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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 …

the princess and Potempkin


I don't know when the windows changed. I had grown to ignore the velvet displays, empty in the early morning when I walked E to school. In the afternoon, yes there were diamonds blinking in the shadows. I never saw people going into the Princess jewelry store. There was a plaque on the corner of the building, reminding any passerby that Eduard Tisse had been born there, the cameraman for Eisenstein on films like Strike, and the Battleship Potemkin. Sometimes I wondered if anyone in the street knew who he was besides me. On this stretch of sidewalk there are mothers with babies in strollers, old women carrying plastic bags of groceries, workers who plant flowers. 

Now, the windows are covered with images of a woman wearing nothing but diamonds. She stares at the empty street, and traffic. Eyes painted, lips pouting, blond hair curving and frozen under layers of hairspray her eyes never blink. I wonder if the store does not have enough diamonds to display in the windows now. I wonder if she is the trophy wife of the owner and this is some compliment he has paid her, the photo shoot, the stylists, her standing topless in nothing but jewels as the strobes flash. 

A security guard stands behind the door, face close to the glass. I see his cheap shiny suit, his hands shoved in his pockets. He looks scared, angry, worried. 









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