Friday, July 29, 2005

random heat-induced observations/delusions

It's been a quiet week, my friends are mostly out of town and I'm in isolation writing fellowship proposals. I'm really happy I didn't plan to be here all of August - things really have closed up in the past weeks.

Over lunch near the (air conditioned!!!) library: I was lured into an alleyway bar by a sign advertising la vera piadina romagnola – I’ve been eying these flat sandwiches and ‘the real thing’ was too tempting. From the list of offerings including il nonno (grilled vegs and brie), bolognese mortadella with cheese, lettuce and mayo, violenta (wurstel, ie. hot dogs with ketchup and mustard – a reference to either Germans or Americans, I suppose, the violent hotdog eaters of the world), I picked the fantasia (prosciutto, brie and arugula). I know, brie doesn’t sound too authentic. I wasn’t expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised. A piadina resembles a fat tortilla – about a half centimeter thick, pale, with browned patches. It was pleasantly salty and must be made with olive oil on a griddle. Typically Romagnola, which, I’m informed, is very different from Emilian cuisine. My friends couldn’t explain exactly why, but they insist the two regions (politically one region) are very different. They also couldn’t explain why they hate the Modenese, they just do – that’s how Bologna and Modena are. I’ll keep asking – I am sure the history is centuries old.


There was an American tv commercial a while back in which a woman is jogging entirely in the shade, following truck traffic that blocks the sun, crossing streets at the point at which a tall building casts a shadow. I’ve been trying to do the same only while walking very slowly. A thermometer on the street registered 35 yesterday, that’s 95 Fahrenheit. The sun is unbearable. It is humid. My tan has faded and I feel suffocated. The upside is that there’s an excellent gelateria near my apartment.


I’ve been on the lookout for a good salon, since I’m approaching the emergency-haircut stage. Around the corner I found one with the worst name I have ever seen: Slimery. I have no idea what the hell they are thinking that means. I’m tempted to go in and explain how repulsive it sounds in English.


Some of the kids in the university quarter give a new meaning to "shady characters". This coming from someone who's been living in New York. My friends call the type panca bestia, because they're all accompanied by a beast - mangy pit bulls or mutts that are underfed and more pathetic than frightening (though a hungry pit bull is pretty frightening). I'm more or less immune to the piercings and tattoos and dreadlocks, it's the squalor I can't get used to. These are filthy people with no flesh left on them and no occupation besides shooting heroin and stealing bicycles. There is apparently a trade circle - bicycles are stolen from students, sold to students for cash, cash purchases heroin, addiction drives further thefts... I've been advised not to buy a bicycle I won't mind being stolen. And my quest to find a non-stolen used bike, as a way of not supporting the panca bestia drug habits, is laughable.
I can't help but wonder if these kids came here straight, ordinary students and got sucked into this world, or if they came here already distrutti. Columbia would look very different if all the drop-outs were still hanging around, begging for money to buy heroin. I'm sure the same thing exists - where do they hide them?


Blogger mcbickle said...

your mention of the fantasia reminded me of "crema fantasia," the gelato of choice between me, flavio and jas in venice. of course it was.

August 04, 2005 5:24 PM  

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