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when it's not intercultural, and when it's not communication.

i am sitting in one of a myriad anonymous hallways in the headquarters of a rather well-known international organization ("well-known" being a relative term, i remind myself, thinking of how my sister-in-law, on hearing a little bit about what i teach -- a base course in communication theory that every self-respecting US university has had on its syllabus for the last twenty years, that is core to every single political, economic, and corporate trend in the world today -- was blissfully amused by how "one can suggest a course on any old thing these days...").

where was i?  right.  in one of a myriad hallways.  i've just come out of an hour-long meeting (in which there was a woman from the Philippines, a man from Venezuela, a woman from Northern Europe, three Italians, and me).

sometimes -- like in this hourlong meeting -- you are surprised by how little it has to do with intercultural issues, how little it even has to do with communication issues, and how much it has to do with everything else -- with people and the work they do, or don't do.

how effectively people can actually communicate when they -- quite simply -- Know Their Jobs.


[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, Roma]
[martedì 27 maggio 2008 ore 12:10:16] []

long-distance.

this morning i am woken by the sound of an incoming SMS.  the cat thinks it's morning massage time, and i have to push her nose out of my face as i reach for the phone (how much i miss having a bedroom with a door...).

i read the words on the little screen:
"I thought you might call or at least write - you knew him too and he was fond of you."

i cannot tell right away who it is.  it is from a Pakistani mobile, and for some reason -- even though everyone's number is saved in my rubrica, the Pakistani numbers never seem to resolve.  so after i read it over the second time -- awake enough now to realize what i know and what i don't know (i know someone is gone, and i don't know who), i start moving through my contact list, and looking to see who has the number that just texted me.  these are the kinds of things you watch yourself doing from above, you see how you are holding your breath and rocking back and forth just a little bit and trying to summon strength and resilience and all those things you'd really rather not ever have to summon again.  you watch yourself from above and you know you will remember doing this, later.

i find the matching number.  it's a cousin.
and so i can guess -- from the mental math of how-old and how-sick each blip in the radar-screen around her is -- it is an uncle, who's gone.

these are the moments when i think about how singular it is, this life some of us choose to live, so far away from everyone else we're related to.  since i was eighteen, i have lived like this.  i have not lived any other way, as an adult, except this way that has me thousand of miles from the rest of my family.  and yet, every so often, i am still hit by how strange it is.

kids who've grown up in Dubai, they know this life.  international students in every college in the world, they know this life.  you sleep with the phone -- the cordless, the cellular, everything -- next to you at night (there are people in different timezones who might call -- maybe because they've forgotten to check if it's four in the morning where you are, or maybe because whatever they have to say, can't wait till eight).  when my mother calls on a day other than Sunday, when my brother calls out of the blue, i hold my breath through every word in the conversation, i think of everything bad that could possibly be, i wait for the bad news -- why else would you have called?

i remember once, my brother and i trying to explain some of this, to his wife.  they live in New York City, and she complains often about being so far from her mother, who lives in Toronto.  one day we told her how lucky she was.  that when she wants to talk to her mother, she doesn't have to look at the clock and do mathematical gymnastics with Daylight Savings Time; she doesn't have to go out and buy a phone card (and every week they change, and did you want the kind for multiple calls and no connection charges or did you want the one for one looong call, and did you check if the one you used last week is still in business, did you check if the one you have in your drawer has expired...); she doesn't have to dial an international calling code, or consider a 1010* before the number to save money; she doesn't have to worry about not getting through.  i remember her watching my brother and i as we ran through this frustrating list that defines and delineates the very relationships we have with our loved ones.  i told her how "you can ask your mom what she had for lunch today, and you can call her up when you forget how many onions to use in a recipe" and how "you can even argue with your mother, and know that there's no card about-to-run out, that you have more than twenty-two minutes left, that you have enough time to make up...".

i know i'm not the only one who wonders every once in a while, if this makes any sense at all -- for us to be living so far away from each other.  could we not have made our lives just as easily, just as happily, down the street from my grandmother's house?  in part, for me at least, it is a moot question.  i never lived down the street from my grandmother's house.  when i was two, my parents moved their lives to Bahrain, and then Dubai, where they lived for the next twenty years.  when you look at it that way, my life -- and the geographic decisions i've made with it -- are not much more than an echo.  i never lived close to family.  i didn't grow up, living close to family.  i didn't grow up in a family, that lived close to family.

this is the country i know i want to build my life in.  but on days like today, i am so very frustrated by how nothing real and useful, is able to travel down a long-distance phone-line.


[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Urbana 47, Roma]
[sabato 24 maggio 2008 ore 20:08:43] []

one of the things you realize at thirty and three-quarters.

that you need to take your time, every single waking minute of it that is not yours-in-solitude, and make sure that it is spent -- your time, the minutes of your life and your mind and your spirit -- you need to make sure that it is spent, always or as-much-as-possible, with people who:
A - are nothing short of Amazing.
B - think that you, in all these minutes you give them, of your life and your thoughts and your bad puns and misremembered poetry, that you are nothing short of Amazing.

with friends.  with family (i know -- but i can dream, can't i?).
in love and in work and in everything in between.
like what Thoreau said about Directions and Dreams and Living the Life Imagined; like Dance, Love, Sing; and like the Six Impossible Things.

a common theme this month, you may have noticed...


[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Tibullo, Roma]
[giovedì 15 maggio 2008 ore 14:30:25] []

tra tutti i miei vorrei.

i listen to Kate's recommendation from last week (I've been listening a lot to this song by Cristicchi lately called "Ti regalero' una rosa")...  i listen, and afterwards i am hankering to re-hear the new Jovanotti lovesong -- the one that makes other lovesongs sound like things from either side of the Cynical-Cheese Coin.  and that makes me remember other thoughts-to-music from this language...

but in-between, Ciro happens to call.  and we have the kind of conversation i can only have with the people that know me at sub-laughter-level.  when i talk to Ziad too, it is like this.  all bad jokes and nostalgia and no shying away from compliments or criticism -- both are given wholeheartedly and wholeheadedly, and both feel good.  i hang up and spend a half-hour thinking about life and luck and how one person can have been so important to you, and your whole family not have figured it out.  meanwhile my laptop runs out of juice, and i don't go back down my scala-chiocciola for the powercord until Antonio calls and wants to try out his new Skype phone.  and it is only afterwards (remind me some day to tell you also, about my theory on relationships that feel like cruise ship cautionary-tales, and about Good Old Inertia), that i get to go back to all the Italian men that really *do* say the things you will never admit you want them to say:

- Jovanotti - Bella.
- Negramaro - Estate.
- Vasco Rossi - Quanti anni hai.

...and then some.


[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Montebello, Roma]
[mercoledì 14 maggio 2008 ore 23:07:24] []

finality.

today was Cortona.  and like most times, the train home leaves you with much to think about.  about the last year (or two, or five, or thirty).  about last Sunday's call with your mother.  about last Thursday's aperitivo with more people who didn't care about the Pantheon.

you switch the words around in your head: the last aperitivo with people who don't care about the Pantheon.  the last dinner with someone who has nothing to say about poetry or Palestinian politics.  the last five-and-three-quarter months of nine-to-six mondays-through-fridays, full of people walking out of the room before you have finished your sentence.

i am not sure i want to waste a minute more, on people and places that i shouldn't be wasting my minutes on.

not even if they're blood.


[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Montebello, Roma]
[domenica 11 maggio 2008 at 23:14:58] []

noticings.

today, walking back along Via del Viminale (i cannot walk this street now, without reminding myself -- always in awe and self-directed incredulousness -- how the baths of Diocletian, you know, they extended ALL this way...), i catch myself singing cammina nel sole.  i only know the three title words.  but i keep crossing and re-crossing the street to the melody; as per each sidewalk-full of margherita-eating Germans, as per each patch-full of sunshine.

i am carrying a cache of groceries: fixings for chicken-ginger-dinner on Monday (when was the last time i cooked for a boy, i try to remember...) and a single (ultimately disappointing) porchetta sandwich.  i have just had my second shakerato of the season, with Kate, at the Illy Cafè on Via Urbana.  we talked -- as usual -- about Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius, and about how i made baked fish over farro last night.  she told me how Emiliano said to her yesterday -- probably also in a patch-full of sunshine -- sei felice.

i still don't know where this summer's rent will come from.  i still don't know how i will pay off the last of last year's taxes and the first of this year's bollette.  and i still don't know when i will forgive and forget, for all the wasted time.

but this, this is working right now.

***

Oggi tutto va cosi’
Siamo in una slot machine
Dove e’ il caso sempre a vincere
Puoi far pace con gli dei
Ma ci riesci tu con i tuoi
Dimmi un po’ a farti comprendere
E ti parlo come amico
Perche’ so che sai che dico
Siamo sulla stessa strada
Che anche se non ti conosco
So che sei un tipo a posto
E spero che te ovunque vada
Cammini nel sole
Walking away with me
E bruci le suole anche se
Non c’e’ direzione
Ma profumo di viole c’e’
Tu cammina nel sole
Cammina nel sole
sotto le costellazioni
Siamo anime a milioni
Che a pensarci c’e’ da perdersi
Tutti con la propria storia
Un graffio dentro alla memoria
Tutti sulla stessa strada
Ogni tanto c’e’ una sosta
A las vegas o un giro in giostra
Ma poi vada come vada
Cammina nel sole
walking away with me
e brucia le suole fino a che
Finche sulla strada
Profumo di viole c’e’
Cammina nel sole
Finche’ ti scaldera’
finche’ ti va
Finche’ avrai la sensazione di esser libero
Perche’ non c’e’ una eta’
Forever Young
E se non ce la fai piu’
Guarda in su’
E cammina nel sole
walking away with me
E brucia le suole fino a che
Finche Dio vuole
E profumo di viole c’e’
Cammina nel sole
Cammina nel sole
Tu corri nel sole

----- Cammina nel sole, da Gianluca Grignani.

***

this is better.


[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Montebello, Roma]
[sabato 03 maggio 2008 ore 14:02:52] []