Sunday, September 26, 2010


Sorry for the long time between posts. The "dark days" forseen in the last one have definitely descended here, and they're far from over.

But there's a limit to how much you can fight and how hard, and so I took the day off from the battle today. After all, I reasoned, the last Sunday of the month is free museum day, and although I have no interest, particularly, in Alexandre Cabanel, the subject of the special show at the Fabre that's been up since July, I figured that I could give it a once-over and then check out the (fairly) new annex the museum's set up in a bourgeois mansion a block away. It's mostly furniture and domestic decoration, but hey, I'm pretty bored these days.

There was almost nobody in the museum, so I walked right over to the entrance to the Cabanel only to be hailed by one of the Fabre's famous nasty guards. "You have to have a ticket," he said. I told him it was the last Sunday of the month, so I didn't need one. Now, here's where the Fabre really needs to work on its PR, because it promotes itself as an important tourist destination. It turns out I was wrong: it's the first Sunday of the month that's free. But instead of imparting that information, he said "Buy a ticket or leave."

Excuse me?

I wasn't nearly interested enough to buy a ticket even if I had had €8, so I left. I'll go back next Sunday unless I have something better to do, and maybe I'll moon this guy if he's still lurking around.

So I walked outside, and realized that hell, I didn't want to be in a museum anyway: we're now at the point of the year where it's cool outside, but the sun is good and warm. I'd hoped that, when this weather arrived, I could indulge myself in a truly epic walk: here to Sommières, dinner and overnight there, and then on to Nimes and take the train home. But that's going to cost a bit of money I don't have, so I went back and got my camera and decided to wander.

* * *

I did have one destination in mind: there's a young woman I see almost every day around here that I'm very worried about. Here's a picture of her:

The shopping mall in my back yard (which also has my supermarket in its basement) has seasonal pinups advertising the shops inside, and this is the Autumn girl. Click the photo and look at it in a larger size: this is Skeletor-woman. Her legs in particular disturb me:

I could make a circle with the thumbs and forefingers of my two hands and encircle her thigh without touching her. Recently, I remarked to someone that a number of my American female friends have wondered how French women keep their looks for so long and I replied with the usual patter about good food, active lifestyle, attention to detail, and so on. "Yeah, well," he replied, "speed's got something to do with it, too. What do you think all these 'slimming clinic' places are?" Looking at Miss Autumn (and I spent an hour standing next to a smaller version of this picture, so I got a good look), I have to say there may be something to that.

* * *

My next destination was a sort of fantasy destination. There's a restaurant here I've been intensely curious about, but I've never met anyone who's eaten there. It's called Le Ban des Gourmands, and it doesn't have a website (but it does have a Facebook page), and it just gives off a vibe as being the kind of place where good food happens. It's just kind of hard to get people interested in going there when you tell them it's in a kind of sleazy Arab neighborhood behind the railroad tracks, but the price is good, and I'm definitely going there some day. So I drifted down there and discovered they have a monthly table d'hôte  dinner on the first Monday of the month. Worth noting, and I did.

Standing there, I got one of my walking inspirations: there was a road that seemed to go in a direction I wasn't sure I'd ever gone in. So, of course, I had to take it. But it turned out that I had, of course, been there before: it was just too close to my house for me not to have tried it. But...what was this other street over here? And before I knew it, I was walking down a street lined with decaying old mansions -- villas, they're called here -- some of which seemed to be still one or two-family houses, others carved up into multi-family residences. At one point a curious Russian delicatessen went by, and then I came upon an Indian grocery store, pretty big, from what I could tell, called Sai-Food. I missed it by 20 minutes, though, so I'll have to go back.

More mansions, and a huge high-school, which must have been an architectural sensation for about 18 months after it was built in the '60s with its cylinders and cubes, scheduled for demolition, and suddenly I recognized where I was and crossed over to the sunny side of that street and, before too long, found myself back home. A well-spent day doing nothing, I'd say!

* * *

Lunkhead report: A number of readers have asked me for an update on Les Lunkheads downstairs. As most of you know, there was a bit of a rumble the day after the teargassing when several people kicked in the door to the Lunkhead apartment. This ruined door hung for a day or two, then was replaced by a curtain while various Lunkfriends took a door from inside the apartment and fashioned it into an outside door. This just made me realize that there's an art to hanging doors, because this thing has never really fit, and you can see into the apartment when it's closed. The landlord was on vacation when all of this happened, and I can't imagine he was pleased, since this €1400 apartment is the -- I was going to say "jewel," but in this building...

Anyway, it's been mostly sort of quiet down there since. I keep hoping this means that they're moving out, and the other day I saw some paint rollers drying on their balcony (tenants have to repaint an apartment white when they move out in Europe), but that's all the info I have. I know the landlord visited them the other day (oh, I'm hyper-sensitive to his voice by now...), but since he didn't visit me afterwards (whew), I have no idea what transpired.

We'll see what happens next. October 1 starts the period where landlords aren't allowed to order tenants out of their residences, so if they're not gone by then, they're here for the winter. It's very hard to evict tentants in this country if they've been paying their rent, and les Lunkheads are anarchists, which means their parents are paying their rent, so despite the sheaf of complaints from neighbors in the surrounding buildings, they may still be safe. All I know is there was a very loud party down there this past Thursday, which seems to be the traditional Fête des Lunkheads, and the guy upstairs, who's nobody to mess around with, blew up at them. I'll keep you posted.

LUNKHEAD UPDATE: Mere hours after I posted that, a bunch of drunks piled into the apartment and, apparently, decided to cook something, an event always prefaced by what sounds like piles of pots falling onto the floor. Apparently the method of cooking chosen was frying, as, from the smell, it often is, but as I sat here at my desk, there was suddenly a huge fireball which illuminated the entire courtyard. This was followed by hilarity, but I imagine that if it was a greasefire, the walls must have been scorched. Furthermore, the fact that I felt the explosion with my feet reminds me that their kitchen is just below me, so I've instituted an emergency drill in case I have to evacuate, so that I can save my computer with all my work on it, as well as the backup discs and get out the door (presuming the stairwell isn't on fire) before the apartment burns.


  1. I, too, have noticed this trend of restaurants neglecting or closing their web site and holding court on Facebook instead. I am completely baffled by it but maybe I just don't "get" Facebook. Not that I want to anyay...

  2. In this case, announcing special events via Facebook -- like the table d'hôte dinner -- makes a lot of sense. I find Facebook a marvelous networking tool and have gotten work and valuable connections from it, but yeah, it's not for everybody.

  3. Hi, I am planing on going to Germany from 10/17 - 11/17 and thought I would take a trip to Montpellier on the TGV during that time. How is the weather in M. that time of year?


  4. "The guy upstairs, who's nobody to mess around with." Sounds like God. Your description of preparations for the Fete des Lunkheads is hilarious. Also your definition of anarchist.

  5. I know you are going to resist this, but the answer to some of your problems lie with Walter Benjamin and Joseph Roth.

  6. Commit suicide? Drink myself to death? I don't get it.

  7. Or you could go James Fenimore Cooper on 'em.

  8. That's a good start. You may consider Benjamin's method of flanerie as a way to learn about a city. He was Baudelaire's major German translator after all. His discussions of Naples, Paris, Moscow, and Marseilles are exquisite portraits. If I were you, I'd check out Marseilles and retrace his steps. It's all in the travel essays. It's a way of learning how to get at what animates a place for the people. Given that you intuitively do this already I thought you could switch this with suicide whenever someone mentions Benjamin to you.

    Roth wrote a series of essays on the south of France. He had a lot of insight into the French. Given that the Lunkhead neighbors are more than a minor irritation, I thought Roth could help with that. Before he drank himself to death he was the *premier* political journalist in Germany who was hounded out by the Nazis, forced to live a hand-to-mouth existence, had his books burned, and couldn't get his stuff published. While not exactly a one-to-one correspondence I thought there would be some interesting comparisons for you.

  9. @BJS: Montpellier's a good long ways from Berlin, which is one reason I moved here from there. But the weather should be nice enough at the start of your period in Europe, getting wetter and colder as they days progress.

    @dlwilson, I'm only dimly aware of Benjamin, and suspect reading him would be heavy going. I *have* read some of Roth, and forgot about his French connection, seeing as his old regular bar, the Gipsklause, I think it was, was in my old neighborhood in Berlin.


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