Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Italy – CXCVI. Our Daily Life (5 of 19)

Living near the harbor put us in close proximity to the steep and narrow streets of this part of the city. And what a delight it was to walk through them; there was a large number of stores selling a wide variety of goods: Groceries, vegetables, fruits, meats, baked goods, spices, flowers, furniture, antiques, paintings, stationery, books, newspapers from across the world, and a wide variety of clothing. Many stores specialized in used items.

In some cases the price was fixed; mostly, though, there was room for bargaining, especially for second hand merchandise. But how can one bargain if your knowledge of the language is limited? Easy. Broken Italian, sign language, and figures written on scrap paper. You’re at a disadvantage, of course. But isn’t that always true when you’re in a foreign land? Actually, knowledge of the language can be a handicap, since you can’t pretend you don’t understand!

There was just such a street near our albergo (inn). And, day in and day out, I walked through it whether I needed to buy anything or not. Really, it was near impossible to come out empty-handed, for there were so many temptations.

So far, I have only mentioned the regulated purveyors; but there were a lot of unofficial merchants who stood in any available corner and offered you supposedly cheaper goods.

Finally, a lot of contraband merchandise was sold on these streets. Even before you entered the street, you could hear the traffickers yelling at the top of their lungs: Sigarette, macchinette (cigarettes, and a word in the Genovese dialect which could mean lighters, or other objects one would expect to find in the contraband marketplace). Of course, they sold more than cigarettes, lighters, or other doodad; their cry I concluded was code for contraband goods. But isn’t that foolish? What about the police? Here again it seems that there was a foolproof system to alert the whole street when the police was coming. During all the months I was there, I never saw the police make one arrest!

Illegal activities notwithstanding, I will always remember this enchanting street; see its colorful people; hear their sing song dialect; and smell the spicy odors that pervaded every nook and cranny.

At night the street didn’t sleep, for other activities took place. The ladies of the night came out in droves; we were informed that the business “at hand” was sometime conducted in the street itself; no doubt cheaper and cleaner than a room in a “by the hour” albergo!

As well, the street in the wee hours was a “full-service” place. Unconventional sex took place. Drugs were sold and consumed.

One day one of our friend, a married man, came at night to visit us. Big mistake. A buxom lady accosted him, took his hand, and put it on her breast: “Tocco, tocco,” (touch, touch) she said. It was obviously a free sample! His “io non parlo Italiano,” (I don’t speak Italian) didn’t get him very far. The proposed “transaction” didn’t require a solid knowledge of Italian!

We were warned about all that by Celio. He concluded his talk by saying, “Nessun Dorma” (Nobody Sleeps). Everybody laughed; there was obviously a joke here, but since we had missed it, we simply laughed politely. Years later I got the joke! “Nessun Dorma,” is the name of one of the most famous arias in the Italian operatic repertoire. It was written by Puccini for his last opera, “Turandot;” and it was popularized in the ’80s and ’90s by Pavarotti.

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