O.K. where do I start?
My name is Caroline Donohue - Caroline Deidre Donohue to be exact. I know, but Deidre was my grandma's name and I was her first granddaughter. Deidre Donohue - can you imagine? Anyway, the 'Deidre' part is a closely guarded secret - no one at Clairmont High knows about it and I'd like to keep it that way if it's all the same to you.
I guess you could say I was a typical high school student, at least that's what I thought until the summer of my fifteenth birthday when I went to Italy to stay with my uncle Tad. That's when I discovered that 'typical' is just a state of mind and nobody's really a typical anything.
A lot of things happened that summer, too many to tell you about here, but I guess apart from being chloroformed, kidnapped and hanging on for grim death over a blast furnace - the most important was meeting Gianni. He's probably my best friend after Didi Carr, but in a completely different way. For example, you couldn't spend three and a half hours talking to Gianni about shoes and even if you did you'd end up learning that the Ancient Etruscans made their sandals out of dinosaur hide or something.
Gianni keeps asking me what I want to do with my life. Give me a break, I'm fifteen! Do I have to make my mind up right now? Gianni seems to think so. I waver between world famous photographer, really serious novelist and something to do with archaeology. Anyhow, until I decide, my next goal is to plead with Mom and Dad to let me go to the American School in Rome. It's the only way my Italian will ever improve. And I'm sure Gianni will be a big help in that department.
But I'm forgetting the other friend I made in Pompeii. There are lots of stray dogs living in the ruined city, but one in particular became not just a pet, but a friend. He may be the smartest and bravest dog I've ever known. And the cutest.
His name is Nero.
So what do you want to know first?
Where was I born? Right here in Pompeii. It's where I've lived all my life, apart from a couple of side trips which I'll tell you about some other time. Like I said I was born here, but I don't know exactly where or when, because when I was just a few days old I was found on the doorstep of Umberto's Café by Fiammetta, Signor Umberto's cook.
I never had what you'd call a formal education, I pretty much learned everything I know on the streets of Pompeii, and there's no better training ground for a student of human nature. Also Fiammetta gave me a thorough grounding in her two favourite subjects: food and television.
And when I say television I don't mean game shows or soaps or all that Reality junk. Fiammetta liked movies, really old movies, so when Signor Umberto gave her a DVD player one Christmas there was no stopping her. She'd lay in a supply of Golden Oldies, cook up a pot of spaghetti marinara, plonk a box of Kleenex tissues between us on the couch and we'd be set for an evening of world-class entertainment.
Westerns, thrillers, film noir (whatever that is), Fiammetta loved them all. Me, I'm a little more discriminating, I go for the stuff with class, and speaking of class, that brings me to my idol and inspiration, Humphrey Bogart! You never heard of Humphrey Bogart? 'Bogie' to his friends and to me - the greatest movie star of all time. Did I say movie star? He's more than a movie star, he's the man!
So, life in Pompeii was pretty good - a little hand to mouth at times, but on the whole I had no complaints. Then something happened that changed everything. It all started the day I met Caroline.
My buddies all frowned on my friendship with her - they said we looked silly together: she's tall, I'm short, she's fair, I'm dark. And all of them brought up the difference in our ages - she's fifteen, I'm four. As if any of that matters with friends!
Oh yeah - did I happen to mention I'm a dog? Not just any dog. I'm one of the Dogs of Pompeii.
Full Name: ROBERTI, Gianni Battista
Place of Birth: Naples.
Long-term Goal: To write the definitive work on "Life in Pompeii Prior to the Great Eruption of 79 AD" and become the most famous archaeologist in the world before the age of twenty-one.
Immediate Goal: To trade in my Vespa PX-200E for a Vespa X8-I25 as soon as I've saved up enough money.
I just emailed the above to my friend Caroline and she IM'd right back - "A bit dry. Try to make it more personal."
What does she mean by that? Caroline and I communicate in a mixture of English and Italian and sometimes things get lost in translation. If possible, her Italian is weirder than her English, which is idiomatic in the extreme. When she gets together with her friend Didi Carr (a typical victim of the Capitalist system), they are completely incomprehensible. They keep saying things like "My bad!" and "As if!" Naturally I ask "As if what?" and they look at me as if I'm an idiot. Me an idiot? As if! * (see footnote)
Frankly I feel that personal details are irrelevant to a serious study of anybody' s life and achievements, but I have a great respect for Caroline's intelligence so I'll try to follow her advice.
I was born in the suburb of Vomero on a hilltop above the city of Naples. You can reach Vomero by the funicular railway which was installed in I875 by the engineers Bruno and Ferraro. Two more lines were added in I889 and I89I. There is also a fourth line, built in I928, which connects…
Scusi. Still too dry.
I begin to see what Caroline means, but it does tell you a lot about me. Ever since I can remember I've been fascinated by the past, which amazes Caroline. She's more interested in the future. But as I explain to her, study of the past helps us to understand the present and plan the future.
And to me, the perfect place to study the past is Pompeii, frozen in time since the eruption of 79 AD. To me it's a living, breathing city whose long dead citizens I know - their names, their houses, their sports, their art, their music - what made them happy and what made them sad. It's more than you can say about many present day cities. And one thing that's still true about Pompeii - you never know what's going to happen next.
* (footnote) I think that's a joke. I must tell Caroline.