Sunday, August 14, 2005

I lost my shirt in Pompeii

My last day in Napoli has arrived and my train doesn't leave until almost 10 PM. I pondered the possibilities for the day this morning upon awakening and decided that I should make myself go see the ruins in Pompeii. It promised to be a hot day, so I put on my white wife-beater tank-top and then decided that I might need more protection from the sun, so I pulled out my favorite blue button-down shirt and just put it on over my tank-top.

(Left: Mount Vesuvius framed by columns found in the ruins of Pompeii.)

This blue shirt that I call mine, well, was actually not mine. Several years ago and several lovers ago, a man from Tennessee whose lover, Johnny, had recently died of AIDS moved to NC to live with me. He would wake up every morning and say "I sure do miss the mountains," until one morning when I suggested rather loudly and abruptly that maybe he should pay them a permanent visit. He took the hint as permission and while I went to visit friends over the following weekend, he packed his car and flew home to beyond Old Smokey. Apparently, he viewed this as a true flight as he left in such a hurry that many of his things were left behind. Later, he called me and asked me to ship his things to him C.O.D.

I packed the stuff up into a large box and hauled it down to the UPS store. When there, I learned that to ship something C.O.D., I had to pay the cost up-front and then a check would be mailed back to me upon receipt. I shelled out the $50 of estimated costs of shipping and went on my way home. Three days later, the UPS store called to tell me that my package had Durham, and that I had to come in to pick it up. As I was not expecting any packages, this was confusing to me. I asked which package and then learned that a certain man in Tennessee had refused delivery of his things because he thought that $50 was too much to pay for the box full of clothes and other items. I was also told that I had to pick the box up by 5 PM and that no, I could not have my $50 back because the box had been sent to and returned from Tennessee.

So, I went into town, picked up the box and went through the things that were inside and pulled out anything that was of any value or that I liked in any way and then I took the rest to Goodwill and made a donation. That night, when I got home, I had a phone message from my friend in Tennessee saying that he didn't know what had gotten into him, but that he had had a bad day when his package arrived and he had refused delivery of it. He wanted to know if I could leave it at the end of my driveway someday and he would drive by and pick it up. From Knoxville...he...would drive by. I left him another loud message that basically let him know which Goodwill store he could visit to find his items and that there would be no swooping in from Tennesssee after his $50-valued act of silliness.

However, there is good in everything, and among the items in this box was Johnny's blue shirt. It had become one of my favorites as it apparently brought out the blue and green in my eyes. So this morning, I had worn it out to Pompeii and when it got really warm in the sun, I took it off and draped it around my camera bag strap. At some point while walking about the ruins, Johnny's blue shirt must have fallen free of me and started out on a new journey without me. I am sad to see it go, but all things end.

º º º

The ruins of Pompeii reminded me of all the ruins I have ever seen, including those of Knossos on Crete, those in Rome, and even those in Brunswick Town in southeastern North Carolina. In each place, you have to ask yourself what happened to the residents there and how the place was allowed to fall into disrepair. Eventually, though, I find myself thinking, here I am standing in another pile of ruins and I quickly become disinterested. Maybe that is why my photos of Pompeii will be filled with those spots of life that have taken root within the town...the gardens that have come back to life, or the palm tree that frames the broken walls against a brilliant blue sky. It is life that is interesting, or the legacy that it has left behind. I think that is why cemeteries tend to be more interesting to me than actual towns in ruin. I can look at the grave of Edith Piaf, or Yves Montand or Alfred de Musset and know that they have done something of value individually that is identifiable. When I see the ruins of these dead towns, I know that someone there baked bread or performed in a play or prayed to a pagan god, but I do not know who they were, and so I lose interest in them.

As I have been sitting here typing this story, a group of about 50 Japanese tourists filled up the room where I am sitting and then were handed their room keys to leave for their rooms upstairs. Somewhat like the unknown dead of Pompeii, these tourists failed to touch my life and ignored me as I typed away in this corner.

º º º

On returning from Pompeii, I found that I only had another eight hours to kill before my train leaves! And it is Sunday, so there is virtually nothing open in Napoli. I decided to walk back down to the port area where the boats leave for Capri and other islands. There, I would have a coffee and kill some time.

I walked down, looking for things of interest and buildings or architecture that might be worthy of snapshots. I found very little that wasn't spoiled in some way by the presence of an electrical wire or a streetlamp or by pure garbage. I will post some of the photos that I was able to take this afternoon when I am home, but there was little of interest to be found. If you can imagine a city where the streets are lit at night by what seems like bare 40 watt bulbs, and that all that stands out are the pieces of paper in the garbage, you can imagine the view of Napoli in my mind's eye.

I soon arrived at the port area, and sat down to have a caffe latte. I looked at the couple sitting to my right and found that their faces told me many stories, only there seemed to be no point to their telling other than to form an image of them in the first place. The man looked a tiny bit like Desi Arnaz, Sr., as an older man, wearing a tank-top t-shirt. His wife, a blond, wore glasses and when she talked, her upper lip receded in the corners, leaving a kind of beak that extended downward and which seemed to hold in her dentures. As they both sat, eating peanuts by the spoonful, their dentures danced about in their mouths and I was much amused by the image.

In fact, I was so taken with them that I ordered a granita a menthe , a form of slushy drink made with very sweet mint syrup. As I ate the ice, I watched the two Italians talk and the remnants of many peanuts move around on their tongues and between their dentures. Eventually, they left and so did I. Walking back to my hotel, I took the following photos to document what I saw in Naples.

It is now 7:30 and I must go eat as the service, if there is any to be had, will likely be slow, and my train leaves promptly at 10-ish. I have had to eat at the same restaurant every night because there is nothing else open. They have only been open for three weeks, so the kinks are very much in need of being worked out. Interestingly, I have become strangely fond of this place, in a Fawlty Towers kind of way.

Heidelberg is next...appropriately now that the room is full of German tourists...



Blogger Vickie said...

You are a true story teller. Anyone that can tell a story about a blue shirt and have me mourn the loss has got some wonderful talent. I just felt I had to say that today.

8/15/2005 09:43:00 PM  
Blogger Erin said...

I love ruins, I love the story of Pompeii - as a matter of fact, I have a thing for all things volcanic... strange but true, anyway the point is, I'd have been tickled I think.

The blue shirt is an interesting story, too bad you lost it. But you know what they say about all good things...

8/15/2005 10:37:00 PM  

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