Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The ending of an era

I was having one of those overly nostalgic moments on our terrace the other day.  Just sitting outside, watching the boats come in and out of the harbor below, sipping a glass of wine in the afternoon's setting sun.  And as I started to get misty, or let's be honest, actually crying, about leaving Naples, Tom came out and judged me harshly.  "Are you serious right now??"  At that time, in the peaceful quiet of Sunday afternoon during riposo, I was very sad.  Thinking back on the friends that we've made, the parties that we've had here, the long dinners filled with laughter and several glasses/bottles of wine....  It was lovely. 

But then our pack out happened and all of that longing and sadness died.  Totally.  And was just replaced by that all-too familiar hatred of the difficulty of life here.  As I'm sure I've covered approximately 1,000 times, we live on the top floor of an apartment building in Vomero, one of the downtown neighborhoods of Naples.  When we moved in, it was August, when all of Italy completely shuts down.  The roads were empty and the traffic was sparse.  Today is June 4th.  Traffic is not sparse.  Italians are everywhere.  After day 1, which included four Italian men packing our apartment for two hours and then two of said men disappearing for seven hours, I was annoyed.  Two dudes packed us up until their disappearing friends returned at 7:45 pm.  They stayed until 8:58pm.  "I swear, Tom, if these guys aren't gone by 9 on the dot, I'm going to lose my %&#*."  This phrase, "I'm going to lose my %&#*," was uttered approximately 600 times in the past 48 hours. 

I pulled paper-wrapped bundles of my prized possessions into the guest bedroom, covering them in huge black X's to denote "I am not pleased with this packing job.  Try again."  Day 2 began at 7:30 am.  Italian men in various version of sweat-pant inspired jeans arrived at our apartment with a few boxes, some packing tape, and swagger.  And then the crane arrived.  Our "lift" getting into our apartment was dinky, like a bucket truck.  Today, they brought the big guns.  Things were moving in a way that I have not thought possible by Neapolitans ever before.  And then I understood why: they failed to get the permits required to operate said crane and wanted to get everything done before the police arrived. 

And did the police arrive.  With 95% of our worldly possessions sitting on the sidewalks of Naples, a fight broke out between the crane operators and the management of the restaurant across the street.  All work came to a screeching halt.  Two police officers dressed in what I have heard called "urban camouflage" arrived with their little lollipops (devices used by Italian police to either stop your vehicle or violently and with great annoyance, provide traffic advice.  The latter is obviously more common but the third alternative, by far the most common, is to see this plastic lollipop cradled beneath their armpit while they engage in vigorous conversation, check their phone or smoke a cigarette) and began writing tickets.  I was unsure what they hoped to accomplish from this visit.  And then our beloved personal items began crossing a two-lane road and were placed on the opposite side of the street inches outside of the way of oncoming traffic.  Rather than assist the movement, the officers watched.  Trucks, cars, mopeds, buses all flew up and down the street, as a veritable game of Frogger began with our couch, wedding pictures, bookcases and dishes.  Nothing like seeing your crystal champagne flutes in a box reading "Handle with care" placed in the middle of downtown traffic.  My confidence soared.

To add to it, we're not the most popular people in our building.  Our downstairs neighbor is this really sweet woman who always reminds us that she was a girl in Naples when the Americans liberated the city in WWII.  She loves me.  We struggle with communication and to date, she's never invited me down for one of her epic meals which smell amazing, but she's very sweet when she sees me.  Her daughter, who speaks English, flipped out about the annoyance of Americans moving in and out of the building every 3 years.  She was screaming on the street about it.  "Every 3 years they do this!  No more Americans living in this building."  You know, except all of this was in Italian.  Screaming like a mad woman into the 9:30 morning sun.  That's the thing about Italians, they hate to be dramatic.  Understated, subtle, subdued, those are the real words to describe Italians.

I'm adding pictures  and video to sum up the day.  I am left, utterly exhausted, annoyed and ready to tell just about any Italian who crosses my path to shove it, but I am finally ready to go back to America.  And, you know, re-purchase absolutely everything that we own.  Because it is likely all broken.

Mamma mia....

The crane arrives.  Safety is always foremost in the minds of Neapolitans.

The view of the scene from the street.

How to safely disassemble a crane.  Clearly you sit on the end that will no longer be connected.

On the left, our worldly possessions.  In the background, a fight between our movers, the local polizia and a gentleman who is very angry that he got a parking ticket for parking his scooter illegally. And on the right, an SUV driving inches away from our things.  Solid.

Molto fragile is Italian for "I wrapped this in a box.  Kind of."

Nathan helped us move into our place 3 years ago.  We celebrated with lunch at Solopizza.  Today, we relived that glorious day.  Big beers for everyone!!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Well, it was bound to happen at some point

"Why, Lynne, what was bound to happen?" you just asked yourself.  Come around, friends, as I tell you the horrific incident of my first real Italian car accident.  Mother of pearl.  Buckle in (pun intended) because this one's a doozy!

On our way back from our Christmas Adventure (yes, that's right, I haven't posted that blog spot yet, hold your horses!!), we had gone from Florence to the parking garage on base with our friends, Trish and Peter.  From the base to our house is a very standard 20-60 minute drive, traffic depending.  For whatever stupid reason, I decided to give Tom a reprieve and drove.  It was raining.  This idea was stupid, as I don't see so well at night.  I mean, I can see.  But, in the dark, in the rain, with crazy Italians who seem to have a common death wish, it wasn't my smartest idea.

We drive down this windy, narrow road that, as I've mentioned before, would really be a one way road in America.  In Italy, it's two ways and, as an added bonus, people park on both sides of the street.  It's also steep.  And paved with volcanic rocks which are really slick when it rains.  White knuckles, I made it to the bottom of this road (in previous rain events, I've skidded out and VERY narrowly missed slamming into an Alfa Romeo).  There's a left hand turn onto our road at the bottom, the view obstructed most times by illegally parked cars).  So I stopped fully, looked left, looked right and waited.  The upcoming scooter went behind me to make his left hand turn.  This is really common in Italy, if making a proper left hand turn (i.e. come to the intersection, indicate the direction of travel, turn in front of the vehicle in the opposing lane, complete your turn) just do it whenever and however you feel is the fastest way, regardless of where anyone else is.  I say this not to be mean, it's just seriously a part of the mentality here.  "I need to get to X location, I will get there as fast and however illegal it may be to get there." 

Anywho, I'm waiting to turn, avoided the scooter that turned into my passenger side and then behind me.  That's cool, you just do whatever you want.  But at this point, I was creeping into the intersection and everyone stopped.  So I started to go.  And bam.  I hit the scooter that was trying to pass in front of me, mid-left hand turn.  I was honestly going like 3-6 kilometers (which is like 1-3 MPH) and it was such a tiny love tap.  But the guy, his wife, and their scooter went down.  And I screamed.  "Where the F$#% did that guy come from?? [don't tell my mom, but insert LOTS of expletives here]!!!"  At this point, it's pouring.  Like apocalypse pouring.  The guy jumped up and started kicking my car, pounding on the windshield, and screaming.  We were blocking 2 lanes of traffic, it was pouring, and a crazed Italian man was destroying my car, while his wife lies on the ground, under a scooter in the middle of the road.  Tom ran to help the wife out from under the scooter and move her to safety.  Her darling husband at this point was in front of me, shoving me, screaming and then grabbed my face and shook it, as if to imply that I wasn't paying attention.  I'd like to say that I calmly reacted or flipped out in anger.  No, I just started crying.  I was face grabbed!!  Seriously??  And shoved.  And Gabby, my poor, beat up Honda Civic was kicked and beaten. 

Tom moved our car, we pulled the scooter out of the street (this took about 5 minutes, all the while every car in our neighborhood, regardless of their involvement or delay, started honking) and we all stood in the pouring rain.  I was wearing suede smoking loafers, which were promptly destroyed.  My coat was in the car.  I had my cell phone and the Italian man continued to yell at me.  I didn't understand it all but "cativa" means "evil" and I know he called me that about 1,000 times.  He then went into full Italian soccer player dramatic reaction, laying on the ground, dry heaving, his wife lifting his legs in the air and doing the sign of the cross multiple times.  The phrase "mamma mia" was muttered or screamed so many times, I lost count.  Passers by stopped to ask what was wrong.  Friends of the scooter driver stopped by and took turns reminding me, in various levels of polite, that this couple had kids and who did I think I was???  Damn Americans, or some similar sentiment was brought up as many times as the sign of the cross.

Despite calling the emergency translators that we have at our disposal being Americans with the US Government overseas, they didn't arrive for nearly 2 hours, during which time, the couple and their friends were trying to talk me into taking this guy to the hospital.  "It's what you do in Italy, he has kids.  You must take him to the hospital."  Yeah, I wasn't going to do that for Mr. Face Grabbing Shover.  You'll pull through, buddy.  At one point, an ambulance stopped by but then realized that this wasn't the call that they were actually called to, so they left.  This was 1 hour and 10 minutes after we called them.  At 1 hour and 35 minutes, an ambulance showed up and took the guy and his wife away.  After 2 hours, the translator showed up.  After 2.5 hours, the Italian police showed up.  And made me sit in the back of an Italian cop car.  Seriously?

And the statement that was translated began with: "While driving my husband's car with his permission and supervision..."  It's my car.  I bought it when I graduated from college all on my own.  And financed it.  And paid almost as much per month as my rent when I was making pennies in Cary, NC.  But, that's fine.  We'll call it my husband's car.  They also pulled Tom in and repeatedly asked "Commandante, why you let your wife drive?"  The idea of a woman driving the massive tank that is a Honda Civic was beyond comprehension.

3 hours after the incident, totally soaked, with every drop of water left in my tear ducts left somewhere along our street, we got home.  Our amazingly dedicated friends, Kim and Nathan, to whom we can never repay enough, came to our aid for moral support and a well charged cell phone.  They listened as I sobbed about how in America, this whole fiasco would take about 40 minutes tops and how much I hate this horrible city and how ready I was/am to go back to the US.  And patted me on the back and told me it would all be alright.  Those are the kinds of friends that you are grateful to know for always.  Kim and Nathan, thank you so very much for putting up with our crazy!!!  (more mine than Tom's really!)

So that's the story of that time that I hit a scooter who was illegally passing me in the middle of a turn and not yielding the right of way to a car that out-weighed his by a factor of 20, if not more.  Tom's forced me to drive again, promising that getting back on the horse will help.  I've found a new route home that doesn't involve making left hand turns.  I'm the Derek Zoolander of our neighborhood.  "I bet there's a lot of people who can't turn left."  I'm with you, Derek.  Left hand turns ARE hard!

Xoxo from crazy land!

Coming back on the grid with a long winded explanation about procrastination

You know when you haven't been to the dentist in a really long time, it seems REALLY annoying to actually have to go just to have them tell you that you don't floss enough.  Because seriously, who flosses EVERY day???  People who have stock in dental floss companies, that's who?  Oh, you floss every day??  Well fine, go ahead and judge that I'm not a daily flosser.  Nor have I been to the dentist in 2 years.  During which time, my lack of flossing is probably going to make my next visit, in XX number of months (I don't want to lock myself into a specific date declaration) even MORE horrible.  See?  It's a vicious cycle.  Not that I'm an anti-dentite.  My grandfather was a dentist.  And my next door neighbor as a child worked at a dentist office.  I just hate that they try to trick with the notion of the "fresh from the dentist" mentality.  You know what I feel like after the dentist?  1) guilty for not flossing more often 2) pain because they've hacked away at my gums 3) nauseous because I accidentally swallowed a little bit of fluoride which I know you aren't supposed to swallow.  4) impending doom that I have to go back to the dentist in 6 short little months.

This whole dental rant, which really went on significantly longer than I had intended, is a giant metaphor for my lack of blogging.  It started off small, "Oh, I'll do that later."  Then it grew to "Oh my hell, I haven't blogged since October, how will I ever make up that time??"  To "meh, screw it.  No one really reads my blog, right?"  To be heckled by people (I'm looking at you, Richard Yates specifically) for not blogging recently.  Son of a....

So here is my public apology for lack of blogging.  This is also me summarizing anything that was important in the last couple of months as I go.  If the events don't go exactly chronologically, give me a break!  I'm busy!  Will post soon.  Or relatively soon.  Or in like a month.  Or at some point.

Procrastination, it's amazing.  What's that, something shiny?  Ooo the Olympics are on....