Il cieco

Persa tra i miei pensieri attraverso la stazione della metro. Evito chi incrocia la mia strada mentre la mia mente compila una lista delle cose che mi rimangono da fare. Cammino con passo spedito, un po’ nervoso, senza guardare le indicazioni attorno a me perché conosco la strada a memoria. Con la coda dell’occhio noto un uomo cieco, il suo lungo bastone bianco ritma i suoi passi saggiando lo spazio davanti a sé. I passanti lo notano come me e lo evitano con semplice indifferenza, come un ostacolo qualunque.

Anche io mi appresto a fare la stessa cosa, senza soffermarmi sulla sua condizione più a lungo di una considerazione quasi infastidita dal fatto di dover cambiare il mio percorso. Ma questi, quasi avesse percepito il mio pensiero colpevole, richiama la mia attenzione con un “Madame!”. La sua richiesta è semplice: guidarlo alle scale mobili che portano al binario della metro. Imbarazzata come un ladruncolo preso in fallo, sento di non poter rifiutare, prendo quindi maldestramente il suo braccio e lo guido a piccoli passi. Percorsi pochi metri una serie di cavi attraversano la nostra strada e lo avverto della loro presenza. Mi chiede se fanno dei lavori, gli spiego allora che stanno montando un palco con degli strumenti musicali perché durante la giornata ci sarà della musica in varie stazioni. Arriviamo velocemente alla meta e lo lascio con un impacciato “Bonne journée!”.

Più tardi mi è capitato di ripensare a questo episodio e di ricordare una scena del film “Il favoloso mondo di Amélie” che ho sempre trovato molto tenera: Amélie aiuta un cieco ad attraversare la strada e coglie l’occasione per raccontargli tutto d’un fiato quello che lo circonda. Non che la mia performance fosse minimamente comparabile, ma mi ha strappato un sorriso il fatto che non mi sia venuta in mente prima. Pochi minuti piuttosto banali, ma che hanno rimescolato le carte della mia percezione, come il raggio di sole che, riflettendosi sul vetro della finestra aperta ad un angolo diverso dal solito, illumina un neo che non avevi mai notato prima.

Non una rivelazione trascendentale, ma un effimero evento che la mia memoria ha filmato, come al rallentatore, e che ripesca ogni volta che vedo un cieco: un signore dai modi pacati, sicuro nei gesti accompagnato goffamente da una giovane donna che imbarazzata non sa cosa sia giusto o appropriato fare. Dovevo camminare più lentamente, o forse il mio cambiamento di andatura lo ha offeso? Ma come gli tenevo quel braccio! Forse avrei dovuto provare a fare un po’ di conversazione. Era meglio se mi offrivo di accompagnarlo più lontano? Chissà com’è la sua vita? Come si orienta sui bus che annunciano le fermate sbagliate, o non le annunciano per nulla? Non è né pena, né compassione la mia, solo una nuova curiosità per un modo di vivere che immagino così diverso dal mio e a cui non avevo mai pensato.

On the rooftop

The pale fingers of the rising sun light up their moved faces. Touched by the poetry of such a simple peaceful view, they cry. Life is especially beautiful at six in the morning, up on a rooftop watching the sunrise over a beautiful park. There and then I recognize the honesty of these strange people. They seek to create moments where they can feel genuinely alive, just like me. They understand and appreciate the authentic emotions of a simple life. I can tell by the sincerity with which they talk, the lack of embarrassment no matter the subject, the plainness of their exchanges.

The hours before are blurred, even the series of actions that brought us up here. Photos in front of a huge mirror in the hall of an imposing building chosen by chance. Clack. And the second door is open, so we walk up the stairs, excited to conquer this new world. A trapdoor appears on the last floor and when it opens creaking under our eager hands, we know our exploration isn’t over. Between drunken sh! and squeaking wood we emerge at the top of the building. View over the “forest” of the Parc Cinquantenaire, happy and excited like little rascals who got away with their latest prank.

We waited the new day watching the city sleep while we felt alive and whole. I watched and observed the fascinating people I was with. A little gang, a family, not by birth but by choice. I’ve observed their profound love which they make look so easy. No frills, no empty big words, no useless grand gestures, no meaningless programmed presents. Simple words spoken looking straight into each other’s eyes: “I love you”, “You are beautiful”. No embarrassed hugs or shy half felt kisses. Each touch is meant and desired. A hug, a hand, a kiss it provides useful help when words aren’t enough.


The same night inspired a second text (in Italian) that you can find here

Sul tetto

Lacrime illuminate dal primo sole del mattino, lacrime commosse dalla bellezza del mondo ai tuoi piedi. La città addormentata non può vederti, ma io sì, e tra le risate dei tuoi compagni euforici per i fumi di qualche strana droga, ti fisso stregata. È un momento così banale della mia vita eppure estremamente vivido. Una sequenza di eventi insoliti che ci hanno portato su quel tetto, la tua sensibilità svelata, un artista senza pretese, che sa riconoscere la poesia nelle cose più semplici.

Non ricordo chi abbia preso l’iniziativa di entrare, attirato dall’enorme specchio della hall, ma dopo qualche foto idiota tu hai provato la porta e siamo tutti rimasti un secondo increduli nello scoprire che era aperta. Immediatamente eccitati dall’inaspettato colpo di fortuna, ci siamo lanciati per le scale a chiocciola, al buio, impazienti di conquistare l’edificio.

Arrivati all’ultimo piano, senza fiato, i nostri cuori pompati d’adrenalina non hanno fatto in tempo a rallentare perché ecco una botola in bella vista e anche questa si è srotolata davanti ai nostri occhi sgranati. Ci siamo arrampicati, ritornati bambini, monelli all’avventura, sforzandoci di far piano per non farci scoprire. Sh! Ci intimiamo l’un l’altro e tratteniamo a stento scrosci di risate eccitate. Facciamo infine capolino sul tetto. Bruxelles dorme ai nostri piedi, il sole comincia pian piano a illuminare il parco sottostante. Come conquistatori alla fine della loro missione, ammiriamo il panorama. Soli testimoni di questa bellezza nascosta, ci godiamo la sua pace.


La stessa serata ha ispirato un secondo testo (in inglese) che potete trovare qui

Trip to the UK – Chapter 2: Manchester through sandy eyes

We landed yawning and excited. How the two go together I can’t say. Our luggage came in quickly and everything went smoothly as it should. Until we hit a stop. At the border control our Italian paper IDs raised suspicion. A few questions followed: where do you come from? What’s the nature of your visit in the UK? We were surprised. For the first time in Europe our ID didn’t allow us a swift walk through. When both officers (one for each sister) took out a UV pocket lamp with magnifying glass, concern flashed in our eyes. I could already see them sending us back, our holiday plans going up in smoke (not to mention all the money already spent on festival tickets and accommodation). The officers must have seen us exchange a worried look because they felt obliged to explain that our IDs can be easily forged and it’s difficult for them to check that they are not. Since no other reassuring words followed this explanation, they didn’t comfort us in the least. Then both officers gave us a good scrutinizing look, stared once again at our IDs (back and front with their UV lights) then exchanged a glance and a small nod. We then knew we were safe, though we were left through with a reproachful: “Next time use a passport!”. Not the warmest welcome, dear Britain.

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Near Deansgate Station – Castlefield

The cloudy weather that awaited us outside the airport did nothing to lift our spirits. The grumpy welcome at our hotel was yet another disappointment, but by 9 am we were walking the reasonably empty streets of Castlefield. A lucky choice because the area has a fascinating architecture and it’s perfect for a walk to get a first feel for the city. The neighbourhood develops around a small network of canals that were used in the past to transport the carbon inside the city.

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Merchants Bridge area – Castlefield

The old brick constructions are beautiful and often converted from industrial buildings. Connecting the southern area is a number of small picturesque bridges. Mixed with the old architecture are some modern structures, some disturbing the landscape more than others. We quickly checked out the Museum of Science and Industry (free entrance) which you shouldn’t miss, especially if you ever visit Manchester with kids.

At the end of our Castlefield exploration we walked towards the Albert square and intrigued by the sight of a nearby building we ended up in the Central Library. A great example of well used technology and a great service to the citizenship. A big hall hosts a basic coffee shop with interactive tables: large tables with a touch screen surface, which allow you to drink your tea while checking out the best sightseeing spots in Manchester or the latest issue of your favorite newspaper. If all tables are taken, a number of totems offer the same content and much more: the history of Manchester through videos and archive documents, audio extracts etc. On the same floor, not far away from the main hall, there is a small cosy performance room, in this case used by some artists participating to the Manchester Jazz Festival. And this is just the reception area (free entrance). We were in awe of this example of British service and efficiency.

Come lunchtime we decided to feed our musical culture as well as our bellies and stopped at the Jazz Festival pavilion for a free concert by Cameron Vale. A young band that gives jazz a modern twist. We left refreshed and recharged, feeling a bit more reconciled with the country.

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Chetham’s School of Music

We kept walking following the trail of the Dig the City Festival – a garden festival which was in all honesty, cute, but uneventful – to reach the oldest library in the UK, Chetham’s Library. It took us a little while to figure out where the entrance was since it is hidden inside the Chetham’s School of Music. But once we understood we had to go through the school entrance and be admitted by a grumpy guard, we crossed the arch into a Harry Potter movie. The school was a priest residence at first, then a charity school and from 1969 a specialist music school. Even from the outside it spreads its charm.

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Chetham’s Library
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Chetham’s Library – reading room

As for the library it looks taken straight from a Harry Potter scene of the forbidden library in Hogwarts. Rows of old leather bound books with partially erased titles neatly arranged in shelves that go from floor to ceiling and facing each other. The shelves create small alcoves with a high table between them to study the chosen books. These alcoves are closed by simply worked iron gates and aren’t accessible to the visitors. A small reading room at the end of the library is open to users and it is still furnished with the original interior.

By the time our eyes were satisfied it was time for tea and how could we not have some in the motherland of tea? So we picked our place and relaxed with a delicious tea and scones. The warmth and sugar made us fuzzy and had the undesired effect of letting our tiredness reemerge. After all, we had been up and about for 15 hours already. We decided a regrouping mission was necessary. A good hot shower would help to get ready to face the evening appointment.

Time for a shower and a change and we were back on our tram, direction the Ritz for the first punk concert of the week. Now, I’m not a punk fan, my sister is, but I don’t mind trying other music styles once in a while and observing the crowd is always fun. I didn’t want to be front stage though (what with the whole pogo dancing) so I was delighted to find out that the Ritz has a big comfy balcony equipped with cool couches and high seats from which you can observe the stage and the audience while being a few feet away from a bar. I elected it as my perfect spot, while my sister found a place just in front of the stage.

One can say much about the British people but you can’t say they don’t start their concerts on time. The first group, Snuff, was supposed to start at 7:55 pm, 7:55 sharp it did. Though this often means that the line up is so efficient and strict that the concert lacks flexibility and spontaneity, I particularly think of some long encores that you can get in other concerts. Anyway, I did quite enjoy Snuff, probably because they have a softer sound. I particularly appreciated the trombone that added a little melodic twist and a folky rhythm. Yes, the fact that one of the musicians was handsome probably did play a part in my enjoyment.

The audience didn’t go crazy, it was rather calm, just mostly keeping the rhythm with their heads and feet. A bit more pogo dancing did take place during the main band, Bad Religion, but I must admit I didn’t appreciate them as much. I found them often off key and too much into the screaming act, nevertheless I managed to sleep through the last couple of songs. The rest of the audience though enjoyed themselves and smiles were all around. They all looked chilled and relaxed without a problem in the whole world, blissed punks!

Flyering

Ready. My bag is packed with a heavy roll of posters loosely kept together and a pack of flyers. Based on yesterday’s experience posters are more appreciated than flyers since owners can ask you to hide them in the toilets. The maps are in one hand and a carefully compiled list of relevant places in the other. It should be a piece of cake.

As soon as I start my tour I notice a terrible mistake: I got the wrong underwear! It might seem like a stupid detail, but try walking around Brussels centre with the wrong knickers for four hours. Then my phone decides it’s time to go on holiday and deserts me. Ok, no stress, I can figure everything out from my tiny google map print. Finally, of course, today, nobody wants posters, but they all prefer flyers. Damned people!

To keep my own energy up, I try different formulations of the same request: I’m working for… I’m promoting… May I ask to hang… And the reactions are just as varied. Some really don’t like the idea of you sticking some A2 sized paper on their wall, but accept it under a number of rules: only there, were it’s absolutely unnoticeable. Please use the provided system: a series of spikes in a row where the posters are nailed down. Of course you shouldn’t cover the existing posters! Try finding a free spot in a wall covered with posters of the most bizarre events following this very simple rule. It’s a war.

However, there are some moments that make flyering bearable and even entertaining. Some people understand your mission by the moment you walk in, the posters hanging from your bag probably giving you away, and matter of factly point you to the devoted space. The best ones are though those where you enter cautiously vaguely thinking it might be good to leave a poster or a little flyer but not daring to hope for anything. Then the owner welcomes you with a big smile and, at your timid demand, offers to hang your poster in the best and most visible place of the shop. I had to repress a few times a sincere need to hug the owner in question.

Sometimes I invaded the daily routine with my tedious question, so I ended up catching two waiters chatting and eating after service; a group of youngsters listening to vinyls and expressing their approval or disappointment; a regular asking for a second glass of wine (at 14:00). The best of them all, was an owner with a waitress and two customers dancing and singing to a classic 70s song at 15:00. The scene cheered me up half way through my round of flyering and its memory encouraged me till the end. Finally, I have to thank the nice guy that stalled the bus for me on my way home, that was super sweet!

Do you want your pendants back?

He took off, leaving me to bathe in my excitement. Slowly, my rational self rose from her slumber and I started to think. Wait. He didn’t leave, he fled. A quick, “I want to get out” type of escape. He chickened out abandoning a few things behind. I know what spooked him, it’s the same thing that spooks them all.

I’m an over-enthusiastically happy lover. I laugh, loudly. I talk, probably too much. I kiss and bite, both with the same passion. I’m excited and over the top. I’m probably overwhelming considered this encounters don’t usually survive a one night stand.

But I’m not going to say “I’m sorry”. Not this time. I can’t bear the serious sex, either deeply involved or extremely detached. I can’t help but be lightheartedly present. Caught up in the electric energy created by the body of someone I like. Delighted by this comically rejuvenating feeling. Absorbed in this ecstatic moment though not committed for life. Somehow my euphoria translates into engagement, as if I’d ask them to marry me at every laugh. No, sir. Oh, God no!

I only want some sex I can recall with pleasure and joy. Sex that will put a secret private smile on my face while recollecting fragments of its memory. So, no. I’m not going to beat myself up over another frightened selfish guy. Too bad for him. I’ll continue to be an over the top partner, loving in my own ridiculous, crazy and happy way until I’ll find someone that can appreciate what I do, and correctly decipher why I do it.

To all the others that didn’t get it, you’re the lovely assholes I’ll remember fondly because of some really good, happy sex.