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I believe in artichokes

Italy did ruin me. After that first trip I came back disgusted by bodega coffee, which now smelled of old socks. Before, it was just fine. I rolled my eyes at red sauce joints, detouring old standbys like a stranger. If eating can be seen as a religious or spiritual experience I had been to the mountain. In time I would return on pilgrimages, always holding the simple pleasures in my thoughts.  An artichoke, methodically fried in good olive oil, with some salt. Black truffles, good butter and fresh pasta twisting around the back of a fork. A very cold and tiny glass of porto bianco sipped in a Genoa bar, with my friend Federico. A man cleaning sardines on a block of wood in the street. A woman selling green figs that she wraps into a newspaper cone. I have thousands of these memories, these artifacts. But I live in Moscow, where there has been an embargo for years now, and there is no population that expects perfect mounds of fresh cheese. They ship powdered palm oil here, that gets …

close to Garfield, off of Prospect Park

E is asking me a lot of questions these days, like what is inside the moon. Walking home from school, clutching my hand as she slips on the ice every few meters we discuss astrology, chemistry and the ingredients for tiramisu. She likes to ask me what I was like when I was four, or five or seven.

My brother and I had a babysitter named Adrianne, a student of my father's from one of his drawing classes. She had long, straight dark hair and a magnificent nose in the center of her face, as I liked to think of it. Adrianne smelled of lemons, and fresh soap. She knew how to make the best shake-n-bake chicken, and her brother wore giant bellbottom sailor pants, with about a million buttons on them. We played a lot with wooden toys and marbles.

She turned the living room into a great white cloth-draped fortress with us one long afternoon, and we watched Yellow Submarine in the soft light inside it, on the tiny TV in the corner.

We left Brooklyn when I was five. On our last afternoon together she brought us to a wet piece of sidewalk. We forced our hands into the fresh cement, then scrawling our initials with a bottle cap. In my imagination, this tiny artifact still exists, somewhere close to Garfield, off of Prospect Park.

When I told this to E, she stopped in the street, her breath forming wet clouds around her. She stared at me, fiercely.

"It's still there, Pop." She said.

She rested her mittened hand on my shoulder.
She nodded once.
I nodded back.
She let out a deep breath.

Later, we made tiramisu.


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