Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews


Naples Miscellany 9 (mid-December, 2007)

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Crèche of Crime
. An artisan in the Forcella section of Naples has cynically updated the traditional Neapolitan presepe—the crèche or nativity scene. He has displayed the traditional manger scene emptied of the Christ Child, Mary, Joseph, Wise Men, shepherds, animals, etc. Instead, there are coffins, pistols, shotguns, high-powered getaway motorcycles—all the trappings and paraphernalia that organized crime has used to murder 105 persons in the area this year and otherwise directly affect the lives of 95% of Neapolitans (that number according to the annual report of Censis, the Centro Studi Investimenti Sociali).

The Vulcano buono —the good volcano— has opened near Nola, right in the shadow of the bad volcano, at least potentially. This new one claims to be the largest "center of services" in the Mediterranean; that is, it is a gigantic retail center (shaped like a volcano (!) thanks to architect Renzo Piano). There are 155 separate shops in addition to a 50,000 sq.-foot Auchan "hypermarket," a Holiday inn, a multiplex cinema, and a gym, called a "Wellness center."

     [See later entry, The Good Volcano]

Naples has a thriving hard-core porn industry turning out films not only centered in the local area —sex on Capri, sex on Vesuvius, sex wherever— but often with titles punning on famous Neapolitan literature. There is, for example, a DVD called Filumena Martusano, a rip-off of Eduardo De Filippo's Filumena Marturano (best-known abroad as the basis of the film Marriage, Italian Style. (I don't know if the plot is based on the original. Actually, I don't know if there is a plot.) The films may also be take-offs on the works of, say, the late Mario Merola, an important and very popular cultural icon. Racconti Napoletani (Neapolitan stories), as well, sounds like a play on Boccaccio's episodic Decameron. Some of this stuff features "the girls of the Erotic Theater Company of Naples," so, gee, it must be pretty good.

Superstores have cropped up in Naples as they have elsewhere. Fnac is a two-story multimedia madhouse, Auchan is what the Italian press now calls a "hypermarket," Feltrinelli is a one-stop-and-shop CD and bookstore, etc. etc. Far away from all that, however, at least the historic center of Naples still preserves small specialized shops. A newspaper commented today on a few new ones that have opened: a shop only for "natural" soap, a book shop featuring only small Neapolitan publishers; a place that sells small mechanical gizmos put together in the Science City exposition grounds in Bagnoli, an Arab restaurant, etc. All these are in addition to the old stand-bys that still attract a considerable clientele, including the world's weirdest noodle shop, the proprietor of which occasionally puts on display Arcimboldo-like human heads sculpted entirely of noodles. Most of these establishments are on or near the street known as "Spaccanapoli" (see this map), officially known as via Benedetto Croce before name-changing from via S. Biagio dei librai (booksellers). Many of those old bookstalls are gone, but others have taken their place. The street is also prominent for shops that sell religious items; the cross street of S. Gregorio Armeno is the "Christmas street," and is in November and December wall to wall manger displays. Another cross street, via San Sebastiano is almost nothing but music stores.

Welcome to Piazza Amedeo, 1936. There is no doubt in the minds of the long-suffering residents of the Chiaia section of Naples that the engineers who have the spent the good part of a year redoing Piazza Amedeo must certainly have taken their degrees in music or, perhaps, veterinary medicine. After closing off this major hub of four streets, tearing up the small "sanpietrino" cobblestones, checking and, where necessary, laying new gas, electric, and water lines, and then hammering in new cobblestones, these little bricks are popping out of the ground under constant pressure of passing buses. So, they are about to close the square again and deliberate. ("Maybe a coronary by-pass in the trumpet section—that might work!")

They will also figure out what to do with the three new lamp posts put in, all of which bear the Fascist symbol (!), the fascio littorio (from the Latin, fasces lictoriae), little known but long remembered in English as the "fasces," at least when referring to ancient Rome. It was a bound bundle of wooden rods to which was affixed an axe-blade, at once the symbol of unity and power and the symbol of imperial Rome. In the twentieth century, of course, Mussolini appropriated the symbol and the name, rendering both infamous. All public buildings that went up in Italy in the 1920s and 1930s had that symbol somewhere on them. After the war, the symbols were expunged if at all possible to do so without blowing up an entire building. These three little babies must have been sitting in a warehouse somewhere for the last 60 years. A "nostalgic" Fascist with a grudge against city hall might be responsible, but my bet is on some 30-year-old engineer who was asleep during history class. To him, it was just a nice design. I am more worried about the cobblestones.
(Somewhat later)—The above text is a result of a phone call I got from a friend in Milan on the order of "What are you goose-stepping morons doing down there?!" Thus, I dutifully went out and took the picture —"tsk-tsk-ing" as I snapped. Then I noticed that most of the older lamp-posts in the area have the same symbol. Maybe the point is that if one is going to install new ones... Anyway, I am still more worried about the cobblestones.

How can I put this delicately? uh, polyurethane simulated saurian coprolites (PSST's), perhaps? Most of us simply prefer to say PDT's (plastic dino turds) and get it over with. Yes, in Naples, Milan, Rome and other centers of earth-shattering impact in Italy, giant PDT's have appeared in streets and parks as part of an ad campaign for a National Geographic TV series called "Jurassic Park."
They appear next to helpful explanatory signs that say, "We TOLD you to keep off the grass!" No, they are little science notes about the upcoming program. Ho-hum. These things are not much larger than the real canine variety that also appear on our streets and in our parks all year long. So, when the great Brobdingnagian Pooper Scooper appears and clears away the plastic, I've got some real work for him up near my house.

END of Misc. p. #9

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