Round and round and round

•7 novembre 2012 • Laisser un commentaire

For personal pleasure, I would like to recapitulate my year in places I’ve visited:

– San Francisco for New Year’s

– Barcelona for my birthday

– Orleans – Blois – Tours on bike

– Hendaye – San Sebastian – Burgos – Palencia – Valladolid – Salamanca – Ciudad Rodrigo – Idanha-a-Nova – Madrid and some things in between … also all on bike

– Paris, duh

– L’Aquila chez my mother

– Munich for breakfast

– Salzburg for dinner

– Werfen for a wedding

– Helsinki on stand-by

– New York for three months

 

And most of it next to one great guy! And here is to more adventures

 

L’Aquila non fare la stupida stasera

•18 août 2012 • Laisser un commentaire

I am back home. Home? Perhaps not the best term. Let me try again. I am back in the place that has always felt familiar to me. As soon as I put down my luggage, I rush to grab the keys for the attic and climb up the 5 flights of stairs to open the door that seems to be an incessant home to a thousand old and flowing spiderwebs.

The only light inside comes from a hole in the ceiling, that too invaded by nests of some sort of insect I lovingly christened Lumos. I head for the most obscure corner of the attic, where I reach out my hand, praying not to be bitten by anything poisonous, and grab the heavy cardboard box and drag it under Lumos.

Just the smell of the accumulated dust makes me nostalgic to the point of anguish, but I dive into the box, which hosts a collection of all the argentic photos that date back to when my parents were my age. I can hold back the tears, and imagine the exact moment my father’s Pentax clicked that moment into place. My mother’s timid laugh, and her voice scolding my father for not having warned her, and my father’s smile. And my mother’s smile.

All of a sudden they are in Venice, and a laughing toddler is in my mother’s toned arms, and in another click, it seems to be just another day at the beach. The toddler seems to have grown a meter, and is now being fed an ice cream, and there is a new little girl in the picture, who seems to look cautiously at the focus lens.

Image

And in the next click I am back in the attic, misty-eyed, wet cheeks, and a curious Lumos hovering over my head. I think of how blessed and cursed I have been to have globetrotting parents, how blessed and cursed I have been to have acquired that trait. The natural light has become too weak for me to continue, and the box is too heavy for me to even consider taking it down with me. I thank Lumos for guarding the light, and leave the box opened and still to be revisited.

 Life is too short and forgetting is too long.

 

Draw me a bobo

•29 janvier 2012 • 3 commentaires

From the outside, Paris is the city of bobos. From the inside, the colonization done by these creatures is advancing at an alarming rate. To help the exogenous observers, two things must be put into light:

1. The bobo is not Parisian.

2. The Parisian is not bobo.

The average bobo will typically be between 22 and 40 years old, has left the suburbs or a bourgeois town to come to Paris for studies or for work. If s/he thinks of him/herself as the perfect exemple of a real Parisian, s/he is wrong. Just because they go to « alternative » bars/clubs/venues/galleries, and believe to know everything about what is « cool » about Paris, doesn’t change a damn thing. One cannot simply declare him/herself Parisian. One must work hard to become one.

If Parisians think of  life as a movie, the bobos live their life as a movie. Bobos see themselves as the protagonist of the movie of a lifetime, whereas Parisians see themselves as the narrators. The Parisian observes others, the bobo observes him/herself. One prefers the luxury of brunch, the other is repulsed by the idea. The bobo is predictable, the Parisian unattainable.  The bobo loves living in Paris, the Parisian is so « bof bof » about it, at best.

Bobo has dreamed their entire life of having that moment where his/her « uniqueness » would be welcomed and accepted into a group. A Parisian sees his/her uniqueness like a sail blown by mysterious winds, taking him/her towards the impossible. Bobo found in Paris that je ne sais quoi that has been missing his/her entire life. The Parisian identifies with nothing.

The Parisian doesn’t like the bobo. The Parisian smells a hoax on the bobo’s breath. Paris cannot nourish herself on superficial enthusiasm and beards that are 3 days old.  Therefore the Parisian criticizes, in silence. Such suffering due this boboisation has ended up putting a bittersweet taste on the Parisian lips, and a longing of the France that used to be and that it no longer is.

What is this Paris more into life and less into looks?

The bobo, not very happy with him/herself but not unhappy either, en route to changing French society, one canvas bag at a time. Everyday, bobos make France a bit cooler, a bit happier, but not necessarily more loveable and definitely not more admirable.

NB: to leave the 10th and 11th arrondissements unscathed, without wearing thick-rimmed raybans or a BonTon bag will cause you to be objectified as a right-wing voter.

Speak Parisian: « Ils me saoulent les bobos, là. » (They disgust me, those bobos.)

I wouldn’t even wish this on my worst enemy

•19 janvier 2012 • Laisser un commentaire

Whether American or Iranian, Italian or Mexican, Algerian or Swedish, Nigerian or Japanese, to the French bureaucratic system you can all be classified as this:

UNDESIRABLE

The scorn of society, the eyesore of everything that is wonderful about France, the only thing that separates France from perfection: all immigrants.

So why does it still hit me as an atrocious surprise the fact that I cannot find an apartment in this city. It’s not even like the city is so overpopulated that there is quite literally no more housing. On the contrary, most buildings are empty and just resting , waiting, being passed down from generation to generation.

When I was looking for a place to live in Davis after my freshman year, I remember I searched on Craigslist for anything suitable to my student budget, I contacted the person, we met a day after and two days later I was signing the lease in the office. And for the whole year I had no problems, no late payment, no risk of having to sell my kidney to make a payment, no requirement for a collateral.

In Davis, it was all so efficient, simplified, and worked like a Swiss clock. It didn’t even cross my naive mind that the system of renting an apartment could ever be butchered into a hell of meaningless thick stacks of papers. But I hadn’t lived in France yet.

It’s a system rendered almost inaccessible to outsiders, even if you are a member of the EU. It’s impossible to play by its rules and win unless you cheat and attack from behind.

It plays mind games with you, it makes you feel worthless, and by day 5 of desperately looking for an apartment, a room, a cupboard, it makes that piss-stained bench on the metro platform scream « home sweet home »

I still remember the happier me, the me of 7 days ago, when I woke in the morning, happy to be perusing through Craigslist, leboncoin or Appartager for a fun flatmate in an excellent part of town for a reasonable price of 500 euros. Day 2: I had already set up an apointment to see a nice two bedroom by the Canal Saint Martin, one of my favorite parts of Paris. I thought to myself « I got this in the sack. It’s mine! » and I was already imagining me and my future roomate frolicking through the Buttes Chaumont on a warm spring day, picnic baskset, wine and baguette in hand.

The meeting went well. We laughed, we talked, we shared a cup of tea. And before leaving, she promised me she would let me know by tomorrow.

The call came. It was a resounding No. Sorry. « I need your pay stubs » she said. « But I don’t have pay stubs. I babysit for a living. But I can pay you! » « The landlord requires pay stubs. And for you to make 3 times as much as the rent. And if not you, you need a guarant that can co-sign, but only if s/he makes 5 times more than the rent. » And suddenly my morale, my image of the picnic basket, and the wine, and the baguette, all went down the toilet.

Day 3 I mourned the loss of something that never was.

Day 4 I decided to get back on my feet, go online, peruse for anything that resembled something I like. Or something that I could get used to. Or anything that would accept me without all this ruckus of financial statements that were completely useless. I have money! Why don’t you want it!

So I vigorously posted announcements, here and there, selling myself like a desperate, worn out, battered hooker. Nothing.

I bombarded people looking for flatmates, with promises of a good conversation, laughter, food, MONEY! Nothing.

And then it became Day 5. And then it became day 6, and then it became day 7….At first it was an obsession, I was refreshing my inbox every 5 minutes. But slowly, the voice of reason inside of me told me to stop obsessing for this forbidden paradise, which it had begun with the ambition of attaining a beautiful apartment by the Canal and it became a satisfaction for a basement cardboard box for 800 euros.

Paris can only be seen as the beautiful, chic, romantic capital of the world because its pretentious inhabitants still hold on to the disillusion that they are the most important beings in this universe. And nobody here has really cared much for the fact that they lost their Standard and Poor’s triple A rating. I can hear their malicious laughter from their balconies « It’s an American company. How can we even pretend to care of what THEY think? »

 

Dear Paris, you are holding onto a glory that perished 92 years ago.

Artist in action

•14 octobre 2011 • Laisser un commentaire

 

 

This is one of the main reasons I love walking home. It always puts a smile to my face to see this wall change.

About 6 months ago, an artist had done an extremely intricate and beautiful graffiti that I had almost wished would have been kept up for an entire year. And, unfortunately, I had no way to capture it. So it is now lost. Lost under layers over new, ugly, beautiful covered up graffiti.

I also forgot to take photos of the two other graffitis who preceded this one.  This one is allright. A little narcissistic, if you ask me. But hey, chapeau to him! Imagine walking down a street and seeing your portrait on a motherflipping wall!

Maybe I should do a guerrilla graffiti of my face one of these night….gneheheh

My friendly neighborhood

•1 septembre 2011 • Laisser un commentaire

What’s slow food anyway?

•14 août 2011 • Laisser un commentaire

In 2008 I saw  a poster on the Golden Gate Ferry advertising [what I thought to be] a new culinary « Marinite / Bay Arean / yuppie » fad called Slow Food Nation. In its base it was considered a revolutionary explosion, this idea that real food does not come wrapped in aluminium foil, a chicken is not just a pre-packaged confection of six drumsticks, and coca cola does not come from a hidden source in a mountain chain far in the west (NB: I’ve actually heard people give me these explanation. Granted they were kids, but still…where is the education coming from???)

I was baffled. As a human being who grew up in Italy, picking up my own tomatoes and using them in my salad for lunch is nothing exhuberant. On the contrary, it was standard, especially when I went to visit my aunt every Sunday. You wanted your salad to taste good, you had to go pick the condiments from the earth, where they came from. And while you were at it, you would have picked the aubergines, the zucchini and the bell peppers too, otherwise the rats would get to them first, and you would have no dinner.

But I was a kid. And when I moved to the U.S. this tradition sort of got lost with the infatuation for cheap, pre-packaged, processed delicacies. I won’t lie, I still go apenuts when I see gummi bears or any variant of that chewy goodness, and there was a time called « Claudia’s years in the United States of America: Part 1 » where I had forgotten how to really EARN a meal.

In Paris, the story is similar, except the quality of ingredients is much better than in California. I am sorry, it’s true. I can eat a kilo of gummi bears in Paris and not gain an inch of cellulite. Tried and true, dear readers. Tried and true. But yes. In Paris, I rarely have the time to cook during the week, so I just warm up some soup here, sautee some zucchini there, finish everything off with some yogurt and a peach and I am done. But the zucchini, the peach, the yogurt, they have a different, simple flavour than any of the ingredients that come from the natural terroir. A peach, a real peach needs to ooze juice all over your hands and wrists. And I just re-discovered that sensation during my trip in the south of Italy this month.

Fruit stands every other Km. Fig trees, olive trees, peach trees, apple trees growing like wild grass, even in pavement cracks. And as we visited people throughout the bottom of the boot, we were always welcomed with banquets of  food, plates that were created based only on what was available in the garden but could make a royal buffet green with envy.

It was an incredible event. And I have never eaten more in my life, yet gained no fat, no extra kilos. Nothing. And I feel better than ever. Even my anemia has disappeared, after years and years of having to obsess over eating the right supplements of this and that in order to sustain my iron-poor little body.

Have we forgotten how to eat well? Have we forgotten how to eat at all? For how long can we keep expecting to wallow in this society of instant gratification? How will that affect our human relations, now that the worls revolves around who can connect faster to social network Z to upload that photo of you in place X with person Y? Where is the resest button? I want to start everything all over again. Basic needs need to be satisfied.

How being late made me look ambitious

•28 juillet 2011 • Laisser un commentaire

I like being busy. I like to feel the adrenaline increase and spread throughout my body as the time of the expiration of any deadline comes closer, and closer. It makes me feel alive. Which is probably why I like to book last minute trips and rush to the airport. I timed myself yesterdaytwo feet towards the Orly airport to catch my plane to Rome, so I wanted to cut it as close to the deadline as possible to beat my record of 1,30 hours of commuting (metro + bus + Orlyval). (On a sidenote, despite this mentality, the trip from taking the first step into the metro to the Orly airport until the bus that took me back home from the Fiumicino airport lasted a total of 9 hours!!!).

Which led me to miss my 16h40 flight. But here is the best thing about me. I can sneak my way through any situation because, for some reason I can’t fathom, I have a great sense of timing. Case in point: my university application for a master’s at Paris II. One day, I literally woke up and told myself I would fill out an application for an M1 at Paris 2 because I wanted to widen my career options. I visited their site only to discover the application process had started since January (it was March) and the deadline was just a week away. Did I panic? No I didn’t, and I got all the materials in on the day of the deadline. I hand delivered them, and the secretary looked at me enigmatically. I said something on the lines of « I wanted to make sure my application was flawless » to which she smile and said « That’s the dedication we are looking for. »

Similar situation at the airport. They had closed the check in table, or so did the man standing at the counter tell me. I pretended to go away, devastated, but I just stood right outside his peripheral view, trying to come up with a quick scheme to get on that plane. Suddenly a woman goes up to him to ask for some information, and I take that moment to zip onto another counter and chat with the nice young gentleman working it. I told him how that other man had addressed me to him in order to put me on the next plane to Rome. He looked at me trivially, at which moment I panicked and did the only thing I do best. Smile like it was the best day of my life. The sucker bought it like candy, and I had a first class ticket on Alitalia for Fiumicino. Ok, it’s only a two hour flight, BUT they served me wine and peanuts, while everyone else sitting miles of rows behind me suffered two crying babies and the noise of the turbine. They should have been late.

Ménilmautemps

•21 juillet 2011 • Laisser un commentaire

Somewhere in the depths of my attic in our Italian home, there is a box full of drawings I made back in kindergarten, the ones showing my daddy and my mommy holding hands with my sister and I, and we are all flying through blank paper space with long spindly legs. And then there are the drawings that I had to make to respresent months like December: Papa Noel, January: New Year, […] April: Easter, May: Spring, June: flowers in bloom, July: warm, sun, beach…. you get the idea. Just like any normal kid, I was brought up to expect warm and heat and fun in the months of July through August. I will even go for a stretch and include September, because I feel generous today.

Now, if I were to ask a little Parisian first grader to describe the months to me, what would they put down for July?

Cold, rain, rain boots, humidity and grey skyes. Would I mark them down for misrepresenting July? No. I would give them extra points because due to theim being realistic enough to know that Parisian weather in the summer sucks. It  just sucks.

And what is worse is that I live in a neighborhood where, although during the day I can comfortable walk outside and say hi to the fruit vendor across the street, or go to the bistrot by the side of the church and know the waiter by name, the nocturnal activity (and demography) changes drastically. Two weeks ago, for example, all the power on the street went out. « that’s weird, » I thought. And as I looked outside, I saw a group of men running a drug deal right outside my room’s window. Which is on the ground floor. Apparently it’s a common thing for them to cut the power in order to  run their business.

And a couple of days ago I was awakened by the phone ringing: it was the woman that lives in the building besides our house and she wanted to tell me there was a man outside the house who has been observing the house for 30 minutes and has been attempting to climb it for the past 5. And it was only 9am.

Call me cynical, but it’s a tiring lifestyle, having to act like a paranoid android every time I leave the house. So that whole ordeal, mixed with the rain, gives me nausea. Am I starting to become disenchanted with Paris? Maybe. I mean, SF’s weather is no different during the summer, and some days can be very very cold. But you walk down the street, and the only thing you have to worry about is stepping in the way of the Bushman during one of his stunts. Not drug dealers, they leave you alone.

On the other hand, when I gain enough motivation to get on my bike and go past the walls of the twentieth and its loitering men hissing at me in Arab « Fatimah! Put your veil back on! » comme n’importe quoi, a new life appears right before my eyes. An Haussmanian Paris, with fashion forward people, ragged-looking big-boned old artist walking their mini pug. Old ladies with hands weighed down by huge heirloom rings,  antique stores overflowing with vintage crystal champagne cups, lost tourists, happy tourists, tourists asking for directions, women studying you up and down and back up, lovers kissing shamelessly whenever and wherever they can….sigh.

I cannot win the lottery fast enough so that I can finally buy that little 35 squared-meter studio in the Marais, Saint Michel or Saint-Germain des près or hell, even Bastille! I  don’t care, just don’t let my idea of Paris be buried under crime, and huge bric-a-brac building, and drug deals at 11pm, and robberies at 9am.

It was a dark and stormy night…

•7 juin 2011 • Laisser un commentaire

And I loved every moment of it.

But before the skies gave us thunderstorms, it was a sunny, warm day. We originally had decided to bike from Paris to Fontainebleau, but then thought better due to the decrepit state both of our bikes were in. So we took the train to Melun and then just followed the 20Km to a little village next to Fontainebleau. Good thing too, because by Km 5, my back tire had drastically taken the shape of an egg for no reason whatsoever besides the fact that it is my bike and things obviously cannot go right. That would be a joke. Consequently, Stefano’s bike pedals just decided to stop working. Completely stop working.

Luckily we were not in Paris anymore and people were nice enough to A) Say « Bonjour » as we crossed paths B) Smile / smile back and C) Actually stop and help us repair bikes (!!!!) even though both our bikes were past the point of no return. Believe it. People are only mean in Paris.

And my dream to live in the countryside surrounded by hectares of fruit trees and chickens continues to grow…

We finally got to Stefano’s friend’s house. And by house I mean enormous château with a lake in the backyard that only took up a third of the backyard itself. It was insane. It was beautifully insane. And we spent the afternoon BBQing, playing Taboo and soaking up the sun. Until 11pm, when the thunderstorm hit, and the water started to fall in buckets, and the earth overcharged with electricity, and I took it all in, sitting by the side of the lake. It was such a purifying experience.