Illegal Shades

Street market in port Well on April 16, 2013 BarcelonaThe sun was high in the sky and rays were dancing on the Arno river. Along an adjacent sidewalk street vendors were selling all kinds of stuff. I heard a coxswain yelling at fellow crew members and glanced back at the river to check out the action. My eyes squinted. I patted my shirt pocket and realized my sunglasses were six thousand miles away. As Donna and the kids walked ahead, I stopped to study a briefcase full of sunglasses resting on a folding stand.


The lean dark man behind the makeshift case shook his head, refusing to quote a price. He wasn’t the friendly type you might find behind the counter at Target. He reached into his briefcase and pulled out a pair for my consideration. I’d bought lots of cheap sunglasses in my life, but this assortment truly represented the bottom rung. This pair was gigantic – the size of ski goggles – the type my grandmother used to wear over her prescriptions.

“Got anything else?” I asked. His dark eyes didn’t respond, rather they looked straight past me. He snatched the glasses from my hand, threw them into his case and snapped it shut.

What the hell? I was outraged and wanted to speak to his manager. But my attention was suddenly drawn to the exploding commotion behind us. Somebody shouted. “Carabinieri!” And around me I heard cases clapping shut. Blankets full of junk were frantically scooped up from the sidewalks. Vendors fled in every direction. Within feet of me an “art dealer” sat on his knees sliding posters from the sidewalk into an oversized portfolio. A booted foot suddenly stomped one of them leaving a dirty pattern right between Raphael’s Two Cherubs. The dealer cried out as if his testies had been crushed. The culprit continued stomping across every remaining poster amid more cries of agony. The stomper was a smaller man. I expected the vendors to fight back, but they helplessly let the man continued his rampage. One blanket was covered with miniature statues of David and plastic busts of the Mona Lisa. The man delivered a single kick and everything flew about. I realized this guy was a cop it dawned on me that buying this stuff might be illegal. God knows I didn’t want to see inside another Italian police station so I worked my way into a Japanese tour group. Amid dozens of people two feet shorter than me, I made my way up the street. I finally spotted my family and slipped out. I casually put my arm around Donna.

“We should see the Leaning Tower of Pisa.”

“Okay Honey.” She replied, her gaze fixed on a row of bracelets. “Maybe tomorrow.”

“Maybe now.”

NEXT: Leaning Over the Edge


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