Something like this

by Lorenzo Piccoli

Queridos amigos,

I’m honoured and yet nervous to accept Lorenzo’s invitation to write in his blog. I’m supposed to tell you about my first month in Northern California. And first time in the US… (!)

I landed in San Francisco at night, 6pm Pacific time, a couple of days before New Year’s Eve and was first a bit afraid by the dim lights outside on my way to Berkeley. It turned out that Berkeley is pretty safe – though a few days later a guy was shot inside the wagon taking the same train at 7pm.

For about two weeks I was alone in this beautiful wooden house, reminding of that of Charmed witches’, as my sister pointed out. Our fourth flatmate Goose, a black cat, didn’t arrive yet either and I could hear people walking upstairs (technically our neighbours), so I just did what Europeans think Americans do (or at least I thought so)… introducing myself to the neighbours and inviting them for dinner – since I’m not so good at baking cakes.

In Florence I had met these wonderful people living in Berkeley, Dan & Naomi, who invited me to join their New Year’s Eve celebration with some of their friends… namely camping in Marine county, north of San Francisco. Don’t tell anybody, but I was excited when I saw the park rangers from Yogi. We slept in the middle of the forest, confessed our resolutions around a campfire, I made sure we had the 12 grapes a la española 36 seconds before midnight, we froze and heard apparently a bob cat at night. The next morning, first day of 2016, we hiked around the coast of the Pacific ocean!

Sunday after New Year’s I attended the yearly Econ conference, aka ASSA meetings. I went to pretty amazing seminars, including one by Andrea Matranga, who finds convincing evidence explaining why the Neolithic Revolution happened independently at different points in the globe. Below is a groupie picture of Joseph E. Stiglitz.

It was a smooth start, combined with lunch in Chinatown, San Francisco. I had never had such authentic and delicious food from everywhere in Asia before coming to the Bay area.

I also met a good friend of my brother, Adriana, of Serbian origin, whom as you can imagine, made it even more special for me. People ask me how it feels to move all the time, and it’s these occasions, meeting what you can feel are good friends of your siblings, that you feel you’re home despite or thanks to the fact that you’re moving. Few weeks after my arrival I get an email for an incredible boat trip along the Bay! My brothers’ present! Crazy… I could almost touch the Golden Gate bridge.

The academic year at UC Berkeley started only after Martin Luther King Jr Day, January 18. Finally the city began to be populated with students, my flatmates included, classes and seminars started and I found my favourite working space, the Doe Library and my Stammkaffee, the Free speech movement Café, dedicated to Mario Savio, a key activist for the Free speech movement. I quickly met my new friends in Berkeley, a group of material, nano-material, computer engineers, historians & philosophers, a lawyer, a neuroscientist, an economist from all over, Japan, Finland, Brazil, Italy and Germany… “the point is”, like Sheila would say, we cooked together Brazilian vegetarian lasagna (without lasagna pasta!),  Sushi, tortilla española, we had our ‘saideiras’,  our session in the Planetarium and shoes soaked in the Pacific…

I’m enjoying it a lot… I’m working a lot too, and getting extremely useful feedback from my mentor and Professors – amazing people (!) -, attending seminars several times a week that are so close to my topic, it’s very enriching… At lunch a good friend tells me about her lectures with Judith Butler ‘Undoing Gender’. Sometimes I also go and talk to my friend Tyrannosaurus…  It’s such an amazing place to be!

I’ll close with a Japanese poem, an excerpt from ‘Adagio ma non troppo’, by Sekiguchi Ryoko:

On our first meeting, always and only once, the doors facing the street turn this way, and as if left open and released, I run across the street




PS: Read in Japanese Kanji, not Mandarin.

PS2: The tall, gray building is Evans hall, the Econ department. It reminds me of la Rive Gauche in Paris… just as La Tour Montparnasse, it has the most beautiful view in UC Berkeley – from the 6th floor you can see the Bay, SF, and everything, except herself.