Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Southern France, Part 1
I got off the train in Nimes, walked down to the main floor of the train station and found a map of the area mounted to a wall. I´d been standing there mere seconds when I heard someone calling out "hey hey" and making whistling noises. I should have known it was dad. He greeted me with his usual adaptation on the French tradition of kissing both cheeks, only once dad has done both sides he goes in for an extra, third kiss. Its not a kiss exactly, its more like brushing cheeks and making a kiss noise, I don´t remember exactly when he started doing this but there´s no stopping him.
We checked into our hotel rooms, and dad took me on a tour of Nimes, stopping by an ancient Roman coliseum where bullfights are still held to this day. I take bullfights personally, as my sun sign is Taurus. I realize its a hundreds of years old tradition, and I have respect for the toreador spirit, but still - what did Ferdinand ever do to you? I always root for the bull. We walked up and down ancient staircases as dad talked about inflation rates, and then went to a cafe in the old town that had good coffee and terrible service while dad told me about his prostate. With my jet lag and about 2 hours of sleep I lasted until about 8pm local time. On the walk back to the hotel the streets were filled with the honking of car horns because Bordeaux had just beat Monaco in soccer by a score of 1-0.
In his hotel room dad opened a bottle of red wine and two unpasteurized cheeses - one made from goat´s milk, the other from sheep´s milk, a baguette, some cooked brussels sprouts he´d bought from his "vegetable lady" in Geneva (which he referred to as crucibles due to their digestive properties), and two apples. It sounds like a mess, but it was delicious. The goat cheese was mild, and the sheep cheese was blue like roquefort - sharp, but the sting passed quickly like wasabi. I couldn´t stop eating it.
"Is it wrong that I can´t stop eating this?" I asked rhertorically.
"Well, yes, but that´s okay," dad said, and then went right to the place I always try to avoid with him when it comes to discussing food - my weight. He said I`d slimmed down in my old age, but that I couldn´t "escape" my mother or my grandmother in terms of body type. This is the same man who´d just greeted me at the train station with half a kilo of Swiss chocolate.
Dad is unreasonably thin, and very proud of it. I refused to tell him how much I weighed after I turned 12 years old, and I´m glad I had the presence of mind to do so, it could have induced some serious issues about food and weight for me. Drunk on wine and jet lag, I launched into a diatribe about the inherent problems in judging a person´s fitness based on the BMI - Body Mass Index scale, a tool that has put me in the overweight category for 25 years. Dad kept up with me, partly because he was also drunk and partly because we were discussing metrics and statistics, two things he loves talking about. I left his room feeling satisfied that I´d made my point, but the wine could have been boosting my sense of triumph.
I fell asleep at 9:30pm, and woke up at 2:30am. I spent the next four hours surfing channels on the hotel room TV. There were stations in French, German, Spanish, Italian and English. One channel was showing Death Becomes Her dubbed in French, and TF2 was broadcasting a talk show called lóbjet du scandale, in which a panel of experts discussed the state of American democracy while a studio audience watched. On the oval table where the panel sat some kind of conveyor belt circulated objects relating to the topic at hand: a miniature American flag; a pre-9/11 miniature set of lower Manhattan; and a photo of Osama bin Laden. TF1 showed a period piece dubbed in French with men in sideburns and a lot of chandeliers, and Canal + showed Léncroyable Hulk starring Ed Norton. I settled on an unidentified film starring Philip Seymour Hoffman set in the American southwest, dubbed in French. When I tired of the inconsistency in what I was hearing and the movements of the actors mouths I switched to France 24, where the news was being broadcast in English. Chicago had made the news because of the Fenger High School violence; its nice to know my hometown´s standing in the world hasn´t changed since the days of Al Capone.