Saturday, May 16, 2009

nature show

my first real day in france was a study in the french person in there natural habitat. i walked the city of montpellier, in a mission for postcard stamps i followed suzannes directions down a street callet 'bernard the delicious one' if roughly translated, and found a post office next tp as store called marguerite selling i don't know what, and through hand gestures and pointing i was able to explain that i wanted stamps to send postcards to the us, and had to hold up fingers to denote the number of stamps i desired. then, since i was already out and the rain from the night before had stopped and i had really good music on my ipod i decided to continue my exploration of a city i had seen only in darkness and while lost. so i set off up the hill along a meandering cobblestone street lined with odd shops and cafes. people walked seemingly aimlessly and no one stood in the doorway of their resturaunt beckoning you in insistantly like they made a habit of doing in both greece and italy. i bought a few postcards and made my way all through the shopping center area of town, out to the train station where i inquired about the train to paris, the times it ran and such. the woman was polite and wrote me out a little timetable. i passed through a square where an elaborate two decker merry-go-round stood silent and imobile and people walked past without glancing at it. i read several signs advertising 'american food' which turns out to include a hamburger with french fries stuffed inside, and steak, served silent and lonely, on a plate by itself. again another european city which looks like a picture book/ movie set.
in the evening we drove nearly an hour into the country to a friends party to celebrate a complete project. three younger people had designed and created a form of modular home which they were unveiling on that occation. the drive was spectacular. endless vistas of furowed fields and rows of vines with small stone cottages perched in the distance. near black stormclouds hovered over the whole scene, adding their menace to the prospect of an outdoor gathering. to the right one could see it was raining about a mile away, looking like someone had dragged a brush down through a just painted cloud, leaving a thin flim on the sky below it. the pqrty was full of charming french people, more than half of whom wore scarves of some sort (and the same amount of the scarf wearers were men as women) and almost none spoke any english. i was introduced as an american traveling around the world who didn't know any english. a few of the younger people admitted to knowing 'a very little' bit of english which turned out to be quite a lot. an english man who also spoke french translated my answers to so many questions for a while, a group of men demonstrated how they had gained some english through music and serenaded us with frank zappa. the aformentioned rain came and drenched to earth, turning it swirtly to mud, and everyone ran for cover on the large porch of the module home, rescuing bottles of wine and plates of snacks. the piano player continued to play under a wide umbrella. the group continued to talk. i tired to get a good grip on the french greeting of cheek-kissing. it seemed to be generally three kisses but on a few occasions just two, i am assuming if the person was less well known though several people grabbed me and tri-kissed me even upon knowing my non-french-speaking american traveler status. there seemed to be an elaborate system of knowing which side to begin kissing on, or at as sometimes the cheeks just touched and one made dense kissing sounds next to the ear of the other without actually kissing them, and sometimes the cheek was actually kissed though whether on purpose or lack of kiss greeting coordination i will never know.
an earnest frenchman who spoke some english told me of how he had been to america only once to visit new york in '71 and while there he had purchased 'rollers' which i took to mean rollerscates. he loved that he could roller all around the city of manhatten. he seems to have had a very enjoyable two weeks there and still continues to roller here in france though he bemoned the fact that no one would go rollering with him and spoke long of the french automobile drivers inability to share the road with anybody. we left at eleven just as they were starting to ready food for supper. the stars streached infinatly in the sky, which seemed much more domelike than the last time i had viewed it properly. like some vast painted ceiling under which we located the car and drove home in dark and silence.

1 comment:

  1. attencion! I just met a woman from paris. She said "in Paris it's 4 cheek/kisses. Absolutely!"