Nairobi to Milan via Cairo reading Bataille, Oct 21-22, 2008

Our trip started at 2 a.m., a time on the border of being so "early" that you may as well stay up. It was raining and dark, still drunk from a bottle of red wine, our bodies confused as to why we were rousting them from the crib. I never really sleep deep though, knowing I need to get up. Harrison took us the airport. All sorts of British or European army people camped out at Nairobi airport, farting and watching DVDs, it was surreal, straight from Apocalypse Now! We flew Egypt Air, which was a scary proposition, that lived up to the dread. The plane was dilapidated and the flight attendants hostile. And the food well, since this main purpose of this trip was to go to the Slow Food meeting, and I have a thing for pictures of airline food, here's what we were served on Egypt Air...

Egypt Air


I'll let it speak for itself. I'm not sure what the deep-fried doughy things were flanking that, uh, egg (complete with egg shells), except one of them was stuffed with sour goat cheese.

It was weird to layover in Cairo as neither of us have ever been there. Approaching, all I could see was sand and smog. The buildings were all the color of sand. I hope one day to return and actually see something.

Cairo from the air


The people were changing. More hair gel for the men, and all the attitude that comes with it. It seemed a lot of Egyptians were going to Italy. Of course we got stuck with a family in front of us, two unruly kids that smelled of baby pooh. The kid in front of me had to be the ugliest kid in the world (he got Jess's vote), and he was dropping soggy vegetables onto my feet and into my bag, or reaching around the seat and grabbing at my food with his greasy paw. Every once in a while he'd poke his face back at me, he had crusted snot bursting from his eyes he was crying so hard, and pussy pimples or maybe some sort of rashy skin disease. "He's only a kid," you might say, but fuck that, adults shouldn't have to be subjected to kids if they don't like them. There should be a No Kids or Babies section of airplanes. If they asked me to read to him from the pretty book I was reading, I would've read him this passage:

Towards the end of the meal, she told me that she was just back from the country and that, in the house where she'd spent last night, she had seen a chamber pot in the bathroom full of some whitish liquid, and in the midst of it a drowning fly. Her excuse for speaking about this was her revulsion at the colour of milk—for dessert I was eating a couer à la crème. She was eating blood sausage and drinking all the red wine I poured into her glass. She swallowed bits of sausage like a farm girl; this was affectation. She was just a girl with too much money at loose ends. In front of her plate I noticed an avant-garde magazine with a green cover that she was carrying around. I opened it and came across a sentence in which a country priest retrieves a heart with a pitchfork from a pile of manure. I was more and more drunk, and the image of the fly drowning in the chamber pot became associated with Xenie's face. Xenie was pale, and on her neck there were ugly tufts of hair, like fly's legs. Next to the breadcrumbs and splotches of red wine on the paper tablecloth, her white leather gloves were immaculate. The whole table was speaking in shouts. I concealed a fork in my right hand and slowly moved it over Xenie's thigh.

Should I keep reading? You can only imagine what happens next. And you can probably guess who it is by the priest reference, as this is seemingly self-referential, if I remember correctly from his other more famous book, The Story of the Eye. This was Georges Bataille's Blue of Noon.

Blue of Noon by Georges Bataille


Or I wished I could read  the ugly kid with crudded  snot oozing from his eyes this lovely morsel, about the narrator's mother:

I started down the corridor, barefoot. I was quivering. In front of the corpse I kept quivering—I was frightened and aroused. Aroused to the limit. I was in a kind of trance. I took off my pyjamas. Then I—you understand...

This is why we read. To let our imaginations live vicariously through other's words, to go through the same transgression, have the full spectrum of life's possibilities revealed, even if demented, without having to experience the side effects for ourselves (though reading Blue of Noon was making me physically sick he talked of vomiting so much). Unless you want to, but I'd rather just read it. I also was reading, with a critical eye, Blake Butler's EVER. The final proof-reading in printed form, with the images I did for it. I'll leave my thoughts on that for another post, suffice to say I'm very excited about it's publication, as should you be. I'm not sure why I was reading Blue of Noon. I'm in the middle of reading both The Wizard and the Crow and Infinite Jest, both dense and well over 700 pages long, so I felt like reading something short and trashy that I could leave behind in a hotel room for some other poor unfortunate soul who stumbles into it.

After our Cairo layover, we flew to Milan, which if you ever fly to Milan (at least from Cairo), beware that they had the name of the Milan airport listed (Malpensa), not Milan. Fortunately Jess was paying attention otherwise who knows where we'd be. One of the questions we were asked going through the transit hub immigration was who we were going to vote for next week. Not sure what would have happened if we had said Mccain, but they were all quite happy when we said Obama.

Actually, the ugly kids were on this flight. On the flight from Nairobi to Cairo, with the pent-up beefcake and hair-gelled flight attendants, we lucked out and got whole rows to lay down and get some needed sleep. We arrived in Milan and waited our way through immigration, then figured out where to catch a train into the city. Here's some pictures I took from the train:



Milan Graffiti


Milan Grafitti


I'll spare you the two dozen graffiti pictures, suffice to say the graffiti here is top notch. After all, the word graffiti is Italian in origin (meaning literally to scratch) and derives from ancient Rome when the Romans scratched what they had to say on the walls. The train took us to some station on the outskirts of Milan, whereby we switched to the Metro. Here's what the Milan Metro looks like:

Milan subway

Living up to the reputation, the Milanos are definitely a fashionable bunch. It's all about the accessories. We found our hotel and dropped our bags off then went back out to catch Milan in the remaining light. Here's some of what we saw:

why people usually come to Milan


looking down Vittoro Emanuelle at Duomo

Vitorria Emanuelle II


backside of Milan's Duomo



the Galeria



inside the Galeria

inside Galleria

We of course grinded our heel into the mosaiced bull's balls inside the Galeria. The tilework was amazing. We wandered and strolled towards the Lanza area and ended up eating at Nabucco. Had ricotta-stuffed squash blossom that were amazing, and risotto with porcini mushrooms (which were in season). All washed down  with a nice barbera d'alba (local), all delicious.

The next morning we saw Milan by daylight. Took the subway down to the canal district then mosied and zig-zagged our way across the city.


Milano nude


people on bikes everywhere



street trolley



Jess taking pictures of street meat

Jess Meat


shutters, arches and graffiti



more graffiti

natural graffiti


Zebedia street

Zebedia street


statue in Duomo

statue in Duomo


Jess looking down from Duomo at Galeria

Jess up on Duomo


abandoned building

Buildings in Ruin


more abandon



closed kiosk



more graffiti




following the Lonely Planet to a T (without the pink sky...)

Jess on Roof of Duomo



more Milan pics through Jess's eyes


onward to Turin and Terra Madre



(c) 2008 Derek White