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...The Further Adventures

 

4. The Most Beautiful Landfill in the World

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4. Rome, Venice, and "Oh, you lived in Naples? I'm so sorry..."

        The Technicolor Years, of course, cannot be defined so specifically as to say they ended at the same time I moved from Maryland to Italy. The move could easily be considered the beginning of the end, but I would never trade my years living on the boot for anything. Those years are the reason I am the citizen of the world that I am.

        First, let me say this: Italy is, quite possibly, the most beautiful country in the world. I won't say it definitely is, because I've lived there, and I know it has plenty of drawbacks. As Dr. Reinheimer once said (we were discussing Rome), "you know something isn't right when the air turns your snot black." I am also a huge fan of England, and many other places that are quite stunning in their own ways. But Italy is gorgeous in its own right: the countryside is well worth a drive-through, and I do enjoy many of the people. Visiting Italy is something I would love to do again, provided I don't have to live there for extended periods of time.

        After my father's stint at the Pentagon was over, the Army decided to send us overseas. We moved to Pozzuoli, a little town outside Napoli, or Naples. Naples is, shall we say, not the best representative city of Italy, if you're looking for beauty. Venice, if it isn't raining when you visit, Milan and even Rome are all wonderful cities. Naples is just dirty. Pozzuoli is a little tiny seaside town, and is full of some of the most fascinating bits of culture and society, but is an amazingly filthy place. There is most certainly a beach, but I would not suggest walking barefoot if such a deed were avoidable; glass, metal, and other sorts of trash were more common than sand there.

        But please don't let me discourage you from a visit to this humble town. "Old" Pozzuoli, the ramshackle pre-world-war part of town that may well have crumbled to dust since I saw it last, was home to any number of incredible sights to my child's eyes. There is an old Roman excavation site in the middle of town. It ties traffic up terribly, but at least it looks neat. Perhaps the best part of Pozzuoli, though, was the fish market. I am, of course, a huge fan of seafood. Fish and other denizens of the waterlogged lands have always fascinated me, and the seafood market in Pozzuoli was the perfect way to bring those creatures close enough for my curious fingers to touch. We would leave the car, opening the doors to a stiff breeze of salty, oily air. Walking down the pier, the raised voices of hagglers and hawkers would reach our ears, the rippling sound of the Italian language tossed about like the nearby waves. Then we would stop, shaded by some fisherman's umbrella, and peruse the shimmery wares; small tables held bright fish, with slices of lemon spread about to keep things a bit fresher a bit longer, and other platforms hid themselves beneath vast silver piles of the smaller fry. My favorite catches, of course, were never the fish; no, those were dead and gone long before I ever saw them. What always held my attention were the small, still living animals kept in shallow buckets at my feet: the color-shifting eight-limbed cephalopods there were incredible, squirming about in their little plastic worlds. The hustling roar and greasy smell were lost on me once I found one of those bulbous creatures. My mother, of course, refused to buy one, which is probably just as well, but I never really understood.