But that’s who I am, the kid who blurted out sharp cutting things, at times to perfect strangers.
You know how it goes…”I’d shave its butt and walk it backwards.” Thing is, I said that to myself tonight after seeing my photograph taken in a pizzeria. Part of me laughs at my callous disregard for my only and only face and the rest of me is, just sad.
I remember two things.
My mother was having a special event one evening at the high school where she taught home-economics. I was ten. There I delivered that phrase to a high school girl older and bigger than me; I no longer remember why.
The sound of Seven-Up glug-glugging from a liter bottle poured into large punch bowl at the back of the theatre as someone spoke onstage. The room went silent. “Glug Glug Glug”. Embarrassed, I stopped, the heat of shame rising on my cheeks.
Later my mother made me apologise to the girl who snitched me out.
Thirty days of miracles.
I went to feed my feral cats. Details later. A bevy of construction workers were in our space- the cat safety zone. Also to be explained later. I ignored them and set up one feeding area. A doughy man approached me, sure he was going to tell me to fuck off feeding the cats since they were going to tear the place down, I knew then I was going to murder him and his cohorts with my machete. Instead, he told me of a beloved dog he has, he was very happy to see me taking care of the cats. His name is Antonio E. He offered me some bricks to put around the feeding area to keep the seagulls out, yes, you read that correctly. And as I was about to leave Antonio called out to me, gave me a big hug and Italian kisses, first kiss right, then kiss left.
The next day
Hungry I wanted pizza. I met a new friend, we tried to get into a popular pizzeria on a Saturday no less, family day, (also Sunday). We walked o the next best pizzeria, the sister restaurant Gorizia 1962. The ambivalent host did say something about seating us at a a table while my friend was in the lieu. Another couple who came in after was seated right away, my skeptical mind went to work . I decided I’d have to murder the host too, when the waiter realised we were still waiting, he sent us to an open table were we sat for some time reading and rereading the menu. “Scusa”, we called to the waiter. I knew he could hear us but having been a waiter, sometimes it’s best to ignore people especially when your other guests are regulars and the food it piping hot. Instead he sent his young, happy-faced assistant. My Buffalino pizza was the best I’ve had in Napoli particularly owing to the very fresh extra virgin olive oil. As we left and I am prone to, I spoke to the pizzaiolo, when the host took an interest in my oft repeated pizza-making-school-story. “Why aren’t you making the pizzas”, he asked half joking and asked me to come back and make pizza.
Two days later
Agita, Italian in origin, wrongly associated with agitation, its meaning is closer to the “acido”your stomach creates when aggitated/aggrivated. I slept late, roasted artichokes, did yoga then went to feed the cats. Now it’s 4 pm (16:00). What to do what to do. I took a walk, forever a healer. As I crossed away from the Lungomare to walk Villa Comunale Park,(once regal the bones of great design can still be seen), all the little cafes that had entrances to the park were closed, meaning I’d have to walk to the whole distance from end to end to enter. I recall saying, “motherfucker”. Plodding along the exterior of ancient trees, fallen leaves, dropped seeds, the cool sea wind, slowing down, being, there. I love fall.
Today. I’m sad as I write this, maybe because I’m tired taking antidepressants and a bit tired of myself. You know, patterns, little lies, stupid shit. Just because I’m in Italy doesn’t mean I didn’t bring my other self, the one that causes me some trouble, and I love her.
Allora toda yoga was the miracle…I follow Yoga with Adriene. Beauty, not the blah blah about head stands and pretzel shapes, but slowing down, letting all the frustration and chaos disappear, even if for only moments at a time.
I met a man named Lorenzo at Artigianino, a small negozio that carries artisanal leather goods. He gave me "un regalo", a gift of a tiny yellow fish coin purse when I bought a cool gold belt. He gave me kisses too and then asked shyly, do you mind me asking your scent? He means my cologne. Well, when in a cafe for pasta genovese with a friend, a man swooped in to buy a cold drink .His scent stopped me cold. “Aspetta, what kind of cologne do you wear?” I thought he said something about Hermes. Hermes, top shelf. Twenty minutes later he reappeared with a small black bottle of the fragrance, for me. A stranger. Turns out it's a knock off of Creed...still smells amazing.
And so I meandered today needing a coffee and a pick me up when I chose O”Girasole, (Sunflower), a minuscule cafe where days before I past and noticed the woman proprietor was completely bald. Today I sat at her bar and ordered a Schiumato, espresso with a tiny cloud of foamed milk served to me with a petite chunk of dark chocolate. We talk. Her name is Nelli, Antonella Poppa. She may be late fifties early sixties, tan, deep set eyes, dark blue liner. She does ashtanga yoga. She will come to my class if I teach one she says. Her partner’s name is Gennie or Gennaro, a tall man with salt and pepper hair who speaks more English than she.
High on this encounter, I float way to eat two tiny biscotti di amarena from the oldest pasticceria in Napoli, the original Antica Pasticceria Armando Scaturchio. Go there.
Now. From mela cotogna (Italian for Quince) I made a tart tart. Mela cotogna is, a bright green-yellow-pear-apple-y shaped fruit, grown large and quite hard, unbearably astringent. Do not eat it raw. Quince must be softened by roasting or poaching and will convert from a dull yellow in color to a blush rose in a few days; you might recognise it as the stiff bright orange paste eaten in some latin countries with cheeses and wine. While yet warm, I gave a slices of the tart to my nearest fruit vendors, Anna and Raffaello/Lelo and to the further fruit vendor Guiseppe who carries the less common fruits, like sorbe, minuscule blush-yellow crab apples that ripen once dead brown and can be eaten raw, cooked into a sauce, or made into a fine pie.
A friend joined me for a long walk to an ancient church, the name of which will not be revealed unless you come visit me, period. One of the most unusual churches in Naples, well-preserved and gorgeously ,practically empty. I’ve seen many ancient churches in Naples, stood on line to get in, paid more money, but this one is my favourite new secret, besides, there is a family of cats living there.
I prefer to travel alone as I’m likelier to have unique encounters along the way. However, this day it was a pleasure to be in good company. I’ve observed our friendship has changed from insecurities and sharp edges into a quiet acceptance, while politically we are often diametrically opposed on many issues. We sometimes spend whole days together, a rarity with anyone else-generally I’m happy to rid myself of companionship. And this is what I love about being middle-aged, no kids, no other to care for /carry, the deep satisfaction of my own company.
A small tan dog-with a collar- ran up the street near where I had tucked away to privately enjoy my beloved pistacchio gelato, away from the horns and crowds. I followed it looking for the owner to be close behind, alas it was rogue, and brazen. It haplessly charged into oncoming traffic, I charged right behind it holding up my STOP hand while it continued unabashed across the second set of lanes. Once across he darted into an alley and was gone, no grazie, no buonasera, nada.
And so I fell more deeply in love with Napoli, city of chaos, it cars and scooters halting on a dime for a rascal dog.
From there I wandered as it grew dark, my favourite time of day, the city bright, people jostling, stores ablaze, an October coolness on my skin.