The Frogmarch

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

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Seven Minutes at the 34 Bus Stop

"Seven Minutes at the Bus Stop" sounds like a junior high party game, but in this case, I was simply on my way to the office on a Saturday afternoon--doesn't happen often, fortunately--and not being in an especially big hurry to get there, opted for the 34 bus over the Metro. When I got to the stop (on a side street just off the main drag through Villeurbanne) and checked the Saturday timetable, I saw I had about 7 minutes to wait. Fortunately I had my notebook with me, so I decided to simply jot down observations for those 7 minutes. Let's go to the, um, action:

A quick survey of the surroundings: Bryan's Cafe on the corner, decorated with flags of the 32 World Cup nations. Across the street, a prewar apartment building with a sculpture of a bicycle on the balcony. Next to that, "Centre de Sophrologie" [relaxation therapy; I'm not sure exactly what that entails], then a dry cleaners, a Residence Retraite [retirement home], and a sales office for a new apartment building going up nearby. Down the street on Boulevard Emile Zola, I can see La Coupole cafe/restaurant, and next to it Cordonnerie Top'Smell [photo]. "Top'Smell"? I've gotten to the point where I can usually understand French puns or sayings, but I really have no idea what they were even going for there. [A cordonnerie is a small shop that cuts keys, re-soles shoes, makes rubber stamps and other odd services like that. They have a distinctly old-school vibe and seem to all be run by friendly old guys with filthy shop aprons.]

Behind me is a restaurant whose name I cannot read from here, but letters painted on the window proudly proclaim that it has a Salle Climatisee [air-conditioned dining room]. This is a narrow one-way street with cars parallel-parked on both sides, some real beaters of 80s and 90s vintage. An elderly woman waits in the glass-walled lobby of the retirement home, looking up the street for her ride.

A skinny guy, 40s-50s, walks up and asks me if I have a scrap of paper he can have to leave a note at the Grossiste Materiel Coiffure [wholesale beauty supply] shop, which is closed for lunch. I don't want to tear up my notebook so I give him the back page of the IRS Form 1040 Instructions I happen to have with me [Fun fact: If you live overseas you get an automatic extension on your tax return].

A guy on a bike rattles by-- his front mudguard is loose. Several people pass carrying baguettes from the boulangerie around the corner. It is impossible to carry a baguette discreetly.

A young couple walks up to the bus stop. The dude is wearing a T-shirt that says on it in large letters in English: "Mustache Never Dies". This would have made some sense if there was a picture of Chuck Norris or something on it, but there is not. Just the text.

They check the schedule. "1:15?"
"No, it's Saturday, look here. 1:21," she says.
Dude leans against the bus shelter to use it as a windbreak, and lights a cigarette, takes a drag. He looks up. "Ah, merde alors!" The 34 bus has just turned the corner.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

What They Think of Us, Part 704

Just in time for July 4, the cafeteria at my office had a special On Fete Les Etas-Unis (We Celebrate the USA) theme lunch. They do this every so often for countries whose cuisine translates neatly into the cafeteria format--Italy, Morocco, etc. So the cafeteria was decorated in red-white-blue bunting and posters of New York City and Route 66, and Meilleur Hits d'Elvis Presley playing on the PA.

As for the menu:
  • Barbecued chicken wings (not spicy, but you take what you can get)
  • Cheeseburgers (looked passable enough)
  • Cole Slaw or something like it
  • Potato Salad or something not quite like it
  • and for dessert, Pancakes with Peanut Butter [insert skrrriittccchhh sound of record needle skidding across "Jailhouse Rock"]

Clearly no Americans were consulted in developing the menu.

[photo: image from the website of a local shop that specializes in "deco American". I keep meaning to go check it out, especially because they have this majestically displayed in the front window. I mean... wow.]