Saturday, December 15, 2007

Three Little Dead

It was a rainy December night in Milan, the lights glowing with a hard edge, the rumours raising from bars and cafes. I knew I was on a dangerous mission where I could lose my life, but I'd rather live one day as a lion than my whole life as a rabbit.

I had to eliminate four people that wouldn't take bribe from my La Famiglia. Four disgustingly honest faces, anonymous bigots among all those doped dudes that crowded the Colonne area on that Friday night. The first one to get the lucky spray shot was the girl. I followed her to an isolated place and attacked without mercy. She went down without saying a word, a mix of fear and disbelief on that sweet, innocent face. Oh, holy honesty that leads to nowhere but becoming a self-assured, responsible and absolutely boring, mid-life crisis middle class anonymous!

The second one was tougher. He became suspicious when he saw me sharking around him with a blood thirst look in the eye. I had to move quickly and the poor little scum tried to react, but here it's survival of the fittest. Sorry, pal, better luck next life.

The last one was the Buddhist monk wearing a pair of boats as boots. I'm sure he was expecting it, I've only given him the chance to elevate his spirit to the next level and ascend to Nirvana just as he has been trying his whole life. He should thank me for having killed him, in the end I did him a favour.

This Sunday I'll be out on a mission. Stay foot, you'll never know I'm coming until I'm already there.

PS: It's all a game called Sicario

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Staying Alive

I walk into the dim-lit bar with a mild, soft jazz music in the back. It's around 10 p.m, the place is crowded, and outside, on the same block, someone was using fists as an argument. "Is there a phone in here?" I ask the young, suspicious looking bartender. A raucous voice comes from a man with a cap pulled on his eyes : "Yes, there is, but its coin-operated". "Good, I have the right type of coins".

I may be a newbie, but I know my mission and how to get around. They take me to the Boss, the Godfather sitting with his feather snake babe in a private lounge surrounded by red curtains. The lights are low, and from underneath that hat I can barely distinguish his face. He explains the rules of the game and I give him my part of the deal as a sign of loyalty for La Famiglia, while the babe takes my picture in order to give it to my hunter. I know I'll have to fight for my life and stay alert for the next three weeks.

I depart. Outside, under the cold November rain, a guy is waving a menacing baseball bat. Now I'm in the game, fighting for my life, and I know that in the end there can be only ONE.

I'm afraid paranoia is bound to take its toll on me as of next week, since I signed up for a real-life Mafia game.What's it about? The game is called "Sicario" (the name of an Italian Mafia killer), and once you join it you're supposed to search for your victim, while also being hunted yourself. When you find your target, you have to shoot it with party spray and take up its objective.

Mission is: STAY ALIVE!

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Strike a Day Keeps Loneliness Away

Strike! Strike! Strike my bike!

Who hasn't gotten up one day to catch an Alitalia flight and rushed to the airport in his fluffy bunny pyjamas just to discover in disbelief that the flight had been cancelled for a general stewardess/air traffic controller/pilot/men in charge of slicing the prosciutto strike? Seems like there are many a good reason to cross arms and cease work, and it's very rare to see someone disagreeing over it.

In fact, it looks like strikes and mass street protest have the miraculous power of bringing together people that would have never dreamed to coalesce otherwise. The green haired teens and the hardened proletarian fighter, the pilot and the bus driver all have something to say against someone else who's not listening.

The ATM (public transport) strikes in Milan are regular, once a month. The strike gets announced with due timing, two weeks before, but no talks in order to avoid it seem to undergo. It's just plain fatality, like the icecap melting: nothing to do about it.

This Friday I caught the last train home, and I seemed to be on a streetcar named desire: violence and promiscuity about to burst through the kids' yelling, dogs barking, sardine-like cramming. Grateful to ATM for those splendid moments of true community building, I thought that we should declare a national strike day once a month, as a means of community reconciliation.

Think about it! Nothing as good as a strike to make you love thy neighbour and get in touch with your true self while you feel the taste of your liver squeezed between two very edgy, square, stylish Gucci bags. A strike connects us with our inner side, reminds us that we're humans traveling side by side in 2 square meters with another hundred of sorry fellas. Sympathy just comes natural, unless homicidal intents don't work their way first.

By the way: the strike reminded me that I really miss my tamed bike. Whomever accidentally found it, please bring it back. It's under medication.

Did you live to tell? When and where was the last strike you attended? How did it go? Comment it here.

Monday, November 5, 2007

What's in the Can, Man?

Following an early- bird conversation with a Chinese friend (thx Shan) over coffee and sour cheese for breakfast, I took a stroll in the Milan Chinatown and ended up in a store buying food that I don't know how to spell.

I also bought this can of... of.... the opinions are divided. I say it's soup, someone else says it's juice... Can you help me out? You have 10 days' time to vote, after which I'll open it and taste it. The lucky guesser gets a special prize. So, hurry up with the POLL. Identify yourself with the comments to this post !

Needed But Not Wanted

10 million immigrants in Italy within 20-30 years’ time according to a report published by Caritas- Migrantes, if the growth rate maintains the same standards. The number of foreign legal residents on the Italian territory amounts to an overall 3 690 052, with a 6.1 % contribution to the GDP and a total of 1.87 billion of euros of paid taxes; immigrants in Italy are now helping pay the pensions and boosting the welfare system. They certainly are needed.

At a superficial level integration in Italy is not difficult, since according to a research by Makno 85.9% of immigrants are satisfied with their life in Italy and the welcoming they receive. The main reasons of discontent are the difficulties in finding a house and a job, which is why we can speak solely of superficial integration. We may consider it as an extended form of the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) phenomenon, likely to occur in times of radical changes (although NIMBY is generally used for new constructions, see for example the TAR manifestations). We all know it is necessary and that it should be done, only that it would be better if someone else handled the situation. Are immigrants wanted?

Immigration is regarded with circumspection by the natives, fallen under the syndrome of the civilized assaulted by barbarians, to which the media reports add their own mystique of stereotypes such as “the Romanian homicide” or “the Morocco rapist”. A report published by the Italian Ministry of Internal affairs underlines how the percentage of regular immigrants under police report was barely 6%, while irregulars had significantly higher incidences of arrests- even 68% in the case of petty theft- correlated probably with their being irregular and therefore not easily controllable in the first place.

The real numbers do not appear helpful when it comes to media mythology and collective imaginary. The adjectives seem to be too scarce to describe the emotional impact of a crime perpetrated by a foreigner, and a newspaper such as Corriere della Sera proves all too lenient in its abuse of opinionated epithets such as “incredible escalation of crimes perpetrated by immigrants from Romania risks to feed new phenomena of xenophobia against Romanians”. The media as agenda-setters certainly do contribute to the instauration of self-fulfilling prophecies and consequent racist behaviour against entire ethnic groups.

What should be added to the debate issued these days consequent to the attacks from and against Romanians is the respect of the principle of universal legality, according to which everyone should be equal in front of the law irrespective of their provenience. An immigrant must respect the laws of the place he lives in just as much as he must respect those of the home country, and on the other side the welcoming country should enact measures strong enough to act as deterrents to all offenders.

The solution is not simple, as the flow decrees meant to normalize the incoming of new Eastern European workers can generate feelings of “second hand citizenship” from the new enters, eager to affirm their full rights as European citizens also on the extended European job marketplace. The sole certainty that we have is Italy’s transformation from a country of origin to a country of destination for immigration, and that a major consideration and increased participation in public life for its new co-inhabitants can only be welcome.
What's your opinion about immigration in Italy? Is the immediate expulsion law accurate? Will it have any effect? Comment it here.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Milk Queue

I must confess that there is a somewhat awkward feeling of timid pride about being born on the other side of the wall, the uncivilized, perpetually superseded, 50-years-behind one. It means growing up in a world where you can appreciate small things, and being apprehensive at the thought that perhaps you enthuse over events otherwise trite for the progressed world.

My childhood memories, such as those of millions of other twenty-some eastern Europeans, would undoubtedly sound strange to the western-born ear. Few of them would understand what special celebration it was for us the day when chocolate or oranges arrived. Word would spread contagiously around the neighborhood: "They've brought oranges at the corner-shop". Few minutes, and a mass of people would gather in front of the blessed cornucopia donor, where a benevolent divine figure masked as a vendor would begin bawling orders: "All in line!", "Only five per person!". Being a rare merchandise, chocolate, milk, oranges would have to be rationalized, so even if you queued the whole day, you would eventually take home only your due ratio.

The milk day, people would get in line at five or six a.m., so that they wouldn't lose priority. Never was a better time for us to understand the importance of a family such as in those protracted, anxiety replete hours. Family meant kids, and a kid meant one more person, therefore an extra bottle of milk to bring home. "Give away only one, so that all of us can have one!" was amongst the main leitmotifs of the era. Friendships and marriages would blossom at the queue, for it certainly was the ideal environment to socialize and love thy neighbor.

Nowadays, when the long longed-for capitalist economy has finally arrived with its shiny armor and you can buy whatever you want in whatever quantity, people still have the queue instinct. Whenever there's a line of more than five, a passer-by joins the row and asks in a half-concerned, half-curious tone "what is it that they give here?" as if afraid that he might miss something, that the others are lining up for some extraordinary gimmick that capitalism has brought, a true happiness provider. Sell it by piece, so that all can have some!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Pure Breed Stalinist

Dobre Vece, friends and companions.

Yesterday my Italian friends took to me the Harvest Feast at the Leoncavallo Social Center (Social Center), basically a new excuse for people to socialize, smoke some dope and think of themselves as tough non-conformists at odds with a repressive society. The social centers in Italy have a left-wing political orientation, originally aimed to be an oasis of free expression and arts' encouragement. Anyone is free to speak out his opinion as long as it's left-oriented.

The entrance fee, though, was a bit high, as a demonstration that even rough communists can learn capitalism's savage rules of survival. I must say I enjoyed the "Risotto alla Maria" (Marijuana Risotto), not as much though as the people that were actually harvesting ganja weeds in the garden. What's really worth in these parties, though, is the social fauna. The prize of the evening goes tooooooo.... keep your moustaches on... the old Stalinist.

Yeap, they're alive and kicking. Well, for those of you who casually overslept on a Sunday morning and woke up to discover that 50 years of human history had passed them by, let me make a short description.

Stalin= bloody USSR dictator during whose regime more than 20 million famine-stricken people died, also due to deportations and regime repression.

It takes a lot of guts to declare yourself a Stalinist (not communist) in 2007, so I did linger on to find out more about what a pure-breed 2007 Stalinist's interpretation of the world is. I can now distinctly decode the basic lines of the ideology this way:

1) I believe in peace, only that it should be armed.

2) Whomever is a pain in the ass (basically immigrants and Italians from the South, and anyway, anyone who's a bit weird) should be put on daily trains going from Milan train station to Siberia. Aren't you afraid that you would remain alone together with a bunch of stray cats and Venetian wild pigeons? No answer.

3) The greatest three evil politicians in world history: the Polish that lived in Rome (aka Pope Paul II), Reagan and Gorby

4) The biggest error in world history: the tearing down of the Berlin Wall.

Now it's full of these damn Eastern Europeans going around freely like real human beings exercising their right to free movement.

YAK!!! I myself couldn't imagine anything more gross.

Dazvidania, tovarasi.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Save the Lobsters

When in a foreign country, you must assume that whatever indigens do, it will seem strange. Take for example the first stroll I took on an autumn morning at Piazza delle Erbe in Padova.
A wondrous exhibition of bloody cows, piggy heads and porkish looks displayed itself, in a certain B-movie splatter atmosphere. I went to one of the gorge-tear screaming butchers and asked in a rather intimidated tone: "One piece of cow, per favore" (my Italian was at an all-time low).
"Subito" he said, and, taking the butcher knife, started singing "La donna รจ mobile" while the machette was chopping away the last pieces of vegetarian self-esteem I might have had.

That's why, when I read the other day on a newspaper about the lobster friend, I welcome the news with the usual "They're foreigners, they're meant to be weird" shoulder shrug. At the supermarket on the corner of my University, a 17-year-old wearing a wig and a hat turned up at the fish counter and asked whether the lobsters were still alive. "Actually we've got them two days ago and they're on their last breath, but please, help yourself, the ice is just to keep away the smell" must have said the salesman to the undercover cop.

On the affirmative answer, she brutally grabbed four sane specimens and tried to make her way out of the door. When the guards stopped her, the girl finally revealed the mysterious reason of such abnormal behaviour: she was on a mission on behalf of the "Animal Liberation Front" association, there to give relief to the poor lobsters held in a state of utter pain and sufference. I've heard that the lobsters are now going to press charges against the violence of the liberation forces.

I myself am planning to save from its suffering a spiny lobster tomorrow. As far as I'm concerned, I'll choose the quickest, most painless way for such creatures. Gentlemen, get your butter. The water is already boiling.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Western Vintage

Does Romania, my native country, offer a profoundly distorted view on the world, or do all kids grow up dreaming of emigration? I wonder if the chubby, rose-cheeked Kinder kid ever woke up one day thinking "cows are more violet on the other side".
He would then go to his bulgingly sane Swiss mom and announce with a decise and hopeful tone "I'm out to get some milk. Don't wait up for me for the next 20-some years. Oh, and by the way, Tony the Tiger is coming too. We've re-evaluated our relationship over a bowl of cereals."

After the 1989 regime fell, my cousins would go on for years on the so-called "western help" that arrived, basically cardboard boxes full of the lost-and-found paraphernalia of second hand bargains.
One day, they would make their descent in pompa magna in front of the block of flats where communism had done the miracle of cramming at least 16 people in 20 sqm. A big, brown sausage with stylish paillettes effects would shine in the Sunday morning sun, on a fresh-cut-grass greenish background.
"Where did you get it?" the other kids would ask, their faces gradually turning the same colour as the green shirt. "Western help" the impiously sincere answer severed the breezy air, automatically placing them in the privileged category of those needy enough to receive such benevolent donations.

The rest of us were just regular natives, doomed to wear the Chinese notoriuos labels "Abibas" and "Reobak" bought at the corner market, not worthy enough to taste the profound joy of wearing a real, live, already worn Western garment.
I've dreamed for years of true, second-hand, Western clothes, which can actually inebriate your senses with the acre odour of the former proprietor, and just as a revenge for my cousins, I can now be seen trodding around flea markets on Saturday mornings while I try to negotiate down the prize of a true, moth-eaten, grandma's skirt. "Where did you get that old crap?" my cousins would now ask in disbelief. "Oh, it's Western vintage."