Monday, January 16, 2006

I rode the bus down to Pioneer Square earlier with three old men in tweed hats who smelled strongly of cigars. I quickly found myself a prop in a conversation about how young people--but not nice girls like me, understand--had ruined everything with their running around and tearing things down. I never did figure out which young people, where they were running around, or what they were tearing down.

A little bit later the guy behind the counter at the bookstore teased me about making a "schizophrenic selection"--Kawabata, Kundera, and John Berger. I told him they'd be in good company, as they'd be joining a pile made up of a German mystic, a Hispanic-American artist who died of AIDS, and a collective of uppity women. I like that this town is made up of inside jokes for the overly literate.

On the way back up to the bus I was stopped by a man in striped trousers with an extremely thick Italian accent. It turned out that he owned the restaurant right there and was taking in the air outside before it was time to get ready for the dinner crowd. As I turned to continue up to third I told him, "Al lupo," one of the few phrases I remember from my childhood Italian--it's a shortened way of saying good luck that my great uncle Benjamin used to toss around a lot. (Benjamin never remembered that I had learned to spell exceptionally early, so he'd often try to spell words that he didn't want me to hear. As he'd had a relatively spotty education in Brooklyn, growing up a hoodlum, my spelling tended to be better than his. One of my favorite games was to correct his misspelled whispered words--because I've always been a snob, apparently.) His accent reminded me so much of my aunt's uncle Dominick that it just sort of slipped out.

I had my first French lesson of the year tonight. Cecile has decided that from now on we're only speaking in French, which made for a good two hours of her talking and me nodding, and then when she'd pause saying, "Wait, quoi?" I ought never have told her that I'm going to France in the spring.

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