NYC (wild) life


Primo giorno di neve.

La metropoli sembra abbia smesso di urlare, assopita come per incanto. Si smorzano i suoni, si fanno silenziosi i passi della gente per strada – cauti ed incerti come quelli di un bambino – si affievoliscono le  percezioni. Con la neve emerge una realtà diversa in cui le persone si affaccendano con operosità ovattata spalando, facendo rifornimenti di combustibile per le case, sfoderando ogni foggia di palette e pennelli per rimuovere la coltre bianca dalle vetture e dal mondo.

Provo una gioia sobria, tenue ed infantile nel calpestare i sentieri intonsi del parco vicino casa, nel vedere le mie orme senza tuttavia che ai miei passi corrisponda un suono. E mi ritorna in mente l’apologia del silenzio fatta da un pensatore indiano, laddove il silenzio non è assenza di vita ma, al contrario, sublimazione del puro essere. Mi ritornano in mente i film “dickensoniani” trasmessi per televisione a Natale, che mi sono sempre sembrati icone di una realtà manicheistica inesistente. Mi torna in mente il titolo di un libro amaro, ma non disperato, che racchiude, forse, l’essenza di questa città e di questa mia giornata, Canto della neve silenziosa.

Camminando parallela alla strada su marciapiedi ancora non contaminati da passi invadenti, vedo con chiarezza il limite tra il bianco della neve pura e il nero di quella già violata dalle ruote delle macchine che passano. La coesistenza labile e netta ad un tempo degli opposti. Vedo questo mondo nuovo, lento, insonorizzato ma vivo. O forse cosí mi piace vederlo. Con gli occhi stupiti di una persona vissuta nel tepore affettuoso di un paese mediterraneo.





NYC (wild) life


Urban bikers (accidental and not)

There are five main categories of bikers in NYC, or at least in my mind. (Language purists prefer to call those passionate about a two-wheeled non-engine vehicle ‘cyclists’ to avoid any confusion with those passionate about a two-wheeled engine vehicle, but alas, daily life is far from “pure” so, I will call them bikers.)

The cool bikers: Persons who spend their life on a bicycle mainly because of work. Or vice versa, persons who choose certain jobs, e.g. delivery, so that they can spend their work day on a bicycle. The cool bikers are those who swish right past you with the lightness of a night dress. You hardly hear them, you see them when they have already pedaled away, often carrying piles of ware stacked in their backpacks. They are the ones who negotiate traffic with grace, let alone dexterity. In one word, they are cool.

The work bikers: Delivery men (never saw a lady), mainly Latinos, carrying those baskets full of mysterious food to New Yorkers comfortably curled up at home on their couches. Very skilled and solid bikers, but not as cool as the previous group, they are the only ones biking in the snow!

The accidental bikers (a): They are mainly tourists riding rented bicycles. They occupy the whole bike lane, riding parallel to one other and trying to snatch a memorable picture or shoot a video with their phone. They occasionally ride without holding the handlebars because they are on vacation; they are lighthearted and mainly have no idea of New York City traffic or (unwritten) riding rules.

The accidental bikers (b): New Yorkers who occasionally bike instead of taking the subway also fall into this category, but with slightly different nuances. They sprint right past you, ostentatiously standing while pedaling, just to get worn out a few meters farther, because they do not bike regularly. They feel good about themselves for being on a bicycle and they show it.

The honest bikers: A sort of in-between category. They are not as cool as the cool bikers, but not as clueless (or dangerous) as the accidental bikers. These are the people who bike regularly and have chosen a bicycle as their primary means of transportation (can you blame them, considering the status of the NYC subways?), but they lack the expertise, grace or guts of the cool bikers and the work bikers.

The fake bikers: Those who ride electric bicycles and claim the right to use (or misuse) the bike lane. Many of them are delivery men (again, I never saw a lady) for Asian restaurants and often bike—I swear—with a cigarette dangling from their lips!

I am an honest biker. You?

(Finger)food for thought


The super-abilities

I have my right thumb broken, the one of my dominant hand. Trivial detail, certainly. I am learning to twirl spaghetti, brush my teeth, comb my hair, insert keys into locks and use the scissors with my left hand, among many other minutiae of daily life.

A cliché: we always realize the importance of something after losing it, temporarily or else.

An epiphany: I am acquiring extra skills, which I did not have three weeks ago, in order to take care of myself under the circumstances,.

My thought now often go to the people who live day in, day out with a “non-functionality” of their bodies. And I have realized that defining those people “dis-abled” is incorrect. Having an impairment forces one to develop “super-abilities” that fully functional people can hardly fathom. That I can hardly fathom, for that matter!

Just think how difficult it can be to use New York public transportation elbowing one’s way through a crowded subway car, for example, for people who can rely on their legs. And I wonder how extremely hard it must be for people who cannot walk, if it’s possible at all. In this connection, a scene came back to my mind: some time ago, I was attending a press conference on the rights of disabled people, of which the keynote speaker was a well-regarded director of my organization, a beautiful and proud lady. No organizer of the conference had the consideration of clearing the way from chairs to ease her access to the podium on her wheelchair. People with a fully functional body can be, in general, so “thought-less”, let alone realizing the super-abilities developed by the so-called dis-abled!

Another super-ability of the differently able is a tremendous psychological strength: to keep one’s pride and emotional integrity intact in spaces (and a city like New York) that are not at all disabled-friendly is not for the faint of the heart!

My humble regards and admiration to all the super-abled of daily life!

Adieu, Mr. Annan

Kofi Annan (002)
August 26, 2018

It was 10 August 1998. The World Expo on the oceans was held in Lisbon. I was in that city just for a few hours. The following day, Kofi Annan made a statement to the Independent Commission on the Oceans. Back then, I had no idea that, (relatively) shortly thereafter, I would have started to work for the United Nations.

I was in a nice restaurant for supper (the name of which I still recall today), a place recommended by a local tour guide to hear fado, the melancholic music (almost) automatically associated with Portugal. Suddenly, there was some commotion: to my great surprise and delight, the United Nations Secretary-General arrived at the same restaurant, preceded by the officers in charge of his security. To my increasing delight (which, at that point, started to border indulging disbelief), a few minutes later, he briefly sang some fado. Yes, Kofi Annan! He did not stay for dinner. When he left the restaurant, I was galvanized.

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