One of my favorite guilty pleasures, La Strada is a pictorial rendering of Italian daydreams. Run by a couple of well-known journalists, most pictures are taken on the fly with point-and-shoot cameras or phones. The resulting snapshots depict Italy at its most appetizingly authentic.
A balmy afternoon during the last year of college. I had settled in at my favorite table by the window at my beloved crêperie in downtown Santa Barbara when I caught sight of one of the most striking young women I had ever seen.
She passed my table with a stack of menus and headed towards the kitchen only to reappear by the register. Trying not to stare, I instead risked a few furtive glances over the top of my menu.
Santa Barbara is known for pretty women; the genetically blessed are hardly a rarity there. Still, the girl possessed such a striking ethereal beauty that she would have stood out anywhere.
“Did you see her?” I asked my then boyfriend during our next lunchtime outing to the crêperie after she had glided past our table. “She is gorgeous.”
“You should go make friends with her,” he said, flashing a slightly lecherous smirk.
“Yeah, I’m sure you’d love that,” I responded in mock annoyance gently elbowing him.
Little did either of us realize that these initial sightings of the then-anonymous girl at the crêperie would develop into a decade-long friendship.
Her name was France (“like the country,” she always told smitten male admirers in her thick accent). She grew up in the small town of Vichy, and had come to Santa Barbara on a study-abroad program to learn English. Soon she had fallen in love with the sunshine, the beach and an American college student with whom she shared an apartment not far from the waterfront.
In the months that followed, we bonded over the typical post-college conundrums that befall any young woman trying to make her way: relationships gone awry, unsettled career plans, the reality that university was over and that bona fide adult life was fast encroaching.
We took evening walks to the Santa Barbara Mission, gorged ourselves on chocolate biscuits and tea, and stayed out too late drinking champagne. For her beach birthday party I came dressed as a Tiki God, much to the bewilderment of many French guests—“A what? A Gigi God? C’est quoi ça?”—and she braved long hours and multiple takes as an extra in one of my director boyfriend’s short films.
The summer after graduation I traveled to Europe with my sister, and met up with her in her home town, where she laid out croissants and jam for us each morning and encouraged us to “stay in the shadow” during sweltering afternoons.
Recently out of college, I had just returned to California from New York and was sleeping at a friend’s house when the blaring television cut through my haze of jetlag.
“That’s New York,” my friend said flatly, gesturing to the burning Twin Towers on the screen.
Anyone who remembers September 11, 2001, can tell you not only exactly where they were when they learned about what happened, but how they found out. As with any major global event of the day, the news was delivered via television, the radio or calls from friends.
Ten years later, news of the most pivotal event in the so-called war on terror also offers a glimpse at how much the media landscape has changed in the past decade.
Like many of my friends and colleagues, I learned of Osama bin Laden’s death on Facebook, while many others caught the news on Twitter. In fact, it was a matter of moments before former Rumsfeld aide Keith Urbahn’s 7:24pm Twitter post emerged as the “tweet heard ’round the world,” and sparked a social media firestorm.
“The way that the news of such a dramatic, sudden development spread around the world provides an interesting impression of today’s news landscape,” notes Federica Cherubin at Editors weblog.
If anyone has questioned the power and cultural relevance of social media in today’s news landscape, such doubts can finally, like the terrorist leader himself, be put to rest.
A decade is not a long time, and I find it fascinating how drastically the media landscape has changed. Will Facebook, Twitter and the like be around ten years from now? Twenty?
How will journalists report the next huge international media event and via which device will the news be distributed?
A different post for a different day, but the coverage of bin Laden’s killing marks the closing of a chapter, however symbolic, in more ways than one.