Paradox, the word my mother chose to describe me. I make the best Gianduia gelato you’ve never had.
I digress. As the Israelites wandered forty years in the desert, I recognize those similarities in my life. Wandering. Circular travel. Massive failures.
Trust me, I know.
In Las Cruces, New Mexico, my SUV was destroyed by a tiny out-of-control pickup truck with a blown out back tire. The driver fishtailed to my right. Wrongly assuming he’d pull off the highway, he must have breaked hard after he side-swiped me then spun top-like into my lane as I plowed into his drivers side door. Now linked we bulldozed the median met by industrial-strength cables and supporting rods that ripped my gas tank open. Trapped, with both front doors damaged and terrified of fire, I adrenelin-kicked my way out of the passenger door and ran back along the median collapsing to my knees, hyperventilating. On this languorous morning the gods of the desert had been stealthily awake, neither the driver nor I was hurt beyond sore shoulders and bruised spirits.
Losing the car was losing a limb, my independence, my fight or flight wagon. Grounded I began a search for wood fired oven/pizza courses because I’m a very good baker and love food! I had been loosely planning a trip to Europe with no hard dates set and simultaneously looking for a new American city to land and restart my life. And praise be to google I found a small Neapolitan pizza school in Naples, Italy. I had exactly ten days to pay my deposit for a four-person class in hopes of receiving a response from Italy in a timely fashion, always a good laugh, buy tickets, book accommodations and swallow down the fear a beloved relative installed, warning “Naples is the most dangerous city in Italy,” and finding the school on a map he informed me “ it’s very far from the city center”.
Too late. The ball was rolling picking up small houses and large dogs and me in the middle.
Things you might like to know. I have lived fifty years. And while I have traveled fairly extensively in the U.S., been to Canada and Hawaii, this was my first European trip. We can talk about that later but for this story…
I barely made it through the Newark Airport. Annoyed with pushy Spanish tourists holding up the TSA lines with their oversized bottles of duty-free shampoos and lotions pleading to keep them, items everyone knows you can’t take on a plane, and TSA agents who intermittently and inexplicably roamed away from their posts. The couple who sat next to me on the flight over, thankfully I occasionally practice discernment, I would have sworn they were father and daughter. He was a large-headed dozy man, late fifties, with the air of a dissolute golfer, she a glossy haired, tanned American girl; he complained about everything, she reached across my face and snapped the window shade down, the window I payed for. They were mean.
I might have taken the crossing as an omen, mercifully, glorious, absurd Italy sprawled just beneath my feet as the plane landed.
There are Italian stereotypes for a reason. Only days in country elements of my life came sharply into focus. My half-Italian family now seemed reasonable, the duplicity and backstabbing, the praying hands wagging, the rough shouting, the superstitions, the strange seriousness, it all fell into place. Fellini made sense. As did standing at a bar sipping espresso, late dinners, freshly made mozzarella, the practice of god-like space management in tiny dwellings.
In Naples I observed a combination of thrill-seeking, death defying urgency in the way scooters overtake the streets and sidewalks, and logic, taking advantage of every opportunity, anticipating, expediting, the least fat, most lean processes seen in street smart city-dwellers where the need to make the most of your time translates into line-jumping, jaywalking, exacting calculations exurbanites and suburbanites aren’t hip to…they’re too busy talking to the cashier, holding up the line.
Juxtapose that with with penciled-in reservations, cash only, endless receipts, a museum attendant making change out of his own pocket so patrons can pay with a large bill and
heedless decay, gardens gone awry, stuffed animals, paint cans, cages, lawn chairs, baby strollers, toy boxes, broken wine bottles spilling out of overpacked street-side garbage bins.
And so I arrive at the school address Monday morning, twenty minutes early, to find it is not the address given me. I poked my head in here and there along via Caravaggio until I located a small group of people standing around in a closed pizzeria. This was it, the school. Pizzeria la Notizia
To be continued.
( I repent. I do like Pistacchio and black dark chocolate gelato.)