Parallel dimensions

How curious to think that similar events can happen and be developed in the same exact moment. How absurd to believe that a single action, a decision, a choice, can really change someone’s destiny and create a different life path that wouldn’t otherwise exist. The outcomes may align, even though the paths don’t. 

This is not philosophy but actual, demonstrable truth.

I’ll pick two different facts that happened in the same moment, even in the same place, and show how they generated two similar realities – or rather parallel dimensions – that eventuate from a simple Saturday night’s choice.

The choice of the concert

We attended a gig that Saturday night. Depeche Mode were playing at the Olympic Stadium in Stratford (East London) where 20,000 folks or so were frenetically queuing in wait for the gates to open: delirium, impatience and euphoria were the night’s main sentiments. All different generations ever wanted that night was to simply enjoy the silence.

Through the songs, the drinks, the friendship, the crowd was sweetly drowning in the love that the act was spreading. Unexpectedly – and as a magic touch – the rain fell purely, with no harm. It wetted the ecstatic expressions of the folks and everyone just started basking and dancing in that sensual tapping rhythm. Everyone was reaching out and touching faith.

The choice of the bridge

Further down the city, the crowd was fearfully running from the terror that the act was spreading. Unexpectedly – and as a merciless touch – the rain fell purely, with such harm. It couldn’t wash away the blood that began to flow heavily from London Bridge all the way down to Southwark and premises, and marked the passage of them for whom human life has a minor relevance. The cruelty wasn’t stopped and the attack happened: the stabbings had already been inflicted. Everyone was reaching out and touching faith.

Two events, two choices, parallel dimensions, same outcome.

At the stadium, 20,000 people found their own personal Jesus. 

Likewise the 7 on the bridge.

Jim
The Britalian Post

Modern colonization

Whatever the reasons led the man to colonize the world, the hunger for discovery has probably been the main motif, an innate trait of the human being.

Men enslaved Africa, imported from India, and placed their handprints over China and Japan. The West wasn’t left apart: brave cowboys rode through the immense unexplored lands of America in order to take over new territories.

How fascinating it is to only think that somewhere back in time people left their home countries, their hometowns, their families and affections, to undertake long and insecure travels that would keep them far away for months, or even years, while taking up the chance to access new lands and make history.

I get anxious for a 3-hour flight, and I’m definitely not travelling to go change the world.

The pure and positive, even sincere, purpose of exploring thus discovering didn’t have anything to do with the cruelty brought by the colonisation process–whereas for colonisation I refer to the subjugation and exploiting of newly found populations. 

Plus, they were also willing to teach. If imposing their own culture, habits, religion, maybe language at the top, can be considered a wise teaching process.

I wish I could provide an actual example of pacific colonisation but at the moment I can think of nothing that doesn’t involve wars and genocides. Maybe, if we also take into account isolated and specific events out of the main context, we might try to see the whole scenario under a different light. 

I believe I got one then.

I live in a shared house. I’ve never understood how many tenants are in the house, as people come and go and new faces frequently show up. One thing I know for sure is that we’re all young people, say in our late 20’s on average. Which is very promising in terms of daily interactions and house parties.

After spending the past late summer and the whole fall and winter securely locked in my room, I thought it was a good time to give my boring stand-alone-while-listening-to-sad-songs attitude a swift and embrace an open and social behaviour. This happened when I was approached a few times in the kitchen by Vlad – the Romanian guy that lives in one of the rooms on the first floor – who politely endeavoured to penetrate my rude anti-people attitude to start a conversation in the wait for our meals to be ready. I must have very much resisted his friendly “courting” and eventually, I’m so glad that the guy didn’t give up on me. 

Meal after meal, drink after drink, cigarette after cigarette, chat after chat, that one-to-one situation escalated to a point where more people have become frequent house-attenders. Apparently, most of the tenants are from Romania and don’t stand the chance to invite friends over and gather around the barbecue, which means boosted-volume mainstream music and buckets of heavy spirits. I happened to join them one evening after a long and warm Sunday out consuming beers in different spots of the city. I would be poured cups of Cognac like it was water. The funniest was the guy who doesn’t speak any English in charge of refilling my cup each time it was empty. These people are totally insane!…but I enjoy them.

That Sunday was a starting day for barbecues and house parties to be thrown one after another till 3ish in the morning in the days that followed. The guys clearly like the house and the backyard, since they spend more time in there than I do. Besides, they seem to have a lot of free time too. As far as I know, all of them work in hospitality, which allows them to have late morning/early afternoon shifts and consequently enough time for night parties. However, their livers must be iron solid.

Sometimes I lie in my bed and hear them joking, singing, yelling, doing all of the things that won’t make me sleep. “Come on guys I need to wake up at 5:30am and it’s already 1:30!”

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, the guys are always partying, always in the house: firing our barbecue, resting on our couch, in our backyard, and building relationships with the other tenants. I don’t mind them being around, they’re a pleasant company. I mind not being able to always join their gatherings and being forced to sleep because I’m supposed to work the day after.

So when I was leaving for Italy last week at 2ish in the morning, I met some of them in the kitchen terminating their party. Guys, for real???!!! The girls that live on the first floor were also there and yes, my sixth sense had spotted some affair going on. 

Do you believe it’s just about people having fun? Hell, no! This is a modern and pacific colonisation. Here’s the reality: they invade our houses, trespass on our premises, seduce our women.

Whatever the reasons led the man to colonize the world, the hunger for finding entertaining locations has possibly been the main motif of today. Or maybe it’s girls or much free time.

Whatever the reasons, they don’t even need much travelling because they live close by. So settling is easy: the Romanian colonisation of the house has just begun.

Hell no, I’m being subjugated too! I’ve already started learning their language!!!…

Jim
The Britalian Post

A spaghetti incident

Pasta. 

A handy, quick, happy and satisfying solution to feeding hungry guests. The genius of a clever inventor, the melody of a hit song, a company for the lonely evenings when you’re drowning in intense movies and glasses of red wine. A superstar of supermarkets, a natural and delicious body integrator, the icing on the cake, the… icing on the cake?!

Ok, I’ve got this wrong, let’s start over again.

Ehm…yes…

Pasta.

The nights we’ve spent together have always been so sweet. Well, some have. Me, the movies, and you in huge servings. Parmesan on top and bread aside to clean the plate afterwards. That’s the Italian trick!

Since advertising is by now invading most of the TV broadcasting, I’m obliged to watch hundreds of boring never-ending commercials. One in particular has come to my attention: a pasta sauce named “Pormio”, a proper Italian sauce as the advertisement claims. A happy puppet family is portrayed having dinner altogether in a countryside setting or so, while speaking a horrible English squeezed in a strong and tacky Italian accent. An old-fashioned family in an old-fashioned kitchen – and one of the puppets (the farmer, the father…who knows?!) even had bushy moustaches and a single eyebrow!!! Terrible…

First of all, I would never buy that purple disgusting sauce in my whole life. Secondly, may the gods strike me with lightning if my family and I have ever been waving hands up in the air while speaking out loud or wearing white dirty tank tops. Is it really how people portray Italians?

YES!!!

…Ok, fine.

So that night, I started doing some zapping till I saw a program I do really like: Impossible kitchens USA.

Gordon Irvine was heading to an Italian restaurant in New Jersey with the intent of resolving the issues it was experiencing. Since he is a renowned chef, I couldn’t wait to learn some new recipes while he was coaching the cook on the culinary specialties of our country. And the confusion begins right here: chicken parmesan (I don’t even know what it is), linguine with chicken, pizza with pineapple, ossobuco with shrimp, risotto with mushrooms and chicken. Wow…Seriously?! I believe I don’t need to tell you that these dishes are all but Italian culinary specialties. The worst though was a very simple dish: spaghetti with meatballs. Ok it’s a specialty in southern Italy and we love it, but that one looked hideous! 

Now, I know a thing or two about pasta and when the camera went past the dish, I could see it was horrendously overcooked. Plus the sauce was brownish and sticky, and the meatballs were…I can’t even describe.

Fair enough. Other countries have been creative with our food and it’s alright, maybe something good also came out. Those creativities have eventually become the rule about Italian food abroad till they’ve given birth to stereotypes.

Perhaps, that’s why that Friday evening after work, at the pub right around the corner, an amusing Spanish girl I had just met appeared to be pleased to get to know an Italian guy. She would then politely introduce me to her colleagues highlighting my “fabulous origins” (in her words) – for once, that was utterly flattering. Under all possible circumstances that were making me enjoy the night, the whole setting disgracefully turned gloomy when one of those guys started laughing at me, saying repeatedly that he couldn’t find his wallet–yes, a “funny” reference to the fact that I’m Neapolitan, very funny indeed. And I eventually realised that all that politeness and the appreciation I received were just acts of a wider performance they had set up to mock me.

(Between us, they could have saved the effort).

No, I didn’t lose my temper nor I’d give him a punch on the face, which I should have done. I put on a last fake and pitiful smile before wearing my headphones and walking away.

You know, I could feel discriminated, if it’s to be called discrimination. I could say they were racist, though we didn’t belong to different races. I could say a lot of things but all would mean victimising myself and letting them win.

At the end of the day, as for pasta sauce advertisements, food mis-creativity, and recipes mystifications, I’ll take it very easy and simply call it a spaghetti incident.

Jim
The Britalian Post

Another stop goes by

One who lives in London must be prepared to spend most of the daily life travelling throughout the city. An average journey can take up to an hour and a half, so you happen to listen to artists’ complete discographies, read entire books and magazines, watch movies in HD – even countdown the days of your life! – or simply have long chats with your fellow commuters. 

Many of my journeys are spent in company of my cousin on the 341 bus route from Islington up to North London. That one is actually a pretty fast journey, a journey during which we are half of the time starving to death while the other half is dedicated to guilty feelings. Why? Obviously for the amount of food we have swallowed, not to mention the alcohol waterfalls. No objections, we are a very funny couple.

Now, as many may know, an automated bus speaker calls all the stops on the route, so that you’re always aware of when you need to get off. Also, in the very middle of the bus, and on the front windscreen on the upper deck, a screen indicates the stops as you’re approaching them along with the current hour. And that’s the salvation! 

Why is that?

When you’re not an English native, although your comprehension quickly gets to be good, rather than the speaking that requires more and more practice, you will not be totally familiar with the language and words can easily sneak out of your listening.

So here we are, sitting at the first seats at the entering doors, no screen. The voice calls the next stop and here’s what we hear:

Br/$#%y!@”3d Road

Puzzled expressions on our faces! Both witlessly disoriented: Br/$#…WHAT?!

(Yes, so lost in translation… See the connection with the blog’s title?! No, no, just in case some of you haven’t noticed.)

Therefore, more than often, the name of the stops that end with Road or Street seem to us to have quite the same sound. It’s like stops didn’t have a name but only a stuttering pronunciation – at least that’s what my cousin and I agreed to make life easier and feel less ignorant. So every time we hear the name of a stop or anything else we can’t clearly figure out, we just think: Br/$#%y!@”3d Road.

Honestly, took us a few weeks to catch the real name – we didn’t get it by ourselves and just saw it on the screen if you’re wondering. 

Eager to know what that actually is?! The stop is called Brownswood Road. 

I know what you folks are thinking but please bear with us poor immigrants.

And there we are, spending the time of our life in that bus talking about our daily fun and tragic facts, our love affairs gone bad, rumours from and about friends, the impossible dreams, the houses we’ll never be likely to afford in London, the travel we should be planning and, mainly, the body shape we’ll never get into.

Then stops went by as well as our journey.

And like a fictional flashback, I recall that girl. My companion of journeys on the Piccadilly line, my desk mate, an unknown foreign colleague that turned to be a friend. My friend, my chappette. And months later, in her effort to remain part of the tight team we created and hardly maintained against all odds–to still be a partner of the mutual complicity we built–she was just sent away without hesitation. For a mistake. For she was a human being. For not giving up. 

She disappeared in a finger snap and we didn’t even get to say goodbye. 

Time went by, she went by, and people quickly forgot. 

Our good morning coffees, our Paris, our tube pictures, our last teardrops, all vanished in feeble and concealed memories so that today I’m almost sure this all might have happened in my mind. And I keep asking myself…How’s she doing? Is she still loved? What’s her name? 

…Is she real?

Oh… Perhaps I just made her up. Perhaps she never existed and she’s just another stop that went by.

Jim
The Britalian Post

Homeland

London, May 2016. 

The hottest spring ever–up to 32 degrees. The sun was literally setting the city on fire. And the people.

I had just moved to a new house in North London: a two-room semi-studio apartment, narrow and long. Practically an ex-garage. Yay! I had finally my own place and indeed couldn’t wait to decorate it with lights, posters, furniture and random stuff, my handprint to make it look like myself. Well, in fact, I hoped it possibly didn’t.. unless I could see a better picture of me at the time, which was obviously not going to happen. 

The huge empty white wall in front of the couch inspired me to fill it with something I knew would make most of my nights: a giant TV. My parents – God bless them from his heights – bought me a 46-inch TV as a present for the new house. They knew I’d love it! So step by step, the house began to look more like MY place, my refuge, my home base, my home. That’s the kind of feeling one needs to feel when living abroad, far from family, friends, and all the things you’ve always known better.

Next step was – of course – celebration. It seems to be a matter of good luck when you do. Therefore I invited over my colleagues – my teammates, my crew, my friends, all in one; the people I would enjoy celebrating it with. 6 different countries, 6 different languages, 7 people (including me): Maximiliano and Maria (Catalonia and Spain), Lazaros (a German-born Austrian-raised Greek guy), Beatriz (Brazil), Colin (France), Mary-Jean (England), myself (well…Italy). Oh yeah, that was a melting pot!

We came all the way east from Uxbridge, which seemed to be a whole different world: a one hour and a half journey plus a 25 min walk under the boiling afternoon sun. The guys might have wanted me dead for that.

The night was super fun – unfortunately, Mary-Jean couldn’t make it. 

We ordered some extra large super fat pizzas from Pizza Hut – jeez I should be ashamed for that! – and beer after beer made us happy through the night. Tequila shots went along with the background music played on Spotify via my brand new TV (yes, I’m very proud of my TV). 

And while our chats and talks were deepening the strong friendship we already had, I told them about the Lithuanian girl I was dating and the invitation to the barbecue at her friends’ house I received. 

Now to set you straight, I don’t really feel comfortable with staying among people that I don’t know at all, so I had declined the sweet offer in the first place.

The guys though had a different opinion. They started with their “you’re so complicated”, “take it easy”, “do you actually wish to go?”, and stuff, to make up my mind. Lazaros was, in fact, more direct: “Jim, what’s the problem?! Is it for free? Or you’re supposed to pay for something?!” What an ass! 

Then with a brave dancing move worthy of a retired but filthy Michael Jackson, he said: “You shall go and make quite an entrance. Is it for free? You moonwalk in! You have to pay? You moonwalk out!” 

Hilarious.

Thus, the day after I went. 

If any of you has ever seen hot weather in London, well, consider you’ve had an experience. I was literally melting! Why did I wear a pair of jeans? What went wrong while dressing up?

Shoreditch was incredible that day, and so was she. Few steps before the corner with Brick Lane we stopped to pick some beverages and chips, and I thought I’d buy a bottle of wine for the hosts as a thank you present for welcoming an unknown guest into their house. The barbecue was taking place on the building rooftop and the sight from up there was breathtaking! The city was bright, clear, open to the admiration of its viewers.

One of the hosts was actually Italian, from Naples like myself, so he would definitely appreciate the wine I chose. “Well done Jim”, I thought.

So I shyly approached him while barbecuing and handed over the bottle of wine along with my thank-you’s. Being told by the guy that I didn’t need to do that cause I’m from Naples, a fellow citizen i.e. a brother, and that I would always be super welcome there, was a priceless reaction. And his well-known accent…

In both these moments, the empathy and the warm hospitality shortened all the long distances and turned those common happenings into a unique space.

London, May 2016. 

No matter where you are, what you do, what language you speak.

That felt like home. That was my homeland.

Jim
The Britalian Post

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