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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 faucet (drawing a line in the sand is not as easy as I thought it would be)

The walls seem to step back a few inches. All of those wishful thoughts, the daily bowl of optimism, the hesitated checking - they are shoved aside. I am a week into my first crowdfunding project, and all I can think about are the number of people killed last night in Baghdad. More than 140, the news says. Not soldiers, just innocent people. And in Turkey a few days ago, more of the same. It seems like such an awkward act, this waking up to send thoughtful notes, asking for help. They are grieving in Florida still. The twist inside, it never really unknots. 

Back across the ocean, I imagine people are standing around backyard grills, cold drinks in hand. There are pies. There are children laughing, playing in tall grass. Maybe there is a good breeze, maybe old friends not seen for a long time are there. There are grandparents, aunts, uncles, corn on the cob as yellow as the sun, great red tomatoes bursting with green seeds that pop in your mouth. I remember it all. I took all of that magical, everyday wonder for granted, never imagining I would be here for more than a month let alone years. 

This is our modern dilemma. Knowing all we know, at any moment we could be grieving or joking, smiling or sighing. It happens all at once, flashing wild and furious from that one big faucet. There are days when I can wrap my arms all the way around it, and days that I can't. 

Stories came to me long ago, about the people left behind, the survivors of tragedies. They have seen too much, and they want to do good, something worthwhile but there is no clear path. They care for their children, feeling damn lucky to be alive, still standing. They want to look at themselves in the mirror at the end of the day and not lower their eyes. The characters develop over time. One is having a birthday, in some empty mess of a city. Another is reluctant to admit they can still find joy in such a broken place. Their acts are mostly random ones. It feels like the very universe is just pulling at straws sometimes. This is what I want to make, with the help of friends and strangers. This is where I have drawn a line in the sand and said "help". 

E is wandering over to me, her face pale, her hair a blunt mess. She asks if I can take her temperature and sure enough, she has one. 

So the walls take one more step back, and the day is going to be about a giant bowl ready for her to throw up in, should it come to that. Another pot of chicken broth to make from the frozen bones I keep. More towels run under cold water to squeeze before resting on her forehead. More quiet walking around the rooms, listening to hear the sound of her sleeping without disturbing her.

















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