Cross My Heart and Hope to Die

sarah-bernhardt-in-her-coffin
18th century actress Sarah Bernhardt, sleeping in her coffin lined with love letters and flowers. 

“As all the heavens were a bell,

And Being but an ear,

And I and silence some strange race,

Wrecked, solitary, here.”

I Felt a Funeral in My Brain – Emily Dickinson

 

 

Someone said that the most fun things in life are either immoral, illegal or they make you fat.

There are a few rules of social conduct once you enter the Catacombs of Paris: Don’t reveal to anyone the point from where you got in and the point from where you’ll get out, use pseudonyms, always greet and be kind to strangers, don’t leave anything behind you, don’t steal anything, don’t keep walking if you get lost, don’t trust anyone. Self-control.

Cross my heart and hope to die.

Some, may argue the importance of respecting the dead. But why should that be an issue? Some, don’t even argue the importance of respecting the living.

22179726_1789660867719297_3664550451914821837_oJump in the manhole! Clip-clap and…hello darkness my old friend…

On three levels, there are around 300km of underground tunnels ahead of us.

Front torch, boots and a backpack full of food and booze.

We’re dipped in water. It almost reaches my thoughts. Our guide says that all the “tourists” (new-comers) must pass through the water tunnel, in order to be baptised. The water is apparently so clean and pure that washes you off of any past-life sin. I doubt it.

We reach one of the several “lounges” as we stop to catch our breaths. We share a beer, a few words of wisdom and, out of the blue the overwhelming silence.

No echo.

Most of the silence we experience in life is tainted. We can hear birds singing, water running in the distance, foggy jazz music from a distant bar, the rustling of trees.

22137153_1789658434386207_2547246545789495264_oTrue silence will drive you mad. My mind is so loud, but with time, one can hear nothing but his own organs working. Absolute silence is filled by the sound of your own body. You can hear your breathing, your heart beating, you can hear the blood in your veins. You can hear your pulse, your bones rub against each other, your skin sliding over your muscles. You can hear tendons creak, organs churning…and that’s usually about the point where people start hearing things that aren’t really there, I guess. I heard that astronauts are trained to cope with the complete lack of sound they can experience.

But that’s not my case although I’d like to live it. In fact, I am sharing the silence with my companions. F. said she could hear my heart beating, but thanks to that magnificent silence, we could really hear each other talking. Every single word had importance. Every single voice was transcendental. Sound in silence, eyeless bound.

As we found our way round the labyrinthine system, it occurred to me that I am in an underground art gallery. Murals, scale model castles, carved gargoyles, mosaics, sculptures, art installations and the like.

Most of the lounges have a theme, but that’s not about it. This is a city under construction, or the remains of a lost empire.

22181535_1790407927644591_3378738058230700953_oAlright kids, it’s show-time! The cinema lounge has murals representing notorious films such as Pulp Fiction, Ghost Busters, Taxi Driver, Titanic and Metropolis. Stones are placed to create an amphitheater. Fasten your seat-belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!

 

22219942_1789663331052384_3597547940552193356_oThere’s also a Flower room, if you feel like cutting your veins and sleeping forever next to Ophelia, but before committing suicide, you could reconsider your final act while having a drink with your mate at the Foxy Bar. Why not clear your ideas at The Beach lounge, before you write a wonderful suicide note in The Lampshade room? But even better, why not kill someone else in The Candelabra lounge instead?

22137003_1790404267644957_5471998615377446452_oWe sit down for a break and to my big surprise, our guide opens his Mary Poppins magic bag, makes up a little fire and serves us fondue and wine, along with some pretty table decorations. As we dine with the dead to the sound of blues, I can’t stop smiling.

It’s strange to think that there’s a city upon us dancing Saturday Night Fever, oblivious of what’s under their heels.

When I wake up, I’ll be different.

We already reached the 3rd level. A throne made out of human bones stands still and proud. The Kingdom of the Dead holds no grudge. There’s no reason to be afraid of death if you’ve lived fully. Life is much scarier.

The truth about forever is that….whatever. I smoked too much Mary Jane. I am not going to shock you all with a last-minute discovery, but being surrounded by all those human bones makes me wonder what makes us alive?

Desire. Desire makes a person move, create and destroy. Desire makes a person kill.

People are killers and all men are cannibals; I think as I enter a cul-de-sac corridor infested by skeletons.

All men are cannibals. I think as I have another puff.

Men eat men every day. Sometimes physically, other times emotionally. Men eat men by means of power. Men eat men’s dignity. Men eat men’s love.

Even the Sun gets smaller and smaller as the planets around it eat its energy. The Moon gets larger and larger as it eats men’s energy on Earth.

Men eat Earth. Earth eats men. Men eat men.

Enough with my foggy reverie.

22222049_1790503800968337_7029053827989202091_nWe’re on our way out through the utility tunnels, climbing on an endless metal ladder, finally popping our heads out the manhole, in the sun rising street, like groundhogs.

I no longer will scratch the surface of life.

When I wake up, I’ll be different.

Bending and crawling, crawling and bending. Water. Bending. More water. Mind the head. This is my happiest memory: the six of us stumbling under Paris on the sound of communist songs.

When I wake up, I’ll be different.

 

(Special thanks to all my comrades and especially to our guide, for making this trip to Hell eternal in my heart)

 

Advertisements

Know-How

1147
Beatlemania in full swing in 1964

I’ve always had the misconception that a person who reads many books is an intelligent person. And then something struck me. The question is: How?

How do you read books?

Were you one of those straight-A students? Were you the “nerd” of the school? Maybe that’s not such a good sign.

These star pupils were praised by parents and teachers but all they really did, was flick through history books without questioning a thing.

Well, my grandma does pretty much the same. She spends hours watching unspeakable telenovelas, serves you tea, then sums the latest episode up in fanciful detail.

It’s true, we’re not talking about Tolstoy here, but how would it be if my grandma told you the story of Anna Karenina?

[ Anna Karenina was a married aristocrat bla-bla-bla who has an affair with the charming Count Vronsky bla-bla-bla she leaves her husband but in the meantime bla-bla-bla. Anna becomes isolated and anxious while Vronsky goes out and about bla-bla-bla. The situation is unbearable, Anna commits suicide. ]

Would you like another cup of tea, darling?

In short; the novel explores topics like politics, religion, morality, gender and social class, but my nanna likes the gossip of it. If you take Tolstoy’s masterpiece that way, it’s true that it doesn’t fall too far from tea-time telenovelas.

How do you listen to music?

Let’s take The Beatles as an example. Why? Because there’s even a thing out there called Beatlemania. That’s right, I’m talking about maniacs. The delirious Beatles fan club.

Nothing compares to the hysteria that The Beatles created in the height of their careers in the 60s. They were mostly teens peeing their pants. Screaming schoolgirls pulling their hair out.

The term “fan” comes from the latin “fanaticus”, meaning “insanely but divinely inspired” or “marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion”.

There’s a link between how my grandma reads Anna Karenina and Beatlemania.

How do you watch films?

Even movie-goers come in two flavours these days; “film geeks” and “cinephiles” (or movie snobs). The first preferring contemporary films based on comics or video games and the latter, being lovers of “the classics” and modernist or avant-garde cinema, up to the present, and tend to scorn geek favourites.

Film geeks are almost religious creatures, loyal market followers. They could even come off as sweet as they light up their Christmas crib with Batman instead of baby Jesus.

They know it all about their heroes; background, quotes, missions, superpowers and outfits. Meanwhile, a cinephile contemplates a slow-motion caress, heartbroken in a blurry romance.

All this considered, we can arrive at one important point. However you read books, listen to music, or watch films – never lose your child-like enthusiasm.

We Don’t Need No Education

21034455_10155420792559713_1515809176537442510_n
St.Catherine Institute, Locarno, Switzerland

Last floor, first window on the right. My room was overlooking the romanesque courtyard, the pride of Miss Rosetta who wouldn’t let anyone play in it.

We were the golden children. Angelic girls and virtuous young adults preparing their entrance to assholes society.

We were the elite.

When I was just a little girl, I asked my mother: How fucked-up will I be?

Back in my young Italian days, parents used to tell their children that they would send them in a Swiss boarding school if they’d catch them misbehaving. It was fictitious blackmail, of course. Only my parents took it seriously.

What we really were, is: fucked-up angels with fucked-up families. Some, thought that money could solve it all.

We appeared to have a lack of patriotism due to a rigorous “neutral” education. It’s hard to be hanging in the balance. It’s only natural to pick a side, I guess. Right or Left? Bob Dylan or Tom Waits? We were evil to each other, because we couldn’t be evil with the enemy. But that’s not true. We were just spoiled bored girls with handicapped childhoods.

On one side, there were full Moons, pastel organza and blue powder boxes. Rosewater and pressed flowers.

On the other, alcohol and drugs. Treachery, scandal and long-distance phone calls.

We were dressed in white ethereal dresses to attend our morning prayers, always keeping an eye on the left. We would then, during our two hours of free afternoon outings, show off the wild black cats hidden behind the holy dresses.

The privilege of being fucked-up was simply lustful.

My gateaway is nowadays a myth. The inglourious mischieveings of Lorna May rank high in the infamous history of St.Catherine Institute. I can’t honestly say that it was easy. I had to pass through the old convent at night time to be able to scratch the surface of freedom.

It’s almost immoral to complain about the psychological trauma of the privileged child. The only thing I knew back then, is that I always loved cities crossed by rivers.

Au revoir les enfants terribles! I left behind my Latin dictionary.

In omnia paratus.

Fiction is Real

shakespeare_by_benbirbaskasi
Shakespeare by @benbirbaskasi

Someone said (probably an half-smiling old bearded men), that acting and writing are the only socially acceptable forms of schizophrenia.

I never knew when exactly I switched from acting to writing and vice versa. Nevertheless, what I started by reading I finished by acting, what I finished by acting, I’d start again by writing.

Acting is writing.

One depends on the other. It’s rather natural. Don’t you ever act out in your mind while reading a book?

Acting teaches you how to connect with people, and cut out what’s not essential. The immediate feedback of the audience gives you the responsibility to simply be.

Shakespeare of course was an actor. He’d inhabit his characters while writing them, like an actor would.

Most of writers write about what they know, what they’ve seen, heard or lived, and sometimes, by mixing all of these ingredients up they create something new, a story. We could call that “method writing”.

Writing is acting.

It’s simply storytelling. International espionage is all about it.

03.03 am

20994041_10155426031459713_4082424172542281401_n
Manu: king of shisha

In the middle of the journey of my life…

I was torn between two choices:

1. Watch a depressing Tarkovsky movie at cinema Reflet Medicis

2. Drink wine and smoke shisha at Passy (the best spot to get drunk in front of the sizzling Eiffel Tower)

After two cups of coffee and three cigarettes, I chose number 2. After all, Tarko will still be there tomorrow, “but I’m human and I need to be loved”.

Wine. Shisha. Last metro. Direction home.

As I’m about to get back home, I see one of the many transsexual prostitutes populating my neighbourhood: in the middle of the street, tits on air, screaming and throwing empty bottles around. Amusing. I think “ahh! Such fresh air! Life”.

It looks amazing to me, to witness such freedom, such messy, fucked-up beauty. It might be that I’m still culturally shocked from my last trip in Russia, where everything was grand and perfectly preserved, but it almost seemed like communism has never ended. It lacked of humanity. It lacked of vices, dirt and misbehaviour. I love misbehaviour.

It’s not over. I come back home and I soon discover my neighbour singing like crazy, headphones on, putting a show in front of the mirror. Little does she know that she has an audience. Me.

I love Paris at 03.03 am.