Tuesday, November 29, 2005


I'm on my way to a meeting being held in town. No travel necessary, just a short ride on the subway. At the "L'Enfant Plaza" station as I am walking on the platform toward the exit, I see a young guy with 2 suitcases in front of him. He is padding his pockets, with an anxious look on his face. I see him look in a small bag and then back in his pockets. Clearly he is missing something that he cannot find. Leaving the bags behind him, he rushes back toward the train which is ready to leave the station. The young guy peers through the window, clearly trying to see where he was seating, looking for whatever he cannot find. The subway doors are closed and even if he could see what he forgot he would not be able to retrieve it. The train starts moving and the young man has to let go of the window and of the train. It is not clear from his face if he saw something or not.
He should get back to his other bags before they disappear too.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Silence love

In line in Ikea's food store for a quick ice-cream before getting the merchandise I've just paid for.
A woman in her forties is standing in front of me with a young kid about 12 year old.
She has thin blond hair, pale skin. He has dark and curly hair and brown skin. I hear him say "and I know that you'll ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever do anything to hurt me -- except to ground me to my room for the rest of my life. Right Momy?" She gives him a hug as he keeps talking about how much he loves her. Soon afterward another kid comes up, he looks like his brother, a little older and is listening to music. He gives his brother his jacket, forcing it in his hands and then leaves. All while listening to music. He has not said a word. The younger brother keeps talking and talking. Enough that the mother bends toward him and I hear her whisper in his ear "Stop talking right now!" It is said very softly but the message is cold. The kid shuts up. Not for long though. He is soon yapping again. The line is very slow but as we advance to almost the front I see the first kid coming back with a man who is clearly the father. He too is listening to music. He gestured to the two in front of me and they both leave the line. Again not a word is exchanged.
The younger kid clearly speaks for the entire family.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Road outrage

I am driving a friend to the airport.
In Georgetown, the streets are filled with people, a different feel from the rest of the city which has been deserted in this Thanksgiving weekend. We're waiting at a red light on M street, before crossing to Virginia. The car in front of us wants to turn left. Its blinkers are on. Then, without any apparent reason, it moves to turn as the light is still red and cars are passing by in the others directions. I cannot believe my eyes: the light didn't just become red, it is not about to turn green. It is red. Plain and simple. The car finally sneaks between upcoming cars and makes its turn.
My friend, a French Canadian living in the states for a long time and married to an American, is just laughing at my outrage. Where are those drivers coming from??

Thursday, November 24, 2005


What a strange holiday that is! A day to offer our thanks, in a complete secular way (if one chose so), for what we have. There is no equivalent anywhere in the world.
I did not always celebrate Thanksgiving. It seemed a weird celebration with strange food. At the time, I was a student in New York and had worked through the day and came back to find the super-intendant of the building in the lobby. He asked me if I had celebrated and I answered truthfully that I had not, using the quietness of the office to get even more done in the day. Not a big deal really. I will not forget the expression of sorrow that came onto his face. He was truly sorry for me. He shook his head and made me promise that I would not that again, not partaking into the celebration of gratefulness. What struck me that day was that he was clearly an immigrant from some South American country, his English was still mixed with Spanish. Nevertheless this was an holiday that he could not conceive neglecting. He was the one who made me think about Thanksgiving differently. As the bond of the nation, the feeling of belonging, and a nice occasion to get together with friends. I kept my promise and have celebrated ever since. A complete American.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Looking for a fight

I went to the post office with all the toys I promised my niece and had not sent yet. I am carrying a large "Toy R Us" bag so it is not hard to guess what's in there.. The man behind me guesses right "Toys for your nieces and nephews?" I don't want to tell him that the 3 boxes are in fact for just my niece (I owed her many forgotten birthdays...) so I just nod. He asks where do they live and I answer "Israel". Usually, the name of this country alone is enough to trigger a reaction. People hate it, love it, attack it or defend it but they are never indifferent to it. Nothing like if I had said "Norway" or "Pakistan" or "Iran". "Israel" is the country that awake something different in people. This time is no exception but the reaction is unusual. The man, wearing a baseball cap and clear shaven, tells me the story of his father, a World War II veteran who had a star of David engraved on his military dog tag. I'm not sure what to make of it and so I ask "Is he Jewish?". The man laughs. "No, not at all, he is Italian." and he adds. "You'll have to meet my father to understand this, but it makes perfect sense really. He boxed when he was young, was part of an Italian gang" (I notice that he does not say "Mafia..") and he wanted to pick fights with everybody. He just figured that having a Star of David on his tags was the best way to achieve this. Someone was bound to pick up on him. Right??"
I'm amazed that someone would voluntary pass for Jewish for the many fight opportunities that it provides. I sure hope he was a good boxer.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

You don't need a weatherman...

On my way out from the movie theater (a delightful movie from Slovenia at the AFI). It's about 9:00 PM and I hurry toward my car. A woman comes up to me and I anticipate a question about money or directions when I hear: "Do you know what the weather will be like tomorrow?"
I make her repeat the question for fear that I misunderstood it, but not, it's really a weather forecast question. Unfortunately I don't know the answer and rake my brain to remember the previsions that I read yesterday in the Post. "I'm not sure", I say, "I think they said it will rain", adding "but that's from yesterday's paper so it may not be accurate."
She smiles with the incredulous air of an atmospheric scientist to whom someone has just asked to predict the weather for the next year. "In yesterday's paper! How do you want me to take you seriously!" I can almost read on her face. "Sorry" I offer, "I was not paying attention". She turns her attention away, looking for someone who would know.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


He must have seen something on the road because he bent down to pick it up as the lights turned green and in doing so became invisible in the darkness of this cold evening. The traffic starts moving and I still can't see him, hidden by the enormous cars that are going on each of his sides.
I finally see him straightening, appearing in the middle of the traffic, and making his way to the safety of the sidewalks. I see him smiling as he put something in the plastic cup he was holding.
Risking his life, for (less than) a fistful of dollars.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Empty seat

I went on Tuesday to listen to a talk on Maimonides. Even at 10$ the seat, the place is packed, almost sold out.
The speaker is the author of a new book on Maimonides, a disappointingly small book that I looked at before the talk. The talk starts on a light note as he proceeds to tell a joke, mixing happily Yiddish and English. Late comers are still pouring in. There is an empty seat in the row right before us, sightly on the left. A man, about 60 year old, wearing what looks like a biker's vest with light reflectors on the sleeves, starts entering the row to go sit on the empty seat.
He is almost there when the woman to the left of the seat, realizing where the man is going, shakes her head and motions him to turn around. "The seat is taken" she says, adding the obvious "I'm still waiting for the person to come". The man nods and makes his way back to the alley. I see him sitting on the stairs of the amphitheater, right next to my row. It looks uncomfortable.
The seat stays empty during the two hours of the talk on how the compassion and direct relation that Maimonides had for his patients are so apparent in his writings.
I see the woman nodding with approval and admiration. She is clearly enthralled by the thought of someone from the 12th century being devoted and open to his fellow human beings.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Body heat

I wished I had a camera. Around 8:00 AM on my way to work. On Florida Ave, near the intersection with New York Ave. They were standing in the morning cold. His arms are around her but she is looking outward, toward us. Both are dressed shabbily, with empty eyes looking straight ahead but at nothing. They look homeless. She must be 50 or 60, an old black woman. He must be 30 or 40, a white guy, dirty with a unkempt beard and several missing teeth. It looks like he is just warming her up. They look both helpless and invincible.