Tuesday, July 31, 2018

No One Gets Out of Here ... from From Naples to Herculaneum

Below a statue from ancient Rome. Middle images of Sophia in Naples. Bottom and top. skeletons were found in the boat sheds, in barrel vaults in Herculaneum.

New amici everywhere. After lunch, she told me she made the delicious pizza we had. And that those guys were her sons. It's the best pizzeria in the world they told me. She asked for a kiss and we took this pic. And then two more. Amo Italia! 

Travel days are never easy.
We wanted to keep it simple.
Mom wanted to find a Neapolitan angel.
The teenager wanted to explore the thrift shops.
We woke, packed, make arrangements for the car and headed out, pushing mom in the wheelchair across the cobble stone streets, bump, bump, bump.
Up Via Foria, we made our way through across the one k of this historic street bordering the ancient core of the city of the city to the north, with characteristic antique shops, toward the Archaeological museum, one of my favorite spaces in the city.
Over the years, I continue to be inspired by this space, filled with piles of old stones, Roman statuary, mosaics, and frescos, of sex mixing with the history, the humanity, and the apocalypse that was Pompeii.
Mt Vesuvius always looms in the distance.
But for now, so do all the people making their way through the curvilinear stradda.
We take a left and a right, moving closer into the nucleus of the city.
At some point, mom jumped up and walked.
And we searched.
Immigrants were selling belts.
Homeless sleeping by the churches.
Walking from store to store mom searched.
We drank cappuccinos outside as a man played his guitar outside of Piazza San Gaetano 68, near the entrance to Napoli Sotterranea, connecting above ground with the ancient underground city and its networks of tunnels that have survived wars and plagues.
“This is the most famous street in Naples,” a man declared.
No one seemed to hear him.
We started our way back.
Out into the abyss, the waiter drove us to the airport, laughing at what a horrible experience he had at Christmas time in New York. Expensive food, lots of snow, a fight with his girlfriend.
He said Naples was just fine for him.
We feel the same way.
At the car rental, the queue was flowing outside the door.
After waiting among hot angry Italians and French, I saw that we had to pick up tickets with a number on it. My number said I had a 90 minute wait. They were asking for people with a number D. But most of ours said H. The line was not working.
Some French started to scream.
“This is two hours I am waiting. This is not normal. Its my fucking holiday!”
I started to laugh.
I showed the ladies working the pile of numbers here they were still calling for.
More screams.
Kids were crying outside.
There was going to be a riot of petulant tourists.
I looked to the left.
No one was at the other car rent.
So I walked over, asked if they had a car.
And we rented from them.
And made our way through the traffic circles, to Herculaneum, where an eruption in 79 AD killed everyone, leaving the town in ruin, buried under 20m of debris, into the 18th century.
Hotter than death, we wandered looking at the tiles that remained, the bar, the houses where people lived.
I stood looking at the remains of some three hundred skeletons, in the boat house, where they had tried to get a boat out, before they speculate, a wall of flames enveloped them.
This isn’t a movie.
Its real life.
I thought about them the rest of the way, on the way to the Amalfi Coast.
Naples and its surroundings linger in the mind.

“I felt Naples submerged in a stinking, devastating heat,” Elena Ferrante write in My Brilliant Friend, the first installment of her bildungsroman of her life growing up in Naples that I have been reading. The heat was everywhere growing up there.  “How had it happened that I lived in a city like Naples and never thought, not once, of swimming in that sea?  And yet it was so…”  It’s a story of a place and a friendship. “I felt a sensation that later in my life was often repeated: the joy of the new….” But soon memories of her best friend in Naples draws her back.  “I missed only Lila, who didn’t answer my letters.  I was afraid of what was happening to her, good or bad, in my absence.  It was an old fear, a far that has never left me: the fear that in losing pieces of her life, mine lost intensity or importance….”  Her friend was moving out of the old city, into a new apartment, with a new friend, a husband of dubious intentions, who offered her a view of Vesuvius, still looking ready to blow. 

Images of ruins from Herculaneum!

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