August 20th, 2002

You Gotta Love This Place



Vesuvius I


OK, how about if I just forget Vittoria? This relationship isn’t ever going to go anywhere, and I’ve been wasting my time with it. I’ve got an idea. To get her out of my mind, I’ll write a book about the truly fascinating landmarks and historical stuff in this part of the world. A travel book. Yes, that’s it.

Vesuvius! A good place to start.

Lots and lots of famous people have written about this volcano, beginning with the well-known account by Pliny the Younger of the huge eruption in 79 AD that buried Pompeii and Herculaneum. When things cooled down somewhat, Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe came along. Then Lord Byron. Then Keats. Mark Twain. And moi.

It’s a LONG way up, folks. When you start, an old couple by the entrance gate distrubute cane poles. You think, wow, isn’t that considerate? (But then a couple hours later, when you come back down all covered with sweat darkened with volcanic ash, those two old crones expect you to pay them a couple Euros, otherwise they won’t let you out.)

After your long, exhausting hike up those narrow switchbacks to the summit, why, what a surprise! There’s actually a gift shop that has post cards and jewelry made of crystallized black lava, and sunglasses and straw hats. And a tiny three-seat café that serves a surprisingly decent espresso.

You can’t help but love this place.

Now, please board the bus for the next stop on our itineary. Grazie.


Vesuvius II

The Facade Needs Work



The Façade Needs Work


“Life is not what you think. You might think one way but it's all une illusion grande un grand mensonge. Makes you wonder about life. Doesn't it?”

Vittoria posted this at 10:25 AM on Monday, on her home page.

One minute after I read it, Francesca popped up in my IM box. She asked me if I had heard anything from her sister. I said sort of, and copied and pasted Vittoria’s short philosophical musing.

After a few moments Francesca said she is very angry at Vittoria for not showing up and making her surgery appointment. Everyone thought for sure she would, and now they are enormously disappointed. And scared.

Francesca also said that her father is deeply depressed. He just sits around the house. Or goes out for long walks. He isn’t saying much.

Has he acknowledged, directly or indirectly, that Vittoria was adopted? No, Francesca replied, he just says he needs to talk to her before anyone else. But he hasn’t denied it. What else could it be?

And what is Nonna up to? She’s cooking. Lasagna. She says it calms her.

Francesca said she wanted to ask me a question. I said go ahead.
“How come she contacted you rather than me?”
“Because she doesn’t love you anymore,” I replied.

Silence.

“That was a JOKE,” I said.
“I know.”
“She didn’t actually send that message to me,” I said. “She just put it on her home page. Maybe she figured I’d eventually come across it, and pass it on.”
“Do you think so?”
“It’s just one of many possibilities. I can’t know for sure.”

* * *

Now I’m in a peculiar state of mind. On the one hand I feel an obligation to be compassionate, understanding. Vittoria’s world, after all, has been turned upside down. She’s struggling to figure out who she is.

On the other, I’m fed up and angry with her irresponsibility and silence. And I’m wondering what I should do next.

Hang in there? Or move the hell on.

What would YOU do?