Saturday, January 26, 2008

My Own Proustian Moment

At my work out this week, the music began with Nel Blu, Dipinto di Blu (Volare) by Domenico Modugno.

A whole Proustian cloud of memories came percolating out of the speakers. The song was already old, but my first real memory of hearing it was in Aurora, Colorado playing water Frisbee in the swimming pool of somebody’s apartment house. I was a college student , and the party was one of those crazy affairs where everyone collapsed of tiredness and drunkenness about 3:00 a.m. and slept where they fell. It was a good song for water Frisbee, and the next morning I volunteered to make scrambled eggs for the remaining celebrants. Odette did not always know her way around the kitchen. In those days she didn’t cook at all, and she didn’t know you had to put a little butter or oil in the skillet to cook eggs. Yuck! Said eggs had to be scraped off the bottom of the skillet.

Flash forward a few years to San Remo Italy and my first trip to Europe as a very young bride. By then Volare was even longer in the tooth. We had changed hotels from the Londres to a modern sort of Scandinavian place a few blocks from the beach. All night long we heard Volare, again and again and again.

The next morning at breakfast, ye gods, there was Domenico Modugno himself in the dining room, and he was having a beer for breakfast. In all the wild parties I’d ever attended, no one had drunk beer for breakfast. Later at the Frankfurt Bahnhof (train station), I came to realize that beer is not an uncommon European male breakfast beverage.

Make beer your breakfast beverage. Haven’t seen that advertising campaign yet. So the song just rolled all those years (and by now they are quite a few) back and I was a college student splashing in the pool and an American girl in her first bikini strolling the beach in San Remo.We either ate at a restaurant on the beach or at a nice bustling trattoria in town or sometimes at night in a pizza place by the Orthodox Cathedral. When we first arrived, we ate at the Londres, but that was too boring. Lots of old folks, no doubt. It was the kind of place where you had the same napkin all week.

At the beach restaurant I first realized pasta was not a main course but a first course. In town for the first time I ate melon with prosciutto and melon with port wine. By the cathedral, we tasted Italian pizza for the first time. It wasn’t actually as good as American pizza. Who knew?

Volare! Hey Proust, how about them apples?

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