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there is always something (why I shoot film)

There are maybe ten shots left on the roll. Outside the metro, a collection of pigeons sit on minuscule ledges above two old men. They talk as all old men do, with operatic waves of their hands, sour expressions, belly laughs, eventually scratching their chins as they stare off at nothing in particular. I am pretending to take pictures of something near them, then swing across when they are not looking to shoot a few frames. At one point I surrender to the afternoon and move on.

And now, the courtyard that leads to the film lab. A great old building rests here, a school of architecture where students mill around dressed in black sucking on cigarettes with giant portfolios tucked under their arms. A young man approaches me. I am ready to tell him I have no idea what he is saying, but he wants to know where the film lab is. I jut my chin, telling him the door is just beyond a few bushes. He nods his thanks.

There are screens set up in a jagged line, sheathed in filthy white plastic to …

the first


The yarmarka (farmer's market) is about to close. Some of the people are already packing up, offering their last bruised tomatoes at half-price to anyone walking past them.  I am wandering, staring at bunches of herbs, at the same old options - cabbage, pepper, potato, garlic, apple, cucumber. But then I see a pile of peas. The season must have come early this year. I buy a kilo, and some mint. I know what is for dinner. We have not had it in eleven months.

At home, I rip the bag open, showing them to V. She stands by the kitchen table, eyes wide. I crack one open, showing her the little rounds inside. She plucks one out, her pinky pointing to the ceiling.
"Try it." I tell her.
She does, but she does not like it.

I pull out a bowl for them. She jumps up and down a few times. V always wants to help in the kitchen. I pull her to my lap, and we begin pulling them out from the shells. She learns quickly, tossing them with a flourish into the bowl, a few cascading to the floor. She goes down to find them, calling them her sweet little children - calling to those lost peas, with some magic plan for them to roll back to her tiny outstretched hand. And then she climbs back up, grabbing a fresh one from to finish.

I will make a strange pesto from them, halfway between the French pistou and the Italian one, a bastard child recipe of my own that could easily offend grandmothers in two countries, but I know how good it is. The peas will be sauteed very gently in good olive oil with fresh garlic and a pinch of dried chili flakes, just until they are not raw any more. I will blend them with mint and parsley, with pignoli nuts and pecorino, olive oil, salt and pepper. And then some of the pasta water goes in, that is the best secret that should not be a secret. The paste will be bright green, emulsified and luscious. It will stick to the pasta, a jade bath of spring with some sharp white wine to wash it all down.

As the plates are filled, I ask V if she wants some but she wants plain pasta, not even with a little bit of cheese that falls like snow on them. Just olive oil, and she digs her fingers into the slick mess. N is relaxing into hers, and her Mona Lisa smile is back. I have an odd moment of recognition, that these are the first fresh peas V has helped me prepare, that we will be able to do the same thing next year and the year after that. Maybe she will learn the whole recipe from me, making it her own, maybe deleting the chili, maybe using a different shape of pasta. I sip my wine, and stare at both of them the way I always do.


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