Jim Haynes newsletters

Newsletter No. 597
A trip to Milano
21 to 25 June, 2004

      Monday, 21st: Today is Fête de la Musique. Also France is playing Switzerland in the European Championship football in Portugal. Evgenia, a visitor from St.Petersburg, is up and out early. I call John Calder and we discuss having dinner together tonight. Barbara Sherman passes and we discuss the menu for next Sunday. I quickly shave, shower, shampoo. Then do a laundry load across the street. Talk with Sheila Colvin and we agree to dine tonight in Montreuil. John's niece, Maria Laptev, arrives today from Brussels. Steve Peters calls and asks if he can pass and use my computer. He wants to send e-mail to his bank in Australia. It in not a problem and over he comes. Go out front and order a take-away lunch for Steve and me. Jodi Poretto will arrive this evening. She flies from New Orleans via London. The dinner with John, Sheila and Maria is fun. My first time to meet Maria. Very impressed.

      Tuesday, 22nd: Up at 7 for coffee, shave and shower. Jodi and I manage to exchange news. This morning I fly via Easyjet to Milano from Orly. Evgenia goes to London. Jodi Poretto and Hanna Dalipi will guard the atelier while I am away. My flight departs at 11.10 and am scheduled to arrive Milan Linate at 12.35. Discover at the Easyjet check-in desk my passport expired in March. Fortunately my Carte de Séjour is still valid. Sit next to a couple from Vancouver in the lounge before the flight and next to them in the plane. They have a daughter living in Paris who is an aspiring actress. They say they would like to dine Sunday the 11th of July on their way back to Canada.
After an hour delay, we finally are on our way. It's a quick flight. Just over an hour. With Sasha's instructions, take the #73 bus to the center of Milano. Talk with two young handsome lads from America who are, I suspect, male models. Give them a leaflet about the Sunday dinners and one of them tells me he lives in Paris. He promises to dine with his girlfriend when he gets back in France. Take the metro to S.Agostino and walk the short distance to Sasha's shop, StocKMarket, at 19 via Solari. She greets me with a big hug and introduces me to her beautiful assistant, Laura. Give Sasha the kitsch wall "thing" she left the last time she was in Paris. She is pleased and surprised. Minutes later she takes me upstairs to her father, Aleksandar Stefanovic. After the bear hug from Alek, am introduced to his son, Georgio, who has just arrived from Manhattan and is on his way to Florence. I have heard about Georgio for years but we are meeting for the first time. (Also learn that Bill Clinton gets his suits from Georgio. Maybe the reason Bill looks so good these days. The current issue of Time has Bill on the cover. I fail to ask Georgio if he is wearing one of his suits). Sasha and I talk about John Flattau. He is at Lake Garda with Joanna Przybyla and wants Sasha and me to join them today or tomorrow. Sasha says that it is very difficult for her to leave Milano because of staff problems. She wonders if we can talk John and Joanna into coming into Milano tonight or tomorrow. Later Sasha manages to talk with John and he agrees to return to the city tomorrow at mid-day.
Alek and I sit on his terrace and we discuss life and love. He tells me that he plans to come to the Edinburgh Festival the 19th of August and will stay a week. He and I first met in Edinburgh in 1962 when I co-organized "The Writers' Conference" (with John Calder and Sonia Orwell). This is excellent news. I try to telephone Nanda Pivano and discover she has moved to a new apartment and has a new telephone number. We speak and she invites me to her place tomorrow afternoon. She also invites me to marry her. Why not? I try to reach Stella Baldi but no answer. Success with Angelo Quattrocchi in Rome. He tells me he is a publisher and has published 70 books. (Later when I am back in Paris, discover Angelo has posted me his catalogue of books). Go downstairs and sit in the Bar Bajka and have a salami sandwich and a cappuccino with Sasha. She introduces me to an American woman with a dog. They continue to stroll past. Sasha returns to her shop and I read the New York Review of Books. An interesting article about life in Iran for women.
In the evening, Sasha, Alek and I go to Muciaccia for a pasta dinner. I remember that Kyle Roderick Goldstone and I dined here about 7 or 8 years ago when she was here doing research for her book on Gregory Corso. I loved it then. Tonight the place is less crowded because Italy is playing Bulgaria in the European Cup in Portugal. Everyone is home and glued to their TV sets - even Sasha's husband, Claudio, and her son, Corso. We have the restaurant almost to ourselves.(Later learn that Italy beats Bulgaria 2- 1, but because the Denmark - Sweden match is a draw (2-2), the Italians are out of the Championships.) Our dinner is delicious. Alek and Sasha do not allow me to pay. Afterwards Sasha drives us to Gelateria Marghera, a famous ice cream spot. Alek and I indulge. Again delicious! This time I manage to treat. Two euros!
Sasha drops us back at 19 via Solari. I call John Calder in Paris and pretend it is a collect call. He is not fooled. Alek and I talk a long time with John and Sheila.

            Wednesday, 23rd: It is strange to wake up in another bed in another city. But nice too. Alek and I go downstairs to the Bar Bajka for croissants au chocolat and cappuccinos. All Italy seems to be upset with the Scandinavian "fix". Alek introduces me to Derek, a fellow from England, who teaches English. His company has been taken-over and he is not sure of his future. I ask if he would like a coffee and he asks for a glass of red wine. It is surely a little early to start the day with wine. Nevertheless get it for him.
Back upstairs, Sasha calls to say that John and Joanna will be at their hotel at Noon. I get directions from Alek and depart to meet them. Make a mistake by wandering in the direction of John's hotel and fail to find it. A fellow sends me back the way I came. Then I ask a pretty young woman for directions and she tells me to follow her. We get on another tram and go many stops away. I know we are not going the correct route. But she is a pretty student of psychology. Finally leave her and find a taxi. When I arrive at the Mercure Hotel, spot John standing outside waiting for me. The hotel is very near Sasha and Claudio's old apartment where I stayed with Kyle. Joanna joins us for lunch. She and I met via Richard Demarco at the 1986 Edinburgh Festival. And again in 1988 in Edinburgh. She lives in Poznan and is a sculptress. I think I introduced her to John Flattau when I arranged a photographic exhibition for John in Warsaw sometimes in the 1990s at Stash Pruszynski's Café Ejlat. And they have been friends ever since. We select the Pizzeria Tradizionale. It is next to the Caffè della Pusterla. Joanna has a fish dish and John and I have pizzas. (I remember that I loved the Caffè della Pusterla and spent a lot of time there years ago.) Our pizzas are so large that we can barely manage to finish them. Joanna goes off to a meeting and John and I take the tram back to Sasha's store. We three sit outside her store in the Bar Bajka and make dinner plans for tonight and how we will pass the next few days. Sasha has booked two places for John and Joanna for Da Vinci's Last Supper for tomorrow Noon.
In the evening we dine in the Ristorante Sciué Sciué across the street from Alek's apartment. (Alek and I dined here, just the two of us, in April 2003 when I was passing through Milano.) We are six tonight: Alek, John, Sasha, Claudio, Corso and me. We have a big feast and John and I manage to share the bill. Afterwards John goes off to have a drink with Sasha, Claudio and Corso. Alek and I return to his apartment. An early night.

      Thursday, 24th: It was a lovely evening last night. All Italy is upset this morning because of the Sweden-Denmark football match. The score was 2 -2. This means that Italy is out of the European championship. Of course there is talk of a Scandinavian fix.
John Flattau, Alek and I take the tram into the center of Milano to visit the Feltrinelli International Bookshop. John wants to purchase a book to read on the plane to JFK. (Earlier he gave me Henning Mankell's The Fifth Woman - his plane reading to Italy. He also gave me Cara Black's Murder in the Marais.) We three wander about the bookshop and discuss books we have read. Finally John selects Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. It is my recommendation because he is about to see Da Vinci's painting, The Last Supper. Alek has a meeting and leaves us. I walk with John the short distance to Cenacolo Vinciano. I check to see if there might be one ticket available. And there is. John picks up his two reserved places and gets a third one for me. He is early for his rendez vous with Joanna so he and I grab a light lunch. When we have finished, it is time to meet Joanna. And time to enter the Cenacolo. I must say it is much ado about nothing. Not sure what I expected. But not really impressed. Outside a woman asks me questions about my reasons for visiting Italy. It is a survey for Telecom Italia.
Joanna leads us slowly back to their hotel neighborhood. We stop to explore a place Joanna found yesterday. It is a bar, restaurant and theatre called Town House. Inside the owner, Gustavo Pancaldi, proudly shows us around the place. It has only been open a few weeks. He is from Buenos Aires. I give him an invitation to come and dine when he is next in Paris and he gives me his card. We wish him luck with his new venture. I suspect it will be a great success. When we exit, discover we are very near the Caffe della Pusterla.
Back at Alek's apartment, manage to take a wee nap. Then shower, shave and get dressed. Call Stella Baldi and this time I reach her. We have a good talk and she promises to come and stay with me in Paris and to bring her boyfriend with her. Also get Nanda Pivano on the telephone and she tells me to meet her at the Palazzo Isimbardi at 8.30 this evening for an event that she feels I will enjoy. I know that Sasha is cooking a pasta dinner tonight. I hope I can manage to meet Nanda and to have some of Sasha's pasta. Call Sasha and tell her that I am going to a literary event and will arrive late for her dinner. She says it will not be a problem. Alek helps me to locate the Palazzo Isimbardi and tells me to take a taxi there.
Late afternoon I decide to take the tram. Not sure where I am going but spot a woman with a British Museum shopping bag. Ask her for directions to the Palazzo Isimbardi. She speaks English and she tells me to get out with her near the Caffe della Pusterla. She walks me to a bus stop and gives me directions. Board a bus and ask another woman if she knows where to exit for the Palazzo Isimbardi. She instructs me to get out the stop after her exit. I do so. And ask a fellow on a bike and he points down the street to a queue. I join the queue and am told by a handsome man and his lady friend (wife?) that I am in the correct queue. He speaks English and his friend speaks French. They tell me the event is entitled "Playing with Passions" and will feature Erica Jong, Tahar Ben Jelloun, Fernanda Pivano reading three love poems, screenings from Delacroix and Sappho's iconography plus Antonio Ballista performing Franz Liszt, Skrjabin, Granados and Debussy on piano. It is a great evening. It is all a part of "La Milanesiana" - a month of literature, music and cinema. Almost speak with Fernanda Pivano and Erica Jong when I think the evening has come to an end. But they troop back on stage for a question and answer session. Since this could go on for a long time, I decide not to wait. Otherwise no pasta for Jim. It would have been nice to embrace Nanda. And to have spoken with Erica. She and I met at a Fisher Verlag party at a Frankfurt Book Fair years ago. My son, Jesper, photographed her in Manhattan. And she once contacted me about mounting a plaque for Henry Miller at 18 Villa Seurat. (Erica's biography of Henry Miller is excellent). Nanda Pivano is perhaps the most famous translator from the English-language into Italian. She has translated William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and many many others. She is also a delightful lady. I always enjoy her company. I feel sad to be leaving without embracing her.
Outside ask an attractive young woman on a bicycle where I might find a taxi and she points toward the Duomo. Thank her and walk the short distance. Sure enough there is a taxi stand. Give the driver directions to Sasha's apartment. He and I chat in French all the way.
Find the correct door and ring the bell. Claudio buzzes me inside. Everyone has finished dinner. No more pasta. But Sasha makes me a delicious omelet. I am also introduced to a friend of Sasha's. But this friend has to get up early tomorrow so she soon leaves us. It is late and all are tired. A taxi is called. I am dropped first. Joanna gets out and gives me a warm embrace. I ask her to send my best wishes to Jan and Elzbieta Kaczmarek when she sees them in Poznan. She promises to do it. John says he will come over in the morning and have a last coffee with me. Upstairs find Alek is busy with translating a book. Fall into bed.

     Friday, 25th: This morning I fly to my beloved Paris. The flight departs at 13.10 and is due to arrive at Orly at 14.35. Alek and I are up early and go down for the morning coffee ritual. To our pleasant surprise, we discover that John Flattau is also here to have coffee with us. Afterwards collect my bag. John and Alek walk me to the metro. Say goodbye to John, but Alek continues with me in the metro. I tell Alek I can find the way and he does not need to go with me. But he says he has an appointment in the city near S.Babila and my bus stop to the air port. Alek makes sure I am on the right bus. And I am soon on my way home. Paris here I come. Ready or not.
Make my way to the Easyjet counter and am greeted with the terrible news that the flight has been cancelled. A ground staff strike. Oh no! I am told that it might be possible to get me on the flight tomorrow at the same time. But it is not sure. What to do? There is an Alitalia flight leaving for Paris in about 20 minutes.
I rush to the Alitalia counter. Yes, they can sell me a Business Class ticket for 536 euros. Damn. What do I do? Painfully I decide to get the ticket and to fly right away to Paris. It all happens quickly. Rush to the departure gate. I am the last to board. And then I discover the plane is 95% empty. Maybe 10 people in economy class. Three women in Business Class and I suspect them to be Alitalia flight attendants. I cannot believe I was charged 536 euros. This sum plus the 125 euros I paid for the Easyjet ticket and the whole thing comes to 661 euros. Still I must admit it is a comfortable flight - much nicer than the Easyjet flight.
We are soon on the ground at Charles de Gaulle 2 and I wander outside to find a bus to Montparnasse. Hear two young women try to ask directions to the Montparnasse Air France bus. Tell them I am going to the bus and they can follow me. When I talk further with them, I learn they are sisters from Northern California and have a train to catch. If they take the bus, they will miss the train. I suggest we share a taxi and they might just well be at the Gare Montparnasse in time for their train South. They agree and we load their bags into a taxi. Of course they are traveling with too much luggage. Soon we are rolling toward Paris The driver takes the Eastern route, so we pass my stop first. I contribute 20 euros (which is more than half the total fare) and tell the driver to drop them into the Gare for their train. He says OK and I tell them that they will make it. Invite them to dine on Sunday when they are back in Paris…
Home again! Thank you, John and Sasha for talking me into making the trip to Milano. Thank you, Alek, for hosting me once again. And all three of you for being such good friends…
Lots of post, e-mail and telephone messages await my attention. Thank you, Olivier Joly, for sending me the Edinburgh International Book Festival programme. It opens the 14th of August and runs to the 30th. So many friends will be participating: John Lloyd, Germaine Greer, Alan Furst, John Calder, Lesley Chamberlain, Alastair Reid, Robert McCrum, Neal Ascherson, Stewart Conn, Geoff Dyer, A. L. Kennedy, Alan Taylor. A two week feast!
Cathy Monnet, Mary Bartlett, Antonia Hoogewerf and yours truly are all busy with the cookbook, "Cooking for 100 - Dinner at Jim's in Paris". If you have a story to tell, a tale to relate, fun gossip or anything to contribute to this opus, do not delay. Send us your input right away. We hope to have a fairly complete "book" ready for the Frankfurt Book Fair.

      

 
Jim Haynes
June 2004

Atelier A-2,
83 rue de la tombe Issoire,
75014 Paris

 

 

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