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Friday 2 June 2023 Dublin: 11°C
# 7 great reads
Sitdown Sunday: The man who lived in an airport for 15 years
Settle back in a comfy chair and sit back with some of the week’s best longreads.

IT’S A DAY of rest, and you may be in the mood for a quiet corner and a comfy chair.

We’ve hand-picked the week’s best reads for you to savour.

1. Anthony Bourdain

In this extract from a new oral history about his life and untimely passing, people speak about Anthony Bourdain’s love affair with Asia Argento.

(Vanity Fair, approx 19 mins reading time)

We sat down ordered an incredibly expensive bottle of wine, like way more than I thought we were gonna spend, and I just started to go into detail of everything that was happening, and just how fucking unhappy I was. Then he starts to tell me about his separation from Ottavia, and he said, “Well, I’m in love again.” It was one of those moments where Tony’s so euphoric in something that you know that it’s irrational. Man, he was fucking madly in love with her. Just the way he was talking about her, I was like, “Tony you sound like a fucking ninth grader! What’s wrong with you?”

2. Velvet Underground

Todd Haynes has a new documentary out about the seminal band the Velvet Underground. Here, the cinematographer on the film talks about his work on it. 

(Mubi, approx 12 mins reading time)

 The problem became the strength because there wasn’t a lot of footage of The Velvet Underground in performance. We’re giving all these cultural references of the imagery of the ’60s and ’70s, but there wasn’t a lot of the band. This gave the opportunity to reference the cultural influences that surrounded The Velvet Underground at the time—certainly Andy Warhol and his pop art, but also how important Jonas Mekas and the Film Cooperative was, and all the experimental filmmaking that was coming out of New York at the time, like the Kuchar brothers and Shirley Clarke. All these people gave a visual context. Todd always does research and is interested culturally in why images and stories are told the way they are. That gave us the idea of showing it in multiple images.

3. Chicharito

When mexican football player Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernández’s grandfather died, it led him to question himself and his career. What was he doing with his life, and how could be become a better person?

(The Ringer, approx 14 mins reading time)

He often thought of the millions of dollars he had made; all the countries he had played in; the awards he had accumulated. But it felt hollow. His mother, Silvia Balcázar, had been right, in the way that mothers often are. Back when Hernández was a young boy, dreaming of stardom, she warned him: “Ten cuidado con lo que sueñas, porque lo más seguro es que se haga realidad.” “Be careful what you dream of, because it might just come true.” 

4. Traveller women

As part of Noteworthy and The Journal‘s Tough Start investigation, reporters looked at why there is a disproportionate amount of women and young Travellers in prison – and found that often people are imprisoned for minor offences, which can have a huge impact on them and their families.

(Noteworthy, approx 21 mins reading time)

One of the girls said she was with her mother at a shop when two gardaí stopped them and asked them to empty their pockets. “It was scary,” she said. “There was nothing in our pockets. I started crying.” She said they apologised after she became upset. All of the children said they were afraid of gardaí and that they also notice their parents’ anxiety when they see gardaí. “My daddy, if we’re driving past guards, he’ll turn around really quick even though we all have our belts on and he’ll say ‘put on your belts in case the guards pull us over’,” one of the boys told us.

5. Catholic Ireland

Poet and author Elaine Feeney writes about the legacies of Catholic Ireland, through her own story of ill health and bodily trauma.

(Literary Hub, approx 5 mins reading time)

In 2007, at 18 weeks pregnant, I collapsed and was taken to hospital. As usual, I had had many warnings. I dropped a glass of orange juice I was taking to my young son and shortly after, a blue dinner plate dropped from my hands and smashed. After scans, where I was terrified my fattening belly would get stuck in the plastic cylinder, I was diagnosed with a brain clot—most likely connected to the childhood accident. My cubicle now buzzed with doctors fussing with cannulas, bloods, 15-minute neurological observations; Who am I? Where am I? Who is the President? Draw a clock.

6. Escaping exploitation

Aliyah (24) shares the story of her family, where behind closed doors there was violence and drug use. 

(BBC, approx 8 mins reading time)

It would be years before Aliyah and her siblings were picked up by social services. Aliyah feels strongly that opportunities for safeguarding her and her siblings were missed – she remembers her parents putting on their “best faces” when authorities came around. Stories like hers follow a classic pattern, says Kendra Houseman, a consultant in child criminal activity: “If home is not a safe place, that makes them vulnerable to exploitation.” And she warns there are many more hidden girls out there like Aliyah.


Merhan Nasseri had to live in Charles de Gaulle airport for 15 years – here’s his story.

(GQ, approx 25 mins reading time)

The truth was that no one knew the whole truth about Alfred, not even Alfred himself. He was born in either 1945 or 1947 or 1953 and claimed to be Iranian, British or Swedish. In some ways, it was as if he’d been found in the bulrushes—or was still lost there. For years now, he’d lived mostly on the kindness of strangers, eating his meals at a nearby McDonald’s, wandering the terminal’s white-tile floor as if it were his own cathedral. Mostly, he passed time on the terminal’s first level, in gurulike meditation, on a red bench before a big, filmy plate-glass window near a shop selling CDs. He sat in a tight envelope of air that smelled faintly of regurgitation.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday

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