The kinds of people you meet while in a world tour (part two)

[Recently I have been travelling around the world for 74 days. I am writing a series of posts about this trip – a list of those can be found here. This article continues from here.]

The barber that came to Australia from Italy 46 years ago. “Back then, you could buy an apartment in the Italian district of Melbourne for nothing, nobody wanted to leave here. Then this place became posh, so Italians that sold their apartment made a lot of money.” “Did you sell yours?” “Me? I never owed one, when I came here I had less than nothing!”

The horse trainer from Victoria, Australia. “So you’re from Italy? I was there last year.” “Where exactly?” “Paris.”

The Facebook enthusiastic. They barely know you, but they already tagged in 14 pictures from what they describe as the best day of their life. Their degree of separation to anyone in the world is 3. The worst happens when two of them meet: then a pictures-uploading competition starts. Where do I find the time for not looking at all of them? (semi-cit.)

Picture from a David Shrigley exhibition in NGV, Melbourne

Picture from a David Shrigley exhibition in NGV, Melbourne

The backpacker. Any shelter is decent enough for spending a night, any food scrap is good enough to be eaten. Doesn’t miss a party, especially during the happy hour. May miss a couple of museums without thinking twice, though.

The working holiday visa traveller. In Australia, they are more common than kangaroos. They work for a few months saving as much as they can, and then spend all their money travelling. They mostly come from Europe, but sometimes from Asia, too. Most of them have just finished high school: “The government cheated us by reducing high school by one year – a German girl I met told me – so we’re taking it back.”

The Greek-American who grew up in Brooklyn. “It was an amazing place to be. Not false like Manhattan. Everybody was there: Europeans, Africans, catholics, protestants, orthodox and whatnot. Communities were very open. My lifelong friends are Italians and Afro-Americans from that time. That’s when I learnt racist jokes and to make an excellent Carbonara.”

The stargazing enthusiastic at Mauna Kea. They live in Hawai’i, but in the coldest and farthest point from the sea, surrounded by a landscape that comes out of some sci-fi movie from the 60s. And they adore it.

Mauna Kea, Hawai'i (Big Island), Hawaii, 45 mins before sunset

Mauna Kea, Hawai’i (Big Island), Hawaii, 45 mins before sunset

The couchsurfers. They will create out of nothing a bed to host you, some free time to show you around, and a crew for you to hang out with. Probably the best way to get a first impression of a city.

The English butcher travelling around Australia. “This travel is a first time for me.” “First time out of Europe?” “First time out of south England!”

The old friends. While in a long travel, sometimes it is good to feel at home again.

The ex-alcoholic and drug addict. “I quitted drugs and alcohol seven years ago. But I need to be addicted to something, so now I am addicted to food and travelling.”

The Italians abroad. They almost unanimously believe in the seemingly contradictory mantra “Italians are nicer and smarter, but life here is so much better.” I am one of them.


A European in New York City

Manhattan skyline from above, below, from the sea, from New Jersey. The cabs: yellow on the outside, white, black, indian and hispanic on the inside. The barber shops that increase in number with the poverty of the area. The buildings, shining on front, ugly and crumbling on the back. The works, always in progress. The jobless, the drunkards, the junkies. The junk left stinking on the streets and in the subway. The brick houses of Greenwich village. The small houses of Brooklyn. The Brooklyn bridge: why is it famous?

The sports bar full of people uninterested in sports. The hate for Boston Red Sox, but they play basketball, right? The Home runs at the Yankee Stadium. The Home runs in Central Park. Squirrels running in Central Park. People running in Central Park. People running everywhere in the city. The Italian restaurants run by Turkish.The Turkish restaurants run by Turkish. Yet another Dim Sum, yet another Starbucks. Tipping to someone who earns twice your salary. People in Wall Street that earn ten times your salary. The lone protester in Wall Street.

The gazillions of events, everywhere. The smells and sights and sounds of Harlem on a weekend afternoon. Malcom X and Bob Marley painted on the walls of Harlem. Pino Daniele playing at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. The lofts in Tribeca. The useless shops of Times square. The sophisticatedly useless shops of Soho. The sophisticated and witty plays in Broadway. Artists playing with Fashion and Art and continuously reinventing them, sometimes with terrible outcomes. The museum of Natural Science where you can touch fossils. The Christian Science Reading Room. The Madonna shrines in private gardens. The Gospels. The Jazz.

The crowd. Those working in shops and big food chains, of three kinds: the Rookies, that enthusiastically cheer you; the Depressed, that won’t even talk to you; the Friendly Resigned to their job. Those from the Bronx who speak like Al Pacino in Scarface or De Niro in Taxi Driver: “You talkin’ to me?”. Those who spend their holiday in mid-Manhattan. Those who spend their life in Harlem. Those who repeat you that “no other place has the same energy of NYC”. Those who think they have something to say about NYC and make a post out of it.