end as cliffhangers, e.g. did they resolve the garbage crisis? The folks at Report know how important it is to provide follow-up information, if not closure, so they have a section called "Com'è andata a finire?" or "How did it turn out?"

The other evening, The Husband was watching Report and I decided to watch it with him instead of popping in my ear plugs and reading about liminality and communitas. And boy was I psyched that I did! I caught the "Com'è andata a finire?" of an episode first aired in 1999. The story, insomma, is that the Comune di Napoli built a freeway that ends smack in front of a three-story apartment house.

(Insert baffled emoticon here).

(Insert baffled emoticon with smoke coming out of its ears here).

(Insert baffled emoticon with Tickle-Me-Elmo rolling around on the floor hysterically laughing here).

Try to picture it: a stretch of freeway that just drops off, as if for a Mission Impossible 12 car stunt, and right in front of it, eye-level with Tom Cruise's scientological smirk, the third floor apartment of a Neapolitan family.

No way! Si invece!

The comune claimed that they thought the building was unoccupied. How they thought this when the ground floor electronics store was open for business and all the apartments had moms and dads and grandpas and grandmas, aunts, uncles, dogs, living in them, BOH, I can't fathom. So years go by and deals are offered (moving costs, evacuation packages, whatever), and in 2008 we find everyone gone except the businessman, who is just waiting for his money and will then move shop across the street, and an elderly woman, who keeps repeating, "How am I supposed to move if I can't find another house to live in?" The engineers, who looked like Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb and Dumber, could only giggle, like Elmo.


I was just so pleased to discover, once again, that Naples will never EVER cease to amaze me.

You just had to see the view from that third floor window.

Here is the link to the report. If you would like me to translate anything...it'll cost ya.

Friday, March 14, 2008

It's SO easy being green!

First of all, a shout out to Madgic! Hey, Madge, I miss you, and now I miss Ed because of your comment!

Second of all, The Husband is the proud owner of a shiny new immigrant visa to the US. Go, Husband! If any of you expats are about to embark on the green card path for your mates, I've got the skinny AND the lowdown on the process, so feel free to ask. We met all sorts of nice people at the consulate, lots of military married to foreigners, and foreigners married to civilians, and some random single people from Spain. The interview consisted of a jovial fellow asking The Husband to hold up his right hand and swear that everything he wrote on his application was the truth. So, that whole Andie MacDowell/Gerard Depardieu movie was just bullshit?

Anyway, we need to celebrate...and right now La Bimba needs her ciuccio, so until next time!

Oh, and I am so pleased that my readers are getting to know each other and sharing best bakery secrets!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

He's a piece of bread

Lui è un pezzo di pane. This is a great compliment here in Naples, maybe all over Italy, but I wouldn't know anything about the rest of this lovely wacky country. If someone calls you a piece of bread it means you're simple, and being simple is also a compliment. It doesn't mean you're a little slow. Simple like unpretentious. Wholesome like a piece of bread. Given the very large number of bread types in Naples -- palatone, cafone, mezzaluna, sfilatina -- I wonder if each person who is like a piece of bread is like a very specific piece of bread. Like maybe I am hard on the outside and squishy on the inside. Or maybe you are a little sour and flecked with sunflower seeds. Perhaps you are simply round or semi-circular.

I have been having lengthy conversations about Neapolitan gesture these days, and also about Italian grammar, now that our departure date is visibly on the horizon. I see it! Right over there next to that catamaran! The Husband was trying to explain when he chooses to just use words, to use words and gesture, or just use gesture to make a point. He was trying really hard and failing because the decisions are automatic and unconscious. I gleaned from his various chin thrusts, shoulder shrugs, finger pointing, and tongue clucking that sometimes it's about emphasis, sometimes it's about directing a remark to the person looking at you (thus away from those not looking at you), other times it's about being scary, occasionally it's to show great chumminess. I still have so much to learn.

You should hear me throw the subjunctive around these days. I am like an Italian grammar rock star, the Italian grammar lady pope. Penso che sia troppo forte con l'uso del congiuntivo, devo dire la verità.

Comunque, comunque. I am happy to report that the Bay Area offers more than one Italian language play group! I am thrilled that La Bimba will have little compatriots to speak in code with. She has started translating like a fiend -- palla/ball! tree/albero! kiss/NOOOOO! She is going to love all the Berkeley foliage, but she is going to be quite disappointed when she realizes that not every American who passes her on the street is going to stop and marvel. For her, everyone in Naples is some kind of relative. Here she is with her bilingual buddy Tilda.

Don't worry, Bimba! We will find plenty of folks to coo over you. Non ti preoccupare!