‘Personal Shopper’ and Kristen Stewart Review

Almost every review of the film ‘Personal Shopper’ features this rather bold proclamation: “Kristen Stewart is one of her generation’s greatest actresses.” As kids from her generation would say, exaggerating much?

Let me explain. I saw the film ‘Personal Shopper’ in a preview screening without having read any reviews beforehand. I thought Olivier Assayas’s film was bad; bad in the way a film is trying to be interesting and imaginative and different, but in the end, it just feels cumbersome.

After I saw the movie, I read three or four reviews. All of them were positive. And they all pretty much shared the same opinions: how Assayas did a wonderful and original work showcasing the grieving process, and how Kristen Stewart is a great actress. In the movie Maureen (Stewart) has recently lost her twin brother. She is a medium and is trying to make contact with her dead brother in the way presumably mediums do. What is so special about this grieving process? The special part is that Assayas chose to make her a medium, thus allowing him to treat the grieving process differently.

One reviewer was impressed with how effectively Assayas used text messages in the film. Let me describe it: we’re looking at her mobile’s text messages screen, as texts are being received and written. Well, how else would you show texts that are part of the plot?

None of the reviewers mentioned anything wrong they saw in the movie. But certain scenes were so plainly ridiculous, some in the audience laughed out loud. For instance, Maureen has gone to a hotel meet a real person or possibly a spirit, we don’t know. The scene shows the lobby of the hotel. The elevator door opens, stays open for a couple of seconds, no one is there, then it closes. The camera pans to the right, we still see nothing, the automatic doors open and close, as if -that’s right!- someone invisible was going through them! Do you get it, audience? The spirit/ghost was there! But, wait a minute, why did the spirit/ghost take the freaking elevator? Or go through the lobby door like a mere living creature that doesn’t possess any supernatural capabilities?

In another scene, Stewart is visiting her dead brother’s girlfriend at the house they used to share. Maureen is having a conversation with the girlfriend’s new boyfriend out in the yard outside the kitchen. He mentions he can feel her brother’s presence. She says she can’t. Then in the background we see her brother’s ghost behind the kitchen window drinking from a mug. Then he’s slowly moving towards the kitchen door while still looking ahead at Maureen’s back (or at us?). He looks like an extra trying to discreetly get out of the background of a scene he mistakenly found himself in. When he reaches the door, he disappears, and the mug falls and shatters on the floor. There were laughs from the audience, deservedly so.

I will omit my thoughts on the awkward wooden dialogue, the clunky plot devices, the unclear weird last scene, and move on to Kristen Stewart’s acting, that everyone is praising hard. I guess she became famous when she was in the Twilight movies. I haven’t seen any of these. I have seen Stewart in ‘On the Road’, ‘Clouds of Sils Maria’, ‘Certain Women’. She was also in ‘Still Alice’, but I have no recollection of her being in that movie.  My problem with her acting is that it is mainly non-acting (which I differentiate from subtle acting). She delivers every line in the same monotone. Her face carries one and only expression, that of endless ennui. When she’s thinking hard or she’s worried, she’s furrowing her brow, seemingly her only facial movement. When she’s nervous she either flutters her fingers, or runs her fingers through her hair. When she slightly parts her mouth, it means she’s lost in deep thought. In every scene she shares with another actor, when they are supposed to be talking to each other, she seldom makes eye contact with the other actor, she doesn’t interact. Her acting is wooden, self-absorbed. Whenever she smiles in a movie, it is always for a fraction of a second, while her eyes remain expressionless and cold. Why not pretend, Kristen, why not act that smile, the conversation?

And that’s how she is in every movie I’ve seen her. I don’t get that great acting so many people see. Perhaps after the Twilight movies people thought she couldn’t do anything else, so they’re rooting for her effort. Which is fine, and good for her, but I certainly don’t see that alleged greatness. There are many other actors her generation who are better, and hopefully directors offer good roles to them, too.


A Summer Night’s Made Up Stories

It was a beautiful summer evening. I was out walking around my neighborhood. I went by this little plaza.  A guy was standing on the sidewalk. He looked at me, smiled and said: “Hello. Beautiful night, isn’t it?” “It is indeed,” I said. “I work at the pizza shop, you can come in and hang out, if you want,” he offered a little too eagerly. “That’s cool,” I smiled and continued walking.

I glanced back at the pizza shop. It was small and empty, mostly a takeout place, I thought. It was a sad looking place, which contrasted the guy’s mood. I wondered how he felt about working there. How was it being all by himself, working on orders, surrounded by pizza boxes?  Perhaps he was lonely. Perhaps he couldn’t wait to get another job. Perhaps he couldn’t stop thinking how he could not do it anymore and how he had to figure out an escape plan; how things had to change and how he would need to get another job. Perhaps a professional job in an office, would be nice. Somewhere where he would make small talk with his co-workers around the water cooler, talk sports. On TV that’s what people in offices do. Maybe he would have a crush on the front desk girl. He would go on fantasizing about his front-desk crush. Building a dream life in a thought bubble.

But what if the guy was happy in his pizza shop? What if running that pizza shop was his life’s dream and he had achieved it? He had been working in pizza shops his whole life, pretty much, and finally he had been able to save up and open his very own pizza shop. Not having to listen to anyone boss him around or complain, he was now responsible for all losses and gains. His family would come and visit him and sit at the lone table to eat the pizza he would make for them. His kids would think it was the best pizza ever. He knew that the secret to the best tasting pizza is to make it in your own pizza shop, with your own hands, with all the care and love in the world for the people who matter to you the most. He was the king of the pizza shop. He was content.

I walked to the grocery store. It was darker now, a night with perfect temperature. I was in a good mood. I walked past a Dunkin Donuts. I glanced in and saw a couple sitting at a table making out. They looked very happy and very into each other. Which you have to be to make out in a harshly lit coffee shop. They would look at each other for a second, smile and then dive into each other’s face, their hands all over each other’s body. What was their story, I wondered. I decided they were having an illicit affair. Both of them were married (to other people) and had kids. They had offered to do grocery shopping and they were able to to sneak in to Dunkin Donuts for a little bit to catch up. In that rather unromantic environment they had eyes for no one else. America might run on Dunkin, but these two were running on their infatuation for each other.

“I’ve missed you,” they would say. “It’s so difficult to get a minute to myself,” one of them would say. “No more talking,” their eyes would say, interlocking hands over steaming mediocre coffee. “I think I’m ready to do it,” she would say. A dark cloud would pass through his eyes, but for a second only. Then he would smile, his eyes would go bright and excited, and he would grab her tiny hand in his hand, and kiss it a thousand times. And that is how it always goes in the badly lit coffee shop, there is hope for a minute. In the end they would go their separate ways, go back to their ordinary lives. They would carve out a little space inside their minds and hearts and fill it with desire, longing for each other’s body, and elaborate getaway plans. They would go in that little space to escape until the next time they meet again.

Dating someone much younger

Every summer we hire college interns to work for us. Two engineering interns started working with us this year, they are both 21. They look so young and they make me feel so old, mainly because if you do the math I could have been their mother. They are good kids, funny, warm and smart. They remind me of another 21-year old, someone I dated last year. Yes, dated. But don’t call me “cougar”. Cougar sounds gross and weird. And it makes me think of botox-faced women hitting on younger men. I can’t really consider myself a cougar. I am not the one chasing younger men. It’s just that sometimes younger men, mostly inexplicably, are drawn to me.

P. was 18 years younger than me. 18 and a half to be precise. He had turned 21 a couple of months before we met. I was 39. We met on the Block Island ferry in early September. I had broken up with the guy I had been dating for four years. In hindsight, that was almost three years too long. In a rare moment of mental and emotional clarity I realized our relationship was never going to be good, and I was just done with him. I broke up with him midweek. On Saturday I drove down to Point Judith in Rhode Island and took the ferry to Block Island. I wanted to be by myself and my thoughts. I really liked the island, I swam, sunbathed, walked a lot. Did a lot of thinking, too. I mainly thought how glad I was I had decided to get on with my life. I was done with being miserable and unhappy. I felt optimistic, ready for the next phase.

The people on the island were beautiful, busy with their swimming and tanning. I was walking along the beach, when I spotted a guy with a pretty hot body walking his dog. His dog started walking next to me. Hot guy and I looked and smiled at each other, said hi. I was wishing hard he would chat me up, and at the same time wishing hard he would not, echoing the duality of my mood for simultaneous companionship and solitude. I picked up my pace to dissolve the synchronized walking. It felt good to have a seconds-long connection with a handsome stranger.

Later in the day I took the ferry back to Rhode Island. I was outside on the port side of the ferry, enjoying the last views of Block Island, the colors changing in the sky, the breeze of the late summer day. Everything was magnificent, and it made me happy. There were only a couple of people on that side. Someone was directly to my right, a kid wearing a baseball hat. After a minute the high-school-looking kid came over and stood next to me. “Hi”, he said, “how is it going?” “Good, how are you?” I asked. “Good. How did you like the island?”, he asked. At that point I thought OK, high-school kid,  I am much older than you thought, move on.  But, no, he kept asking questions, and we kept talking. About Block Island, where I am from, and all the things people ask each other when they first meet. It turned out he wasn’t in high school, but senior in college. Meaning, still very young.

Despite the age difference, P. and I had a pleasant conversation. He was articulate and funny, he didn’t utter “uh” or “you know” once. As we were approaching the shore, he asked if I would like to go get a beer with him. I said, no, I had to go back to Boston. As we were waiting to get off the ferry, he asked again, “c’mon, let’s go for one drink before you head home. We’ll just go somewhere close.” What the heck, I thought, why not. He didn’t act, sound or look scary, I didn’t feel unsafe. We went to a bar in Narragansett. We got carded, and the dude at the door looking at my ID said out loud the year I was born in, and I thought the kid would run away. “Hey, he didn’t know how old I was, thanks for ruining everything,” I told the guy at the door laughing. He was apologetic, and later bought us a round of drinks.

P. looked a little bit shocked. We sat at the bar. “So, now you know exactly how old I am,” I said smiling. “Wow, you look so much younger, I thought thirty,” he said. Then I asked him how old he was and he said 21. At that point I am pretty sure we were both doing the math, 39-21=holy shit, (s)he is 18 years (older)younger than me! We had two beers and we had fun talking about school, work, our hobbies. He certainly was more mature than typical kids his age. Then it was really time to go. He wanted to show me his apartment, which I first thought was a going a bit too far. But anyway, he showed me around his apartment and I met his roommates. “If you would like to sleep over, you are more that welcome,” he said. Thanks, but no thanks, kid. We exchanged phone numbers, and off I went back to Boston.

We went on texting and emailing during the following week. The next weekend we got together and went to Block Island together. We biked around, and drank wine and made out in a secluded and tough to get to beach. It was wonderful. We went back to his place in Narragansett. It was a beautiful, peaceful night, you could see every little star in the sky.  It was nice to be far from the city, and it was exciting to getting to know someone new. For almost three months after that we hang with each other whenever we could. I went down to Narragansett sometimes, sometimes he would come and visit me in Boston. His roommates were funny, and did not look that shocked at how old I was, at least in front of me. From what P. was telling me they were fascinated by the fact that their roommate was dating an older woman.

When we were out and about together and there were other people around I avoided hand holding, hugging and kissing. I always wondered how other people saw us; perhaps they were trying to figure out our relationship, aunt-nephew, sister-brother? Lovers? That would be wild. But lovers we were. It was nice that we lived away from each other, every get together was like an excursion for one of us. We did fun stuff, hiked a lot, walked a lot. And we talked and talked. It was refreshing to be with someone so young, no baggage to bring him down, no issues to burden the relationship. He made me feel wanted and desired, and would always say how beautiful, hot and sexy I was. My self-esteem got a boost in a time when I needed it. He was the force that carried me out of my previous relationship, and I did not look back once. His body was taut. He was loving and caring. He would bring me flowers, little gifts whenever he visited. And the sex was, well, you get the idea how sex is with a 21-year-old man, very frequent and very quick. Good thing he was the kind of person who was interested in finding out what I liked and willing to explore new things, so it was good for me, too.

Dating a much younger person makes you feel younger. But it also makes you realize that you are not that young anymore; like that time when we were biking uphill and I was almost out of breath and he was flying, and I had a hard time keeping up. When the path got sandy and I got off my bike to walk it, he sprinted back to me and carried my bike. Extra points for stamina. Another time we were walking in the woods and it was hot, I wanted to keep my hair up but did not have anything with me, so he held my hair up for ten minutes walking by my side until we got to the beach. Sometimes when I was with him it was like being with a puppy, who always wants to cuddle and play. I remember we went to a show at the Paradise and during the whole show he was hugging me snuggly from behind like a human seat belt.

Most of our conversations were carefree, but sometimes we talked about our age difference; it was great we were able to have fun together despite of it, but we also knew that it could not last for long. It lasted a bit longer than it should have, and at the end he got a little bit emotionally vested.  I was sorry to see him hurt when I called it off. He was certain we could be boyfriend and girlfriend. Which was cute, but quite unrealistic.

It was an unconventional relationship, but it was different and it was fun. Even today when I think about it, I can’t help it but go holy crap, I can’t believe I was dating a 21-year old! Sometimes people say age doesn’t matter, but actually it does. It is not a sustainable relationship in the long run. It is easy to find things in common to do and enjoy, but there is also a gap in interests and knowledge, common references and experiences that will manifest itself at some point. And this can be tough if you are a person who values common interests in a partner. As a brief affair it can be super fun while it lasts, it boosts your self-esteem, it is exciting and intense. So if you ever have the chance, go for it.

Under the Influence of Mrs. V – a poem

Under the Influence of Mrs. V


We find ourselves in a sad hotel room

The color palette of sadness is brown – beige

With the persistent aroma

Of strangers, cleaning products

And that faint cigarette smell

That refuses to die in rooms smoke-free for decades.


We sit next to each other

On the mustard colored couch

I brought Mrs. V with me, he says

To keep us company

We give in to Mrs. V, times three for me

Mrs. V times four for him.


Our heads are weightless

We go lie down in a bed we don’t own

I rest my head on his shoulder, touch his skin

And rest my eyes on his freckle farms for arms

I have grown to love

But he doesn’t know that.


I am in a state of constant amusement

Haha funny this and funny that

Forming full sentences and making sense are chores I refuse

I avoid thinking, I can only feel

The warmth, the softness of his skin

I close my eyes, I am starting to float.


I float on and on

Like every summer on familiar warm waters

With skin burning under the Mediterranean sun

It feels smooth and effortless, I float on

And we talk about babies and puppies

As we always do when we reach certain heights.


Mrs. V is deep into me

Her presence strong and intense

He is running his fingers over my body

Intensity and arousal at the tiny point of contact

How it would be to make love, I wonder

With Mrs. V our common mistress, our savior.


My skin starts moving, expands and contracts

An army of monkeys jumping out of my skin

I float on, the monkeys linger

I close my eyes, I fall into Morpheus’ arms

But my sleep interrupted by

Itchy skin, needy for scratching attention.


Face, leg, arm, every body part is an itchy scream

What is wrong baby he asks

With his softest voice

Is this normal I ask

What is happening to me

Tiny creatures are crawling out of my skin.


I move back in to a sleeping mode

My dreams intense in colors saturated and rich

We are together in a field of wheat, he’s tied to a rope

We struggle to run away from the dreaded man

I have a knife with me, I see

We come to a stop, I need to cut the rope.


It is taking a long time, the knife angle is all wrong

I reposition the knife, I cut the rope faster

But it is still too late

The dreaded man has caught up

He snatches the knife from my hand

Raises his arm and buries the knife deep into me.


One, two, three stabs

My mouth is agape but there is no sound

Mrs. V will bring you high and push you low

She will desert you in the mercy of jumping monkeys

And knife wielding men

A cruel, betraying mistress, without remorse, without fail.


Burlington, Vermont

We visited Burlington, Vermont on the coldest days of the winter. And from what we’ve heard those cold temperatures were rare even for Vermont standards. It was like we hit the lottery of the coldest days. Yay. Despite the chill, we managed to survive and enjoy ourselves in this town on the shores of Lake Champlain.

We drove north on Wednesday, the first day of the year (Happy New Year!), and we made it to Burlington in four hours. We kept the driving speed low, and we had to stop a couple of times to clear the windshield, as the Golf’s washer nozzles weren’t working–they were either frozen, or the pump had died. The mountains we were driving through were covered with snow. The sky was pale blue with interesting cloud formations. And it was cold, about -1F by the time we reached Burlington.

H. had kept the place we were staying a surprise for me; he kept saying that it was sort of a Motel 7, as in “a slightly better version of a Motel 6”. Of course he was joking, as he has excellent taste (I mean, seriously, look who he is dating *cough, cough*), and he booked us a room at this amazing bed and breakfast called Made Inn Vermont (okay, the name is not that amazing, but anyway…). The place was beautifully decorated in a whimsical way, free of floral patterns and other decor associated with your typical inn. Our room was pretty big, and it featured a record player with a decent record collection, a guitar and a ukulele, books, a black wall where you could create your own chalk art and LED lights around the bed.

We spent a little bit of time at the inn, there were so many cool things to see and explore. Everything was tastefully put together. I really liked the art on the walls, made by the owner’s daughter: acrylic/ink drawings with a screen over them which gave them a ghostly character, same with the monochrome grey/black framed rectangulars along the hallway by the staircase. Slightly spooky and dark. The common sitting room downstairs was beautiful and it was connected to the breakfast area. Linda, the owner (who by the way also decorated the inn) offered us sangria, Heady Toppers and other snacks, which was nice.

We braved the -1F, feels like -19F temperatures and walked the couple of blocks to Church Street, a pedestrian way lined with stores and restaurants. Since it was New Year’s Day most places were closed. But we did check out the record store, the book store and another store selling all things Vermont. We had tea at Dobra Tea (I had the excellent herbal tea made from local herbs). We then went to dinner at Leunig’s, a French bistro and had an amazing meal. We drank some Glug, their warm holiday punch, which was perfect for the cold weather. I had the salmon with the roasted beet risotto, and H. had the macadamia and yuzo crusted mahi mahi. Both were delicious, and when H. asked the waitress for the recipe for the mahi mahi, she responded with a curt “we don’t give out our recipes”. Oh, well. Leunig’s was one of the dining recommendations from my friend Ryan who grew up in Burlington, so thanks Ryan.

Walking back to the inn in the cold was not pleasant. I was alright overall, but it was difficult to breathe in the cold air. And despite the two pairs of socks and tights, my toes were numb by the time we reached the inn. Our room was warm and cozy, and we chilled out listening to records, despite the owner’s repeated reminder about the available HBO on our TV (I don’t watch TV when I’m home, I am definitely not going to watch TV when I am on vacation).

The second day in Burlington was even colder than the first. Everything outside looked frozen. We had a delicious breakfast to fortify us for the day. We wanted to explore around despite the -11F, feels like -32F temperature. The original plan was to go skiing, but we wouldn’t enjoy it in this chill. We drove to Shelburne Bay Park, and walked for a little bit around in the woods, but it was impossible to stay outside in the brutal wind for longer than 10 minutes.  I sort of liked the look of the frozen bay, looking desolate and devoid of any sound.

We went to Shelburne Farms and our visit was limited to the store, where we sampled cheeses, jams and mustard. I bought the clothbound cheddar and the smoked cheddar, as well as a delicious strawberry rhubarb jam, a spicy honey mustard and maple syrup, all locally produced at the farm. Then we checked out the Shelburne Museum, where only one gallery was open. Since we were the only guests the guide graciously gave us a tour and talked about the exhibits, which included old signs, carriages, doll houses, toys and paintings. The most interesting thing to me was the pentimento effect on one of Browere’s paintings about the adventures of Rip van Winkle: you can see the faded form of the girl behind the dog, pretty neat.

And then it was beer tasting time! Our first stop was Fiddlehead Beer Company, a small and new brewery, where we tasted their three beers, the AltBier, and their two IPAs. Although I am not a big fan of IPAs, especially in the winter, I liked all their beers, and bought some AltBier for myself. After that we headed to Magic Hat, which of course is a much larger brewing company. We took the tour and then tasted some of their beers.  There were a couple of more breweries along the way we could have stopped at, but we were pretty tired. For dinner we went to Trattoria Delia, yes, exactly, an Italian restaurant, that had a beautiful fireplace, and stone and wood interior. By the end of the day I felt like I had gained ten pounds, as we were seemingly eating and drinking the whole day. But then again, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.  Thus concluded our second day in Vermont, which also happened to be my birthday. Nice to know I can handle extremely cold temperatures, although being from the Mediterranean I am certainly not designed for them.

And just like that the next day came and it was time to head home. Another good breakfast at the inn, another bloody cold day outside. We drove along Lake Champlain, where we witnessed the pretty neat effect of steaming fog. A little bit more driving around Burlington and the University of Vermont. Then we hit the I-89 south, and that was it, so long Burlington, Vermont. You are beautiful and interesting. We shall be back, some time in the Spring or the Summer when everything around us will be green instead of frozen, and when we can stay outdoors for longer than ten minutes at a time. Au revoir.

(See here for more photos from my trip to Vermont.)

Good Timing. Sometimes.

Timing can be good, or bad. Usually, at least for me, it is bad. Last night, though, there was that exception to the rule, when timing was perfect. A welcome exception to the rule, I must say.

The plan was to see two movies at the Independent Film Festival Boston at the Somerville Theatre, “The Way, Way Back” at 7:45pm and then at 9:45pm the documentary “The Punk Singer” about Kathleen Hanna. There was also a free ticket available for me to see Josh Rouse live at the Sinclair. The Man, had won two tickets and he was going to be at the Sinclair before me. He was going to ask if he could leave the second ticket at the box office for me to pick up, and text me the details. Rouse was going up at 10pm, so there was the chance I could catch his full set.

“The Way, Way Back” started 15 minutes late, at around 8pm, which meant it would go until 9:45pm. That was cutting it close. At 9:30pm there was still no text from the Man. The movie was almost ending, but not quite yet. At 9:38 I got the text, that he had my ticket and I would text him when I got there, so he could meet me at the door to hand me my ticket. A couple of minutes later the movie ended, and as the credits started rolling, I rushed out (which by the way, is something I hate doing, I always want to see the credits. Also, the movie is hilarious, I recommend it).

There was a gazillion people in the lobby, but I had to be quick. It was 9:45pm, the exact time “The Punk Singer” was supposed to start. It looked like there were seating people, and I had heard that it was sold out. I went to the rush line outside, where five or so people were standing. I asked if anyone wanted a ticket to the Punk Singer, the first two people were together, so they wanted two, the third one, a woman, needed one. I sold her my ticket, and the seconds it took her to find the $10 bill in her wallet, felt like 10 minutes. I was sorry I was going to miss the documentary, but I hope it will be shown again at some point in my area, so I can eventually catch it.

With the ticket sold, I ran to the T station right next door, tried to get through the gate, but I didn’t have enough money on my Charlie Card. It sounded like a train was coming, I added value, went through the gate, and as I was running down the stairs the inbound train was opening its doors.

I got on the train and sat down to take a breath. OK, good timing, I thought to myself. Harvard Square is only two stops away from Davis, so it was a quick train ride, and at that moment I thought how great it was that all the cool things I wanted to do were so close to each other and so close to where I live. North Cambridge, I love you!

I got off at Harvard, went up to the Church Street exit, walked down Church Street. At that point I realized I had never been to the Sinclair before, so I didn’t know exactly where on Church Street the entrance was. For some reason I thought it was next to the Fire+Ice. I went in through that door next to the Fire+Ice, and it looked like an office lobby with elevators at the left side. OK, not the entrance to the club, I thought. Through the doors straight ahead and to the right, I could hear music, but the doors weren’t labeled or anything, they looked more like exit doors. Nevertheless, without thinking much, I went to one of the doors ahead of me, I pulled, it opened, and just like that I found myself inside the Sinclair, with a couple of surprised people looking at me. OK, that surprisingly worked, I thought. The stage was ahead, and no one was playing, so that was good, I hadn’t missed any of Rouse’s set. I went to the right, where the bar is, and then I saw the entrance next to the bar. Good to know where the actual entrance is, for future reference.

Josh Rouse was still not on stage, I texted the Man to see where he was, but the text wasn’t going though. I started looking around, I saw him standing by the bar, and I went in front of him and went “BOO!” He was like, “What, how did you get inside, I have your ticket?!”, and I told him the whole story. It was like I went to that show for free twice, not only did I have a free ticket, but I had also made it in with no ticket at all. Which could very well mean that I used up my free-entry-to-shows quota on the same show, but what can you do.

We got beers, settled closer to the stage, and in a minute Josh Rouse and his band came on stage and started playing. It was a great set. We took the T to head back to Davis, and as we made it to the platform the train was pulling in to the station. We got on the train, sat down, and there was a quarter on the seat right next to mine, like a tiny goodbye gift concluding a good day. Perfect timing, or what?

One week later

It is now eight days after the Boston Marathon bombings of April 15, 2013. It was a beautiful day, and here in Massachusetts we were celebrating Patriot’s Day and a peaceful event, the Boston Marathon. The beauty of the day was interrupted at 2:50pm, when two bombs exploded while runners were still crossing the finish line. Bystanders were killed and injured.

I was getting ready to go play tennis, and after reading some alarming tweets the TV was turned on. The TV news was talking about possible bomb explosions. They showed an empty Boylston Street close to the Marathon finish line. A news helicopter was flying overhead and you can see the red sidewalks, colored red by innocent people’s blood. There were reports of dead people and injured people missing limbs. It was awful, this is Boston, a peaceful, open-minded city, we’re not in a war, why is this happening here?

It was all horrible. It could have been me, it could have been my friends. Like many times before, I could have decided to go down and watch the Marathon up close. The first reported victim dead was an 8-year old, and that turned my sadness to anger. What kind of a world is this when you take your 8-year old to watch the Marathon, and what you are left with is his dead body?

More questions were coming up: who did this? Why would anyone do that? This is terrorism, the enemy is unknown and is targeting innocent civilians. We started speculating, it must have been Muslim radicals, or perhaps white supremacists. But, to me the big question was, whatever your agenda is, how attacking innocent civilians can achieve anything? Who will side with your cause, who will sympathize?

The following days when authorities were trying to identify the suspects, I got angry with the people of 4chan, reddit and twitter who took it upon themselves to identify the suspects, drawing simplistic conclusions, manipulating photos of the bombing scene adding circles around the faces of people they had determined were the culprits. It was disgusting to see them taking it upon themselves, even naming people, who later turned to be innocent. The comments on those sites were pathetic “see this person is running away from the scene, it must be him!”, when everyone around them was running away too, because, you know, an explosion just took place a couple of feet away. The authorities had asked people for tips, clues, information. If you had photos or videos, the authorities had requested that you sent them over, they hadn’t asked of the public to solve the crime. There is a reason why there are authorities, procedures and experts in place, this is not some lawless land, where the masses and mobs can determine the guilty. All those alumni of crime TV shows and movies, took it upon themselves to point the guilty out, and they understandably failed.

On Thursday it was determined by FBI and local enforcement authorities that the bombers were two young men of Chechen descent. I thought that was strange, since as far as I know, the US is not involved in Chechnya. We started learning more about them, they lived in Cambridge, they liked sports. It was revealed the older one, 26 years old, named Tamerlan (after the great Asian warrior, I assume) had become a radical Muslim, saying he doesn’t have a single american friend because he doesn’t understand them, and the younger one, 19 years old, had tweeted “a decade in America already , I want out.”

The young brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev became an American citizen the same day I did, on September 11, 2012. I recall that day and how everyone was happy, because the country we liked and decided to make home, had accepted us as its citizens. I wonder how Dzhokhar felt that day. Perhaps he wanted out already.

The thing about immigrating in this country is that no one is forcing you to stay here. Myself and plenty of others have immigrated here, because we wanted to. If you do not like it here, you can leave. I cannot fathom why someone’s radicalism and frustration must turn into violence against their fellow citizens. The Tsarnaevs would have made a stronger and more fitting statement if they had gone back to Chechnya and fought their battles there. But, I suppose it must have been difficult living in poor, oppressed Chechnya. Here in America everything is free-er, easier.

I missed the incidents of Thursday night. Friday morning at 6:30, my phone rang. It is always something bad when you get a phone call so early in the morning. It was an automated message from the City of Cambridge, advising residents to “shelter in place” due to the on-going police activity in Watertown. I turned on the TV to see exactly what was going on, the fifth consecutive day of “breaking news”: the older brother dead, an MIT police officer dead, shoot outs in Cambridge and Watertown, carjacking, the young brother on the run. I was watching what had happened the night before in Watertown, seemed unbelievable that the young brother could have escaped the shootout and so many police officers. Why wasn’t he captured already?

The MBTA was shut down, no subway or buses were running. I didn’t go to work. Massachusetts Avenue was eerily quiet, nothing looked like a Friday morning. I had the TV on, local news kept recycling their stories, as there was no new development. In the afternoon I was wondering when they were going to capture him, how munch longer can we live in a lock down? The lock down was extended to the City of Boston, which I found a little bit too much. Perhaps it was the unfamiliarity of our law enforcement with situations like these, so we tended to overreact. I was thinking that he has to be found soon, most likely he is injured and weak, and he is not a career criminal to use sophisticated methods to elude the police. How far could he go? As the day went on, the lock down felt oppressive, like living in a city at war. At 6pm the lock down was lifted, while the suspect was still at large. A couple of hours later he was found hiding in a boat parked on a Watertown resident’s back yard, and breaking news once again: “Suspect captured”.

There was relief. We could go out again. And this little bastard could do no more harm. I wondered why so many police officers on the scene did not methodically search backyard sheds, garages, boats around the initial escape location. Why was it that a resident saw blood in his backyard and his boat and called the police? The suspect was arrested and put in an ambulance, his face looking bloody. The crowd’s relief turned into celebration, which struck me as a bit premature, flags, cheers, U-S-A U-S-A chants, parents holding their children on their shoulders to cheer.

I think of the many people who were injured from the blasts, who have a long recovery road ahead of them. For those there is little relief. Their lives altered forever, like the lives of those who have lost loved ones. I appreciate how everyone rushed to help any way they could, civilians, first responders, Marathon volunteers.  Solidarity, humanity. I did my little part too, I donated to The One Fund, which was set up to help the victims of the bombings. I also appreciate the efforts from all law enforcement, who analyzed clues, tips, data, photos, video. Who did their best to apprehend the suspects and had one of their own seriously injured, who protected the public and had one of their own killed.

Cambridge Police regularly posts this on twitter: “be informed, not afraid.” I like this message. The violence the city saw does not make me afraid, but makes me more aware. I have chosen to live in this city and the area, because it is safe, peaceful, because there is no violence. I am not going to allow an incident like this to make me feel unsafe. But I also do not want to see any violence again ever, not here, not anywhere.