Writing in Napoli 9/21/03
Well this keyboard is a little easier than the ones in Paris. Someday I’ll make a coffee table book of all the Internet Cafes in the world.
So we arrive in Venezia, nice chat with Sim Caine on the plane. Everyone is going to La Biennale. Zeena and Elliot arrive just before us and Mark Stewart was also on our plane. I’m here with Elliot Sharp’s Carbon. We get on a boat taxi to go to the hotel. Quite a ride, choppy and high volume. Of course Aunt Dolores calls my cell while we are on the boat. My first Italian cell call. I am very excited to have my own Italian phone number. The phone is in my pocket ringing and it takes a while for me to recognize that it is my phone. I am tired, no sleep so I’m not quite ready to discuss my plans for the day. Aunt Dolores is tuff, she wants information and I don’t have any. Here I am in Venezia yelling back and forth on my mobile with Aunt Dolores. A true Napolitano. I ask her if she can call me back at 5pm. What is my family doing in Venezia? Touring Italia. I promised to meet them here and it has to be today.
I get to the hotel take a nice shower then a great walk. Finally at around 5pm I wander over to Piazza San Marco where I know the family is wandering. Know that I am giving up a great dinner with Massimo Ungari, an old friend and big promoter in Venezia who always takes us to great restaurants. I get the big call and Aunt Dolores is yelling at me. She needs information and I better have it! Not only did I have it I was showered, suit jacket, fine haircut, feeling good and I had a plan. I chose the spot where we would meet and we did. We proceeded to have full blown, in your face, tourist fun. They had great stories about their trip to Castelanova di Conza (more on this later).
After a good sleep, next day, we rehearse and perform. Met old and new friends. Great food and great performing. You can’t go wrong when the band is Elliot, Zeena, Sim and myself. What fun. It was so late after the concert that we had to have the after-party in my room. Everyone else had small rooms with no light. Jim Pugliese gets big room with large windows overlooking the water. Elliot claims prejudice toward non-Italians, I agree. Tomorrow I am on my way to Napoli to meet with Marco Capelli (great guitarist) and also to visit the village where my grandparents were born. In conversation Elliot tells me that Max Neuhaus lives on the Island of Capri and that he can hook me up with him. As a young drummer/percussionist I idealized Max. His recording of Stockhausen’s Zyklus blew me away and is one of the reasons that I got into this avant thing.
I can’t believe that I’ve never been to Napoli. Napoli is fine. Difficult to describe but kind of what you would imagine old New York was around the turn of the century. A mix of new and old buildings, stray dogs everywhere, melting pot of the world and exciting. This is the central train station so I'll find more after wandering today. I could definately live here because the energy is incredible!! It's flooded with passion and petty con crime and street vendors like you've never imagined. In Rome you have the old stuff mixed with new and here the old stuff is kind of static, not changing, and I mean culturally not physically.
Yesterday walking along the Gulf of Napoli I've never seen the sky so blue or the sun so bright, hot sun healing sun, cool breeze off the water. Boats leave from here going to Greece, Tunisia, Corsica, Sicily, wow, the sun melts my brain dripping romance into my heart then my blood.
Last night, riding on the back of Marco's Vespa, stopping here, stopping there, red lights disappear, pedestrians, cars, vespas all become one big flow. The only laws are natural and they work perfectly together. Amazing Neopolitan dinner and then to a small quiet piazza. Every building a different color and in the middle an ancient church where on Friday Sept. 19th the miracle of San Genero will take place as it does every year on this date. His hardened blood will turn to liquid and thousands will come to see.
Now the moon is shinning brightly on the piazza and I'm sipping grappa with Marco and some newfound friends, musicians, architectural historian, lawyer and again I smile. Tomorrow I rented a car and I will drive to Castelanova di Conza.
I just returned from Castelnuovo di Conza the village where my paternal grandparents were born. I left very early this morning and the ride was fantastic.
The view is spectacular. It literally sits on top of a peak surrounded by cliffs. I looked around and yes everything looked completely modern. This scared me a little. Because of the devastating earthquake that occurred in 1980. Some of my relatives were killed. When I got there no one was around. Empty! No shops, things still being built, shutters mostly closed. I saw a sign for the cemetary and Centro Storica so I headed up there.
I knew Guiseppina (my grandmothers cousin’s daughter) lived by the cemetary. I pass the municipal building on the way up. The sun is hot and still no one around. I go to the cemetary and there's lots of new marble and stones. Just a few old ones which scared me even more. A lot was lost in the quake. The last names on the stones read like my high school year book. There was one very old crypt. I could see inside and there were stacks of ancient coffins with no bodies and a lot of votive candles. Uprooted from the quake? Chills! I snap pictures of the Puglieses and the Annichiarricos, say a prayer and leave. I feel my body transforming in some weird way, floating, losing my senses. For some reason I began to walk back down the hill to the car as though I was going to leave. I had only been there an hour or so. I could't imagine meeting or speaking to anyone at this point. I arrived at the car and was just about to get in when Centro Storica flashed through my mind. I looked back up to the very top of the hill and saw crumpled stone or some kind of ruins at the top. I turned and went back up. I reached the top and heard two men talking softly. They were standing at the very peak of the hill up a set of earthquaked stairs and crumpled stone. I was a little scared to go up so I walked ahead just below them along an older, abandoned building separated by the quake sitting on a clilff.
Finally I got up the nerve to walk up the stairs. I greeted the two men and they returned the greeting. They seemed to be in a pensive mood. One of them asked what I was doing there. I asked if they speak English and they say no. My Italian is much better now so I was able to tell them that I am Jim Pugliese and that my grandparents were from Castelnuovo. They asked for their names and I told them Emiddio and Rachela.
One of them said “ah si”, looked to the other signore and said "Donato". The other man said “si si”. I asked about the quake. One of the men, Michele, was dressed nicely and seemed to be somewhat well-to-do. The other was "The Padre" and what they were staring at and talking about was a bunch of crumpled stones that were once the The Padre's church. November 19th 1980, 87 people died and every house, every building in this town collapsed. Only a handful were re-built, the rest of the village is brand new. Michele wanted to know where my grandparents house was.
I said that I didn't know. He said that he would show me pictures of the quake.
Michele, The Padre and myself got into Michele's car and were about to drive away when someone called, "Michele!"
" Ah Louie ho un Americano in la machhina," ("I have an American in my car.")
"Americano? Chi eh?" ("Who is it?")
Louie Grasso came up and introduced himself. He lived in Bellvelle and Bloomfield, NJ for a while and spoke English fairly well. Now the fun began.
Louie is the former Major (mayor) of Castelanuovo. He got into Michele's car and now Michele, The Padre, Louie and I headed to the Municipal Building. I was going to meet the major, the head of the Polizia and Louie's brother who was in charge of the archives. Before I knew it I was in the building and Louie was introducing me to everyone. As he introduced me one by one they all followed us upstairs and talked about Lorenzo and Donato and Vincenzo and the earthquake. Louie's cousin went into one room and started looking through documents, meantime we all went to the Major's office. I had started a riot. All of the official pictures of the quake were spread out on the mayor's desk and everyone was yelling at each other. Lots of different arguments about who my relatives were. Then the picture of the church came up, taken just after the quake. The only thing left standing is an arched doorway with no door and directly in the middle of the arch standing straight up was a statue of the Madonna. They began yelling at each other about what happened to the Madonna. No one knew where it was. Meantime Louie's cousin was trying to Xerox birth records of my family on this old machine and Louie was trying to cut them on a paper cutter after they were xeroxed.
|[Jim Pugliese & The Major]|
None of this was working of course. By now there were 10 or 12 people in the office all talking and yelling about different things. True Napolitanos.
Finally things calmed down and they took a picture of me with the Major under the official Coat of Arms of Castelnuovo. Louie said, "Adesso andiamo vedere Donato Pugliese." ("Now we go to see Donato."). I asked if we were related and he said of course, his father and my grandfather were first cousins. I said that no one knows about him. He said that is because he lived in Switzerland for many years and just returned 7 years ago.
So again Michele, The Padre, Louie and I got into the car and drive just around the corner. There was this beautiful little man with a trowel and some mud building this beautiful wall. Louie shouted from the window, "Eh, Pugliese I have a Pugliese from America here." Donato was a little startled. I got out of the car and introduced myself. I explained who I was and he told me stories about how my grandfather used to send money to his father and to Guiseppina from America. Louie said that Donato is a good man. Donato had heard through the grapevine that Dolores was here and he felt bad that they didn't try to find him. I explained that they didn't know about him. I asked if we could go to see Guiseppina. They all simultaneously made the sign of the cross and said "No!" Apparently she has lost her mind. Donato asked if I could stay for a few days, and that he had a house I could stay in. I said that I had to get the car back to Napoli tonight and we agreed that the next time I would come with my family and stay. He gave me his address and phone. After taking a picture with Donato, The Padre, Michele and Louie looked on as we hugged each other and kissed each other hard on both cheeks and tears ran down both of our eyes. I cried hard all the way down the mountain but it was a good cry, and now I physically understand "family."
Well, tomorrow back to New York. I guess there wasn’t much about music in all of these writings, but then again maybe there was.