One of my favourite commonplaces is the sentence “I’m out of words”. I often use it, sometimes I say I’m out of words even if I could make an effort to find words, the right ones. It’s an act of laziness in which a storyteller, an alleged storyteller, should never indulge. Because words are always there. Sometimes they hide, they’re rough, primeval, but they are there, ready to be used. They’re a gift from the previous generations. It’s up to us to work on them, and make them usable, passionate, visceral. It’s been 24 hours since I came back from one the most beautiful trips in my life. Maybe the most beautiful one; the most intense and crazy, for sure, as I wanted to face it by myself, I chose to do so. San Francisco is a wonderful, eclectic city, with a disarming personality. Insanity and genius, Art and manner, Peace and Love. I worn out its streets, walking and walking. Back and forth from Market St. to Mission, going through Powell, Geary and Lowell. Climbs and downhills, from Chinatown to Nob Hill. Always holding my head high, always believing I made the right choice. But nonetheless, I’ve been scared, for the first two days. I mean, I was scared I’d thrown a whole summer away.
All alone, wearing a sweatshirt, in a district which seemed so unfriendly because homeless where there. Then you get used to them, and you understand they’re nice, good people, ready to help you out and with an unbelievable devotion to the American flag. That Government doesn’t give them nor a home or a health service, but homeless proudly show the Star Spangled Banner on their wheelchairs or their flannel blankets. Why? The answer lies in the word Hope. Americans always believe that things can change, that no situation is irreversible, and this is the biggest lesson I learned from this people. As days went by, that district too began to look nicer to me. Even the fog has its charm, in San Francisco. It comes from the bay and every morning, like a curtain, it keeps the town hidden behind a blanket. Then you get to Downtown, the beating heart of the city, and the sun always shines. A sun that doesn’t strain, doesn’t stick, yet so shiny, so clean. I met people from all over the world. Many of them were born between the end of the Eighties and the beginning of the Nineties. I felt grown up, but I never felt old. I’ve known them, valued them, sometimes I helped them.
They came from all over the world. From Spain, Belgium, France, Corea, Brazil, China, Argentina, Egypt. Everyone taught me something. Marta is going to graduate in biology. She comes from Catalunya and she’s going to live in San Francisco for one year. Thomas is an art student from Belgium. He’s 24 and he’s going to study in San Francisco for the next two years. Elisa always seems to have her head up in the clouds. She comes from Burgos, a small town in central Spain. But she never gets lost in San Francisco; she’s 23 and she always knows what to do. Izat is Basque, but she wants to improve her English. She has so much character, and even if she loses her wallet, she finds it the day after. She’s stubborn like only a Basque can be. Alessandro is italian, but he wants to speak English even with me. He loves maths, and he doesn’t like pizza, beer and the sea. Maybe he’s french and he doesn’t know it. My name is Cristiano and I’m 33. Sorry, I’m late, but I had things to do (I don’t know which things). The city is a perfect melting pot. Everybody says hello to everyone, everybody’s smiling, if they see you with a map, they ask you where do you need to go and how they can help you. I let them help me, I take their advice, I let this city seduce me. The fresh wind blows on our faces. It is so pleasing during the day, not so pleasing at night. But it doesn’t matter.
We’re in California, and this is enough. Days go by so fast. Too much to do, too much to see, and I have always too little time. But I want to use the time I have until the last second, at the cost of never sleeping. Waking up at 7 AM and going back home at 3 AM. My heart fills itself with happiness to excess, my English improves day by day, I learn the names of the streets by heart, I perfectly know which means to take in every occasion. I love everything about this city, even the weather. And the food. The thing I love the most during a trip is being a part of the places I go. That’s why I often choose long stays in a city. I want to feel a citizen, before feeling a tourist. I want to be able to tell a city by heart, and to say I lived there, and not just I’ve been there. I lived in San Francisco, but most of all San Francisco lived in me, with its humours, its extraordinary insanities and, on the other side, the scrupulous order of those who can make things work out in a wonderful way. The Embarcadero, the Golden Gate Bridge, Ocean Beach and Castro, they all lived in me. They lived in me and in the looks of all the people I met, even just for one night, or for one smile. And they always will. Maybe I’ll write a novel out of this, but it won’t be autobiographical, except for the description of the places I was so lucky to live. I’d like it to be about Alice, a girl I never met, never known, and that maybe doesn’t exist. A girl looking for her roots, her italian roots. She likes travelling around the world, and she grew up in San Francisco. I’d like her to have a little of me, a little of Elisa, a little of Marta, a little of Izat, and a little of all the people I met during this summer. I think I’ll tell the strange story of the pronunciation of her name. Alis for her Californian mum, Alee-chay for that father from the Marches she never met. Ma tutto questo, Alice, non lo sa (but Alee-chay doesn’t know anything about this).