Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Helter Skelter in a summer swelter..

Friday - Recovery

After the events of Thursday night, I needed some downtime. Everyone else was too hung over from the night before, so our original plan for the day - Capri - was scotched. Instead, we hung around the pool for a good chunk of the day, getting mostly sunburnt, and somewhat drunk. Lisa, Bridget and Jennifer came over from Capri (where they were staying) and Lisa and I did some shopping in town.

Later, John, Heather and Jeanne showed up, and Art, Bridget, Tim and I joined them for dinner. Tim knew of a pub at the bottom of a long set of stairs, so we followed him down the stairs. Once inside, we found out that the pub was actually two pubs, a club, a game room, and internet cafe and a whiskey bar, all on six levels. Ironically, we ran into the rest of our contingent while we were there, including J and R, who by now had made up, and were once again all lovey-dovey (though she did spend the night in a different hotel.)
The club was very cool, and the highlight of the evening for me was hearing Tim make an utterly horrible attempt to sing The Police's Every Breath You Take. I lasted about two hours before the lack of sleep from the night before did me in.

Saturday - Capri

After spending Friday recovering, everyone was itching to get some sightseeing in, and our sights were firmly set on Capri. Elise played organizer, making sure everyone was rounded up in time to head out to the port and catch the hydrofoil to Capri. Hydrofoils are tricky things - they ride the top of the water, so a windy, choppy day can turn into one hellacious ride. But Saturday was not such a day, and the ride to Capri was fast and smooth. Once there, we set about finding somewhere to eat. When you get off of the ferry, you immediately notice two things - all the outdoor cafes and the boat rides to the Blue Grotto - only 7 euro!!

We made a mental note of the boat rides, and blew by the outdoor cafes with their shlocky waiters doing their best to cajole us into eating, up to and including blocking our way while holding a menu. Eventually, the nine of us who'd made it settled on a place called Lo Napoli. We were approached first by a man with a Gape Kaplan hairstyle and moustache, who spoke near-flawless English. He was jovial and seemed nice, answering our questions with patience, even when our little group lapsed into immaturity over vongole, or clams (think of it in phallic terms, kids). After a bit, we felt comfortable enough to ask him his recommendation about the boat rides we'd passed. He disparaged the idea, telling us that those rides only took you directly to the Blue Grotto and back, and for a group as large as ours, we'd have a much more enjoyable time renting our own boat for the day. We asked him how much, and he said he wasn't sure but that two hours should run us about 120 Euro (for the boat, not per person). He also noted that the boats by law could not carry more than eight people, so we'd need two. If we wanted to know more, he'd call over a captain. We looked at each other for a minute, and gave the OK.

There was something very familiar to me about the man who came over. For some reason, he looked like someone I knew, and my first instinct was that he was the father of the guide that I'd had the last time I'd come to Capri, in May of 2001. He quoted us 130 Euro for two hours, water included, but beer extra. And he confirmed that we'd need two boats. We agreed to hire him, and he agreed to return in one half an hour with another captain.

Half an hour later, our guide was back. Because some people had left to use the bathroom or buy film, he told us to meet him over where he could pick us up, and I volunteered to follow him so I could lead the others. On the way, I turned to him:

"Do you have a son?" I asked.
"Yes, I do," he answered, somewhat surprised by the question.
"Is his name Luka?"
He looked quite surprised. "Yes, it is. How do you know?"
"I was here two years ago, and he was our guide. All the girls loved him."
This got a hearty laugh. "You're kidding? What a coincidence! Luka's over in Anacapri now." Anicapri is the town on the other side of the island.

We met up with Giovanni (his name) a short while later, and divided into two boats - Bob, Alice, Jen, Chip and Theo in Giovanni's boat, and Tim, Elise, Art and I in Vincenzo's boat. Vincenzo was nice, if not talkative, and if you asked him a question he'd answer it. Our first stop was the Blue Grotto, which we learned was a private grotto, and which required us to take a rowboat inside - at nine euro a head. We decided it wasn't worth the money, especially when Giovanni told us we could swim in the Green Grotto, and see a similar phenomenon there for free. We did swim in the Green Grotto, and enjoyed the impressive natural beauty that is Capri Island. We'd made it nearly around the island when Giovanni stopped and made us an offer:

"Do you want to swim for a bit?"
"Yes!" came the enthusiastic answer.
"Well, you are nearly out of time - it's been almost two hours. If you want to stay, then I'll charge you 150 euro for three hours, and I'll drop anchor here."

We looked at each other. One hundred fifty euros per boat for three hours. Holy crap, that was only twenty more euro per boat for the next hour! I asked him again, just to be sure, but he repeated that the quote was a total, not - as I worried - another 150 euros on top of the 130 we'd already agreed to. So we said yes.

At 4:15 our three hour tour (which did not feature a storm, a professor or either of the Howells, although in retrospect, Elise does kind of resemble Mary Ann) came to an end. Giovanni and Vincenzo backed their boats into the dock and let us off. Since Giovanni had commented earlier that his boat had drank him dry and then some, we braced ourselves for the bill. Three hundred euro, everything included. Floored, we gave him a ninety-five euro tip, and asked for his card. On average, the nine us had spent around forty euro each for a relaxing three hour boat ride and tour. Everyone agreed it was the best part of the vacation so far.

That night, we went and watched the sunset from a spot above the piers, drinking wine, eating cheese and telling John, Heather, Jeanne, J and R what they'd missed.

I woke up this morning
I could barely breathe
just an empty impression
where you used to be
I want a kiss from your lips
I want an eye for an eye
I woke up this morning
to an empty sky

Sunday - Pompeii

Oh Elise it doesn't matter what you say
I just can't stay here every yesterday
like keep on acting out the same
the way we act out
Everyday to smile
And make-believe we ever needed
any more than this
any more than this

Oh Elise it doesn't matter what you do
I know I'll never really get inside of you
To make your eyes catch fire
The way they should
The way the blue could pull me in
if they only would
if they only would

Elise the Trip Planner decided she wanted to do Pompeii. Others decided they wanted to shop Sorrento, then go to Pompeii. Still others decided that, encouraged by the beauty of Capri, they wanted to try Ischia. I elected to go with the Pompeii contingent, even though I'd been there before, simply because sweltering on the streets of Sorrento (the new NBC series - Streets of Sorrento! With...Michael Douglas.....and Karl Malden! [cue cheesy 70's music] A Quinn Martin production) didn't sound exciting. We walked back to the train station, where we thought we'd just made the train. After sitting for a while on an unmoving, sweltering train, we learned we were on the wrong one, and had to move. It hadn't been without entertainment, though. A woman in full bike gear had brought her bicycle on the train, leaving it to go over to the pay phone and make a call. While she was on the phone, the doors closed, and the train began to move. She freaked. Fortunately, the train moved backward, where it could only go a couple of feet.

Pompeii turned out to be the right choice. Everyone wanted to see the casts of the victims, which I was able to guide them to. Once we'd done that, most people eschewed the standard two-hour tour for seeing some different things, like the theaters and the stadium, both of which I'd missed the previous time. After two hours, we ran into the rest of the people who were coming out, and we all rode the train to Napoli together. We arrived with only minutes to spare before the 5:30 train. Bridget, Art, Elise and I jumped on it, while Theo, Kathy, Chip, Bob and Tim decided to hang back and try some pizza. Later, Chip told me they'd found a wonderful pizza place near the station, and enjoyed a great meal.

After all that had happened, though, it was nice to get back, and relax for a bit. I grabbed Scott, my neighbor, and Bridget, Elise, Scott and I went for dinner. By this time, it was pretty obvious to me that Elise was ga-ga for Scott, but her behavior at dinner made it obvious even to a blind man. More on that later......

In the meantime, we enjoyed telling Scott tales of our weekend, and listening to his.

Oh, and what, you might ask, was Bridget's story? She stayed in Anacapri with Lisa, Jen, Kathy and eight others, where she met a nice Italian man who gave her a ride on his scooter and took her breath away.

His name? Luka.

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