Angela Kelsey

Tell the Story

Category Archive: Travel

  1. A Pinch of Salt

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    When Mr. Z. and I were in Paris last month, our hosts, the Scotts, took us to one of their favorite restaurants, Chez Denise. Even though my own lunch was delicious and satisfying, I openly coveted the os á moelle that the French couple next to us ordered.  My companions, veterans of French food and committed to their low-fat diet, declined to order it with me, Mr. Z wasn’t game, and I wasn’t quite ready to commit to eating a plate of roasted beef marrow bones by myself.

    When the woman caught me watching her prepare her next bite–scooping marrow out of the bone and spreading it onto grilled bread with a butter knife, then sprinkling it with salt from a bowl with her fingers–she gestured that she would be happy to share.  Our friends  accepted in French on my behalf, and we watched as she made me a bone marrow toast. I gratefully took the toast from her hand and ate it all. She would have continued to feed me from her plate if I had not been too full already.

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    I remember that lunch as my favorite meal of the trip not because of the bone marrow’s rich, buttery deliciousness (and its benefits), but because of the unexpected intimacy of taking food from a stranger’s plate and hand. 

    Where were the rubber gloves, the hand sanitizer, the caution and fear, the reminders of the woman’s otherness and separation and the potential danger of her body? Erased as I accepted her offer and ate her food.

    When I think about the terror attacks at the Charlie Hebdo office and Kosher market last week, and I see the pictures of people holding the “Je Suis Charlie” and “Je Suis Juif” signs and posting under those hashtags on social media, I remember the woman in the restaurant, and her willingness to share and my willingness to take and eat her food, and I think of the ways “Je Suis” the Parisian woman. I feel warm solidarity with the people of the world, standing up and speaking out against violence and fear.

    But at the same time that I say to myself, yes, Je Suis Parisians,  Je Suis Charlie and Je Suis Juif, I have to acknowledge that (more subtly and without obvious violence–I add disclaimers to be able to bear to write this–see below) I also must say Je Suis the silent, and  Je Suis the terrorists, and Je Suis the fearful censors of public speech and private thought, and on and on and on.

    I wish I could say or write “Not Afraid” with honest confidence, but I am frequently afraid–of offending, of overstepping, of being factually or morally or (most ridiculously) socially “wrong.” I censor my words and even thoughts every day. I could say that “no one dies” as a result of my desire to censor, but how do I know? What if my failure to speak out about, say, domestic violence, does in fact indirectly lead to someone’s death?

    Maybe saying  “Je Suis” about each other also requires saying “Je Suis” about the other. Sharing responsibility as well as food, blame as well as credit. Speaking out, using the space created by satirists like the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo (whose work often makes me cringe) to tell the truth of our own lives.

     

     

     

  2. Censor

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    I called my congresswoman today to express my opposition to SOPA and PIPA.

    I started thinking about freedom.  About art’s dependence up on it.  And about the ways I censor myself, long before any person or government might.

    FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND RELIGION, FROM WANT AND FEAR–these are the Four Essential Human Freedoms, from FDR’s Address to Congress, January 6, 1941:

    “In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

    The first is freedom of speech and expression — everywhere in the world.

    The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way — everywhere in the world.

    The third is freedom from want — which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants — everywhere in the world.

    The fourth is freedom from fear — which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor– anywhere in the world.

    That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.

    To that new order we oppose the greater conception — the moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear.

    Since the beginning of our American history, we have been engaged in change — in a perpetual peaceful revolution — a revolution which goes on steadily, quietly adjusting itself to changing conditions — without the concentration camp or the quick-lime in the ditch. The world order which we seek is the cooperation of free countries, working together in a friendly, civilized society.

    This nation has placed its destiny in the hands and heads and hearts of its millions of free men and women; and its faith in freedom under the guidance of God. Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights or keep them. Our strength is our unity of purpose.

    To that high concept there can be no end save victory.”

    From Congressional Record, 1941, Vol. 87, Pt. I.

    I am privileged to enjoy these Four Essential Human Freedoms.

    But if I forget, or fail to use them, every day, with consciousness, with every breath and every creative act, then I may well lose them, and any chance I have of helping others to gain them, too.

  3. Ricetta

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    My friend bought this notebook for me on her recent trip to Florence.

    Ten years ago, we were there together, with our then-husbands and other friends.

    I’ve written memoir and fiction about that trip, but the story still resists and begs for a best way to be told.

    Maybe a ricetta:
    Start with six friends.
    Stir in one red Ferragamo purse, Michelangelo’s David, dinner at Cibreo, a visit to the Uffizi, and a rabbit.
    Store them overnight in convent rooms.
    The next day, place the mixture in a van and whirl in traffic roundabouts escorted by polizia.
    Using white-coated men, remove from van and allow to rest for an afternoon.  Season to taste with pharmaceuticals.
    Return to van and proceed to Venice.

    Thanks, LM, for the memories and the blank pages.