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Capri Night, Summer 1970

Like some other authors I could name, it has been Bocheński's misfortune, to be classified as a serious author, a political thinker, a moral authority. He surely was and is all of those things. But he is also a great and talented humorist--a crackpot with an evil, acerbic, venomous bite. Here, on page 62, after the unrelenting horror of Junilla's execution, comes his Capri Night, Summer 1970.

Buocore Capri: "The Worst Service Ever, Do Not Eat There" (Tripadvisor 2023)

And tonight you have a free evening in Capri. I don’t get involved in these matters. As I said: to each according to his taste. Let this evening pass in the bluish air and the gentle warmth of the island, amidst the unhurried crowd, relaxing and savoring and puffing and pouring and shooting the breeze. There are boats, a cable car, promenades, open-air bars, and intimate places. There are, of course, beaches. Whoever wants to can go for a swim before sunset, preferably between the ruins of ancient dikes and ponds in Bagni di Tiberio,33F33F[1] about half a kilometer from the port where we have our appointment tomorrow. Loners and lovers can take a walk along an empty road up the wooded slopes up to the Arco naturale, a rock arch created by nature. Beautiful landscapes, an arch with a view of the sea. Those who do not care about landscapes can stay in town. Soon they will tire of strolling, the steep slopes and the narrow streets, those acoustic corridors of stone and cement where colorful crowds clatter on the sidewalks and murmur.

And when they get tired of it, they can stop at the main square, take a seat in one of the four bars or simply sit by the church of St. Stephen and look at the square. Everyone meets here at dusk. Of all the bars, I recommend, of course, The Tiberio. Sometimes even millionaires, having spent the day on their yachts, stop by The Tiberio in the evening. But if you hate the square and prefer to sit in the solemn isolation of the terrace of the Hotel Quisissana, go ahead.

Let everything take its natural course. Some will have a stiff drink, others will have a fresh fruit juice, and others yet—a beer. Everyone will show what they have to show. They will display their tan, dress, and make-up, celebrities will disclose their presence, the beautiful people will show their curls, velvets, and gold necklaces, aristocrats will show their simplicity, young thinkers their dissatisfaction—and their tie-dies. Women will show their navels.

Dinner time will come. There are tables among palm trees and flowers on terraces with a view of the riot of night lights and the rising moon, which will spread in a long streak along the horizon. Such views can be accompanied by performances by sentimental tenors. Delicacies of Neapolitan cuisine are recommended. Capri wines with meats, of course. Tiberius said they tasted like vinegar, but he was biased, and, really, you shouldn’t order anything except Tiberio red wine tonight. I ask that glasses and forks clink softly, that doe-eyed women wear pearls and jewels, that happy jokers burst with wit, that venerable silver-heads appear here and there: let it all buzz, let it sparkle, and let us have young waiters bustling about with trays. To each according to his ability. There are modest self-service bars, as well as the cheapest eatery, Buonocore, where the misers and the hippies among us go.

And let the hippies show up with guitars, of course, in crumpled hats and brass chains and red-and-green shirts. Let them sit back with their hats on, their elbows on the tables, and let each reach for the cigarettes in the pocket of his jeans, and let the pocket be low—below the knee—and let them start smoking right away. Then let them have pizza with tomatoes and Parmesan, and while they eat, have someone read a book out loud and let someone strum the guitar, but only a little, then yawn and leave it be. It would be appropriate for the hostess of the restaurant, smiling proudly, to be interested at some point whether her clients found the pizza tasty, and it wouldn’t hurt if, during a short conversation with them, she solemnly declared that she was a communist. Guys in hats should smoke another round of cigarettes, and I don’t mind if it smells a bit of hashish. The hostess behind the counter frowns at this but says nothing.

And while she’s standing there with her brow furrowed, it may so happen that new people drop in on Buonocore, people with a slightly frightened look, whose appearance will inexplicably surprise this woman much more than the brass chains and hashish. Namely, they will be you: since you, travelers from socialist countries, must also think about dinner. Once you’ve found Buonocore, you’ll walk in among the hippies, approach the counter (which is full of giant pots of pasta, spinach, and roasted poultry) and try to understand how much everything costs. But you will understand little, and you will not decide to do anything—which is the best way to save money. Instead, you will leave the diner in an even greater panic—panic and anger at the same time, as well as with the sudden feeling of longing for your distant homelands.

You will march on. It will take you some time to wander among the wide-open textile shops with colorful clothing from which you cannot divert your eyes. Eventually, however, you will overcome this and go to a completely different store, namely the grocery store, and buy bread. After that, I advise you to turn to the darker and emptier areas of the town: walk, for example, to the Park of Augustus, where you can sit on a bench under the statue of Lenin and refresh yourself a bit. If the park is already closed at that hour, there is nothing to prevent you from sitting in a quiet alley next to the park under any tree, taking from your bags and greasy paper wrappers a piece of dry sausage brought prudently from home, and eat it with your bread, in your dark corner, where only moths occasionally come and flutter over your heads.

Your peace, however, will not turn out to be complete because male prostitutes will start their rounds soon. And thus, silent passers-by with glowing eyes will emerge from the dark to parade back and forth along the path and peer into the face of everyone they meet. Some will lean against the balustrade and assume expectant poses. Others, on the contrary, will stand and watch in the dark, and only their shirts will glow. These secluded vigils, feverish reconnaissances, inspections, and all this swarming in the dark will occasionally be accompanied by the flashes of lighters. And it may happen that two heads will then appear, and then two flaming zigzags and two puffs of smoke, but—after shining briefly—they will glide in opposite directions, to crawl again about the alley and fall on other fires with the flight of restless moths. But it may also happen that they suddenly strike up and—float away together and disappear into the black depths of the island like two meteors.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen: it is time for the night program—each program different for everyone, depending on how he has made his bed and where he, therefore, must sleep.

Now, in private homes, hanging over precipices here and there, there will be loose games in close company, and I can only add that it would be in the best taste to follow the patterns that we owe to Tiberius Caesar, son of Augustus, grandson of the divine Julius. I would prefer it that the seaside grottoes were not left empty on this hot night but that our hippies would frequent them. The Grotto of the Arsenal, for example, spacious and walled here and there by the Romans, would be suitable for this purpose. Just light a bonfire, strip naked, climb over boulders, and indulge in team copulation, preferably in threes, although various polygons are possible. Traditional lovers, fans of simple parity (who are always in the majority), may copulate in the Quisissana, Regina Christina, and Tiberio Palazzo and in rooms rented privately from the islanders. This is how they can experience what they really came here for because most of them had come here with one secret thought—to experience unique and unforgettable emotions while copulating in Capri.

So, the moment they begin to expose themselves, unzip zippers, unfasten press studs, pull down their underpants, and shed their bras before fulfilling these desires, they should realize that these are activities that will haunt them for years to come and make them emotional, with the background chorus of the song O luna, luna caprese or some similar melody. And as they shower (we kindly beg to use water so precious on the island as sparingly as possible), while they dry themselves with terry towels, spray deodorant, and cologne, they should be aware that they are preparing for the unique and unrepeatable ecstasies that are about to take place in bed, and that these ecstasies must tune them to the melody of that song, so that they have something to carry in their memories to their Schleswig-Holsteins, to their Pennsylvanias, Liverpools and Gothenburgs. Oh darling, remember that moment, ja Liebling ist dir schoen, Liebling, darling oh... But before they whisper to each other like that, let them go to the windows in their dressing gowns and open the blinds, turning off the lights first—for better effect (and protection against mosquitoes). Let them stand there for a while, see the stars and clouds, listen to the murmur of the sea, and let them be enveloped by the erotic breath of the island, which may be only the smell of the scotch broom or perhaps the sigh of a thousand lovers, or the great spasm of the whole community having intercourse in different ways on different beds.

Who knows where that sweet breath will come from and what it will actually be made of, but if they feel it, let them rub against each other, let them drop their robes on the floor, knock off their slippers (which should slip in different directions), let them sink unto their spongy mattresses and rustling sheets, let them intertwine, cling to each other, swing, pant, and finally join their spasm to the general spasm shaking the island. And then let them fall asleep happy.

Only you, travelers from socialist countries, will fall asleep differently. You will not give in to general mood, rather you will treat it with bitter reserve because all the time, you will be haunted by the thought that you are not in the real world, but in the fairground of madmen who got it all wrong because of frivolity and excessive wealth. But reality and reason have remained intact in your homelands, where everyone knows what is important and knows the true measure of human affairs and things. So you will not succumb to these ridiculous romantic illusions, reckless whims or fancies, but, before you lie down, you will, first of all, empty your pockets, empty your purses, and count your coins carefully. Something doesn’t add up in the bill, you’re missing a hundred lire, for example. But after a while, you will remember some small expense you made during the day. You will then decide that there is no way to undo that loss and that you must go to sleep because, all at once, a great fatigue will overwhelm you. But when you close your eyes afterward, in the black mist behind your eyelids, you will see endless rows of street racks of garments for sale, patterned frock coats, metal-studded dresses, flaming waistcoats, flowered trousers, openwork panties, fabulous shirts, all mixed up and not yours, waiting there for others to enjoy in their prodigal luxury—I don’t know for whom, among all those indifferent passers-by who have other things on their minds.

You won’t be able to sleep because of these sights. You will begin to toss and turn and will be overcome by vengeful passions. This fight against insomnia will take a long time. There will be painful revelations as if the world suddenly revealed to you the terrible secrets of fate and its mocking injustice. It would be difficult to determine what will actually be revealed to you in those seconds, but something monstrous, like the offensive sticking out of a tongue or a devilish mooning. You’ll probably sit up on your bed. You will remain in this position for some time without moving, with your eyes wide open. Then you will get up and walk around a bit. Your gaze will persistently revolve around your bags. You will hesitate once or twice, but in the end you will reach for the rest of the bread, you will unroll out your greasy, slightly grayed sausages from their papers,34F34F[2] and you will eat them because you will be hungry. Only then will heaviness and sleep come upon you.

[1] The Baths of Tiberius [2] Back in the Age of the Iron Curtain, East European tourists, when they had the chance to travel in the West, traveled with their own food, to save expenses.

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