The Frogmarch

"I've got to pull up my stakes and roll, man." --Jean-Jacques Libris de Kerouac

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

I'm Cheating

I have a whole lotta things going on right now, with the movin-out and the movin-in and the baby-birthin' (don't know nothin' bout). I had a blog post I wrote up in longhand on a notepad but I don't have it with me, having used the notepad to try to map out our new kitchen. So instead of trying to recall it, I'm just going to copy/paste here an e-mail I sent to my homies Bryan and Judd back home, with some stuff edited out of it. I was in a pretty expansive mood when I wrote it and I think it captures an hour in the life pretty well. Hope y'all don't mind.

[begin paste]
Ordinarily, in another, former life, I'd be calling y'all at the shop around this time: Friday afternoon, with the workday slinking away--no point in starting some new project this late on a Friday--and the sun is out and with a clear blue sky promising cold beers and warm evenings and a few laughs. Instead of a phone call, though, this time I'll send a post card, a snapshot. But while most postcards detail vacations and sights and monuments and castles and works of art, this one is of nothing special, really, just an hour of a life that is becoming everyday.

Around lunchtime I check today's menu at the cafeteria, and though the choice of boeuf mode aux carottes or filet du colin au citron is fairly appealing, I decide fresh air and sunshine are more appealing. I nod at the security guys, scan my badge and wait for the iron gate to roll open.
From there it's a quick right, past a butcher shop and a chocolatier and a tabac-presse, down the block with its incongruous Domino's Pizza (delivery scooters parked out front) to Place Albert Courtois, a large open square with a carousel and a small bandshell and flocks of pigeons that rise and wheel in a gray cloud as I walk through their midst. There are benches here, and at least two games of petanque going on--from idle observation I've gleaned that it's a bit like horseshoes, only played with heavy, metallic balls tossed underhand with backspin toward a red target ball, and played exclusively by men over 50. Cafe Autretemps, on the corner, has tables spilling into the square, and sunlight sparkles in wineglasses and Evian and white table linens. It's nice but too expensive to include in the regular lunch rotation. I cross the square to a sandwicherie, its glass display counter serving as its front wall along the sidewalk, and order a jambon-et-fromage with frites and a Kronenbourg; five Euros twenty. A few extra napkins in the bag, and I cross to the Maison Lumieres. The Lumieres were a family that made their fortune in the late 19th century in the production of photographic plates and equipment, and their palatial house dominates the square with its Edwardian turrets and towers. The former gardens are now a public park, and here I stake out a spot under a tree to spread out my lunch. The gardens are otherwise full of French high school girls on lunch break from the ecole down the street, and the air is bright with their laughter.

To my left is a museum: it seems that the brothers Lumiere, favored with that lucky combination of idle time, scientific curiousity, and resources enjoyed by few but the rich, used their knowledge of photographic materials and techiniques to devise a method of taking photographic images as quickly as the eye can process them, printing them, and displaying them. Using this method, they photographed workers leaving their father's factory one afternoon in 1895, right over there behind where those girls are sunbathing [at this point a drop of sweat appears on my brow], and the motion picture was born.

The sun is warm, the beer is cold, and it's a surprisingly good sandwich. Even the most mundane food here is remarkable: the ham more hammy, the cheese more cheesy, the bread a baguette slashed lengthwise while still warm from the boulangerie. I read intermittently through a few pages of a Paul Auster novel, having just found an English bookstore downtown a few days ago. All too soon it's time to ball up my napkins and wax paper and head back; I'm allowed two hours for lunch but have things I'd like to get done this afternoon.

Instead I kill time and type out an e-mail to my friends back home.

Cheers to Friday.
[end paste]

Here are some unrelated photos; the first is at a Lyonnaise bouchon somewhere in Vieux Lyon (the old city), and the second is from Fourviere, right next to the cathedral. Be sure you click on it to see the details...the old tower in the foreground is at one corner of Place Bellecour, just out of frame; the four modern towers beyond that are on the opposite bank of the Rhone. I wish I knew enough Alpine geography to tell you which mountains those are, but you can see there's still quite a bit of snow on them (this was taken just after we arrived, in late March).


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