lunedì 14 aprile 2014

Sunshine on Leith

Before the plane had even left the ground, I was already fast asleep. I woke up some time later, a bit groggy, wondering people around me were allowed to have their seat so down when the plane hadn't even... oh, yeah, I see.

I was really tired on my last Friday in the States, but something I've noticed recently is that I don't really need that much of comfort to fall asleep. I just need to take a seat, rest my head on one side of the armchair and I'm already dozing away.

Long haul flights were for me the standard way to catch up on movies: 9 hours on a plane means at least 3-4 movies, a nap and a meal.
Nowadays it's quite an achievement if I manage to watch a single movie on the plane.

So, given I watch just one movie, it better be good. The one I watched on the way back to Italy was definitely worth it.

It's a British movie, "Sunshine on Leith", directed by Dexter Fletcher: it's an adaptation of a stage musical, set in Edinburgh, based on songs by The Proclaimers.
It's a small, sweet and enchanting movie. The cast is great, the city amazing and it made me re-listen to the Proclaimers: not just the usual 500 miles, but also some other songs that got basically no radio time in Italy.

It's a juke-box musical, alright, but it's well crafted, the songs fit in perfectly and I am pretty sure more than one person walking down the aisle on the plane wondered about that passenger watching a movie with a goofy smile, while moving her head to the rhythm of some obviously catchy song.

domenica 13 aprile 2014

Fuori Salone

Sono tornati gli hipster a Lambrate, un po' come l'anno scorso, per il FuoriSalone.
Anche quest'anno, dopo essermi sorpresa agli inizi e aver osservato l'aumento anche in Europa di baffi, baffetti e basette di varia forma e arricciatura.

Così ieri, mi sono armata di bottiglietta d'acqua (al FuoriSalone costa più della birra) e insieme a Flavia mi sono fatta un giro per la zona di Lambrate Ventura.

Quest'anno la cosa che mi è piaciuta di più l'abbiamo vista quasi subito, il che ha creato un punto di paragone piuttosto alto e difficile da superare. Si tratta di questo tavolo con i conigli:

The bunnies table

E' un tavolo di marmo, e anche i conigli sono di marmo, quindi chiunque lo compri deve essere più che convinto su dove lo piazzerà in casa. Suppongo che ogni cambio dell'arredamento della sala da pranzo richieda pure una chiamata a una ditta di traslochi.

Poco più in là ecco Spiderman alle prese con lo stress della vita moderna.


Abbiamo girovagato fra le varie vecchie fabbriche e capannoni riadattati a spazi espositivi. Scarpe strane, papillon fatti con capelli, cactus di cartone. Di tutto un po', fino alla gara di pelature patate allo stand belga.


Tanti bambini in giro, negozi riadattati a spazi espositivi, un'atmosfera rilassata e tranquillo come è arrivato, il FuoriSalone è passato. Oggi era l'ultimo giorno e i baffuti torneranno nelle zone milanesi a loro dedicate, tanto che a breve mi scorderò che abbiano mai messo piede dalle mie parti.
A me un po' dispiace, perché la zona ripiomberà nella sua solita sonnolenza, con gente di corsa e vicini che non ti salutano, così finirà che sentirò la mancanza degli hipster.

martedì 8 aprile 2014

The junk post

By the third day of meetings, most of my colleagues were already used to my antics.
Every time they were about to eat something, I'd ask whether I could take a picture of whatever that something was.
By the 5th day, they stopped asking me if I was going to eat that "something", because they knew I was going to return or put it away after taking a picture.

No, I've not been bitten by the foodie instagram mania, even though being in San Francisco is a good enough excuse to be do so. This time around I was quite lucky on this side, as I had Migs to guide me all around. From Vietnamese pho to burritos, from East German food to the best coffee spot in town, I just needed to ask him and he'd come up with the right place.
In those occasions, I was not really taking good picture of the food: I was too busy eating and enjoying the food, rather than photographing it.

What captured my attention was the wholesome level of junk in the different snakes and food around me. And their way-over-the-top and pretty standard for an America sizes.

So here's my "I can't believe they sell it and/or I'm eating it" 2014 spring collection.
First in the list, a must have for its vibrant color boldly displayed all around, emphasizing its sugary yet crumply attitude towards modern life; let me introduce you all to the artificially flavored "sugar wafers":

A special place in the collection is claimed by this pack of candies: welcome to the fat free world of the Swedish Fish!

Bear in mind, if you got diabetes a package of Swedish Fish could kill you.
Bear in mind, if you got no diabetes, you can find it in the package of Swedish Fish.

As for the Organic polenta, package like this next to the brownie mix, I just took a picture but decided to live in blissful ignorance and skip reading the label

On the portions side, this is my last week brunch: 

I ordered a 2 eggs omelette without reading the small prints. I didn't see them, but there must be a point, somewhere in the menu, that stated they were ostrich eggs. 

Akira tried to topped me with this caprese salad fit into a whole ciabatta, with a heavy buttering of pesto; the drink in the background is something called Italian soda: as usual, it was my duty and honor to bulldozer down all the notion my American colleagues had about Italy and its food. They asked me more than once whether Italian soda wasn't truly Italian as I said. I'm not sure some of them eventually got over the notion we don't drink the Sopranos Old Fashioned Italian sodas:

Obviously the Cheesecake Factory beats everybody else hands down when it comes to sizes: I didn't try it out, I shared one slice of a smaller pie with 2 other people and we didn't even manage to finish it, but I appreciate however that the restaurant decided to use the side effect of this cake as its name:

Black-out cake

In case you're wondering about it, I save you some time and will point you directly to the google search result for "bacon brittle recipe":

And if you feel like having a mint after all this food, rest assured that even in that, the States have to stand out: even the Polo hole has to be filled.

lunedì 7 aprile 2014

And the award for...

... the dumbest of the dumbest sign goes to this instruction list: 

I spotted it last week in the ladies room of a restaurant in Sunnyvale. 
It provides a straightforward checklist that we, the gentle yet clueless sex, can follow in situations when we can't bring a fellow clueless bimbo that can hold us the door when we go to the loo.

I did as instructed, also taking a pause at the moment of pulling the door toward me, pause slightly pause, and then turned the latch to the right.

I can't even start to tell how relieved I felt when I saw the instructions. I am the only woman in my team, how was I supposed to use the loo otherwise? Was I condemned to keep the door open?!?

All's well what ends well, but a small point: there's no instruction on how to unlock the door. I checked everywhere and nothing, not a single note on how to unlock the door and regain my freedom.
Somebody get me out of here...

domenica 6 aprile 2014

So have a nice day

San Francisco bay, past pier 39,
Early p.m. can't remember what time,
Got the waiting cab, stopped at the red light,
Address unsure of, but it turned out just right,

Got out from Linate airport a little bit after 4 p.m. yesterday afternoon.
The first 3 cab drivers at the queue were way too busy checking their smartphones and smoking to care about people waiting to get on board. The 4th one in line wished he could be with them, I bet.
Alas, he got to take me back home.
He got really pissed at me when I asked him if he could helped me putting the suitcase in the trunk (customer service, people?), was absolutely furious when I  told him to stop texting while driving.

It felt good to be back home: as usual I left the house quite a mess and unpacking made the living room look even worse.
As usual, it felt as if 2 massive air balloon got stuck into my ears. They still are: the noises from the street arrives as if they were 2 km away and not just 2 floors below.
As usual, the lingering feelings and memories of the trip coated me against the present.
This time around I chose to stay in San Francisco rather than spending 2 weeks in the South Bay area.
It meant commuting everyday, but it wasn't such a bad thing: altogether it's the same time I spend commuting to my office and it was more or less the only time I had only for myself during the day: the rest flew away in a blur of work, meetings, coffee and wandering around.

Yesterday evening I was supposed to try to clear some of the above mentioned mess.
Instead I went on a scavenger hunt. I was looking for a CD. "Just Enough Education to Perform" is an album that comes back over and over in my life.

When I first heard it, I thought "Have a nice day" started from a real life episode to talk more generally about life around the world, how we're all becoming the same.
That "have a nice day" I came to listen way too many times, alongside the "Sorry", is just an expression of how fake and hypocrite society can get.
I liked the song because of the contrast between what sounded to me as a very depressed and pessimistic lyrics to the uptempo beat of the tune.

It started straight off, "coming here is hell"
That's his first words, we asked what he meant,
He said "where ya' from?" we told him our lot,
"When ya' take a holiday, is this what you want?"

I found myself singing this song quite often in San Francisco for the past 2 weeks. Especially when sitting in the back of a cab.
Until the last evening it looked as if I was getting a special replay of the driver Kelly Jones: each one of them was, in a way or another, completely bonkers.
The Mexican guy shouting at every person on the street, the one complaining about Uber and the pink mustaches, the Russian who asked me whether I minded if he had a joint while driving (yes, I did mind but no, he didn't care about it and lit it anyway), the one that insisted I should drive to Oakland to have the best pizza ever, the guy that wished all this silicon valley people disappeared from the face of earth ("And why are you here, miss?", "better if I don't tell you"), the woman telling me how better she got since she switched prescription ("I'm not even that sleepy any longer!"). 
Either I share with Kelly Jones the ability of picking them, or San Francisco cab drivers are one of a kind. Not that I mind, really.

Everybody was nice and life looked so easy: as usual I had that brief moment when I thought that yes, I could live there and be well. 
After few days, however, that over-kindness customer-service attitude everybody seemed eager to mirror to the outside world was really starting to get me. 
In the past few months I've grown less and less able to lie when people ask me how I feel. But this has become a big problem once in California: try and reply that you feel like shit and the look on people's face will freeze. You can't feel bad or upset, because this unbalances the apparently perfect, all-round-connected life they connected.
You can't say you're feeling lonely, because it's like pointing at the naked king.

And so I was left with little to shield myself with: sometimes I smiled for real, most of the times I faked, both the smile and happiness. All along I hung to the madness I could find in the taxi that carried me around.
I already miss you, crazy people. See you in a year.

So have a nice day...

martedì 1 aprile 2014

green shoes and happiness

"Shoes see everything; there are no secrets we can keep from our shoes.” 
(Alexander McCall Smith, "The Double Comfort Safari Club")

One of my favorite literary character is Mma Grace Matsuki.
She is the assistant of Mma Ramotswe in the Alexander McCall Smith's "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" books: she scored 97% at her exam at the Botswana College of Secretarial and Office Skills, later set up a typing school for men and helped Mma Ramotswe solving cases and drinking tea. 

I love Grace, because she's not perfect, she's not a spotless heroine; on the contrary, she's a full rounded human character: she can be extremely sharp but also jump to the wrong conclusion. She is kind and gentle, yet bossy and with no filter when speaking. 
The contrast makes her stand out, feel so human. It's easy to relate with her. Even more so because of her passion for shoes: she can't resist shoes, they're the only luxury she allows herself to enjoy. Shoes are her conscience: when she's in doubt, she looks down at her feet and argues with her shoes.

There was a time where I didn't care about shoes: I had two pair of fake Dr Martens I bought at the market and a pair of sandals for the summer. That was it.
Looks like a million light years ago. I eventually developed a love for shoes, just like Mma Matsuki.
And, let's face it, just like Imelda Marcos.

The problems for fulfilling my love for shoes at a Marcos-level were, and still are, basically three: I don't have the patience to go shoe-shopping; I don't have enough money to go extreme shoe-shopping; I'm extremely picky when it comes to shoes and clothes. If I see something I really like and it's reasonably priced, I won't spend debating whether I should get it or not. 
But, if I don't find it, I end up spending a lot of days debating what to get, going into different shops and very possibly not buying anything. I spent the whole winter pondering about a new pair of boots and ended up not buying anything because there was nothing I really wanted to get. It was frustrating because, with the vague hope of finding something nice, I endured way too many afternoon in the middle of the Milan weekend shopping orde. 

On the other hand, if I see something I like, I won't rest till I got it.
That's what happened with the last 2 pair of shoes I bought. In the middle between the 2 pairs I saw one pair of shoes that tempted me a lot: it was so insane I honestly thought about buying it. But alas, my bank account resembles more the one of Mma Matsuki (and she's a fictional character!) than Imelda's one, so the only thing I could do was trying them on and taking a picture of them:

I had to told myself that yes, they were nice, but too expensive (300$ discounted!!!) and very unpractical: I couldn't really picture myself hopping on the first train towards Gobba wearing such a pair of shoes!

On the other hand I could picture myself very well with my shiny new shoes... 

Part of me wondered whether it made sense buying 2 pair of shoes in such a short span of time. So tonight I took a look at them, put them on and asked them directly.
We all agreed that they might not be real happiness, but we're fine sharing a part of the walk together. And looking at them on my feet, we came to the conclusion that we do fit very well together.

lunedì 24 marzo 2014

Il caffè del sabato sera

Non sono una grande fan di Starbucks, ma gli riconosco alcuni meriti: il wi-fi gratuito e la possibilità di passarci delle ore senza che nessuno venga a chiederti nulla, a meno di non essere prossimi all'orario di chiusura.

Qualche tempo avevo visto delle foto di alcune tazze usa-e-getta di Starbucks con delle frasi scritte sopra; faceva parte di "The way I see it", una serie di frasi e pensieri di scrittori, filosofi e persone famose.

La frase in questione é dello scrittore statunitense Augusten Burroughs:
"I used to feel so alone in the city. All those gazillions of people and then me, on the outside. Because how do you meet a new person? I was very stunned by this for many years. And then I realized, you just say, "Hi." They may ignore you. Or you may marry them. And that possibility is worth that one word.

La mia prima reazione era venata di una buona dose di cinismo: "Augusten, tu non hai mai potuto ammirare il terrore e l'indecisione dovuta a un comportamento così fuori dall'ordinario per un londinese, come dirgli ciao e scambiare quattro parole con lui. Non hai mai potuto osservarlo alla ricerca di una via di fuga quando sorridi senza motivo: sarà mica una psicopatica, questa qua?"

Poi però mi sono venire in mente tutte quelle volte che ho scambiato quattro chiacchiere con qualcuno in stazione quando la Southwest Trains cancellava un treno, al pub o al mercato. E agli sguardi d'intesa per qualcosa di divertente che stava capitando sul vagone della metro. E al cantare "Redemption Song" con il mendicante stonato di Stockwell.

E allora il dubbio mi è sorto: o io e Augusten partivamo da due concetti un po' diversi di "incontrare nuove persone" o io finivo con un terzo risultato non contemplato dalla sua frase.

Io le persone le incontro, ma alla fine è una sensazione di mitigata solitudine che non si protrae nel tempo, ma che dura solo per pochi attimi dopo che l'incontro è avvenuto. Se non abbia incluso questa terza opzione per motivi letterari o perché non gli è successo mai, questo non lo so.

La frase mi è tornata in mente sabato: incasinata per la partenza, stavo cercando di finire tutte le commissioni, fare la valigia e allo stesso tempo non perdermi nelle troppe seghe mentali che ti porta un sabato noioso e piovoso come quello appena passato.

E all'improvviso ecco che succede l'imprevedibile: inizio a parlare con un ragazzo che lavora in un negozio, facciamo due chiacchiere mentre aspettiamo che la macchinetta del bancomat faccia il suo dovere e quando me ne vado mi saluta sorridente e mi stringe la mano. Ce n'è abbastanza per sconvolgere l'equilibrio del mondo meneghino così come lo conosco. Era un sorriso onesto, fatto senza alcun motivo secondario. Un sorriso e basta.

Poi sulla via del ritorno verso casa non mi accorgo di nulla perché sono presa a scambiare messaggi, e mi viene da ridere a certe battute lanciate qua è la nelle chat comuni.

Prima di rientrare a casa devo passare al bancomat, perché altrimenti il taxista per Linate il mattino dopo come lo pago? E la serie di curiosi eventi continua. Davanti al bancomat c'è un ragazzo al telefono. Il bancomat gli ha mangiato la tessera. Sta cercando di capire che fare con il servizio clienti. Fra un "no, non mi metta in attesa un'altra volta" e un "ok, mi dia il numero da chiamare" scambiamo quattro battute fra noi. Cerchiamo di capire se possiamo fare qualcosa, "ma se provassimo a fare ctrl+alt+canc?"
I tasti ci sono sulla tastiera del bancomat ma non funzionano, "e allora che diavolo li hanno messi a fare?". La domanda rimane senza risposta al momento attuale.

Pulsanti on/off non ce ne sono, ogni tanto il bancomat emette dei rantoli che noi all'inizio interpretiamo come deboli segni di vita, ma la speranza muore presto. Io lo saluto e gli auguro buona fortuna, lui fa altrettanto.

Mi avvio al bancomat successivo con il timore che pure quello mangi le tessere. Sabato sera, mi preparo un caffè e ripenso alla mia giornata: mi sentivo meno sola del solito, sapevo anche che era una sensazione temporanea e non del tutto vera, ma ero pure cosciente di avere deciso di ignorare questa porzione di verità. 
Forse era questa sensazione che descriveva Burroughs, solo che lui è in grado di descriverla con parole migliori. Però io il caffè lo faccio molto più buono di quello delle sue tazze usa-e-getta.