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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 …

postcards from geneva

I wandered down the two lane road, cars whipping past me in the hot Swiss sun as postcard clouds hung low over the mountains. Children ran in the tall grass, playing hide-and-seek. I smelled the sickeningly sweet scent of rotting irises.


And here, I find the slow curve of a bar and a cold draft of the local beer. Half gas station, half brasserie. The flat sun across my face, the smell of you on my fingers from last night, your perfume in my shirt. Long buses are pulling away.There is a tangle of wildflowers in a window box. The mechanics drink rosé in short, round glasses, beads of sweat dripping down onto their fingers. Fat, sunburned faces. Loose French tumbling from their mouths. A woman with a giant nose is biting her nails.


There is no sidewalk here, close to this attic room. There are red rooftops outside my window. A clock is clicking terribly loud.



At breakfast the next morning, I make a sandwich from fresh bread and a sort of chicken mortadella with pistachios in it. One bite, and I flash on my childhood. Eating cold turkey loaf sandwiches on rye bread by the swimming pool, mayonnaise and the chlorine taste in the back of my throat.




The next night, sitting in the center of the city with Kosmos. His magnificent Nigerian face beams at me. He struggles to take his tie off, slurping on more of that local beer, Cardinal. He buys me round after round, sitting at the Los Angeles Cafe. It's the closest thing to sitting at Planet Hollywood, and they only have some miserable looking pizzas to eat. The tables from the next restaurant boast fondue Bourguignonne and laughing couples on Friday night dates. Kosmos is pushing religion on me, complaining about the cost of living, complaining about how quickly he got old. His wife keeps calling him. He asks me if I am hungry, but I'm in the mood to sit alone somewhere and drink a lot of red wine and see if I have a few sentences of my second book in me. Kosmos tells me he only has leftover spaghetti in the fridge to eat, another complaint. I let into him, explaining that if I had some leftover spaghetti from the woman I love, and if she was my wife right now  - well, that spaghetti would probably bring me to tears. "You have no idea how lucky you are." I told him, slurring through my most recent, giant beer.


His great eyes close slowly, a sort of apology.
"I must take you home now." He tells me.


Struggling with the GPS, we wove through the streets missing turns and laughing at the computer voice that told us to go back and turn again. He came up to the room and peed all over the place before he left. I set out to grab some late and fabulous meal. It was just after ten, and knowing the places only opened at seven I imagined a quiet table with my name on it. And the closest place was closed, and in the next one the giant French lady was mopping the floor already, turning chairs upside down on the tables. And in the last place people were smoking and eating and laughing but they said the kitchen was closed.


I wandered down the highway, wondering if I was crossing into France. I gave up and went to a gas station, but even it was closed. I spotted a vending machine, and searched my pockets for change. I planned a four course meal - paprika flavored chips, a linzer torte, some gummy bears and the Swiss equivalent of Yoohoo. I sat down on the curb to eat, and people shouted from a car passing me. Better to shovel this stuff into my face in the hotel room, I decided.


Across the street I saw some graffiti that read "FUCK DIESEL".
I began to laugh to myself.

Comments

Annie said…
I hadn't thought of getting my husband to read your blog - but that he should get the idea of considering my leftover spaghetti some blessed meal.... Ah, I like that.

I was anticipating enjoying a nice meal with you....but what you ended up with was just not satisfying, though paprika-flavored chips sounds intriguing. Their paprika must be much more interesting than the dull stuff I have in my cupboard.
Rabbit blogger said…
annie - paprika chips taste a heck of a lot like barbecue chips. you;re not missing anything there....

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