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30 September 2005

for blood and ash: killer

one stop remained on the european tour of blood: napoli, italia, home of my grandfather's family. for blood and pompeii, the roman city buried by volcanic ash when vesuvius erupted in 79 ad. for blood and ash: killer. they've all warned me about naples and as with other cities i've filed them all away in my head. given the number of warnings from reliable sources, i decided not to dismiss them entirely even though i believe that most victims are victims for a reason. i would take away those reasons. as the train neared the raining napoli warzone, i checked my equipment and reached into my bag, withdrew a tin of facepaint labeled 'don't fuck with me', and applied a generous portion.

i emerged calmly from the train station into the light rain and paused, a fierce piercing determination firing from my eyes as i scanned the area. the area didn't disappoint. cars and buses charged viciously on streets winding around a square littered with apparently abandoned construction equipment, horns screaming in a frightening frequency frenzy, restrained only by barriers and scrap pieces of metal strewn about in an almost random array of chaos. scooters threaded the larger vehicles in a furious abandon, seemingly unaffected by the obscuring rain. napoli's finest were patroling the sector; all aspects of the questionable were well represented waiting anxiously for someone to walk by with a victim sign taped to their back. and i was standing in the middle of it all acquiring satellites. i'd been fully briefed and the area didn't disappoint.

satellites acquired. the path led straight through the swirling crunching chaos. i knew this moment would come... the napoli street crossing. i'd been training for months... reading and rereading schematics manuals, running drills, spending countless hours in the simulator. but was i prepared? i rehearsed the plan in my mind one last time, summoned up the fire within, raised one foot into the air... and waited for an old lady to cross in front of me. bah! i did no such thing! i stepped right out into that raging traffic and walked deliberately across the street bringing the swirling crunching chaos to a complete screeching halt! [!POW!]

arrival in the hostel. the outer door was unlocked. inner door #1 was unlocked. elevator #1 didn't work. the doors opened, i got in... hit the appropriate button... no response. elevator #2: same thing. i doubted this was a coincidence; i obviously wasn't privy to the mystical secret of the elevators. surely no one actually climbs these stairs on a regular basis. up to floor seven (digression for american readers: the ground floor in european buildings is floor zero, not floor one; thus, to get to floor seven, i had to climb seven flights of stairs, not six like you american pansies). inner door #2 was locked. buzz, open.

let's just count those doors again... and this time let's pretend they were _all_ locked. okay...

1. outer door [dial in code, hostelguy says hello over the intercomm, you say hi, hostelguy buzzes the door open.]

2. walk across a courtyard to inner door #1 [dial in the same code, hostelguy says hello over the intercomm, you say 'uh, yeah, it's me again.', hostelguy buzzes the door open.]

walk up seven flights of stairs after failing to successfully operate both elevators.

3. inner door #2 [you ring a doorbell, this time hostelguy has no intercomm to question who is ringing and must assume it is the person who has rung the two previous times, buzzes the door open.]

okay... three locked doors just to get to the reception. certainly there is a reason for these security measures. i decided to add an extra detachment of recon troops to my private detail. so, where was i?... ah... inner door #2 is open... i enter...

hostelguy enrico greets me warmly. first impression: enrico is supercool and i mean the supercoolest. 'what's the secret to the elevator, enrico?' 'it's coin operated. you have to pay 5 cents to use it.' [slap my forehead] of course. over the course of my conversation with enrico i learn that i'm lucky to have found accomodation in naples tonight... apparently a famous italian singer, gigi d'allesio, is in town giving a free outdoor concert. i arrived right on time. i got the details and planned to hit the concert later that evening. enrico directed me to my room... one floor up behind another locked door. the buzzer for this door was on a small remote control that only worked when pointed upwards at a precise angle and waved wildly from side to side. [click].

during dinner at a restaurant recommended by enrico, a young girl, maybe 9 or 10, walked up to me as i sat at an outside table and started pawing the table and mumbling something in italian. i ignored her for about 15 seconds before the waiter came by and shooed her away.

it was around 1800 when i finished dinner... i wasn't exactly sure when the concert would be starting, but i decided to head over and hang until the music started. after a few wrong turns, i found the piazza and planted myself on the first barrier. it looked like about 500 people had already gathered by the stage. soundchecks finished, the sun set, and more people showed up as i droned away resting on the barrier. i had no clue who gigi d'allesio was or what her music sounded like, but apparently naples took her music seriously... free concert, giant stage, five video screens, giant sound system. this was a big production. more waiting... more people. 1800... 1900... 2000... 2100... hours passed until finally gigi d'allesio made her big entrance to giant applause and much screaming. it was at that moment that i realized that gigi d'allesio was in fact a man and his music was frightfully michael.bolton.ish. yikes. an italian michael bolton singing michael.bolton.ish songs in italian as girls screamed and cried. i turned around for the first time in a few hours and realized that the _entire_ piazza behind me was filled with people [avi video: 3.24 mb]. wow. i'd seen video footage of shows like this but had never attended one. _wow_. i stood there for about a half an hour [avi video: 2.62 mb] before i could no longer deal with gigi bolton and had to split... 'scusi... scusi...' pushing my way through the mob behind me until i finally made it out. wow. cruised back to the hostel and chilled for a few hours before heading to bed.

tomorrow: pompeii.

over the course of the day i saw three vehicular oddities: 01: a scooter driving on the wrong side of the road, horn blaring, the driver wearing an expression of pure annoyance at having to deal with the (bah!) conformists who actually obeyed the most basic of traffic rules. 02: a car driving backwards down the street for far longer than a car should be driving backwards down the street. and 03: my personal favorite: a scooter driver with a mobile phone duct taped to the inside of his helmet, positioned correctly over the ear and mouth to permit conversation as he sped through napoli traffic.

posted by paul on Fri 30 Sep 2005 at 00:00:00 est (-05:00)

comments

enjoy your accomodations' security...you won't have it in cambodia...
one place we stayed at in phnom penh actually did have a huge rusted gate blocking off our dining room from the world. no lock - just a guesthouse employee guarding it who got drunk and passed out every night.

-"ain't war hell?"

posted by vanguard1 on Tue 18 Oct 2005 at 00:32:53 est (-05:00)

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