Sunday, January 24, 2010

In just less than half hour - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

When I get to Chinatown I avoid Petaling Jaya and I look for a restaurant patronized by the locals. It reminds me of some places where I used to eat when I was in China, with fine-tuned atmosphere and better hygiene. A strip of dismal buildings flows on my right: a magnet for tourists, two fetid inns, my eye is searching for a reference point. I reach the junction and turn around, then my sight lines up with a closed rolling shutter. I consider the possibility of going to another area, or a further search of the quarter's streets, but I've defied my appetite for way too long and I find myself sitting on a seismic stool, in one of the joints that I brushed off earlier on. The plastic bends, my bottom sways, while I stare overwhelmed at a heap of rubbish. I proudly stand up, the hell with my hunger, then I spot a table in a better place. The owner is coarse, a Mr. Disgust, he tears the order away from my lips and walks away without any grace. With chopstick thrusts I gut noodles and vegetables, armored food, adulteration-proof, scorched in a wok right next to me. Mr. Disgust, in between orders, sits at a small desk facing me. He's using his teeth to smash the shell of a crab, sucking meat and saliva, licking the fingers that brought me the tools and a straw. Shreds of the carcass hang from his chin before sinking into a basket filled with white cabbage. I hope - and I don't believe it - that it's kitchen waste. I shove the dishes away, ask the caveman my bill and with the glass in my hand I intercept disjointed scenes. A waiter arrives carrying a basin, then he empties it into the clean cutleries tray. A spoon hits the edge and falls on the sidewalk: the waiter picks it up, fiddles with it for a while, then lets it fall with a clinking into the tray. 
Damn the hunger that doesn't let one wait. I carry out a rough statistical game: this is what I've seen in just less than half hour...

Photo by Fabio Pulito

Friday, January 22, 2010

Boosting one's mood for the day - Vientiane, Laos

I look up from my book and focus on a sentence: sometimes Henry Miller can be quite psychedelic. My neck reaches out, a bit giraffe-like, I bite the straw and I pull a sip of the best fruit shake that can be found in town. I look at the street where a bus drives by: the very last window is framing a face. A chubby red oval, a shaven head, only one shoulder is covered by the orange robe: it's a Buddhist novice, one of those child-monks. Tiny hands grab the edge of the glass, while wide-open eyes stare at me or the whole world. I can't take a photo but I nail him to my mind. 
Year-long journeys in countries like Laos - among other things - have taught me this lesson: one just needs to relax and sharpen one's senses in order to boost his mood for the day.

Photo of a young monk in a temple at Chiang Mai, by Fabio Pulito

Urban architecture? - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Strolling in Kuala Lumpur is not easy at all: the sidewalks are almost half-meter high and at each junction or gate you'll have to climb one. The banyan tree roots form sharp bumps and holes; posts, trees, canopies and vehicles turn the paths into slalom slopes. If it has just rained, and it happens quite often, the shaky tiles spit sewage at the passers-by. An English student of Pakistani blood is miming the feats of a pedestrian in town: his movements reminds of a Monty Python's sketch. We normally call it urban architecture: in Kuala Lumpur it's rather a kind of gymkhana.

Screen-shot from Monty Python's "Ministry of silly walks", from

The brooms - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

And Indian street sweeper is cleaning a sidewalk. A set of brooms sticks out of his bin: the brushes of twigs are pointing upwards while the handles are stuck in a layer of trash. I glance at the man, seeking his hands: what a fool I am sometimes, I forget where I am. For a moment I thought that he was wearing gloves...

Photo of an Afghan street sweeper, from

Itamil (it's not a medicine) - Bangkok, Thailand

One night in Bangkok I meet D. If you close your eyes and listen to him you know right away where he comes from. "I was born in Reggio but I'm a Bolognese." Short, slim, with waiving black hair. Under his dark skin there runs Tamil blood, his Indian features are of a southern variant. After having said to me that he is from Bologna he tells some English guys that he's not Italian. "If you have an Italian parent or you were adopted, being granted the citizenship is not that hard. But if your family is from somewhere else it might almost be impossible. D. is nice, self-confident, he studied in Italy and Australia, he's enterprising and smart, a precious human resource. He eats bolognese and tortellini with his Italian friends and he feels quite awkward at a Tamil meal. I'm amazed and bewildered, I can't get it out of my mind, a fraction of guilt is lying in my stomach. I think of the debate about granting citizenship to immigrants. What are they talking about, and with what credibility? In Italy there are thousands of people like D.

Photo of an Italian passport of 1901 (PD), from

Friday, January 15, 2010

A lost segment - Chiang Mai, Thailand

(Summer 2007)
A traffic light, when? It's not a junction, just a pedestrian crossing. I hit the brakes late but I do it with experience: it's a manual ABS, gradual, tactful. I stop without problems before the white line. I look at a foreigner walking in front. I feel that a smile is bending my lips, while the morning sun is massaging my cheeks. The projector gets stuck, life is paused, after a couple of seconds the film moves on, but a space-time segment has been lost in the process. The bike's on the ground, I'm still on my feet, my knees are bent and my palms touch the asphalt. A Thai guy's bike has crashed into mine. I stand up and tell him that the light was red, I must be confused because I'm speaking Chinese. The following minute is for a social case study. While I'm lifting the bike the Thai disappears, I'm not surprised, I was not counting on him. The foreign guy has seen everything but as he's abroad he doesn't care. A Korean girl is concerned and gives me a wet towel. Two men arrive and bring me a new bike, then take the old one away when they leave the place. Normally they will ask a sum for the damages, but the fact that I rented the bike at the hotel seems to be good enough as a guarantee. I brush my jeans, put my shirt straight, I clean with some water the wounds on my hands. I should go back to my room and disinfect them. But I'm rationally careless, I hop on the bike, take a look at the mountains, speed up, turn page. A sky like this needs to be matched with palm trees, then rice fields, slopes, temples, tints. And I'm thinking of the tropics, their hues, the architecture, not of the color of Mercurochrome. 

Photo by Ginger me (CC), from flickr

Monday, January 11, 2010

Stuck at Dubai international airport - Dubai, UAE

A nine-hour wait, what am I gonna do? I find a socket, I plug in my laptop, I switch on the wireless and capture a signal. After a few minutes another guy arrives. Backs against the wall, lotus position, computers balanced on thighs and shins. My mate is a blond Pole, with wrinkled face and clothes. "How long do you have to wait for?" "Oh man, nine hours..." I speak with the pride of a life-term convict. "Don't worry about it, the first twelve hours will fly..." "The first twelve hours! How long have you been here for?" "It's been three days, but I hope to leave soon" This Pole has arrived with a flight from Europe, planning to stop in Dubai for few days. He was told that a transit visa cost four hundred Euros. He gave up and started to contact the airlines, but the flights are full and he got stuck at the airport. He eats junk food, uses public toilets, sleeps on the benches, in no man's land. He walks in a circuit, like a squirrel in a cage, hiking with a backpack among transit desks and duty frees, in a whirl of perfumes, alarms and loudspeakers. The artificial light that damps down the colors. But this guy is tough and his mood is still good, he's developed his habits to kill the hours, he surfs the internet and meets passing travelers, to whom he smiles while he tells his story. I'm not really sure that I would take it that way.

Autumn 2007

Photo Dubai Airport, by Fabio Pulito

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The gate

What is it exactly that you regret? The thing about me that you envy so much? We both are looking for the same kind of future. You do it from the inside, as an incentive to move on. I've already gone out and I'm seeking it here. There's no style, courage, madness separating us, only a gate lies between you an me. And you know that you can open it whenever you want. 

Photo "The opened gate" by Steven Mitchell, from

Good stories are like this

I have a friend whose lousy memory is matched by a nose for good stories to tell. Every time I meet him he's got one for me, taken from a repertoire of a dozen or so. I recognize them straight away but I let him talk, when he's about to end I say the final line. "Ah, you already knew it" "Yes, but I haven't had enough of it yet"
Good stories are like this, demanding coquettes. They love who can pamper and take care of them. Never mind memory, style or quantity: a teller needs passion, talent and loyalty. 

Image "Fairy and water babies" By Warwick Goble, from

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Your bag is open - New Delhi, India

(Spring 2003)
I need a new passport, the old one is gone: no more pages left, stamped off in few years, with Asian touches of red and blue ink, a South American opening and Australian stickers. First thing that I need are two passport photos and I'm going to get them at Connaught place. "Don't listen to anybody when you walk in that area, the place is full of swindlers and touts" people have told me again and again. I'm walking on the sidewalk, with steady pace. I sense that somebody is following me. "Sir...Sir...excuse me, Sir...Sir...Sir...your bag is open..." I follow the advice and pretend I don't hear him. "'re bag is open!" I'm deaf, I'm an idiot, I can't speak English, whatever it is, I'm not going to reply. "Sir...SIIIRRR! YOU'RE BAG IS OPEN!" I walk, walk, keep walking, non-stop. "SIR! SIR!" Still no reaction. "SIR! SIR! FUCK YOU MAN!" He finally quits and fades away. I arrive at the shop and reach for the bag...fuck you man, it was open indeed!"

Image "Boston terrier puppy inside a bag" by Fogstock Llc, from