Sharp Monica

An honest voice in Italian paradise.

Update from France: Transnationalizing

Behold, this soon to be relic of the Before Times. Its reasonable days are numbered but oh what a pity.
Can’t we power this otherwise?
Photo by Sana Saidi on Unsplash

A few observations as we hop around countries with the kids. Yes, we are aware it is a significant carbon footprint. Yes, I plan to purchase carbon offsets. Yes, it is a discussion. I acknowledge the privilege in this type of travel. We haven’t traveled like this as a family since 2017, so we’re hardly jet-set. In a normal year we train and car to this French destination where we avoid the worst of the Italian heat in August. But this year the heat wave began on May 8 and has not let up since then. The Italian news says the heat is not going to let up. People who lived through the 2003 heat wave in Europe have told me that it went to early November, having gathered so much literal steam that no weather could arrive to quench it.

Driving through northeastern Italy yesterday we saw acres and acres of dead corn, yellow and brown, dry in their husks from the exceptional heat wave. Some plants didn’t ever grow to more than two feet high. Other plans were tall and dead. The yellow patches interspersed with the rows of miraculously surviving green corn stalks. The irrigation canals were full of milky blue water. Too little too late. Tons of corn lost that will never be polenta.

I am going to really, really miss clothes dryers. I forgot how awesome these are. They can dry clothes in forty minutes or less! A whole load! EVEN JEANS AND SWEATS. I know they are terrible for the environment. Why use a clothes dryer when the northern hemisphere is suffering an unprecedented heat wave? The sheets and blankets waved in the breeze atop the summit at Piccolo San Bernardo yesterday. My kingdom for a clothesline! These are not permitted in Florence within the UNESCO-designated heritage site where we live. I suppose it does ruin the view and ambience, like hiking to Macchu Picchu and seeing someone’s underwear fluttering freely, pinned to a line.

Why do European toilets have only one cup of water in their ceramic bowl? How is this possible? Why don’t all toilets have this little water? American toilets look like bathtubs, and flush like one too, aimlessly waiting for the slow swirl of gravity to swallow the deposited contents.

Jason and the kids went to the Kinokuniya bookshop section in Uwajimaya in Seattle to buy Japanese manga localized in English, which the kids devoured on the flight to Paris. Victor finished his (One Piece, numbers 1-3) and wanted more. But in Italy the manga stores, of which we found two between Milano and Ivrea, only carried manga in Italian. Victor scoffed. I can’t read that! Why? Jason countered. It’s manga – there are barely any words. Victor humphed and we bought him two books anyway, and Eleanor one. Victor finished one in the car. It’s fine in Italian, but I prefer it in English, he groaned. Now we are looking for manga in English on for Victor to read in France. Seriously, this is the first time I have seen him reading for pleasure in his life.

In Lombardia Eleanor laughed at someone’s spoken Italian. She does not speak Italian as a first language! she squealed. No, no, Eleanor, Jason explained with great patience. She has a different accent. She speaks Italian. She is Italian.

In Charles de Gaulle’s Terminal 2F, I surreptitiously watched a Muslim woman in hijab pray on a green carpet as though chaos were not reigning in the packed departure lounges. Her lips moved. She was serene.

On our short flight from Paris to Milan, the Air France flight attendant asked the kids what they wanted to drink. Sprite, they said in unison. I don’t have Sprite, but I have this, it is like French Sprite. He produced two modest silver cans of Finley tonic water. Two paper cups followed after. Victor opened his and poured it into the cup. He made a face. I don’t like it, he said, and gave me the cup. But you drank almost all of it! I said. Yes, and I didn’t like it. It is weird and a little strong.

O Seattle, city of my heart, this is the first trip back since I moved away in 2004 that I didn’t wish lived there again. It was roasting. Traffic was terrible. Everything as expensive. People in general seemed so stressed out and hanging by a thread. I am sure the heat was a contributing factor. No parking anywhere and the hotel garage was exorbitantly priced and charged by the calendar day, not the hours used. On the plus side, all the old friends I caught up with last Tuesday evening in Fremont seem serene and settled, which was a comfort. I don’t know if I would live in Seattle again. I say that knowing we could never afford it anyway.

Who knew it is possible get so tan on the Oregon coast? I regard my slightly darker legs in wonder.

The coffee in France is still abysmal. Jason and I drank our Italian espressi yesterday in Ivrea with genuine pleasure.

I think I have about had it with The New York Times. I will probably cancel my now-expensive subscription soon. (I got in cheap in 2020, for just a dollar a month, but now it’s 8x that.) Its reporting feels increasingly myopic and self-centered. I read it daily on the app on my phone, along with The Guardian, BBC, and a paid subscription also to the Washington Post, which provides better reporting and a more international perspective. I never thought I’d say this, as I coveted the paper New York Times for years in cafés that we most definitely NOT in New York or anywhere near it, but the NYT, what a rag. I am always looking for news that is unapologetically expansive in its reporting. No more of this “oh a poor 26 year old with only $850,000 to spend had to choose between an apartment in Brooklyn and or the Bronx; which did they pick?” And their reporting on the war in Ukraine and the January 6 committee lacks all context. So annoyed. Color me annoyed. Click here to unsubscribe. #sorrynotsorry

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5 Responses

  1. It seems like the NYT is the paper of record of what the monied American classes think and want to read.

    1. Totally agree. Making on good on my word, I tried to cancel my NYT sub on Monday night, and they immediately countered with a 50% 12-month discount. I accepted. But apparently I still can’t read recipes. But who cares, I live and eat in Italy.

  2. As we are traveling ourselves through Portugal and Turkey for a month, your observations take on even more meaning. This is especially true as we will return to the expensive America you aptly describe. Inflation is worldwide, so the shock and pain from higher prices are felt throughout all economies.

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