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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 …

Friday afternoon, Monday morning

Friday afternoon, back to back meetings with finicky clients that could not have gone better. The sun slams down Lesnaya, and I'm heading back for the metro when I call N.

"Just walk." She tells me, clever woman that she is.

And I do, past Bellorusskaya and down Tverskaya with a light wind on me, dust kicking up in the street. Everyone is outside now, smoking cigarettes and staring at the traffic, parading the sidewalk in new shoes. I smell diesel and a hint of grass growing. There are tall women - like magnificent horses passing me. Grotesque heels, lifeless eyes. There are men with thousand-mile stares and long cigarette ashes. It's remarkably quiet.

I pass the zoo, the US embassy, cross the river and feel the earth disappearing beneath me. I take E from school early and we act like birds on the backstreets on the way to the european shopping center where I buy her a ciao bimbo ice cream cone every Friday. Half pink, half baby blue - - both bubble gum flavored - - her favorite. I always have to beg the server to give her some sprinkles, not the decorative flower made of plastic. Her hand in mine we ride the elevators for a while and then home to the clean apartment.

On Saturday N enters the place with the second set of keys I gave her. The sound of the lock turning is very comforting.

We drink coffee from the new orange pot that makes two cups, and then to the photography biennale close to Red Square. Bumping into my freckle-faced assistant Sasha and her visiting Italian boyfriend we stand for some time making jokes in various languages, especially about the Russians who insist on getting their picture taken in front of the pictures, arms folded across their chest with deep satisfaction in tight sweaters and shiny shoes.

And then we're late. but not late after all to see a foreign film, feeding each other nuts and various candies I find in my pockets for a long time. Her head on my shoulder, my arm around her I realize I haven't sat in a movie theater in almost 10 years. We are starving and it's mutual - the Starlite Diner close to Mayakovskaya. Sharing the cheeseburger and fries, we eavesdrop on the conversations around us. And then home to the little world we build every time we are together, and lost hours that become Sunday and long naps and somehow making dinner.

Monday morning brings a light rain. I miss New York. I miss the cherry blossoms around the reservoir. I miss the dancing clock in the Central Park Zoo. I miss Eisenbergs and Katz's, Russ & Daughters and Bereket. I miss getting phone calls from friends playing impromptu shows at The Living Room and being there in two minutes. I miss going to parties on rooftops and knowing no one there. I miss the Mermaid Parade and cold beers on the splintering boardwalk.

Comments

Annie said…
Hm....I am sure if you were in NY you would miss Moscow. I can see it all - you describe the scenes very deftly...especially the people around you... I just love it.

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