Saturday, October 20, 2012

Early Fall Miettes

Just a few items here, because I'm in sort of a time crunch.

First, I took a couple of American tourists on my famous Languedoc's Greatest Hits tour, the one that hits Sommières, goes between Pic St. Loup and l'Hortus, up to St. Martin de Londres, the Pont du Diable, and St. Guilhem le Désert, and finished up, as I did a couple of months ago, in St. Saturnin so they could do some wine-tasting. We got there kind of late, were very happy to see that Mme Cabanes was still open at Domaine d'Archimbault, decided to skip Virgile Joly, and went over to the cave cooperative of the St. Saturnin wine collective, which was still open. The young woman in there was looking at the skies with some trepidation, but was happy to practice her English on the tourists. We obviously did things in the wrong order, because nothing she poured was anything near as good as Mme Cabanes has, but she did offer two interesting bits of lore. "It's difficult doing a tasting when the weather's like this," she said. "The air is thick, heavy, and it will probably rain. The wines never taste at their best when it's like this." In fact, I'd already noticed this over at Domaine D'Archimbault: there was a kind of mugginess that hadn't been there last time. "The other time you should never taste wine," she continued, "is during the harvest. That's even worse than now; some of the wines can actually taste bad. I have no idea why this is, but it's true." She assured us that the cave cooperative was finished with their harvest, though.

Incidentally, if you're visiting Montpellier and would like to take a day to do this tour, don't hesitate to ask. I love getting out of town, and the route of this tour is pretty flexible, which means there are lots of other possibilities of things to see.

* * * 

I got an e-mail the other day from a woman named Marielle Lopez, informing me that she had opened a shop selling Mexican handicrafts and art objects not far from my house, and that starting Friday, she'd have a Dia de los Muertos display there, and would I be kind enough to tell the other Americans in town about it? Sure, I said, be happy to put it on my blog. So yesterday, after I did some other stuff, I wandered over with my camera. The place was locked up tight and there was a sign in the window saying that it was closed for the day. Okay, I said, I'd go back tomorrow. And I did, about an hour ago, and the place was still locked up, although there was a woman in there looking at fabric samples. She was ignoring me, so I shrugged and walked away. As I made my way up the hill, though, I ran into a couple of people I knew, Claude and Florence. Florence, way back at the start of this blog, was featured for her unusual art which takes its inspiration from Mexican calaveras, where skeletons take the parts that people take, a big part of the Day of the Dead tradition. I mentioned that it was the second day in a row I'd found the place closed, and it turned out that they were on their way there to finish the window display, which was the Dia de los Muertos altar. Ms. Lopez, apparently, had just had a baby, which wasn't supposed to be due until November 10, but came last night instead. 

So I caught up with Claude and Florence, and took some pictures. Kind of hard to get the window, both because it wasn't finished and because there wasn't much room. 

There are other calaveras scattered around -- a nice display of Mexican folk art -- as well as some lucha libre guys. 

And, for that Franco-Mexican touch, some of Florence's pieces, although not as cool as the ones she had at her gallery show. 

All in all a nice little show, so if you're over on the other side of the hill from me, stop in and take a look: Modarte, 15 rue Pila St. Gely, 34000 Montpellier.

* * * 

Meanwhile, Monday morning I'm headed to Barcelona for the day, and Tuesday morning I'm flying off for a week in San Francisco for reasons I can't divulge at this time. I'll fly back into Barcelona on Halloween, and return here the next evening. An unexpected break, visits with friends in San Francisco, Petlauma, and Berkeley, some Chinese food I don't have to cook myself, and who knows what other adventures await. More, perhaps, from the road, or, for sure, when I return. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Wait, How'd This Happen?

Back from the market on Tuesday, and I noticed there wasn't a lot in the bag. A nice big romaine lettuce, a couple of ratty (but probably still good-tasting) eggplants, two yellow tomatoes for what will undoubtedly be the last fresh-tomato pizza of the year, and a couple of melons, not particularly large, but, it developed, very nice and juicy.

In other words, this is a picture of the end of summer. The tomato lady won't be there much longer, I don't think, and she's supplemented her stock with some peppers, including some little ones that look like bell peppers, but are a kind of purply-brown and are known as chocolate peppers. It was hard finding the eggplants and the melons, and the melon guy insisted I take three for €5 (I was with a visitor, who got the other one). Whether there'll be any at all on Saturday is a good question. There were no peaches at all and the pears weren't in yet.

We had a hot summer, no doubt about that. Not the kind of weather you want to go out in. Fortunately, I had work to do, and I did it. But at the end of the afternoon, when the sun shone directly on the concrete 90º from the window I work by, the stone absorbed the heat and radiated it back out for hours after the sun went down. There would be a little sliver of the night where it got cool and then the sun would come back up.

And then one night it stopped. The wind came in, blowing hard out of the mountains. I kept getting awakened by the shutters in my bedroom being blown open, and got up and closed them again because I sleep past sunrise. I heard my neighbors across the courtyard's windows banging as the wind toyed with them, and woke up to see that the one that had already been pierced by the upstairs neighbor kid's thrown metal toy truck some time ago had cracked badly. The whole thing's going to need to be replaced.

But the day was nice. The sun was still very warm, although the wind was also there, greatly diminished, and after walking around for a while I realized that it was, overnight, too cool out there to wear sandals, as I had been doing for months. Changing into sneakers back at the house, I soon discovered that my feet had changed shape, and I got a hell of a blister. I kept reminding myself that when I wore cowboy boots, I'd always suffer a similar problem and then suddenly they'd feel great. Which didn't help right there and then, however.

And each subsequent day has been different. The monotony -- pleasant monotony, of course -- of the blue-sky-no-clouds-warm-day that is easily over half the year here had been interrupted. The battle had begun: steel grey clouds hung in the sky, either off towards the ocean or above the mountains. We had a day and a half of torrential rains this past Saturday, and I was lucky enough to get to the market before they started and to the supermarket during a pause, which made me feel smug.

Another thing, though, that I really do like is that I feel active again. The heat really can defeat your doing anything before you actually, like, do anything. Once you get out, of course, it's not so bad -- this isn't 100º-plus Austin, after all -- but wanting to do it is another matter entirely. Today, having completed my morning routine and being inbetween work (the nice euphemism actors use for not having any), I impatiently strode out of the house on the pretext of having to put the garbage out and continued walking for another 30 minutes, just stalking around the hill and looking around. Not much to see, admittedly, in terms of something new, but I covered a fair amount of ground. Come to think of it, there are a couple of places I missed that I need to hit next time that impulse takes hold. And I don't feel like so much of a slug, either.

So if the onset of fall means increased activity, I'm for it. Less appealing is the knowledge that I'll be a year older in less than a month, an age whose divisibility by four makes me reflect that I was born during a presidential election (and a thunder snowstorm, if you can believe it) with my mother stopping off at the polling place to cast her Republican vote between contractions. (I assume my father, who used to object to FDR's picture on the dimes in his pocket, did, too, since he was driving).

It also means, perhaps, progress towards my goal of leaving The Slum behind, even if I have no idea where I'll go from here. It's impossible for me to make plans, at any rate, and that's nothing new. Nope, as I say, live like the alcoholics: one day at a time. Make that pizza with the yellow tomatoes tonight, with a caesar salad using that romaine. A fulfillable goal. Tomorrow's another day. Maybe I'll have figured out what to do with those eggplants by then. But you never know.
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