August 17th, 2004

An Unacknowledged Metaphor

The great limitations of photography: Obviously the images I’ve taken can’t possibly convey the feel of this place. The mountains of the mainland, including Vesuvius, turn out to be lifeless flat slivers on a blue horizon. Even a hasty sketch with charcoal or pen and ink would have more of a chance of capturing the depth and emotion of this scene.

A gray tiger-stripped cat comes to my table, looks up. I have no morsel to give her. She ambles off, and tries her begging routine on an English couple at another table. A flash of movement on the parapet catches my eye. It’s a white kitten, timidly exploring. She hops down and crawls into one of the big terra cotta flowerpots. I pick up the camera, move close.

On one of my birthdays back in America Vittoria gave me a handsome Fossil watch, accompanied by a card with a picture of a cute little kitten, very much like this one. Inside she wrote, “For the time we spend together, and for the future…” A few months later she apologized to me after one of our arguments, and she did it with an emailed photo of a precious little fuzzy ball of fur, with big innocent eyes. It worked.

My initial visits here to Castello Aragonese brought me great excitement. Oh, the history of this place! But now? And look. The young waitress who brings me an espresso is so clearly bored. And the silent English pair are not exactly overwhelmed by the view.

The photo of a kitten in a pot—which by the way could have been taken in a backyard in Trenton, New Jersey—has entirely more visual interest than the image of distant Vesuvius. Drama comes not from pretty scenery or the ghosts of history or a puerile reaction to something new, but rather from the presence of living things. Preferably in action.

As for the Fossil watch Vittoria gave me, it stopped working three years ago. It’s still in a drawer in my bedroom. There’s a metaphor here, but I don’t want to acknowledge it.