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main index   © Jeff Matthews    entry Feb 2003                

Everything is related to Naples
Number 84 in this series. Link to all items here.


Of Luck, Wine & Doo-Doo

I once spilled wine on a woman seated next to me at a dinner in Naples. I apologized—and she laughed and thanked me! I later found out that spilling wine on people is said to bring good fortune. I subsequently went on a major campaign to spill as much wine as possible on as many beautiful women as possible, all the while wondering why I was never really “getting lucky.” It turns out that the good luck accrues to the spill-EE, not the spill-OR. 

Predicting your fortune from wine—or oenomancy, as it is known to real winos—has a long history. Even way back in the caves, you know, you spilled a little vino on your loin cloth and, hey, don't worry about it— "spilling wine brings good luck," they would say. Maybe there's a little symbolism in there: grapes, liquid, harvest, fertility. Besides, homo sapiens fermantatis had good reason to spill wine. He was drunk. I don't understand it, but I respect it. I mean, if you can paint those beautiful bison on limestone walls at Lascaux, you were obviously assembled correctly. 

In Naples, there is also a well–known gesture to keep bad luck away: the sign of the "corna"—the horns, made with the extended index and little finger and waggling that sign towards the ground. This will ward off the Evil Eye. Also, touching the hump of a male hunchback is good luck. Now, if you tell me all that, I may not agree with what you say, but until the going gets rough I'll defend your right to say it. It has just that plausible mixture of the Primeval and the Light vs Dark—what my fruit vendor has termed "the Manichean dichotomy, the Antinomial on the brink of the abyss." (This could be what has been wrong with his nectarines, lately, too). But it might be true. And as Pascal wagered (roughly, but really): "Gee, you never can tell, so you might as well believe." Is that gutsy, or what? Thus Spake Zaramilquetoast.

But the one thing that tells me just how lucky I am and am ever going to remain if I keep living on my street is this: If you step in dog-poop, Neapolitans will tell you, "Don't worry. It brings good luck." That's right—Stepping…in…feces…brings… good… luck! (I know this is delicate, so you may wish to go read something about the history of the Khmer Rouge.) 

I've heard of Easy Street, the Street of Dreams, and The Street Where You Live, but if this morsel of folk wisdom is true, then in terms of the ability to confer happiness, all of these thoroughfares are squalid back-alleys and blighted dead-ends compared to My Street. If stepping in the Sirius Stuff is lucky, then My Street is an eight–lane toll–free Expressway to human felicity. 

The Voo–doo Doo–doo Institute for Demographic Studies has shown that residents of My Street have a higher income, live three–and–one–half years longer than the national average, and are very noisy. Research, however, has not shed any light on the origins of the belief that any of this has to do with you know what. Skeptics, of course, claim that attributing good fortune to conditions over which one has no control is understandable, a kind of safety valve for the psyche, a de-stressing little smile in the face of the great Existential Maw which sooner or later devours us all. This, of course, is ludicrous and maybe even wrong. It's the doggie-doo that does it. 

Some time ago, the City Parenting Persons put a Curb Your Dog sand-box down at the corner on My Street. Man's Best Friend, of course, wouldn't go near it. Nosiree, Spot. You stop leaving little patties of good luck—those pulchritudinous tugboat-sized fortune cookies—in the right places and pretty soon you're getting kicked around and blamed for broken legs and missed lottery numbers. No way. I may be a damned dog, but I ain't that dumb.

UPDATE! - March 2014. HAH! See this link.



[The entry entitled Of Skirts, Figs and Sheela-na-gigs may be regarded as part II of this entry

[also see Gestures & A. de Jorio]  [also The Evil Eye]

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