Abon me uh da umm bunbun ju jee gon abonma fe quo ja ja,
he mumbled, continuing for a long while in a private language of babble of which none of us could discern a single recognizable word.
Me a mo abon jug on de de mmmmm aaaabbbbb jjjjjjooooooo,
he continued, smiling beneficently. Daniel and Nidzára had slipped to the floor of the back seat in uncontrolled giggles, as the remaining three of us sat erect, pretending a friendly comprehension everything the old geezer said. I waved to the students, hand out of sight, to pipe down, but they simply could no longer hold it in as we continued the charade.
Grazie, said Marty as he began to drive away. We had moved only a few feet when Marty stopped the car as we all exploded into gales of laughter.
After winding up and down the mountain trail, we reached Ravello, where we stopped, grabbing up the only parking space that seemed to remain, to tour that small, lovely city, celebrating its annual music festival. The square at Ravello looks out over the mountains on one side, flanked by two large cafes at the center of which sits a lovely white, stucco church. The light was absolutely luminous, reflecting, so it seemed, the colors of the large stanchions of flowers that stood about the place.
We passed the town of Amalfi, reaching our destination, the hotel Smeraldo in Praiano. I don’t know how Rebecca had discovered this gem of a small hotel. A recent check of hotels in Praiano on the internet showed ten hotels, without listing our choice. But once we had reached our rooms, we had all fallen in love with the place.
On the balcony was a round, stylish metal table appointed with two Mediterranean-style chairs. In both corners of the balcony sat marine-blue lounging chairs. The view from the balcony, both from the front and the side was spectacular—the sea below and the coast line, with a view of the entire city of Positano. For the first night a large yacht lay moored beneath my window. Marty and Becky had a Jacuzzi on their balcony, a couch in their room. But I liked my room better.
The next morning we all got up rather late for breakfast. Marty was especially exhausted from all the driving. As in Ischia breakfast consisted of beautiful rolls, breads, jellies, fresh fruits and meats—prosciutto, Genoa salami, etc.—and juices, thick muddy coffee served with hot milk.
At 7:00 we met for the long descent. Marty, Rebecca, and the students all chose one of the daily fishes, while I selected a local squid, cut differently than calimari, into long strips and served with fried potato rounds. It was excellent, and I far perferred my choice to theirs. They all had marzipan fruits stuffed with gellati, I a slice of lemon cake for desert.
The reading was attended by the students and two British women doctors (M.D.’s) who had happened to visit the vineyard from their hotel in Ischia Porto. It went very nicely, with the handsome Jean-Luc (the manager-owner of this small winery) reading three of the poems in Italian. He was an excellent reader, who told me he’d performed all the Goldini plays in high school.
The following day, July 4th, Marty took the students on a boat trip around the island of Ischia. Already filled with good memories and needing to get some time to write, I stayed behind to work on my essay on Auster. I read, and caught up with my cleaning. Despite all the shirts I brought, I didn’t bring enough clothing for all the heat and perspiration I had endured.
The meal the next evening at the winery was excellent, a perfect balance of each course and pre-selected wines—but it was so filling I was almost ill. Besides, I was now quite depressed. In another day I would have to leave Ischia, when I felt my time on the island had just begun. By now, however, most of the Germans had left, and the Neapolitans—not at all appreciated by the local Ischians—were soon to arrive.
Los Angeles, July 9, 2007