“Naples is just like New York City, in that it offers no grace period to adjust…”
Ask anyone and they would tell you that cities like Rome, Florence, and Venice are, hands down, bucket list items. You gotta see the canals! The Sistine Chapel! The statue of David! they would echo like that nasally woman in Seinfeld (“You gotta see the baby!”) For me, it’s Naples.
“…even birds skittering for morsels on the ground are moving too fast for the slumbering pace of Atrani’s daily agenda.”
At the foot of Piazza Umberto lies a scallop shell white church dating back to the 10th century, unassuming curb appeal compared to the other gaudy, baroque-era cathedrals in Italy. A sign outside warns of a local legend that it’s bad luck for newlyweds to walk hand-in-hand down its steps post-nuptials, lest you bring ill-will upon your marriage and curse yourself for a rocky road ahead of early divorce and untimely death.
“A city as exciting and cultural and historic and artistic as this…it’s meant to be earned.”
Adriatic waters calmly splash against the ritzy yachts in the harbor. Preteens scheme in the plaza, wreaking havoc outside an ongoing mass, “bicicletas!” at their hips. A chorus line of soaring palm trees separates the new town from the old. Impregnable stone walls as ancient as dirt protect the cathedral of San Nicola from the revelers convening at bar-hop row. Old women use their thumbprints to meticulously form individual orecchiette, lay them out to dry on folding tables outside their homes. The business district of banks and office buildings makes way for a wide esplanade of high end fashion stores and expensive steakhouses. Beggars roam the streets, boldly approach outdoor diners, gently place roses on tables in exchange for some coin. Potbellied men bake their epidermises in Speedos at Bread & Tomato Beach (Pane & Pomodoro to locals). This is Bari, pronounced ‘Bah-di’, and it was, without a doubt, my favorite part of Italy.
Without the pebbles boulders flat rock ravines or trenches dug out by years of erosion the frenetic bubbling water would flood the soil sidewalks city streets and then nature would be off-balance. For with every impulsive action must exist a steady reaction and hence, sediment was formed, not to barricade the unpredictable river, but rather to gently and naturally mark its place amidst the chaos and guide it safely home to the ocean.
“…surrendering fully to Montezuma’s ever-present air of namaste.“
Air sickness, long overnight layovers, sketchy car rentals, misinterpreting the colones to dollars conversion, sand fleas, planes grounding for inclement weather, getting lost on Costa Rican back roads, screaming geckos while trying to sleep, missing our ferry, barely making check-in times, and a near-deadly stomach virus mere weeks before the trip were just a few things that plagued our one-week vacation to Costa Rica. But it was just what the doctor ordered.
A True Story of Culture Shock, False Promises and That Time I (Almost) had a Sugar Daddy
“You have a nice figure, Gringa. But you could still get a little more meat on your bones.”
That’s what Jim matter-of-factly suggested to me, right after gesturing his big, expensive gold watch in front of my face towards the passenger seat where I clutched my cell phone with a sweaty palm and frowned down at said bones, the knobby knees and bony thighs I had since childhood. He was shaking his head, craning to leer at the petite females we could see through my window, blonde ponytails swinging as they jogged Kelly Drive, headphones in, oblivious to his judging stares. “Why do white girls like to work out so much? You see so many of these pretty little things running and it’s like girl, you don’t even have an ass, why you tryin’ to get rid of the fat you don’t even have? I don’t like that. I like girls with curves.” Then that chuckle of his – that infantile giggle like he just got away with doing something he shouldn’t have – followed by an emission of cigar breath. I didn’t agree nor refute. I sat there silent and dumb, as I always did and always would in his presence, only this time I had the unwelcome thought that I really should have learned how to jump out of a moving vehicle if it ever came to that. It didn’t, but the reminder tingled at the base of my skull as I checked my phone for the tenth time that minute.
Seated in Sukhasana, head over heart heart over pelvis, I lower my gaze to my chest. Large pores, nascent stages of wrinkling, span my cleavage. Boldly on display, joining blood blisters and freckles and fine baby hairs. I’m proud of these marks. My mom has them. My aunt, too, who bronzes better than all the women in this family. Matriarch of the Decker women Lineage. Gypsies and thieves. Allegedly.
Hands folded in Anjali Mudra, I lift my chin in sun salutation. Ask, “Who were those Lebanese women before me?” who make up my composite parts. Real, pioneer women, babies at their hips and breasts. Long, crooked noses cast down on men there solely for utility. Situs talking shit over kibbeh nayyeh. Lean hands dipping Syrian bread, Molding girls into sharp, sensitive women. Like my mother and me and the child that won’t follow.