Like playing crossword in your head with the red-and-white tiled kitchen floor. Like Jergens Vitamin E Lotion in a bathroom in Hackensack New Jersey. Like living every day on a six-pack of Oreo cookies and Pepsi. Like a five-dollar bill in your left sock, and don't stand too close to the edge of the platform in case there's a crazy person around. Like il treno fermerà a... Castiglion Fiorentino, Arezzo, Montevarchi-Terranuova, San Giovanni Valdarno, Figline Valdarno, e... Firenze Campo Di Marte. Like that bakery at Jinnah Market, where you watched him leave. Like the smell of a basement laundromat, somewhere on University Place. Like a lipstick called Verve and a pimple named Fred. Like learning for the first time, to pronounce the word metastases. Like your brother asking you, do you know anyone who's lost their father at my age? It's not fair. (Your brother who is six years older than you are.) Like blue roses and Beach Luxury, and the price of a hundred heads of marigold. Like the reelful of kisses in Cinema Paradiso. Like two dozen teal-colored bangles and a pair of Mary Janes from Giubbonari.
Like the first two stanzas of yesterday's poem (yesterday's poem, in more ways than one):
You are running away from everyone
who loves you,
from your family,
from old lovers, from friends.
They run after you with accumulations
of a former life, copper earrings,
plates of noodles, banners
of many lost revolutions.
Because no one ever knows you as well as you will know yourself tomorrow.
[Santo Spirito, Firenze]
[domenica 30 luglio 2017 ore 15:51:00] [¶]
This weekend I stood across from a man who, in telling me about his trip to The Mall outside Florence (can you tell already, that this is a story in which he will not look good?), paused for a second to look around him with an air of exaggerated surreptitiousness (we were standing at tables outside a bar in San Casciano Val di Pesa; I will let you do the imagining, when it comes to the diversity or lack thereof, of whatever slice of humanity happened to be in our immediate vicinity), before proceeding to complain about how there were “too many Chinese people” in the stores, and that “they are always so rude.”
Maybe I looked away. Maybe my eyes turned cold. Maybe, maybe, maybe. But I didn't say anything. I didn't signal to him, in any meaningful way, that I considered such an utterance to be anything other than acceptable.
Today I go back to re-read a recent piece by Dina Nayeri, over at the Guardian. I have been wanting to re-read this piece, and to link to it here, for this bit, about the expectations that come with being both other, and saved:
Even among empathetic, worldly students, I’m finding a grain of this same kind of expectation: the refugee must make good. If, in one of our stories, an immigrant kills himself (Bernard Malamud’s “The Refugee”), they say that he wasted his opportunity, that another displaced person would have given anything for a shot at America. They’re right about that, but does that mean that Malamud’s refugee isn’t entitled to his private tragedies? Is he not entitled to crave death? Must he first pay off his debt to his hosts and to the universe?
Despite a lifetime spent striving to fulfil my own potential, of trying to prove that the west is better for having known me, I cannot accept this way of thinking, this separation of the worthy exile from the unworthy. Civilised people don’t ask for resumes when answering calls from the edge of a grave. It shouldn’t matter what I did after I cleaned myself off and threw away the last of my asylum-seeking clothes. My accomplishments should belong only to me. There should be no question of earning my place, of showing that I was a good bet. My family and I were once humans in danger, and we knocked on the doors of every embassy we came across: the UK, America, Australia, Italy. America answered and so, decades later, I still feel a need to bow down to airport immigration officers simply for saying “Welcome home”.
But what America did was a basic human obligation. It is the obligation of every person born in a safer room to open the door when someone in danger knocks. It is your duty to answer us, even if we don’t give you sugary success stories. Even if we remain a bunch of ordinary Iranians, sometimes bitter or confused. Even if the country gets overcrowded and you have to give up your luxuries, and we set up ugly little lives around the corner, marring your view. If we need a lot of help and local services, if your taxes rise and your street begins to look and feel strange and everything smells like turmeric and tamarind paste, and your favourite shop is replaced by a halal butcher, your schoolyard chatter becoming ching-chongese and phlegmy “kh”s and “gh”s, and even if, after all that, we don’t spend the rest of our days in grateful ecstasy, atoning for our need.
These are important, magnificent paragraphs to me, and I feel like I need to read them every day, read the words and breathe the words, out loud and in deep, over and over again until they are so much a part of me I emanate them, like a smell or a mood or a madness. Until I can do a better job of saying, listen. It is your duty to open your doors, your cities, your malls and your piazzas, your homes and your public health systems. It is your obligation. You don't get to say, but they are different from us. I don't get to say it either. We don't get to say there are “too many Moroccans and Turks” or “too many Chinese” or too many of any kind of human being except maybe the asshole kind.
Last night we had dinner with someone who gets this. Someone who is young and Italian and privileged, but utterly convinced that her country is better off with all these others.
She makes me hopeful.
[Santo Spirito, Firenze]
[lunedì 24 luglio 2017 ore 17:26:00] [¶]
Today marks the final edition of Dan Piepenbring's daily dose of everything-and-then-some, via the Paris Review. I will miss it.
Today I found a recipe for Mrs Ramsay's boeuf en daube. Maybe I will make it one day, and maybe it will be as good as Janet Malcolm's take on Alice B. Toklas's take on Coq Au Vin.
Today I read this, and laughed out loud. (It's towards the end; you'll know it when you see it.)
Today I tasted a memory from maybe eighteen years ago and it was as good as I remember it. But the other thing that makes taste—you know, the taster?—not so much. As Lily Briscoe might say, time passes.
And today, finally, in thinking about Mrs Ramsay's beef stew and my mutton burger, about the narrative and sometimes not-so-narrative arc of life, about what we make of what we miss and what we make of what we remember and what we want—what I want so often—to make of so much else, I read this, too: The thing to long for is the impossible thing: for time to slow, for the chance to loiter in a moment.
Like Mrs. Ramsay bringing them together; Mrs. Ramsay saying “Life stand still here”; Mrs. Ramsay making of the moment something permanent (as in another sphere Lily herself tried to make of the moment something permanent)—this was the nature of a revelation. In the midst of chaos there was shape; this eternal passing and flowing (she looked at the clouds going and the leaves shaking) was struck into stability. Life stand still here, Mrs. Ramsay said.
And life, time, the planet: indifferent.
[34 C Street, Dubai]
[venerdì 14 luglio 2017 ore 20:41:00] [¶]