Scene 5

Ancient Rome, The Italian Renaissance, And Postmodern Love

by Frederick Noble

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Day 3 in-country startd will an awakening yell, "Shit, we missed the bus!!"
Shooting upright in bed, I scramble for my watch. They'd threatened to leave anyone not at the bus by 8:00 AM.
It's 6:30 AM.
"You dumbass."
"Uh, sorry... guess my watch is screwed up."
Knock knock - "You've got 10 minutes to get to the bus!"
This time the watch confirms - scramble.

The Museum of Archeology of Napoli contains most of the good stuff from Pompeii. If you want to see Pompeii, go there instead. They also have a neato Egyptian collection complete with a mummified crocodile and her babies, very cool!

"You know there's a real twisted side to you Pee Wee."
"Gee, thanks Captain Carl!"
From Pee Wee's Playhouse

Somehow we managed to miss all the mosaics that are the reason to go to the Museum of Archeology of Napoli - they’re supposed to be magnificent and the model that the Renaissance artists used for inspiration. I think the staircase to that floor was closed when I walked past it the first time. Apparently it opened up later and a few students found there way down to that floor, but most of us missed it.
This is when I had my first of many unpleasant exchanges with the instructors and guides on the trip. George Bent, the Art History professor, just wouldn’t shut up about us missing the mosaics. He went on and on about how it was going to damage our understanding about the Italian Renaissance as a whole – we’d never understand where the artists got their inspiration to return to the naturalistic look they were known for. Eventually I found Mr. Bent would make a point to interject some kind of unpleasantness to every field trip, one way or another.
Worse was his teaching style. While his lectures were very interesting and educational, his tests dictated the content with which we had to fill our brains. Date of initiation, date of completion, name of the work, patron(s), and the original location of endless works wasted my brain space and leisure time. However, the program required you to take the course, and I needed the credit, so I did my best, and failed, not to tell him exactly what I thought of him. Eventually I nicknamed him George Bent On Making This Trip Miserable.

My stepfather had told me all sorts of amazing tales about Pompeii so I was really looking forward to the planned field trip to see the ruins. Heather had seen it before and not been impressed and refused to go back. I’ve always loved ruins so I just pegged her as someone who had no appreciation for ancient works and hopped on the bus without her.

As you enter the gates of Pompeii you'll spot many dogs lying about that reminded me precisely of Mark Twain's description of the dogs of Constantinople from Innocent's Abroad:
"I find them everywhere, but not in strong force. The most I have found together has been about ten or twenty. And night or day a fair proportion of them were sound asleep. Those that were not asleep always looked as if they wanted to be. I never saw such utterly wretched, starving, sad-visaged, brokenhearted looking curs in my life. It seemed a grim satire to accuse such brutes as these of taking things by force of arms. They hardly seemed to have strength enough or ambition enough to walk across the street — I do not know that I have seen one walk that far yet. They are mangy and bruised and mutilated, and often you see one with the hair singed off him in such wide and well-defined tracts that he looks like a map of the new territories. They are the sorriest beasts that breathe — the most abject — the most pitiful. In their faces is a settled expression of melancholy, an air of hopeless despondency. The hairless patches on a scalded dog are preferred by the fleas of Constantinople to a wider range on a healthier dog, and the exposed places suit the fleas exactly. I saw a dog of this kind start to nibble at a flea — a fly attracted his attention and he made a snatch at him; the flea called for him once more, and that forever unsettled him; he looked sadly at his flea pasture, then sadly looked at his bald spot. Then he heaved a sigh and dropped his head resignedly upon his paws. He was not equal to the situation."

The tourists either avoid them in disgust or delight in photographing them in their misery. A group of Japanese tourists laid a crust of bread in front of the nose of one of the poor creatures and videotaped him lying there too lazy, or sick, to stir for the offer despite his ribs showing plainly.

PompeiiPompeii in summer is much like it was at the exact moment it was being buried by Vesuvius. A hot wind blows dry dust in your face and into every orifice and threatens to carbonize you should you stand still for a moment. It’s miserable. I refused to pay 10,000 lire for a map and subsequently spent the first hour wandering aimlessly seeing row after row of ruined rooms containing nothing. Look, more nothing. And on your left, if you look closely, you may be able to spot… nothing.

PompeiiI ran into two guys in the program heading down a long dead end containing the nothing I'd just explored. I warned them so they turned back and we journeyed a bit together. They'd been in the sun without water for quite some time and their lack of external stimulus hadn't helped their sanity. They were discussing turning various buildings around Pompeii into discos. I had to agree that some of the structures would make excellent dance clubs.

One of the boys ran up to a locked gate, grabbed hold and started dancing up a (dust) storm while screeching out techno noises from some non-existent dance tune. The other stood in the middle of the street, reached for the sky and screamed "Disco, feed my soul!!"
After I stopped laughing I made sure to offer them some water. They were obviously delusional from the heat.


Eventually I ran into some students with an extra map and found all the important things to see inside half an hour. I found the carbonized people, either slow tourists or victims of Vesuvius, you decide.

Carbonized people of Pompeii


I found the house of ill repute with various mosaics depicting men with immense penises balanced on scales. I found the little theater, some pretty flowering vines acting as a backdrop for the stage.


I found the small coliseum, an empty patch of dust and grass surrounded by small grandstands.


Lastly, on the map is listed "Villa della Misteries," the Villa of Mysteries. There's (yet more) nothing there, save a house with a few mosaics intact with a vaguely Egyptian theme. The only mystery is why would anyone walk that far? The only explanation I could generate was that it led you past yet another trinket stand. The maps are sold by such trinket stands - coincidence?
Jenny, one of the students in the program, is the brash American stereotype that European horror tales are made of - loud, aggressive, apathetic. At Pompeii she ignored the “do not touch“ signs posted in every language and tried climbing some ruin. She accidentally pulled out a brick on the way up which subsequently smacked her in the head. Nasty scrape with plenty of swelling, but I was more worried about the damage she did to the ruin than her thick head. The day before she'd ignored a "Do not pass this point" sign on some rocks at Capri and ended up with scratches all over her belly. I'd say "That'll teach her!" but it would be a lie.
But I shouldn't be too harsh. At the same time the local men also seemed to slip closer and closer to the greasy lying wop stereotype inserted in my head by hours and hours of gangster films, but maybe it was just me. I decided to keep that thought to myself.

Heather had taken off by herself to explore, despite warnings by the staff about how dangerous Napoli can be. She showed up at dinner, glowing. She'd caught the train to Sorento and had a marvelous day, met a nice couple from Scotland, got stalked for a bit by a local male and made it home without a scratch. I was kicking myself for letting her run off and have fun without me while I choked on the dust of Pompeii. I decided as much as I was pissed at her for our current state of affairs I was going to swallow that anger, be patient, and try to spend some “quality time” with her soon.

map of Pompeii
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