Wednesday, March 29, 2006

When did the bun get into the oven?

Yesterday, I found out something which will probably traumatize me for life (well, OK, I'm over it already, but I like being a drama queen). Apparently, a girl in my school who's two years younger than me is pregnant.

The first time I heard the rumour I was all about being flippantly dismissive. Then, I heard it from someone else. Finally, when the third person, who'd heard it from a reliable source, told me, I was convinced. I immediately thought of Gilmore Girls.

The pop culture likeness didn't prepare me for the next part of the story which is, if possible, even more shocking. The girl is seven months pregnant. The baby's due in June. Her mum only found out two weeks ago.

Now this led me to reflect on two main points.

1) The girl had to tell her mother that she was pregnant. How can a mother not realize that her daughter is pregnant? And seven months along at that?

2) I never noticed until I was told.

For some reason, number two seems more important to me (perhaps because it's actually about me). I just couldn't believe that I'd never noticed there was a pregnant girl in my school. This would not be a big deal if my school was big or something, but it really isn't. You see the same faces all day, every day.

I'm not usually inclined to brooding, but I did this time. I mean, seriously, I'm a nice person! I care about other people! Do I really pass by people without looking at them properly?

Apparently, I do.

I watched Collateral the other day. During the rare ten-second intervals when I managed to tear my eyes away from the hotness of a grey-haired Tom Cruise, I actually thought about what the movie was saying. One of the messages was that we are all essentially alone, especially in big cities like LA (where the movie is set). The message was exemplified by the story of how some guy died on the subway and nobody noticed for six hours even though people kept sitting in the seat next to his.

For some reason, I immediately connected this to the pregnancy issue. It's the same thing, isn't it? You look, but you never see unless it's about you. We're all horrible, selfish people.

Mind you, I felt slightly less guilty today because I saw the girl smoking outside school.

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Can't you smell that smell?

'And suddenly the memory returns. The taste was that of the little crumb of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before church-time), when I went to say good day to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of real or of lime-flower tea. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it; perhaps because I had so often seen such things in the interval, without tasting them, on the trays in pastry-cooks’ windows, that their image had dissociated itself from those Combray days to take its place among others more recent; perhaps because of those memories, so long abandoned and put out of mind, nothing now survived, everything was scattered; the forms of things, including that of the little scallop-shell of pastry, so richly sensual under its severe, religious folds, were either obliterated or had been so long dormant as to have lost the power of expansion which would have allowed them to resume their place in my consciousness. But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, still, alone, more fragile, but with more vitality, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls, ready to remind us, waiting and hoping for their moment, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unfaltering, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.' *

You know how they always say, the most powerful tool for evoking memories is the sense of smell. Well, I agree. And so does Proust.

If I believed in past lives and reincarnations, I'd be positive that I was a dog in my past life. A dog or some other four-legged mammal with extraordinary olfactory prowess. In fact, I seem to be able to smell (and taste) things much better than most of the people I know. This occasionally results in weirdness; I can't drink milk unless it's really fresh. I can tell when it's one day before the expiry date. I can't stand cheese that's not uber-fresh either. And don't get me started on that thing they call gorgonzola. To willingly eat mould seems abominable to me.

I sincerely hope you skipped that uninteresting paragraph on my eating habits.

As I was saying, smells can evoke memories in a way that sight and sound can't. Proust seems to have a theory on that: when you smell something familiar, you get an emotional reaction as well as a physical recognition of something that's filed away in your brain. That's why it ends up being much more powerful than anything else.

A few days ago, we went on a family road trip to the
Lago d'Orta, a tiny lake in Northern Italy. There was a monastery on an island in the middle of the lake. In Turkish, 'orta' means middle, so there was some subdued merriment at the fact that there was an island in the middle of a lake called middle. OK, fine, you had to be there. We didn't actually go on the island, but I took a lovely little photo which you can see below.

We ate at a restaurant on the lake. It was a rather 'fancy' establishment, I must say. The menu was very weird and the ambiance very refined. I ended up having something very unusual: rice with something sweet in it (probably blackberry, as the thing was black), surrounded by a sauce made out of saffron and zucchini, with shrimp wrapped up in ham.

No, I am not joking. That is exactly what I had.

It tasted surprisingly nice, although the ham sort of killed the shrimp. In a metaphorical sense, of course. The shrimp was already dead.

But I digress.

As in all restaurants, there were napkins next to the plates. As soon as I picked mine up, I must have inhaled whilst wiping my mouth because my nostrils were suddenly filled with a more than familiar smell. I stopped, completely shocked. I inhaled again, and there it was, unmistakably familiar. I spent five minutes sniffing like an idiot because I really couldn't place the smell. All I knew was that I really liked it, that I'd definitely smelt it before and that it made me feel a weird mixture of happiness and sadness.

Finally, I realised that the napkin smelled exactly like the washing powder my gran used.

*Marcel Proust - Swann's Way

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Sunday, March 19, 2006

It seeps...

Remember this post? Well, I present you with TPF's newest intermediate record: 28 seconds. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that's a three second improvement.

Unfortunately, a new Expert record remains elusive, but I know I shall succeed one day. How can I be so sure, you ask? Ah, well, that can be attributed to a rather uncomfortable incident that befell me this week. To put it bluntly, a pigeon pooed (or pood? Or pooped? OK, fine, excreted) on my head.

Now if you knew me, or if you were perspicacious enough to notice the subtle hints offerred on this blog, you'd know that I am absolutely and completely obsessed with cleanliness. To an unhealthy degree, I admit it. Thus, bird poo on my head is the type of thing that is enough to drive me into a fit of hysterics.

It did. I hyperventilated. I hid behind a tree for no rational reason. I squealed. I panicked. I jumped about taking no action whatsoever. I swear I could feel it seeping into my skull.

Luckily, Harry, Micky, Pan and Marry were all present. I can safely say that they saved my life, especially Marry, who is endowed with a sense of practicality that I must say I envy. Harry spent most of the time laughing at me (I still resent that, you bitch!) but she also helped with the whole tissue bringing and calming down parts of the operation. Micky wore a faint look of disgust on her face but was equally helpful. Pan laughed until we reminded her of the vintage skirt incident. A few minutes later, my hair was blissfully clear of that horrid, horrid substance.

During the cleaning operation itself, one of the more idiotic members of my year passed by and noticed that four people were picking at my head.

'Have you got head lice?' she asked, thinking that she was being extraordinarily funny.

'Yes! Want some?' I yelled. Freaking idiot.

And what exactly is the point of this story, you ask? Well, you know how they say that if a bird does its business (help me, I'm running out of euphemisms here) on your head, it's supposed to bring luck. I used to think that was just a way to make people feel better about the whole disgusting ordeal, but I stand corrected. A day later, I broke my minesweeper record in the physics lab. In fact, we do anything but physics in that classroom. Our incompetent teacher seems oblivious to the fact that IBs are in a month and we still haven't finished the syllabus, so she spends half the time making useless photocopies and cracking dirty jokes that are hardly appropriate. I'm the only girl in the class so I have to endure a bunch of goons laughing at statements such as 'Imagine the planets as balls,' and 'Uranus is the seventh planet from the sun.'

Still, I can hardly complain. I did break my intermediate record after all, and the pigeon poo luck might extend to making me get a nice 7 in my physics IB in spite of the abysmal teaching. Yay!


Sunday, March 12, 2006

'And I heard 'em say, nothing's ever promised tomorrow, today...'

Yesterday, I attended my very first church wedding.

Tardiness runs in the family; my mother insisted on tidying the house up before we left, so we ended up being almost late. And people wonder why I'm always late to school. Anyways, my dad was fuming, my mum was trying to shrug it all off and make my dad laugh (he sulked throughout the car ride), I sat back and enjoyed the scenery, refusing to get worked up until it was 100% sure that we were going to be late.

Thankfully, my brother is a fast driver. We ended up getting there early. Which proves my theory that you shouldn't be worried about being late until you're actually late. (My mum, who's reading this over my shoulder, suggests a Turkish proverb: 'Dereyi gormeden paçalarini sivama', meaning 'Don't roll up your trouser hems until you see the river.' OK, it sounds better in Turkish.)

The time-honoured tradition of crappily dressed bridesmaids was respected. The bridesmaid was dressed crappily. The bridal gown was OK. I, on the other hand, was wearing a sexy corset that, among other things, made me feel like someone out of Jane Austen novel. I swear, I could hardly breathe. I even refused to tie my seatbelt in the car, to the annoyance of my mother.

The ceremony (or service, or lecture, I'm not quite sure how to call it. I'm not exactly well-versed in Christian terminology) was rather long. I struggled not to laugh as the priest basically told the couple that it was God that had chosen them to get together. Pfft. Whatever. I think I might have smirked on occasion, and I'm pretty sure the priest spotted me; in fact, my brother and I were seated at the front row. Which is rather weird, because we aren't even related to the bride, we're 'just' family friends.

Now weddings are, by definition, an occasion to flirt and eat shamelessly. Unfortunately, due to the age average being approximately thirty, I was unable to flirt. That doesn't mean I didn't ogle, though. Mr. Hot Waiter provided ample opportunity for furtive glances and not-so-furtive drooling. At a certain point, I told my dear brother: 'Gosh, that waiter is hot.' He pointed out to me that it was the fourth time I was telling him.

I think I made up for the lack of direct flirtage by eating. A lot. The food was surprisingly good, and who am I to pass up on the chance to enjoy a good meal?

Of course, there was plenty of free alcohol also. Which resulted in me drinking. A lot. Just wine, mind you, but quite a lot of it all the same. What can I say, I just love wine! Besides, I was seated at a table with loads of people I'd never met. The only recognisable face was my brother's, and that of a guy who looked a lot like the ugly version of an Italian football player, Del Piero. A little wine helped to get some inane conversion going. It was also vital in ensuring my continuing mental stability by distracting me from the effusions of the couple seated next to me. The man kept running his hand along the woman's leg, she kept kissing his neck, and this was all rather inappropriate, considering that I am underage. Thank God for wine.

Speaking of, I had indulged in another great bout of wine-drinking the night before. My brother bought a bottle of red wine for dinner. My mother, who doesn't really mix well with alcohol, drank a glass. The rest was shared between the two of us, resulting in me washing the dishes in a state of giddy happiness and watching a serious political debate between Diliberto and Berlusconi on TV (I would enlighten you on Italian politics, but it's not half as fun to write about as my wonderful life) and laughing at the most inappropriate times.

Back to the wedding. It dragged on for hours. At the end of it all, I was pretty much in 'Fire bad, tree pretty' mode. Eating and celebrating the union of two souls is fun for a while, but seriously, there's only so much one can take, especially if one is wearing a tight corset and feeling exceedingly sleepy. My poor brother had to endure my constant whinging on those two issues, and he had to drive us all home. I really don't know how he did it. He must be Clark Kent's third cousin twice removed. Whatever that means.

My dear brother and I have had a really nice time together these past few days. On Wednesday night, he took me to watch a Champions League match, AC Milan v. Bayern Munich. I hadn't been to the stadium for ages, and it was breathtaking, especially as it was completely full. As usual, we were almost late because I took ages to get ready. The tram ride lasted an hour instead of the usual twenty minutes, but that's normal for a football night. I was squashed against the ticket stamper with drunk Germans singing and smelling and stamping their feet. It was rather uncomfortable, but definitely worth it. In the end, we were ten minutes early, Milan won 4-1, I screamed like a maniac at every goal and occasionally even swore in a very un-ladylike manner. It was great stress relief.

The week before that, we went to a Kanye West concert. I kept thinking throughout that I should have gone to the Deep Purple concert (which was on the same day), but Kanye was cool all the same. Mind you, we're not exactly huge fans, but I absolutely love 'Gold Digger', as much as I love 'Highway Star', in fact, and I really wanted to see the live rendition. Besides, as Pan quite eloquently put it, 'but they're old,' referring, of course, to the aged members of Deep Purple.

Unluckily, I didn't exactly see much. Being as I am of a relatively short stature, I spent 80% of my time trying to look past the impeding obstacle of a random creep's bald head. OK, fine, he wasn't a creep, but I consider myself justified in insulting him, as he practically ruined my concert experience. My brother suggested I stand on his toes (yes, he really is a sweetheart, isn't he?) but even that didn't work. I spent a good two hours craning my neck. Some diversion was provided in the form of two males playing tug-o-war over a sweaty towel Kanye threw at the crowd. This happened right next to me. In fact, I was shoved around quite a bit, but the scene was just so funny that I didn't even mind. Two full-grown men fighting over Kanye West's sweaty towel is definitely not something you see every day.

And that's all for now. The Kanye photo you see above was obviously taken by my brother, who is not so tall himself, but definitely towers above me. Replies from american universities are due at the end of this month, but I'm strangely relaxed about the whole affair. There's Juventus-Milan tonight, and I can't wait to watch that. And I'm listening to Backstreet Boys. Good times!


Sunday, March 05, 2006

Out and About

Went out last night.

It was me, Pan, Harry, Micky, Jude, Mike, Juice and, for the first and probably last time on this blog (drumroll), Phil and Andrea. First stop: a restaurant named Speakeasy. In case you're interested, speakeasies were places where alcohol was sold during the Prohibition era, i.e. illegally.

Wow. It's amazing how nerdy my inner nerd is.

Anyway, this Speakeasy is basically a tex-mex place with fajitas and lamb chops and guacamole and all that kind of stuff. It also isn't very cheap. OK, litotes. It's overly expensive. (Um, yeah, the credit for that fancy 'litotes' word belongs to Harry, who mentioned it yesterday during a very nerdy conversation.)

We eat, we drink, Mike is annoying, Jude tells us more about his recent break-up with Pocahontas, Micky is her usual bothersome self (we love you, Micky!) and we end up paying 25 Euros each. This is what happens when you let Andrea organize things.

We take ages to decide what to do next. A few people want to go to the cinema. The rest want to go for drinks, but as often happens, the minority is very loud and very annoying, so even if most people clearly want to go for drinks, we end up milling about for ages, unable to decide on a course of action. Well, I was totally firm in my drinks decision, and not because I'm a drunkard but because poor Pan's parents wouldn't let her go to the cinema because she would have been home much too late. Besides, a drunk Pan can yield very interesting results; innocent vintage skirts tend to get caught in the crossfire.

In the end, Mike and Phil leave, the big idiots. Jude had left a few minutes earlier, traumatised by the uber-expensive restaurant bill. The remaining six head out for God knows where. Honestly, I had no idea where I was; I'm not very good with directions. I lied. I'm abysmal at directions. If directions were an IB subject, I'd get a 1.

We let Andrea lead us. Juice and Micky share Juice's cool new iPod nano. It's rather pretty, but I like my iPod more. He's called Bob. He's one of the older iPods, without the annoying clicker wheel that I hate. The earphones are falling apart, the battery life is ridiculously short, but I wouldn't change Bob for the world. OK, maybe for a video iPod.

After traipsing around Milan for half an hour, and it's a good thing the weather's finally turning and it's no longer freezing cold, we reach a lounge bar named Sid (OK, not really, but I'm obsessed with anonymity, so bear with me). We go in, we sit down, the waitress comes and we find out she's a real bitch. There's six of us, right? Five of us order drinks (absurdly expensive drinks, I should add). Harry, who's still on that pesky diet of hers, doesn't order anything. Well, the kind waitress makes a sour face and tells us: 'La consumazione è obbligatoria,' meaning that Harry too has to get something. So we tell her that Harry needs a minute to decide, so she leaves, telling us she won't tell the barman our orders until Harry gets something too.

Harry, stubborn as she is, refuses to buy anything. Micky is about to snap at her. I was rather hoping she wouldn't, and she didn't, thank goodness. We call the waitress back and tell her, quote: 'Ma scusi, siamo in sei, e cinque prendono qualcosa da bere. Non mi sembra un problema se qualcuno non vuole niente.'

Translation: 'Excuse me, but there's six of us, and five of us are getting something to drink. It's not that big a deal if one of us doesn't.'

She replies, quote: 'Si, ma mi sembra molto chiaro dal menu che la consumazione sia obbligatoria.'

Translation: 'Yes, but it seems to me that it is very clear from the menu that you must all get something.'

And still we refuse to give in, at which point she leaves looking mighty peeved and takes way too long to bring us our drinks. I'm pretty sure she spat in them, but I'd rather not think of that right now.

The night seems to be winding down when, lo and behold, who should walk past us but Vicky, Mel and Mags, drug addict extraordinaire? We rise and greet them. Mags is exceedingly tipsy. Mel and Vicky are on the right track. It turns out Mel's sister is having her sixteenth birthday party on the second floor of that same Sid we're sitting at! Now Milan is pretty big place and it's quite a huge coincidence for something like this to happen, hence the moderate excitement.

We talk. Evil waitress eyes us suspiciously. Mags goes out for a cigarette (because she's so cool). Pan and I leave Micky and the rest to converse with Mel and Vicky. We follow Mags outside. She's out there smoking with one of Mel's sister's friends. We completely ignore him. Mags offers me a cigarette, which I decline. She then offers one to Pan. An exclusive extract of that little exchange is right here:

Mags: Pan, would you like a cigarette?
Pan: No, thanks.
Mags: Do you smoke?
Pan: [hesitates for a moment] Um, not today.

I'm sorry, Pan, but I shall mock you forever for that little reply. 'Not today'- muaahhahaha!

We go back in. Micky leaves. Eventually, Harry, Pan and I decide to leave as well. A taxi is called. Andrea and I go upstairs to say bye to our decadent, bohemian friends. Mags is reclining on a sofa, laughing at the ceiling. As I say goodbye to her, she whispers in my ear: 'TPF, I have to tell you a secret: Mel's top is torn right under her breasts!' More senseless laughter.

I look at Mel's top. It is indeed torn right under her breasts. I tell Mags to tell her, and Mags replies: 'She knows!' More laughter. (Note: Mel isn't exactly known for her brains.)

Unable to stand anymore of this drunk opulence, I leave. Harry, Pan and I board the taxi. I get dropped home first because my mum tends to get paranoid if I come home alone late. What time did you get home, are you asking? Midnight. Sorry, were you expecting two in the morning or something? You're on the wrong blog, then. I'm a nerd. I don't do those things.

Total spent: 42 Euros: a record.

PS: Being as it is carnival here, I got sprayed with shaving cream on the way to the restaurant. My poor hair was hit, as was my favourite jacket. 'Stronzo!' I yelled after the offender. He just laughed and ran off. What an asshole.