In a recent article on Artnet.com, Jerry Saltz recounts New York art dealer Michele Maccarone's story of how she broke her nose at the Venice:
"Around 3:30 am one night, tipsy and tired, she was walking back from who-knows-where. She was far from her apartment and had to pee. So she squatted down facing forward over the ledge to go in the canal. And she fell in and broke her nose. As she told me how two Carbonari eventually came, found her on the ledge, helped her pull up her underpants, and take her to a hospital, she roared. So did I."
That word, "Carbonari," stuck out at me as possibly not having been what
Saltz intended there. I presumed that Saltz meant Carabinieri. The carabinieri are the
Italian gendarmerie, which is a military force employed on police duties. Perhaps the
best known are the Gendarmerie nationale of France.
Carabinieri means "a corps of Carabiniers". They take their name from
the carbine, a short rifle or musket. Originally, carbines were
issued to cavalry (horse soldiers) because they were easier to carry
while mounted. The Italian Carabinieri began as a unit of combat
cavalry carabiniers, but they have evolved into a unit performing both
military and police (gendarmerie) duties. They were formerly a unit of
the Italian Army but are now an independent branch of the armed forces,
separate from and equal to the Army, Navy, and Air Force. They continue
to act as a military combat unit as well as a police force.
I thought that perhaps Saltz had been thinking about carbonara, a pasta dish made with a
mixture of eggs, cheese, and pork. The name is derived from carbonaro,
the Italian word for a charcoal burner. It has been translated as "coal miner's spaghetti," and attributed to being created as a hearty meal for Italian charcoal workers, although no record of it exists before WWII. I thought maybe Jerry Saltz had combined "carabinieri" and "cabonara" to make up "Carbonari."
As it turns out, though, there are such a thing as "Carbonari," or at
least there used to be. They
were a secret society in 19th Century Italy, taking their name and
rituals from the trade of charcoal manufacture and trade, just as the
Freemasons take theirs from stonecutting.
William of Ockham may have been a brilliant philosopher, but his
razor, that the simplest explanation is generally the right one, is as
true as it is dull. Sure, it's probably right most of the time, but how
boring! It would hold that, in all probability, Michelle Maccarone was
aided by a pair of carabinieri, that is, police officers, and that
Jerry was looking forward to his dinner while writing. (As I'm writing
these words, I'm thinking about the salad I'm going to have for lunch,
so it's not too hard to imagine.) It could also be that he was misled
by the autocorrect feature of his word processing program. But how much
more fantastic it is to imagine that a pair of time-travelling
19th-Century members of a secret society, perhaps accompanied by Bill
and Ted. Or perhaps the secret society of the charcoal burners has
survived...wait for it...smoldering just below the surface of Italian
society, waiting to flare up at the next opportunity to fulfill their
dream of a liberal, unified Italy.
Of course, there is an even more far-fetched explanation, and that is
that it was actually a pair of dishes of Carbonara which aided
Maccarone, perhaps reminded of a fellow pasta dish by her last name,
spelled and pronounced slightly differently. And so perhaps the flying
spaghetti monster is watching over us after all, and Michelle Maccarone
has been touched by his noodly appendage.