Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

© Jeff Matthews 

Miscellany p. 74
link to all Miscellany pages

started July 2019  

1. -
July 9
Mens lassa in corpore lasso. A tired mind in a tired body. (Thank you Latin Lady, Suzanne Toll!) The admirable 30th Summer Olimpiade (the Student Summer Olympic Games) are progressing nicely with college-age kids running, jumping and swimming at venues throughout the city (including the athletic track and field at the former NATO base in Bagnoli). In the meantime, everyday heroes on their way to work and back on the narrow-gauge iron horse called the Circumvesuviana are giving as good as they get. Their events play out along the stretch of track from Naples to Vesuvius and south to Sorrento. At one point a few days ago they were stuck for 40 minutes in a tunnel and whiled away their time inventing their own Olympics -- called the Vesuvianiadi (accent on the ni) --to honor themselves, "participants in the Vesuvian Games") They dummied up their poster, a 5-color pennant alongside the train (image). The train ride itself is their main event: The Napoli-Sorrento Marathon. Other events include the elderly or disabled being carried from one train to another by train personnel (I'm not sure who gets the medals on that one); the triple-jump from a stalled passenger escalator; the 100-meter dash from the station at Nola to the one at Piazza Garibaldi; Stone Throwing at Passing Trains (by punks along the track); and the ever popular Greco-Roman Wrestling with the thief who has just grabbed your bag. Acquatic events include Diving into Sweat. One little English tourist lass was heard to exclaim, "Mummy dear, this is the worst train in the whole world, isn't it?" Mummy barked, "WHAT?! Shut UP! Go ask your father! Here, have a cigarette."        

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2. -
July 10 - Boats of the Bay '19
She's back. You may recall this from the original boat page. Ocean Victory, still a beauty. Not been here in a few years. Sigh.

Just a yacht at twilight, when the lights are low
/ And the flickering shadows softly come and go,
Though the heart be weary, sad the day and long / Still to us at twilight comes love's old song,
My yacht, Ocean Victory, 249 feet long

My overventilated enthusiasm for big boats and parody of a grand old song, Just a Song at Twilight (or Love's Old Sweet Song, 1884, music, J.L. Molloy, lyrics, G.C. Bingham) caused friend Larry Ray (whose many comments on Naples you may read here) to grow equally breathless:
Imagine everyone in evening wear, black tie with champagne glasses eternally filled, mingling and taking the night air on the aft second deck as lights from the panorama that is Naples begin to twinkle on. The entrance to the formal salon for dining just behind them is an arc of deck-to-overhead glass through which may be seen serving staff in white livery placing crystal flutes of varying sizes and heights at each place setting. Beef Wellington with puff pastry embracing a fine Parisian paté is just the beginning of the three hour meal, and each seat at the table has a wonderful view of the glittering Bay of Napoli and its coastlines.
  Larry, himself no stranger to immortal sea chanties, had cited the opening of one of the greatest of all buccaneer ballads, which I repeat here:  "Livery placing crystal flutes (doo-dah, doo-dah)"

Other information about Ocean Victory:  the yacht is owned by Viktor Rashnikov, Russian billionaire and majority owner of Magnitogorsk Iron & Steel Works, one of the world's leading steel producers. Ocean Victory is ranked as the tenth largest private yacht in the world, ordered in 2010, delivered in 2014. The builder, the Ficantieri yards, are in Trieste. The vessel is not for charter.
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3. - July 11 - Boats of the Bay '19. Together at last.

I was just trying to get these two together with favorable lighting conditions. And I bade the setting sun stand still in the heavens for a second and, yea, it worked. The big boat (75.75m/249 ft) is Ocean Victory, described above, and the smaller (50.50m/166 ft) shimmering blue sailing vessel (that usually looks black unless the light is right) on the left is Better Place, described in detail on the last Miscellany page at this link.
The other two boats on the right asked me if they could stay and I said 'yes'.

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4. - July 12  - (This box also appears in an earlier separate item about the island of Delos.)

Mystery of the Cyclades

Greece and the Cyclades                

Everyone knows at least a little bit about ancient Egypt, right? They came before the ancient Greeks and had pyramids and mummified pharaohs. That's all you need. The ancient Greeks? They had Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, A2+B2=C2, Zeus and a few other divine hangers-on. Congratulations. You have passed Ancient History 101 and will get your "bare-bones participation certificate" if I don't forget to mail it.

But what about the Cyclades, that group of Greek islands (image), totally wrapped in mystery but one of the great movers of early European culture even before the Bronze Age (c. 3,000 BC)? What? They had pyramids! What? Great art, too (image), and links to the south (Crete) and likely to the west (Sicily). These islands are the center of active archaeological research to uncover the real beginnings of ancient Greek civilization. The investigations are called the Keros project and reveal "the largest prehistoric marine transport operation that has ever come to light anywhere in the world," says Dr Julian Whitewright, a leading maritime archaeologist at the University of Southampton. The ancient transport undertaking meant hauling 10,000 tons of white marble from Naxos, an island some 6.5 miles (11 km) away. Archaeologists say it would have taken over 3,500 trips with 24 sailors rowing solidly for five hours in open water, all to reshape a tiny island into a sacred pyramid. It was part of a worldwide explosion of monumental building. The ruined pyramid of Keros (known today as Dhaskalio) is roughly the same age as Stonehenge, the lost city of Eridu in Iraq, and the earliest pyramids in Egypt. Why Delos? That has yet to be determined. So maybe you've been to Greece and even the Cyclades -- that is, you've been to that tourist trap Mykonos. Golly. You tourist.

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5. - July 19  - Too many Charleses?

Statue of Charles III in Piazza del Plebiscito.      
I have teased you before with Marius Kociejowski's upcoming (soon I hope) book on Naples, The Serpent Coiled in Naples. The wait is driving me crazy, but maybe that is the goal of a writer who says that Naples appeals to his "inner spiritual anarchy". Here is a tease from the very first chapter.
"On the Via Tribunali one can step into the Pontano Chapel built in 1492 by the humanist Giovanni Pontano in memory of his wife Adriana Sassone and where, in 1759, at the order of the king, Carlo di Borbone (otherwise known as Carlo III, King Charles III of Spain, Charles V and VII, the intricacies of which are better left to the historian to disentangle)...

Indeed, the many names of Charles III. Thus it is not that there too are too many Charleses, but too many names --titles, really-- for the same Charles, and Kociejowski deftly and wisely leads it to historians to figure them all out. That is probably the second biggest problem in European historiography from the year 1700. The biggest one has to do with another Charles, Charles II (November 1661 – 1 November 1700), also known as El Hechizado (Bewitched -- because of his physical deformities) in Spain, where he was born and where he lived and died. He never set foot in Naples, but was known there simply and affectionately as il Reuccio, the Little
King. There is an entry on him here. You will see at that link how the difficulties involving his inheritance touched off the Wars of the Spanish Succession. It is not as dry as it sounds. It was the WWI of its day, far-reaching and bloody.

I have written this just to assure you -- the next time you read that Charles III was really Charles the Someteenth Else-- in Naples he was originally called Charles III of Spain and then Charles III,  OR, more interestingly, he was also known simply as Charles of Bourbon -- with no ordinal number (termed a "regnal number). Then you have arrived. No number needed. This showed the importance of the fact that he was the only Spanish king ever to reside in Naples. He was just Charles. That's all you needed.
[This item also appears in a separate box near the beginning of the first entry on The Bourbons.]

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