Monday, December 21, 2009

Les Miettes de Noël

While most of the U.S. is groaning under a blanket of snow, we're getting some rain here for the first time in a long time, which is good, except that I know that there'll be a lot more in the next few months, so the mood will get a bit damp.

Christmas is coming, though, in just a few days, and I'm not looking forward to the holidays much this year because the 24th and the 31st both fall on Thursday, effectively making two four-day weekends in a row. This is not fun, especially when, as I do, you live day-to-day. I just know I'll run out of something over the weekend and, well, do without.

Other signs of Christmas are the Chinese guy, furtively looking from side to side as he illegally vends the stupidest product I've seen sold on the street. I haven't looked too closely since I don't want him to think I'm interested, but it's two chromed tubes, rounded at each end, stuck together. When you toss them in the air, they make a buzzing sound. A whopping €3 will get you one. The Eastern European guys demonstrating a top which has all kinds of LEDs in it probably get the same amount for their gizmo, but at least I can see a kid wanting to play with that. The other thing is so annoying, I can't imagine parents putting up with it for too long.

Down in the Christmas market stretching along the Comédie, canned Christmas music is playing. A lot of Frank Sinatra, and a very familiar melody with French words:

Vive le vent, vive le vent, vive le vent d'hiver/qui s'en va sifflant, soufflant dans les grands sapins verts.

I'm not even going to attempt a translation of that, except the first line salutes the winter wind, which I don't think many people are doing, especially with a warning at the moment that we may get winds of up to 12o kilometers per hour, which is almost 75 mph. In Berlin I'd have been much more depressed by this, though; I know that by March it'll be warming up nicely, and I'm looking forward to that.

* * *

Just because I haven't for a while, here's a picture of this Saturday's market haul:

Not, I'll grant you, as impressive as the summer ones, but for two days away from the Winter Solstice, not bad: some great broccoli, a saucisson sec covered with herbes de Provence (in the lower left corner; not my best photo, either), some chiles advertised as poivrons forts which didn't turn out to be too terribly fort, but made decent salsa, anyway, two kinds of pears, and some onions.

Fans of poivrons forts will be interested in how my jalapeño garden turned out, and here's the answer:

The euro-cent is added for scale, although you can also figure out how tiny they are by the grain on the cutting board. There were actually four, but two got eaten by a beast of some sort. Are they hot? I'm not sure: I was going to add them to the salsa, but figured I'd pop them in my mouth at some point just to see, so I saved them out. This, I submit, is pathetic, although I suspect that maybe one plant per pot instead of three might produce larger chiles. I'll try again next year, but I suspect the lack of direct sun for most of the day played a part here, too; these are the same size as my friends in Berlin got, with far less sun and far less heat.

* * *

I do think Les Lunkheads downstairs have just signed their eviction notice. The landlord can't evict anyone until March 15, by law, but this is clearly grounds. The other day, I was headed to the store when, on the stairs, I came upon two dogs tethered to the raililng. One of them fixed me with his eyes and started growling. Now, I speak fluent dog and I knew just what he was saying: no further. I knocked on the Lunkhead door and it opened a tiny crack. A Lunkheadette's head appeared and I asked whose dogs these were. "My friend," she said, and went to close the door. The friend, however appeared and said "Ils ne sont pas méchants." Then he closed the door. I took another step and the growling, which had subsided while he was there, rose again. I yelled and the guy came out again, saying again that the dogs weren't bad. But his presence got me out the door. When I came back, they were gone, except for the remnants of a turd which hadn't been as well picked up as it might have been.

Okay, I figured that was that. But Saturday night, it was getting along to my bedtime when I heard someone in the hall talking on a cell phone, quite loudly. "35o euros," he kept saying. Finally he hung up. I went back to my book, and after a while I heard snoring. Then the hall lights went on, and someone started up the stairs. A woman's voice said "M'sieu? M'sieu? M'sieu!" and eventually there was a stirring. Conversation ensued, and I caught the word "dogs" and the man saying something about hot chocolate. Eventually the woman went upstairs and I looked out while the hall light (which is burned out on my floor) was still on. It was the guy from the day before, stretched out on the stairs between my floor and the one above. This didn't make me particularly happy; I've seen this guy out on the Comédie drinking beer with his similarly bedogged friends. Now, it was cold outside, and no doubt it was warmer inside, but I still wasn't comfortable knowing this character and his crazy dogs were only a thin wooden door away from me.

I'm not sure of what happened next, because I didn't catch much of the conversation, but the downstairs door opened and up trooped a huge number of people, ready for a party upstairs at the flat of the French-American girl who lives there. It was 2am by now, and I sure wasn't happy about this. There was a lot of discussion with the bum, and he repeated his thing about hot chocolate, said "I want respect" a number of times, and said that his name was Joán. Apparently an accommodation was reached, because the last thing I saw before heading off to bed at 2:30 was one of the students coming down from the party and giving Joán just what he needed: a beer. After the students went to crank up their stereo, there was a lot of pounding on the downstairs door, which I suspect was Joán's friends trying to get in. The door has a huge panel in it, which, I just discovered, had fallen out. There are guys down there putting it back as I type.

I'm all for the Christmas spirit, but I also know that the likes of Joán are sneaky psychopaths, charming naive kids into thinking of them as victims of something other than their own desires and addictions. Not that I think the Lunkheadette was that naive. I suspect they were bonding over something else from their eagerness to get back to it. The landlord's been missing lately, and he's probably taking a Christmas vacation like everyone else around here. But if he hasn't heard about this incident, he will.

Ho ho ho. Wake me when it's January, okay?


  1. Is there some reason you don't simply call the cops?

    Cops in France love beating up bums and adore hassling students. And if people are talking on the phone late at night abotu 350 euros then there was white powder all over that party.

  2. Oh brother.
    Merry Christmas, Ed and don't go out without a guy-rope.

  3. I just woke up to puke on my windowsill (from upstairs, not me), but I won't pretend it's as bad as crap in your staircase...Happy Holidays!

  4. He was there from about 10pm last night until 11 this morning, too. This has gotta stop.

  5. Oh Ed, sorry to hear it. Hope all's as well as can be and that you await 2010 brimming with enthusiasm and optimism.


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