Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Midsummer Miettes

It being Tuesday, I went to the market, and realized something, which is that, it being August, there was nothing much there. Oh, I got the stuff I needed, which wasn't much (more tomatoes!), but the photos of huge tomatoes and piles of odd vegetables, which I'd lugged my camera down there for, didn't materialize because it was just business as usual. Which, fine, is what it's there for. But it's just not picturesque.

* * *

Memo to my mellow neighbors, who gather in large crowds to watch the two guys in American Indian costume (including a very impressive war bonnet) blow a flute and chant along with a CD of wispy, New-Agey music: these guys are Romanian. Yup, just like the fake "wedding bands" that blare brass at you while you're trying to catch a cappuccino at a Comédie café. I ran into them a couple of years ago -- not the same guys who are out there right now, but others running the same scam -- in Berlin on Unter den Linden. As I walked by, I heard them talking to each other during a break: Romanian.

Of course, most American Indian music would be utterly incomprehensible to most Europeans, as it is to most people in the United States. It lacks both melodic and harmonic content of the sort the European ear can catch, and seems extremely boring and repetitive. The New Age flute stuff is based on one artist's success with a great modification of one Arizona tribe's music, which he recorded for a small label just as the CD era was getting underway. Several generations down the pike, some guys with synthesizers in Romania are carrying on the grand tradition. Hey-ya-ho!

* * *

Another reason the market was slow today is the reason everything else in town is slow. Just like the fact that you can actually see guys in striped jerseys and berets carrying baguettes in France (not here, but you can see them elsewhere), this country closes for August, just like the stereotype. Which doesn't mean there's no one around: the town is packed, and everyone is carrying a Michelin Green Guide. The on-vacation thing crops up in the weirdest places: the fish market at the supermarket is on vacation for the month! Right when I was thinking about cooking some fish, too. And the little Asian market where I was going to score some green chiles until mine come in so I could make salsa: no dice, he's outta here til the 21st.

It's too hot to get too concerned about it, but the ritual-ness of it, the seeming commitment to stereotype, is a hoot.

* * *

Speaking of which, I need a favor. One of the people who was on vacation when I tried to find him yesterday is a guy who may or may not rent vans for transporting handicapped people. Some friends from the States are coming over in mid-September, and one of them is in a chair and needs to be lifted in and out of a van. I'll drive it, but she's still gotta ride in it.

They're arriving in Barcelona, and I'd really much rather score this vehicle there and return it there, so if anyone knows anything at all about accessability in Barcelona, let me know and I'll pass the word on. Meanwhile, I'm still scouting around here.

And speaking of stereotypes, this guy who's on vacation was found when I was at the nose doctor yesterday (he says I'm improving, but the regime's going to last another week, and then I get to take more pills for a month) and mentioned this briefly because he wanted me back in his office right around when my friends arrive. His solution was the obvious French one: he called the biggest pharmacy in town. After clarifying what we were after, we got the name of this guy who may or may not have what we want.

But yeah: the pharmacy. Center of all information. Why didn't I think of that?

* * *

A couple of weeks ago, I found I'd woken up in the middle of the night. Not sure why, it just happened. So I rousted myself up to hit the john, as long as I was awake, and as I walked down the hall from the bedroom, something very large ran at me, between my legs, and disappeared into the dark.

I went back to bed, half-asleep, thinking, oh, great, I have rats. There was some adrenaline to burn off from the shock (I yelled at it as it passed, I was so surprised), so as I lay there, I thought of ways to get rid of the rats. A cat meowed. Yeah, that was one way, but I didn't want a cat. I'm not a big fan of cats.

Then it meowed again, and I realized something. I got out of bed, went into the office/livingroom, and turned on the light. And there was a cat, perched in the window.

Which is odd, because I live on the second floor. The third floor, if you're an American. I'm a good 30 feet off the ground. Where in the hell did this cat come from? Seriously: flat stucco walls on this place. A couple of water pipes. And it was in the bathroom, where access is even tougher.

Anyway, I went for it and it jumped. I went back into the bedroom and opened the shutters. The cat was on the balcony, overlooking the drop. I walked over and very carefully picked it up, ready to drop it at the hint of a scratch. It let me do it, no problem. I walked into the living room and realized I had to open the front door. The cat started batting at me with its rear feet, but no claws. I dropped it, it jumped back into the window, then back to the balcony.

Okay, I can play. I opened the front door. Went back to the balcony, got the cat, got it as far as last time, and it started batting me again, but this time when I dropped it, as I knew it would, it ran out the door. No longer my problem.

Right. I see the cat every day now. It actually lives in the courtyard. There's a stone wall with a recess in it where it sleeps until the sun hits it. Then it prowls the warren of alleyways and back doors. I saw some of the violin-makers across the way feeding it kebab scraps, which I thought wasn't such a great idea. It hangs around. The violin-makers are on vacation. It's August.

It also has a friend. The lunkheads downstairs have a kitten that's growing. This explains the mostly-full catbox on their balcony, directly below mine. (It's a testament to French cat-litter technology that this doesn't reek, even when the noon sun in summer hits it). These days, the feral cat and the kitten play together in the courtyard a lot of the time.

But at night, it yowls. It walks around and yells. And this wakes me up when the lunkheads aren't partying. Today, it made so much noise that one of the neighbors erupted and started tossing water at it. Got the kitten, too, who was completely nonplussed by it. The cat is seriously skinny. I can't hear it now, and it's not in its recess, which is shaded. Maybe the water-tosser called animal control. Maybe the lunkheads won't have another party tonight and I can sleep the whole night through.

Maybe the cat realized it's August and is off on vacation.

1 comment:

  1. About the "American Indian" bands - I've been horribly mystified at how Europeans love this ersatz indigenous wheeze -it's as if they think it's deep or spiritual or something. Maybe coming from 'colonies' that actually have local indigenous traditions, we have more of a nose for fakery?

    In England, it's more likely to be "Peruvian" bands playing pan-pipes and wearing ponchos. There's one in every city it seems. The BBC sketch show The Fast Show used to do a brilliant gag where they'd show a shot of an empty street or famous monument, and a Peruvian band would suddenly shuffle into shot, playing maracas and blowing on pan-pipes. Hard to explain in writing, but it was hilarious.


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