Nelo called me. They needed an address to ship the kayak to. It could arrive in Naples as soon as October first.
All I needed was an address. I hoped to use the Lega Navale where I finished the first leg. (40.834912,14.252925) I remember the place. I remember the park next to it. And I can find it on a map without thinking twice. It was the place where I put down my paddle to go back to school. It was the place which I vowed to return to.
About a week, earlier I had emailed the sailing club and asked if I could use their address, but I never got a response. I did two things: I emailed my old friend Massimo who helped me a great deal on the Barcelona Napoli leg asking if he could speak to the league on my behalf in Italian, and I got on a train to Naples to talk to them myself.
The train cost 14 euro. I sat next to a young couple from Australia that was touring Europe. They thought my adventure sounded cool. You should too.
I knew that my ticket was supposed to be stamped, but I wasn’t sure how to do it or why. I asked them if they understood the bit about stamping the tickets. The Australians had no idea. They had unstamped tickets like I did. Oh well, I decided not to worry about it and read my book. The train sat in the station waiting to leave.
Little did I know, had I continued without stamping my ticket and been questioned by a conductor, then I would have had to hand over a considerable fine. The time had come for the train to leave. The Australian caught my attention from my book. “You can get your ticket stamped at that machine over there. We just saw someone do it.”
I looked at my watch. The train should have left a couple minutes earlier. I jumped off the train, got the ticket stamped, and was back on in before it left. In fact, about five minutes before it left.
The train ride was nothing like the one in Trading Places.
In Naples, with my enormous duffel bag on my back and my storm paddle in hand, I navigated the subway system to my hostel. I did not leave my duffle bag anywhere it might get stolen; I just lugged it.
I arrived at the hostel, put down my duffel bag, and rested for a few minutes. I got a map from the reception, pointed at the spot that I thought was the Lega Navale, and asked the receptionist, “There’s a park here, right?” I remembered that there was a park next to the marina.
“Yes, but it’s a small park. If you want a nice park you have to leave the city.”
“Yeah, but that’s the one I want to go to.”
“It’s near a castle that tourists like, right here,” he said, pointing at the map.
I remembered the castle. It was cool. I didn’t want to go to the castle. I wanted to go the Lega Navale. “There’s a Lega Navale here, right? That’s where I want to go.”
And I went. I walked through the narrow corridors of the city. Five story buildings with peeling paint towered tightly over the small cobblestone streets. Small balconies looked out from every home with laundry hanging to dry. Scooters rushed along and sometimes even a car would manage to fit through.
For half a euro, I bought a can of chickpeas. The can was self-opening with a little metal tag. I pulled the tag up and it came off. I looked at the can for a while, hoping it would slip me some clue on how to open it. Short metal poles coming up from the cobblestones separated the narrow street from an impossibly small sidewalk. I found a spot that wasn’t in front of somebody's door and whacked the can onto the top of the poll. I examined the the can, and there was now a big dent in the top of it. The pole was impervious. I tried a few more times and added a few more dents. If only I had a knife. What were my assets? No holocaust cloak, but I did have a one euro coin. I pressed it hard against the line near the edge of the can top in one of the indentations. I pressed it harder, and it opened. A fountain of sticky canned chickpea juice erupted into my face and hair, then died down trailing onto my shirt.
I used the dry part of my shirt to wipe my face off, and then, after a moment of reflection, resumed my walk while munching chickpeas.
Soon I was in the touristy section. The paint stuck to the buildings and I walked on a wide designated pedestrian avenue. There was less litter on the streets. Pizza and ice cream places revealed tables crowded with patrons and counters laden with tasty Italian treats. Large windows displayed cases of jewelry or the latest trends in Neapolitan fashion.
After a half hour walk, I saw the park. I walked down and it was just as I had remembered, only with more details and litter in real life. On the other side of the park was Lega Navale and the marina, also just as I remembered.
I looked around and sacred memories melded with my vision: The port, the sailboats, and even the exact spot I had rolled out of my kayak onto the dock. Here is where I finished the last leg; here is where I will begin the next one.
I went into the building and even the bathroom was exactly where I had remembered, and that was the best part of all. I came out of the bathroom greatly relieved and a little bit cleaner. My hair was sticky from dried chickpea juice. I looked around the building.
“Do you speak English?”
“Yes.” She waited to hear me. Ricardo, her small son wandered nearby.
“Do you work here?”
“No, but I am a member. This is a club.” She was a sailor, salty as the sea and bright as the sun.
“Okay, maybe you can help me. A few years ago I kayaked here from Barcelona. I ended my trip right over there.”
“Yes! I heard of you!”
“Oh, cool. That’ll make this easier.”
“I don’t speak Italian, does that mean ‘How are you?’ I am well. Thank you. How are you?”
She looked confused. “I am good.”
Huh, I got that wrong. “Great, so I’m back. I’m hoping to kayak from here to Cyprus. And I need an address in Naples to ship my boat to. I was hoping I could ship it here.”
“Over there is a man on the board of directors. We will talk to him.” She called to her son, “Vini Ricardo.” And the three of us went out to talk to the man on the board of directors.
All told, they were happy to help me. Yes, I can use their address. They would even like to have a going away party for me. Everything is going to work out.
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