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talking to the trees

Most experiences cannot be discussed. No one wants to hear the ugly truth, and chances are you will be attacked for sharing it. To be able to speak freely means that you need a willing listener, otherwise you are just talking to the trees. Time and again I have come to understand that there is no difference between New York and Moscow, no difference between East and West. They are just cults of personality, built on violence and money and moral quicksand.

The life of an expat evolves from those early, awkward victories to one of assimilation or in cases like mine - eventually understanding that you have no country you can (or want to) call home. I am left with just these four walls and my family. This apartment is the only place I actually belong. This is the only place I do not need to soft-pedal my thoughts, where I do not need to apologize for what I have unearthed. The river of betrayal runs deep whether I look outside, or across the ocean. Willful ignorance, willful indifference…

rocks, coins and angels

I had a blue-eyed angel in New York. I would pass him on the street at random moments every few months or more. His eyes blazing from behind his beard and a ski hat, he would smile at me. A quick smirk of recognition - - aha, you caught me. Yes, I’m here. I’m around. I know you’re completely lost, and I’m here as a sort of signpost to tell you - - you are right where you’re supposed to be.

I carry rocks and coins in my left pocket - reminders of various significant moments in my life. There was a $2 bill there for years. A little green piece of marble from Santorini. Migelli was a human version of these momentos. I kept losing him, and finding him.

In truth, he was the second assistant director on a feature film I worked on, right out of film school. I was the cinematographer for a former porn star turned-porn producer’s foray into legitimate (ok, more clothed) filmmaking. Candida Royalle (or Candice, once you got to know her) was half Sicilian, half Cherokee. Kind, generous, imaginative - -she gave me my first break and I made her futuristic, racy story of one woman’s triumph over sexual repression look like a lost Bergman film. (And, we shot it in 10 days.) Migelli was an invisible force - standing in as an extra, fixing flat tires, bringing fresh tiramisu to the set at 2AM. I have no idea how he got hired.

I would pass him on 36th street, close to 9th Avenue and a string of flat fix mechanics. I would see him at 4AM, cracking peanuts on the front steps of the Public Library. Once, I saw him crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. He did not seem to age. He always smiled. He always saw me first, but waited for me to notice him. I wonder how many times he saw me, and I was so wrapped up in my troubles that I did not.

I really thought Migelli crossed my path this morning, as I passed the Europevsky Shopping Center. It seemed impossible, but I have never failed to find such surprises in life. They seem to follow me.

I turned around, splashing through puddles to see if it was him.


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