Happy New Year!

I hope your holidays were great, full of fun, family, friends, food and all the things you value. Mine were mixed; Covid raised its ugly head and some of our plans were changed, postponed and even canceled, but I think that I found the proverbial silver lining.

My two granddaughters, home from college, insisted that we attend yet another performance of The Nutcracker. I agreed with the proviso that next year we had to see some alternative version of the classic: an all-Black cast or a rock interpretation, something else than Balanchine. Just as we sat down at the Philadelphia Academy of Music a voice on the loud-speaker announced that we were attending a “Relaxed” performance. For a moment I thought someone was reading my mind or playing a joke on me. No, a “Sensory Friendly Performance” is a special time for families and the general public to attend a ballet without the usual protocols. The lights were kept on, phones and iPads were allowed—just no flash. Talking, leaving your seat, coming in and out, all permitted. At first, we thought this would be very distracting, then we started talking among ourselves and discovered that it was relaxing indeed. An adorable little girl wearing a velvet dress and sparkling leggings with shit kickers—a future alternative dancer perhaps—kept making funny remarks about the dancers to the merriment of everyone around. During intermission, when the bells alerted the public that it was time to go back inside, people continued snacking and drinking; no hurry going back in, this was definitely an alternative version!

For our Christmas Eve dinner I had planned a Moroccan menu, still smitten with the North African culture. In addition to the tagine dishes I bought during my trip, I found a couscoussièr to make the perfect couscous, the ideal glasses for mint tea and, of course, all the matching tableware to satisfy my decorating streak. With the table all set and the refrigerator full, my oldest daughter tested positive for Covid. No problem, we would celebrate on New Year’s Day when we should all be healthy. What difference did a week make?

On the assigned day, I woke up with a prickly throat that had nothing to do with the flavorful ras-el-hanout spices and the delicious chicken tagine with apricots, prunes and almonds I prepared. The dinner was a success, but the next morning I tested positive as well, and we are still assessing how many other family members will be getting sick. I had also planned a Three Kings dinner party for January 6, which I promptly canceled. This was going to be the year I’d try making the traditional cake dessert myself, but it would have to wait. No worries, as my daughters say.

I have been home for an entire week, but I’m not complaining. My case is mild, the refrigerator is still half full and I have a long list of films to catch up for the Golden Globes and the Oscars. First, I binged with the provocative two series of The White Lotus (Netflix), then I watched Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (also on Netflix) and The Triangle of Sadness (Prime Video). What is it this year with parodies of wealthy people, each darker than the next? It seems that Parasite (available in Prime Video now) opened a gold mine. Decision to Leave (Prime Video), another South Korean jewel made me think I had seen my new favorite thriller, despite its over-two-hours length, one more characteristic trending this year.

But nothing prepared me for Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths, the last movie by the Mexican director Alejandro G. Iñárritu. Unlike his latest works, this one is set in Mexico and Spanish is its primary language. According to A.O. Scott, The New York Times’ film critic, this movie: “devotes itself to the crossing and blurring of boundaries: between life and death; between fact and fiction; between the personal and the professional; and, perhaps above all, between Mexico and the United States” (Nov. 3, 2022). For me, in addition to all of the above, it’s an emigration story.

The protagonist, Silverio Gama (portrayed by the marvelous Daniel Giménez Cacho), is an alter ego of the director. Like him, he’s from Mexico, but lives in Los Angeles; like him, he is married, with two children who prefer to speak English; like him, he’s successful professionally, but is in an existential conundrum. Although he is “a first-class immigrant,” he suffers going back and forth to his country of origin, as do his children. The sequence in the LA airport when the passport officer tells him that he can’t call the US his home, is indicative of the plight of the immigrant. Told in a humorous tone, it’s pure pathos, nevertheless. Obviously, the sight of the celebrated father, the beautiful mother and the two teenage children, a son and a daughter, reminded me of my own family story and moved me to tears. I hope all this makes sense, remember that not only I’m living between two cultures, like Iñárritu and his alter ego, but I’m also under the effects of Covid’s brain fog.