Thursday, February 14, 2008

radio free monaco

The loudspeaker sounds in garbled French. Another delay. So there I sit, on an idle train in Nice Central Station, waiting. I fold my right arm across my body to hold my left elbow and, with long-sleepy synapses awakened, I think of Becky.

The world-famous Monte Carlo Casino on a balmy Monaco night. (2008).

Becky was this quiet, shy and probably adorable girl in my first grade class who did the exact same thing with her elbow whenever she got nervous about something. I remember one day, me and Becky got into some stupid little argument that six-year olds get themselves into. I said some mean things, hurt her feelings, and made her cry. I got in trouble and was forced to apologize. But it was sincere - I really did feel bad about it.

And I feel bad about it today. Maybe it takes a special, fucked-up kind of mind to feel guilty as hell about something trivial that happened such a long time ago when I was nothing more than just a stupid, know-nothing, kid. But here we are, sitting on French trains going nowhere, holding our fucking elbows.

In past flares of depressive angst, I’ve maintained that approximately half the people out there hate me because somehow I’m too good, and the other half because I’m somehow not good enough. (I suppose you haters out there can take that statement whichever way you want). Assuming there’s some truth in that paranoia, for today’s scheduled destination – the pomp Principality of Monaco – I'd expect the latter scenario to be somehow more likely. That is, of course, if the train ever gets moving.

Eventually, it does.

When I arrive, Monaco is every bit the extravagant, little bastion of opulence I imagine it to be. This shouldn't be surprising because the principality, which has been ruled by the Grimaldi family since 1297(!), is home to some of the oldest money around. And although the country spans only 2 square kilometers (that's about 0.75 square miles, I guess) making it the world's second-smallest nation, it looks simply looks grand.

Perched on lush, craggy cliffs high above the Mediterranean, Monaco is a playground and tax-dodge haven for Europe's super-rich and famous. Think shiny Porsches, majestic garden fountains, and public toilets with attendants you tip. The heels are high; the suits, Armani. No taboos on wearing mink here.

Behind all of the diamonds and botox, I do, however, sense an air of unfriendliness and plain discontent in the people. I suppose it isn't helping that, in this particular Rome, I'm dressed the part of a plebian, what with my drab Havana t-shirt, out-of-fashion jeans, and worn-in sneaks ... but, still, it feels like it's more than just this.

A part of me can't help but wonder if beating yourself up and feeling guilty for things, even if you don't fully deserve it, is a regular pastime here in Monaco, too.

The Monte Carlo Casino by day. (2008)

Hexa Grace ... vivid, tiled, rooftop art by Victor Vasarely, Hungarian artist and godfather of Op-art. (2008).

The manicured streets of Monaco. (2008).

The lights of Port Hercule, Monaco. (2008).

Port Hercule and Monaco, at night. (2008).


  1. Port Hercule and Monaco, at night. with the seemingly stormy sky creates an interesting contrast with the display of the bright night light. I love this photo.

  2. Thanks, Zhu. I had my camera on a tripod for that shot but it was tricky to get because it was a bit windy in Monaco that night.