Monday, 13 March 2017

sunflower for Elaine

I saw the plastic sunflower in one of those 1€ shops that are sprouting out all over town. I bought it some months ago and put it away in the wardrobe.
Well, not exactly. I probably just threw it inside the wardrobe when I had one of the first flat visit from the estate agent. and then I just forgot about it.

This past weekend, however, I had to empty the wardrobe as I'm donating it to a charity and the sunflower reappeared.
It lost its plastic smell and acquired the lavender smell of the moth-repellent I use for my yarn.
I decided to put the sunflower on the bicycle, my good old Elaine Marley.
I was not fully convinced about it, given the spectacular speed things get lifted off my bicycle (basket, bell, front light, back brake... you name it, it was stolen at some point).

But the weather so nice, so warm, I thought the sunflower was an extra bright spot to welcome spring.
Welcome back, lovely season.

This morning I went for a blood checkup, and while I was walking back home from the metro station, I thought that not taking the bicycle had been a smart idea, given the way I fainted after the exam.
I guess it's normal to feel a bit misplaced after having fainted, so I guess it's normal my reflexes were as slow as my brain cells in that moment.

I was less than 1 block from home, when I saw a guy cycling from the opposite direction pass me by.
My thoughts progression was:
1. Oh look, his bike looks a lot like Elaine.
2. And he's got a sunflower on it.
3. Come to think about it, I put a sunflower on the handle just yesterday.

By the time I completed thought #3, I had reached my flat.
And I had also reached thought #4:
F**k, some f*****g t**t stole my bicycle.

So long, Elaine, wonderful reasonably-priced bicycle. I'm going to miss you. And I'm also going to start using more and more the bike share: bicycle there probably won't be named after Monkey Island's character (and surely lack the character you had) but, even if they were ever to be stolen, my emotional commitment to them would be pretty non-existent.

Needless to say, packing is on hold until I'm done crafting the voodoo doll for you, bike-thief.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Giant Pineapples

Some years ago my parents did the supreme act of self-sacrifice, unconditioned love and this-is-probably-karma grandparents can do: they took the grandchildren on holiday for some weeks in August.
They loaded the car with the whole house, managed to fit Sara and Davide into the car as well and they drove down to Abruzzo.
They arrived in Pineto safe and sound and there's where legend started.
Well, it's not a legend, because we got witnesses and photographic proof of the existence of such trees. So not fake news here, maybe irrelevant, but not fake.

What happened is that Davide (remember: Davide is a boy, at the time he was really small, plus have I mentioned that being a boy he’s got XY chromosome? He lives in his own world made of Star Wars characters and dinosaurs, and yeah, he’s a boy) pointed at something and exclaimed, all excited: “Look, look! A giant pineapple!”
The giant pineapple turned out to be a small palm tree that was in the garden: small, larger than tall, all those leaves on top of it, to Davide the palm tree turned into a giant pineapple. His grandparents dutifully laughed at it and recounted the story immediately to the lucky ones left at home (aka Davide’s parents).

Because of this small family story, every time I see a palm tree, I immediately feel a bit more cheerful and think about my nephew’s limited botanical knowledge.
It’s a bit silly, yet not as silly as nor blatantly stupid with what has happened recently with some other palm trees in Italy.

To cut a long, and honestly quite boring, story short, a big coffee chain multinational is opening its first store in Milan city centre.
It’s a big thing, and I guess the cafe will be packed with people once it’s open: it will make lots of money, because it’ll be the place chavs and hipsters alike will go to take a selfie of themselves sipping overpriced, burnt and quite diluted coffee.
To celebrate the opening of their store, they’re paying to have a small garden with palm trees built in Piazza del Duomo. My level of engagement to this news was somewhere shifting between “I don’t really care” and “Should I have frittata or pasta for dinner tonight?”

But things can’t be so easy and so it happened that some idiots thought of using this whole thing as a way to advertise their political agenda: a political agenda based on populism, fascism, racism, bigotry and plain ignorance.

And the rants and interviews started, with poor excuse of politicians stating it was an attack to the traditional values of the city and obviously every single racist twat of the city and the nation had to chime in and start the usual choir about migrants, migrants coming over to steal our jobs, etc.

Nowadays they don’t even bother with the “I’m not racist but…” bullshit.

No, no: they immediately go for the racist core, talking about Italy becoming Africa. One could argue that is global warming that is turning Italy into Africa, not migration, but hey! once you got a scapegoat in the migrants from Africa, why bothering trying to use the brain?

I still don’t give a damn about the coffee. But I feel sad for that poor thin giant pineapple that some idiot set on fire in the main square of Milan over Saturday night. Heine said that “where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings.”
He was right and we know it.

Wonder where we’ll end this time around.

As a small token of faith in humanity, i still got some photos around of my nephew next to his giant pineapple friend. he’s a boy, he lives in his own world made of Star Wars characters and dinosaurs and yet he knows better than a lot of hate-spitting people around.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017


2016 was a challenging year, but it has had its positive side.
I traveled a lot.
I met new friends.
I kept in touch with old ones.

I did all of this because I went to gigs. I went to a lot of concerts, my 2016 had more concerts than months.

Souvenirs of 2016

Going to a gig is sometimes a bit tiring: I didn't go to a single concert in Torino, which means I had to travel to some distance each time.
It requires preparation too. You learn a lot about time management when you got a finite numbers of days off you can take at work and places to go that look relatively close but requires 2 or more transfers.
Yet I get more than feeling tired and noisy ears: I returns with lots of memories and happiness, and that's what I go back to whenever I feel a bit down or moody. Yeah, life is bad enough, but Virgi remember how amazing was Astral Weeks in Vicar Street? Or Neil Young in Milano?
I returns with new music I want to share with my friends and yeah, sometimes, I added a skein or two of yarn to the luggage, cause it's a nice souvenir. So, the only good resolution I have made this year is to keep the gigs momentum going.

Yesterday the postman buzzed as I had received something that didn't fit my letterbox. I was a bit puzzled, I don't even received bills as paper mail any longer. Sometimes some funeral home leaves some uplifting letter asking to think about my future and prepare but they're not bulky.
Mmmh, I wondered, was it some Kickstarter project I backed up in the eve of the times and completely forgot about?

No! A look at the handwriting and I knew it was a real letter, from a real person, a real friend. And inside... voilà! Meeting him and becoming his friend has been the best gift, but I don't mind the book either!

somebody knows me well

Monday, 9 January 2017

Backpackitis (or fear of Monday blues)

Backpackitis is a psychological and physical state of unwellness, which hasn’t reveived the deserved amount of attention from the scientific community. Members of that community found observing chitas rewriting Shakespeare more appealing, but perhaps this is due to some unresolved trauma or painful event they suffered in the past.

It primarily hits children and youngsters during their academic years but, due to the lack of adequate treatment and vaccines, adults are subject to possible infections too.

Its symptoms normally appears on Sunday, around lunchtime: a vague feeling of sickness and prostrations starts to appear, causing a sour mood to appear.
The mood of the patient deteriorates over the afternoon; a definite sense of dread and despair sets in, once the patient eyes the backpack, normally discarded in a corner of the room, and realizes he has to go back to school the morning after and has to get the backpack ready. 
The anxiety and bad mood can be magnified and exacerbated by factors such as assignment that was supposed to be done by Monday but won't be ready till the beginning of next century, realization of meeting again the least liked teacher of the lot, having not studied for a test, missing renewal of the bus pass.

As mentioned before there are currently no vaccines or medicines that can cure the disease. Temporary solutions are provided by enjoying long and short holidays, with the side effect that the return of backpackitis will be felt even more on its resurfacing.

Yours truly was victim of it yesterday evening, while looking at her own backpack and wondering about whether or not the access password was scribbled somewhere.
I'm however happy to report that the kind and generous appliance of chat with friends and Belgian beer kept the monster at bay.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Reality, 250 mt away

I'm looking for a new flat to move into. Good part of my family either laughs or wonders at the notion that, after spending almost an year refurbishing my current flat, I am looking forward starting the cycle from scratch.

I have a full list of requirements, first and foremost location. I don't want to move too far away from my neighbourhood. I like it a lot. It's close to green areas, city centre is barely 10 minutes away. Houses were build in a time where building regulations were not planned with Hobbits in mind, so none of my friends can reach the ceiling if they stretch their arms.
Above all, I love the feeling of belonging in this small "village".
Yeah, we got the Chinese hairdresser, the Egyptian kebab, the Romanian grocery store, but it still feels like a village.
There are two places in 300 meter span you can play boules, people will chat with you in the shops, in the supermarket, at the bus stop. I don't know that many people, yet I feel I know them all. I "know" the people I'll meet in my daily routine, the women at the supermarket cashier, the owner of the kids bookshop downstairs, the girl of the tattoo parlour across the street. I think it's a good life the one I'm building in this small area of my hometown: a life that moves on, alongside the lives on many other fellow humans. People get married, people split up, somebody has a baby, somebody else passes away. Life being life, essentially.

I'm on holiday right now. Trying, as much as possible, to unplug from reality, this morning I felt I was in a good spot, slowly buy surely reaching my goal. First time I checked the mobile in the whole day I'm way into the afternoon, that moment it's too late for coffee and too early for spritz.
There's a message from mum. Unconnected news from home, weather report and then a news.
"There was a femicide in the street you live."
And reality crashed back in.
I don't know anything about this woman. I know that she was beaten to death by her husband and that her husband enjoyed playing chess. I know her name and age, but I don't know what she looked like
Did I ever bumped into her on the queue at the pharmacy, at the supermarket or the post office? Did I cross her path on my way back from my morning run or my walk routine to my parents' place?

I know that she lived barely 250 mt away from me, but I don't know whether she felt safe as I do in my small village within a big city.

I know that she will become a number in our general statistics on women killings, I can foresee the comments and opinion about her and her murderer, but I don't know how the life of her family will be from now on.
I know it's such a common occurrence nowadays that the news will be reported blandly and people will move on.
Sometimes I wish I could forget what I know, because it'd be so much easier. It's hard to avoid uttter dismay and despair towards the current situation in Italy and towards mankind, it'd be simpler to give into resignation. But 250 mt away from me lived a woman that I didn't know: I just know she deserved much more than what she got in the end, and I know nobody should never ever forget it.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

One in, one out - Part II

Sometimes (most of the times, actually) movies shouldn't have a sequel: you start well, with a fairly decent movie, with normally a baddie that is more interesting than the main character and then you find yourself, 20-30 years down the line starring in a movie with some silly title like "It's too hard to die, so I'll settle for some Vodafone ads, thank you".

Without having to wait 20 years, I can report about the state of my minimalist approach to the book shelves.
The project is still ongoing, even though I wonder why, given I'm the best and worse sabotateur of my own plans.

Just like any sequel movies, the beginning of chapter 2 starts in a presumably unconsequential way: grey sky, rain drizzling down gently, our heroine is in Vienna. Life goes on as usual, and I've used a business trip as a valid excuse to try out Sacher Torte at the Sacher Hotel and visit a beautiful exhibition at Albertina on Pointillism.
The exhibition is so beautiful, that after thinking over it for a day, I’ve decided to head back to Albertina and buy the catalogue of the exhibition. Damn. It’s heavy.

Culture weighs tons. But the book is so nice, that I decide that yes, sod it, I want it, I’ll buy it.
Any sense of guilt of adding up to my collection is soothed by the notion that, before leaving home, I had already prepared a bag with 7 books to be sold. Seven books to be sold minus 1 book I was about to buy equals 6 books allowance.

I sold them yesterday: 7 books equals 16 euro.
I felt pleased with myself. "See Virgi? It's not so hard, is it?"
I felt relaxed: 7 books out, equals 16 euro and a +6 books in tolerance. I reasoned that with some well aimed lending from my sister's bookcase, 6 could be the right number to get until Christmas.

I was thinking all of this, walking in the city center, enjoying the sunshine when catastrophe hit. The main shopping street of Torino was full of book stands. I somehow forgot that Portici di Carta was planned for this weekend.

It’s an event where bookshops put stands under the colonnade of one of the main street of the city center. New books, used books, antique books. Basically a strip of temptations leading me to perdition and to the metro station.

“I can do it, I can do it. These are old new books, I can buy them in bookshops as well, no point in getting them here”. The first 200 meters were easy, but then the used books sections started and…

And I happened to see a 1937 edition of short stories by Stefan Zweig, hailed by the editor as the most interesting voice coming from the German speaking areas of Europe. It’s a bit surreal, thinking that in a couple of years things would take a turn for the worse in Austria and probably by then Zweig’s volume had already disappeared from Italian shelves, given the ’38 racial laws that were put in place by Italy.

It was just 5 euro, how could I leave it there? I didn’t obviously.
7 books minus 2 books equals 5 books and 11 euro. That’s ok, I reassured myself, just keep walking.
The end. 
nd credits roll. People leave the cinema commenting on the poorness of the sequel.
In doing so, however, they miss the bonus scene in the middle of the credits.

I knew it was going to happen. I knew that my will is as strong as a melting ice-cream, but did that stop me? No! 
7 books in the end equals to 1 book allowance and a -2 euro final balance. 

Saturday, 8 October 2016

The concerts planner

This year has been quite a shitty one.
If you trust old sayings, it's because 2016 was born with the misfortune of being a leap year.
Part of me thinks that I can’t discriminate an year over its divisibility by 4.
However I've already lived through a pretty good number of leap years to know that 2016 is the typical overachiever, overdoing it just to show off.

Even so, there's been some good things too.
This year I printed 2 blank calendar templates, one for the office and one for home and I started noting down gigs.
I started to write down the name of the artist on the day I was going to the concert: at the beginning of the year I already had a couple of gigs lined up, gigs that I still have to see (Francesco and I were quite keen at getting our hands on tickets for Wilco).

The gig-plan is the only agenda I’ve been keeping up to date in the past 9 months. I’ve missed appointments because I wrote them down at the wrong time, on the wrong day, at the wrong address.
Or a random combination of the 3 wrongs above. And guess what? When it comes to meeting, 2 wrongs don’t make a right, but more likely some awkward conversatio on the phone, apologising for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But the gig agenda is still keeping up. So far it suffered only one set back, in July. On the 13th I was supposed to go to Carroponte to watch Counting Crows playing. Adri & Fra had taken a day off well in advance, "parked" the kids at the grandparents, we were all set. Then a monsoon decided to fall over the area that hosts the Carroponte and the concert was cancelled only one hour to go. I think that in a couple of years the 3 of us will be able to talk about it without swearing. I think...

It's not just the concerts I enjoy. Sure the music is the main thing, but there are other parts of going to concerts. The first one is "going": in the last two years I've been to only one concert in Torino, all the other gigs have been somewhere else, scattered around Italy and Europe. Travelling is always mind-opening, even if only for a couple of days.
And then there's the people. Sure, at concerts I meet way too often people that spend their time on Facebook, taking pictures and videos (while I am singing murdering the song just one row behind them, I can't imagine the sound of those videos), leaving in the middle of a song to fetch a beer (yeah, when it comes to concert, I'm an orthodox and a snob). But then I've also met cool people. People that I might or not meet again, but that I formed a bond with thanks to the songs, or the mosquitos trying to eat us alive in Milan. People that weren't even at the concert but I happened upon in my wandering the day after and spent some good time talking about music.

Now October is starting and while the year starts accelerating towards the Christmas break, I'm getting ready for the next big round of concerts. Five, or maybe six of them, depending on whether the magic of the fairy ticket works out as I hope.