Monday 8 May 2017

Because the night

"Don't forget. Always use your voice"
Patti Smith, Torino May 6th 2017

Saturday is long gone, but I'm left wishing I could re-live it over and over, like in "Groundhog Day".
Barbara and I met in front of the Auditorium Rai, shortly after 8, had a coffee, chatted a little while we waited for Patti Smith's concert to begin.

Surely not the most technical-woes-free concert I've ever been to, but the most moving and thrilling in a long time.

The audience was the first bonus point. It was packed of committed folks, fans from all generations and walk of life that were there to listen to Patti and not to chat about their holiday plan or hairdresser while coming and going from the bar or munching pop-corn (it did happen at the Wilco's gig in NY, further proves for my theory of the spoiled crowds in big cities). There was a buzz while waiting for the concert to start that transformed in sheer exhilarance when She appeared on stage and reached its peak on the encore.

Then the concert began.
Then there was Patti on stage and nothing really mattered. If she stood on stage reading a grocery list, she would have probably delivered the most beautiful grocery list reading ever.

She's a magnet that draws you in.
When she sings and when she speaks.
When she laughs and when she dances.

She is strong and mellow.
She's peace and calm, she's rage and wisdom.

She leaves you standing, she brings you the smile you wear on the face and in the heart when you walk back home.

Thursday 4 May 2017

Fighting on the stairs

The facts:
1. I sold my flat back at the end of March.
2. I am going to sign the purchase of my new flat at the end of May.

Logical conclusion: I had to find a place to live for the two months when I'd officially be with "no fixed abode" (that's what I am according to the city register right now, it's certified homelessness).
The best solution to the problem turned out to the the simplest and closest to home. I moved one floor above, renting out my friend Pippo's flat.
Very quick move, just one floor up; it meant I could keep living in a place that was familiar to me and I didn't have to spend extra time looking for a place.

So I moved up and it felt I moved into a different world: no more quiet evening. It's a non-stop festival of people screaming, arguing and telling each other to f**k off.
The days I've worked from home, I also discovered that there are other neighbours fighting during the afternoon. Great, they take shifts.

Days passed, with me trying to make sense of this change: how can a set of stairs extra drop me into a whole different universe?
And then, one morning I woke up and found this on the stairs:

I tried to make a sense of the whole situation: fights, insults, a psycho as a neighbour.... mmmh no, let's make it a couple of psychos living on the 2 flats near me, and now somebody spooned soil out of a vase and left it on the stairs.
What's the meaning of it all? Is some superior powers trying to tell me something? Maybe to double check my door is locked at night?

I'm not sure, the only "logical" step I took was choosing a song fit to the situation and make it somehow better. And since all my musings somehow lead back to the Frames:
"I'm living out in the old house
And fighting on the stairs
And staring at the windows
Breeze blowing through the years"

Thursday 13 April 2017

... an alien, I'm a legal alien


Serious frowning face.
No smile.
No greeting.
"Where are you from?"
- Italy
"When did you arrive?"
- about 40 minutes ago… on the plane that landed in this airport…
“How long do you plan to stay?”
- 5 days
“Are you planning to return to your country after that?”
- Yes
“So when are you leaving the United States?”
- Wednesday

Evidently whoever runs the New York tourist board is not really in touch with the border control at JFK.
Either agents in San Francisco and San Jose airports are just naturally more relaxed (blame it on the California sunshine) or the mood has changed dramatically in the States in the few months I was away.
The moment I left the airport, a part of me went back to the last question the agent asked me:
“So when are you leaving the United States?”
- How about now, since you’re asking it so kindly?
But that would have been a pity, because I would have missed out on the Wilco concerts and on kilometers walked all over New York.

Wilco were great but my amazement at crowds using gigs as a social event to chat about their last haircut or spending time on Facebook remains. New York will also go down in my personal history as the first place I went to a gig where people eat pop-corn as if they were at the movie.

As for New York, I walked a lot, spent a lot of time in Central Park and in museums. I wandered around library, yarn stores (oh the wonder!) and bookstores, tried to find a decent coffee and failed miserably. I thought I've become a bit better at adapting with coffee, but it looks I'm still my old grumpy and picky self.

New York is a beautiful and vibrant city but, as we say in Italy, "bella ma non ci vivrei", beautiful but I wouldn't like to live there. It's a basic, first reaction, one I've learned to trust in the past years: it's a wonderful place to visit and explore, but it's not a place that fills me with any other emotion that would make me move there. New York was perfect as a tourist, a visitor, an alien dropped there waiting to return to her mothership. I wouldn't fit and to my dismay I discovered that the New York accent grates on my nerves. It never occurred to me how irritating it is. Sure, I've heard it before, in movies and tv-shows, but they have a time limit that allows me to go back to more friendly pronunciations. Being immersed into it however is a whole different experience, one I wouldn't probably enjoy repeating on a daily basis.

Monday 13 March 2017

sunflower for Elaine

I saw the plastic sunflower in one of those 1€ shops that are sprouting out all over town. I bought it some months ago and put it away in the wardrobe.
Well, not exactly. I probably just threw it inside the wardrobe when I had one of the first flat visit from the estate agent. and then I just forgot about it.

This past weekend, however, I had to empty the wardrobe as I'm donating it to a charity and the sunflower reappeared.
It lost its plastic smell and acquired the lavender smell of the moth-repellent I use for my yarn.
I decided to put the sunflower on the bicycle, my good old Elaine Marley.
I was not fully convinced about it, given the spectacular speed things get lifted off my bicycle (basket, bell, front light, back brake... you name it, it was stolen at some point).

But the weather so nice, so warm, I thought the sunflower was an extra bright spot to welcome spring.
Welcome back, lovely season.

This morning I went for a blood checkup, and while I was walking back home from the metro station, I thought that not taking the bicycle had been a smart idea, given the way I fainted after the exam.
I guess it's normal to feel a bit misplaced after having fainted, so I guess it's normal my reflexes were as slow as my brain cells in that moment.

I was less than 1 block from home, when I saw a guy cycling from the opposite direction pass me by.
My thoughts progression was:
1. Oh look, his bike looks a lot like Elaine.
2. And he's got a sunflower on it.
3. Come to think about it, I put a sunflower on the handle just yesterday.

By the time I completed thought #3, I had reached my flat.
And I had also reached thought #4:
F**k, some f*****g t**t stole my bicycle.

So long, Elaine, wonderful reasonably-priced bicycle. I'm going to miss you. And I'm also going to start using more and more the bike share: bicycle there probably won't be named after Monkey Island's character (and surely lack the character you had) but, even if they were ever to be stolen, my emotional commitment to them would be pretty non-existent.

Needless to say, packing is on hold until I'm done crafting the voodoo doll for you, bike-thief.

Monday 20 February 2017

Giant Pineapples

Some years ago my parents did the supreme act of self-sacrifice, unconditioned love and this-is-probably-karma grandparents can do: they took the grandchildren on holiday for some weeks in August.
They loaded the car with the whole house, managed to fit Sara and Davide into the car as well and they drove down to Abruzzo.
They arrived in Pineto safe and sound and there's where legend started.
Well, it's not a legend, because we got witnesses and photographic proof of the existence of such trees. So not fake news here, maybe irrelevant, but not fake.

What happened is that Davide (remember: Davide is a boy, at the time he was really small, plus have I mentioned that being a boy he’s got XY chromosome? He lives in his own world made of Star Wars characters and dinosaurs, and yeah, he’s a boy) pointed at something and exclaimed, all excited: “Look, look! A giant pineapple!”
The giant pineapple turned out to be a small palm tree that was in the garden: small, larger than tall, all those leaves on top of it, to Davide the palm tree turned into a giant pineapple. His grandparents dutifully laughed at it and recounted the story immediately to the lucky ones left at home (aka Davide’s parents).

Because of this small family story, every time I see a palm tree, I immediately feel a bit more cheerful and think about my nephew’s limited botanical knowledge.
It’s a bit silly, yet not as silly as nor blatantly stupid with what has happened recently with some other palm trees in Italy.

To cut a long, and honestly quite boring, story short, a big coffee chain multinational is opening its first store in Milan city centre.
It’s a big thing, and I guess the cafe will be packed with people once it’s open: it will make lots of money, because it’ll be the place chavs and hipsters alike will go to take a selfie of themselves sipping overpriced, burnt and quite diluted coffee.
To celebrate the opening of their store, they’re paying to have a small garden with palm trees built in Piazza del Duomo. My level of engagement to this news was somewhere shifting between “I don’t really care” and “Should I have frittata or pasta for dinner tonight?”

But things can’t be so easy and so it happened that some idiots thought of using this whole thing as a way to advertise their political agenda: a political agenda based on populism, fascism, racism, bigotry and plain ignorance.

And the rants and interviews started, with poor excuse of politicians stating it was an attack to the traditional values of the city and obviously every single racist twat of the city and the nation had to chime in and start the usual choir about migrants, migrants coming over to steal our jobs, etc.

Nowadays they don’t even bother with the “I’m not racist but…” bullshit.

No, no: they immediately go for the racist core, talking about Italy becoming Africa. One could argue that is global warming that is turning Italy into Africa, not migration, but hey! once you got a scapegoat in the migrants from Africa, why bothering trying to use the brain?

I still don’t give a damn about the coffee. But I feel sad for that poor thin giant pineapple that some idiot set on fire in the main square of Milan over Saturday night. Heine said that “where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings.”
He was right and we know it.

Wonder where we’ll end this time around.

As a small token of faith in humanity, i still got some photos around of my nephew next to his giant pineapple friend. he’s a boy, he lives in his own world made of Star Wars characters and dinosaurs and yet he knows better than a lot of hate-spitting people around.

Tuesday 10 January 2017


2016 was a challenging year, but it has had its positive side.
I traveled a lot.
I met new friends.
I kept in touch with old ones.

I did all of this because I went to gigs. I went to a lot of concerts, my 2016 had more concerts than months.

Souvenirs of 2016

Going to a gig is sometimes a bit tiring: I didn't go to a single concert in Torino, which means I had to travel to some distance each time.
It requires preparation too. You learn a lot about time management when you got a finite numbers of days off you can take at work and places to go that look relatively close but requires 2 or more transfers.
Yet I get more than feeling tired and noisy ears: I returns with lots of memories and happiness, and that's what I go back to whenever I feel a bit down or moody. Yeah, life is bad enough, but Virgi remember how amazing was Astral Weeks in Vicar Street? Or Neil Young in Milano?
I returns with new music I want to share with my friends and yeah, sometimes, I added a skein or two of yarn to the luggage, cause it's a nice souvenir. So, the only good resolution I have made this year is to keep the gigs momentum going.

Yesterday the postman buzzed as I had received something that didn't fit my letterbox. I was a bit puzzled, I don't even received bills as paper mail any longer. Sometimes some funeral home leaves some uplifting letter asking to think about my future and prepare but they're not bulky.
Mmmh, I wondered, was it some Kickstarter project I backed up in the eve of the times and completely forgot about?

No! A look at the handwriting and I knew it was a real letter, from a real person, a real friend. And inside... voilà! Meeting him and becoming his friend has been the best gift, but I don't mind the book either!

somebody knows me well

Monday 9 January 2017

Backpackitis (or fear of Monday blues)

Backpackitis is a psychological and physical state of unwellness, which hasn’t reveived the deserved amount of attention from the scientific community. Members of that community found observing chitas rewriting Shakespeare more appealing, but perhaps this is due to some unresolved trauma or painful event they suffered in the past.

It primarily hits children and youngsters during their academic years but, due to the lack of adequate treatment and vaccines, adults are subject to possible infections too.

Its symptoms normally appears on Sunday, around lunchtime: a vague feeling of sickness and prostrations starts to appear, causing a sour mood to appear.
The mood of the patient deteriorates over the afternoon; a definite sense of dread and despair sets in, once the patient eyes the backpack, normally discarded in a corner of the room, and realizes he has to go back to school the morning after and has to get the backpack ready. 
The anxiety and bad mood can be magnified and exacerbated by factors such as assignment that was supposed to be done by Monday but won't be ready till the beginning of next century, realization of meeting again the least liked teacher of the lot, having not studied for a test, missing renewal of the bus pass.

As mentioned before there are currently no vaccines or medicines that can cure the disease. Temporary solutions are provided by enjoying long and short holidays, with the side effect that the return of backpackitis will be felt even more on its resurfacing.

Yours truly was victim of it yesterday evening, while looking at her own backpack and wondering about whether or not the access password was scribbled somewhere.
I'm however happy to report that the kind and generous appliance of chat with friends and Belgian beer kept the monster at bay.