Correspondence

Italian Lessons

Two or three times a week, after dinner, I watch the traffic jam outside Franco's bar. What causes it nobody knows, but a perfectly ordinary intersection of two perfectly ordinary country roads is suddenly blocked. Nobody knows why the best watermelon is the one with the smallest spot on the bottom, or how come the tastiest tomatoes are always misshapen, or what it is about myrtle leaves that causes a suckling pig to be so marvelously tender. It's just one of those things, and anything other than simply accepting it is every bit as foolhardy as wondering why the Northern Line is the one to avoid when traveling on the Underground in London, or why American college professors like cheating on their wives.

Although at most three vehicles, and seldom more than a dozen persons, are involved in the ensuing commotion, in the dilating twilight it is never clear who was behind the wheel of which car. The actors and the spectators are quickly amalgamated, as the passengers and the drivers get out and take up the parts of victims, witnesses, experts, and jurors. Though less contrived than the report of the Warren Commission or a James Fenimore Cooper novel, their mutually inconvenient entanglement is as picturesque as any this side of pure fiction. Since I do not drive, and the impartial truths of motoring are hidden from me—much as the truth of music is hidden from many people who assume that he plays best who plays loudest—I...

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