Al buio

My bathroom is not big enough for a sink. It is the exact size of a phone booth. It is not that no one can hear me if I make a phone call from the bathroom, but if I whisper and speak in Italian, chances are they will be bored.

When I woke up yesterday it wasn’t yet five, so I waited. If you don’t have to go to work, getting up before 5 feels illegal. I listened to Italian radio. They are wide awake in Italy at that hour. For them, it is almost lunch. They talked about Bruce Springsteen getting pulled over by the police for drinking 2 tequilas in the space of twenty minutes, and then saddling up his motorcycle. Everybody had an opinion. They called in to talk about it. The dj’s played a song not quite to the end. Then they asked listeners to call in again and in 30 seconds or less, let the rest of us know what irritated them. “What irritates you?”, they said, “thirty seconds or less.” In America, you would probably be thinking, “Jesus, can I do it? Can I do it in 30 seconds?” Because they would be serious. You could be weeping, and at the 29 mark they would be like “Faye calling from her toilet; bad day at the office. Not gonna be a bad day for the rest of us though! 400 dollars down and no interest for 6 months in Newark! Who doesn’t need a new car? Jim! How is it in Newark?” Cut to Jim. And Jim has to talk fast.

In Italy, 30 seconds to talk about being irritated is:

someone you haven’t seen for 30 years, and is the mother of your best friend from the 8th grade, who was Bruce Springsteen, just invited you to have a quick cup of coffee.

That is not going to be quick. Nobody wants that to be quick. You want to make a movie about it. You want to break out the table cloth and start rolling the pasta. It is understood.

Everybody called and everybody was listened to for as long as they had something to say. Most of it had to do with traffic.

When the clock hit five, I put my clothes and mask on in the dark and walked to the cafe. I ran the water through the machine a few times and and ground the coffee. I take more than what comes out automatically for a single shot, so I tapped it two more times. I pulled the coffee and steamed milk. I packed a croissant into a paper bag, locked the door behind me, and walked back home.

Then I called Italy and cried.

It will be all right. I will get back there. One day, I will be listening to Italian radio in my car before the sun comes up Italian time, on my way to the bar before work to drink coffee with the farmers who are on their second cup.

Make pasta tonight. You need a pile of sifted flour on a big wooden board with a well in the middle. Pour in some room temperature water. Slowly push the flour into the water, and make a dough. Knead it for a few minutes, until it is smooth. Let it rest under a clean towel. Ten to fifteen minutes is plenty. Roll it out with a wine bottle, from the center to the outer edges until it is a thin as a tortilla (or piadina.). Cut it into 1/2 inch strips. Lift a strip, twist the top, and pinch it off, about two inches in. Repeat until all the pasta is shaped. Boil in salted water and serve with a parmesan/pecorino/butter sauce or ragu. Drink it with a rough red wine in a short glass.

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