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Breathing the right air

Nothing brings more comfort than a bag of good things to cook, swinging under your arm as you make your way home. Somehow it blots out the rest of the world. In these moments, the entire universe consists of a late afternoon sun, a stray dog and a clump of flowers growing strange and wild in a yard. A hit of basil jumps from my elbows with each swing of the bag, a gift from one of the ladies I buy from the most. I visit markets without intention, just eyes open ready to discover fresh peas, or the first corn. Knowing that these products will disappear as quickly as they present themselves creates a certain form of excitement. Each season offers up this rhythm and without it I might become completely lost.

I think of when we were in Tuscany a month ago, feeling like such a tourist until I wandered out along the highway and found the local vegetable stand. I shoved squash blossoms and tiny tomatoes into a bag, rushing back to our room like I had robbed a bank. I made pasta with them th…

a late birthday in New York

I am back in New York for a few days, speaking clean English, eating real pizza, blowing out birthday candles on a late, delicious cake.

The city smells like laundry soap, and those cornucopia steam tables – of watermelon and sesame chicken. It reeks of cigarettes and stale beer as I travel beneath a midday sun. It is coffee and bacon from Eisenbergs.

Everyone is checking everyone out, sizing each other up like we’re about to fight, or pitch a pathetic one-liner, or get asked out on a date.

I walk up and down the city, catching bits of conversations in French, and German. I hear someone speaking Russian and my ears perk up like a terrier. I turn and follow these strangers down Church Street until I know what they are doing here.

People stop me and ask for directions to the World Trade Center, to the Brooklyn Bridge.

Guys are leaning out of cars, calling to girls in short skirts. Children are running under sprinklers on a playground.

The city smells like a clean shirt.

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