On Poetry and Culture Shock

The supermarket

Today I took what I think will be my last trip to the supermarket in Ithaca, because I'm leaving this insane country in three weeks. That is an excuse as good as any other to repost a winter impression of the way to Greenstar

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Before you read me, click here if you can read in Spanish.

My trips to the supermarket include walking for 20 minutes with a backpack on, so I have to be careful with the weight of what I carry and I never have my camera on me. I often regret it because there are so many things I would like to take pictures of. Like all this.

The bus slides down the slope and stops at a traffic sign that says “STOP war”; the second word is a graffiti. The tourist slogan is Ithaca is Gorges, but I’d get it changed to Ithaca is Hippie. The other bus riders are obese young men as if out of a documentary for the risks of fast food, and delicate Asian students that wear stiletto boots in the snow. I get down at the Commons, where the Christmas decorations are still on, and I swear as I pass by the Greek Orthodox Church: it is decorated with a biblical quote that says MY YOKE IS EASY AND MY BURDEN IS LIGHT. Jesus did not have to walk to the supermarket with a backpack.

My Discman screams Spanish rap at me as I walk past skinny black boys walking like pendulums in oversize clothes and old ladies that wrap their little dogs in little blankets to go for a walk in the middle of a snowfall. I laugh loudly at a sign that says JESUS HAS ALREADY COME, with a phone number and a biblical reference. Will Jesus help me with my bags, do you think?

Past the second-hand children’s clothes shop, painted bright yellow and decorated like a fairy tale house, there is the main road to cross and trucks pass by, as if out of a road movie, huge monsters, bigger than anything I’ve seen in Europe, that stop to let me cross. Thank you. I’ve survived the road and I’m at the supermarket.

The way back. A tiny Asian girl with a white father smiles at me as if she knew me, and it takes me seconds to realise that she is just smiling back: the mood in my Discman is contagious. A teenager drags behind the steps of his father, frowning like only teens can. A graffiti on a street light remind us KNOW THYSELF: Ithaca has very learned hippies. There is a Pregnancy Center and a funeral parlour on opposite sidewalks of the same street. I pass by the Public Library just before the bus stop and cross a woman and a little girl; both have the happy-tired look of people who have spent a whole day shopping, which the added excitement of having done it for free. The mother has one very thick romance novel, the girl the complete works of J K Rowlings and a cookie.

And on the bus home, there is a dodgy type drinking something that does not smell like coffee out of a paper cup. I don’t know if he’s talking to me or to his invisible friend, but I’m not going to take off my Discman to ask.

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