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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 cold and the bagels



A warm hat is pulled down past my ears down to the back of my neck. I did not even bring gloves. It is just after 6AM and I am weaving through the streets of the Lower East Side. Allen, Orchard, then the big open stretch of Delancey reaching off towards Brooklyn across the Williamsburg Bridge. It rusts slowly, pieced together with great metal plates, always a low rumble but strong, still standing.

There is the smell of reheated bacon, of fresh bread, of ammonia. I sneeze once, then again. It is colder than Moscow here.

And now crossing Houston, full of construction and barriers and men in thick jumpsuits while the cars are taking lazy turns on yellow lights. The sky is starting to grow lighter. I look once at the old place on 1st Street, not even a phantom shiver now, not even a prickle on the back of my arm. Yes, I lived there for so many years, never imagining I would need to go above 14th Street. A shrug of the shoulders, mostly against the wind that has picked up.

I read the names on awnings, a sort of game to find good names for characters. Rose. Bruno.



Ess-A-Bagel is quiet. No music, no chatter. A handful of people work in silence, turning the fresh bagels into metal baskets. The windows are getting steamed up. I smell yeast and salt, fried onion, coffee. I want to tell them these are for E, and they will travel halfway across the world today, that a girl in Moscow will stick her nose in the bag tomorrow and breathe deep, knowing this is the smell of New York at 6AM, the crackly outside, the chewy depths, the poppy seeds that stick between her teeth.

But I say nothing, buying a mixed dozen without drama. They are heavy on my wrist as I fish one out to fuel my walk back downtown.

The lights are coming on everywhere. The sky is blue turning paler. The garbage trucks are groaning to a stop then slugging back into action.

My feet know which way to go.




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