September 9th, 2002

Curious & Inconclusive

Funeral Procession

My dear Jack: I promised to keep you informed. So here is the latest development, such as it is, in the Vittoria Birthmother melodrama.

At Monterone, on my way to Roxy yesterday to meet Giovanna, I encountered a funeral procession. It was very solemn and slow moving. A blue-shirted policeman stopped all traffic to allow the mourners and the hearse to pass. I took a few pictures, although I worried that doing so would be considered invasive and irreverent. But nobody noticed me.

At Roxy Giovanna had not yet arrived so I ordered an espresso and took a seat at a table. In a few minutes Antonio the waiter hurried to the door and rolled down the steel webbed grate that covers the front of the building. He crossed himself as the funeral procession slowly went by. Then he rolled up the grate and resumed his work.

Giovanna showed up and joined me. She was in her late 50s, slim, in dark slacks and white blouse. Ours was a rather strange conversation. Her voice was very nearly a soft whisper and I found it difficult to make out a lot of what she was saying. The bar’s loud radio and other patrons’ conversation made it worse. I leaned close as she spoke. I didn’t want to keep saying, “What was that?” so I pretended I understood everything and nodded every now and again.

What I could make out was this: Maria Marrella was indeed born in Naples but nobody here remembers her ever having visited the island. Thirty years ago another movie, not Anna Karenina, was filmed in the village of Sant Angelo--directly below Buonopane--and many of the locals were hired as extras. The movie’s title was “Rogue Thief,” but no women were in it. Now, in those days this place was very much a rustic wilderness. Very few paved roads. No busses. A pipeline to Naples had not yet been constructed, so water came from wells or springs. Very few hotels. Virtually no tourists.

Then Giovanna said that she was going to move away soon. This place, she said, has become too populated and too commercial for her tastes. She likes peace and quiet. Then she looked at her watch.
“Oh, I’ve got to run now,” she said. “I hope this has been of help to you.”
I replied, “Yes, of course it was. And I hope we meet again, before you leave.”
“Ciao!” she said on her way out.

I had absolutely no clue as to what I should make of what she’d told me. It was an odd, enigmatic conversation. But then, I thought, oddity and enigma were what Ischia was all about.

When I got back home I searched Google for information about “Rogue Thief.” Yes, indeed, there was such a movie. A romantic comedy, with Marian Carter as the leading lady. There were other female cast members, so it was not an all-male thing as Giovanna had just said. The location was the French Riveria, but I saw no mention whatever of Sant Angelo, Buonopane extras, or Ischia. Furthermore, the movie was released in the 50s, before Maria Marrella became a star.

Curious. And inconclusive.

Later in the evening it occurred to me that my searching for information about Maria Marrella was really a waste of time. When—IF—Vittoria finally reappears her father will tell her the whole story, which she might or might not pass on to me.

Meanwhile, all I can do is wait. And, my dear brother, you know how much I love doing that.