Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thanks for the memories

We’re not taking much of anything back with us from this trip, our luggage is going to be pared down to the absolute minimum. We have the possibility of shipping a crate back to the states through the contacts of
Hanna’s folks, thank God. Cindy and Caleigh have made mention of the fact that they are sick of their limited wardrobe, I on the other hand would have been fine with two of every thing and just alternate as laundry dictated. Cindy will be so happy to read this as her free time usually consists of paying bills in France and in the States, the aforementioned laundry, meals, Caleigh’s school requirements, well the list is endless. She views my list with a callous eye, driving about, writing, sleeping, eating, researching wine, photography, more writing, it seems I have as much to do as she does, except mine is fun stuff. It’s good to be King.
We have so many things to be thankful for on this trip, Cindy’s Father Wylie, and Ginny have sent us care packages during the trip. These packages have included items not available to us over here. Caleigh has been blessed with the latest American versions of a plethora of teen magazines, she takes them to her friends sleepovers and they devour all the latest news. They have included everything from the complete makings of a taco dinner, except the hamburger for obvious reasons, to real Cheetoo’s, books in English, A red sox’s hat (more on that later), heavens the list seems endless. Thank you Wylie and Ginny, there were a few dark days that were lightened by your thoughtfulness. The constant E-mails and Facebook postings were really appreciated, my apologies for my occasional political postings, family is more important than my frustrated posts, and I hope they weren’t too biting. There were so many nice things family and friends took time to do, it was not unappreciated.
Then here in France, we have lots of memories to take back with us in lieu of luggage, I was going to say baggage, but I’m stuck with mine. The people we have met, and our experiences will always be with us. Whether it was the three boys on the school fieldtrip to Bonaguil, spending time with Hannah’s family, or Isabelle and Thierry Janssen, the couple who run the Gite we are staying at.
All these and scores more, and recently Hannah’s younger brother, Jules (who funny enough is an absolute Jewel) had admired my green (St. Patrick’s day issue) Red Sox cap. Caleigh mentioned his like for it to me a few days earlier, and I asked would he like it, she said, he would love it. When picking up the girls at Hannah’s house, a couple days later, Jules was standing by the car chatting with the girls, as I was speaking to the parents. Caleigh got my attention through the car window, as they were waiting in the car for me, and motioned to Jules, my cap was between the two front seats, so I nodded to Caleigh that yes, please give him the cap. I go back to talking to the parents, and I see a blur running around the car and Jules leaps at me and gives me a huge hug, while hanging from me, so I hug him back and gently lower him, after an eternity he lets go, as my eyes well up. Even writing this now I’m a little choked up, the nicest thing that’s happened to me in years it seems. So Wylie and Ginny, thank you so much for the cap. I’m going to go online, when I return and order another of the exact same, and it will mean even more to me knowing that its mate is being genuinely loved back in France, as mine will be, where ever I am.

P.S. I posted this ten minutes ago, guess what just arrived, an overnighted package from Wylie and Ginny, multiple packs of flour and corn tortillas (you can't get them over here)and the required spices. It is so nice to have an occasional taste of home. Thank you guys!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring has sprung

Spring races into focus, vibrant in its color, and rapid in its employment. The birds seem more animated, we’ve watched them gathering horse hair to line their nests, after Caleigh has groomed Tequila (The initially white farm horse, who quite often has found mud to bathe in.) The grass is now almost fluorescent, after shedding its winter shroud. The sheep are followed around the pasture by their little delicate babies, grazing in an idyllic setting that Maxfield Parish would covet. All the gray shrubs have come out of their dormancy, and now parade about in the most festive of costumes. (Yes, a straight man is writing this, happily married and father of one.) It is such an incredible display of spring, that comes quickly here. ( anyway )
But as I have mentioned before, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This may not be for the faint of heart, but in all the surreal beauty there is the reality, farm life is about necessity. The dandelion and small white flowered pastures are a stunning visual, but in the back ground you hear the cows mooing with a deep angst for the calves that were taken away a few days ago. They have been sold for the needed income a farm requires to stay afloat. It is a deep mortal moo that they issue as if to direct their little ones back. Yes spring in the southern regions of France is glorious, but a price is paid for the panoramic beauty. You wonder how such docile creatures have endured for the ages, with the perpetual rites of spring.
On a brighter, much brighter note, there is also the comical, the rooster that wakes us up at five a.m., now has a pupil, for the past couple weeks the little bantam will echo, although in an adolescent call, the older seasoned rooster. We have nicknamed the little pupil, snooze, after the alarm clock setting that goes on after the initial rooster.
And Cindy, who is a sundial , has been stalking any signs of spring that remotely start to show promise of budding, she is happy. We made a trip to Marmand to get a basic spring outfit. She has kept a eye skyward, hoping the southern French countryside would deliver the promise it has always held for her.
Caleigh has also gotten her report card, and she did quite well. For an English speaking kid to be dumped into a French local school, and to have caught on so adeptly, we are very proud. The assistant principal said she would be more than welcomed back, which says so much about her integration into this environment. It probably helped that she had a French boyfriend, as her conversational French was boosted by his influence. But enough about that aspect about spring.
Spring races into focus, vibrant in its color, and rapid in its employment. The birds seem more animated, we’ve watched them gathering horse hair to line their nests, after Caleigh has groomed Tequila (The initially white farm horse, who quite often has found mud to bathe in.) The grass is now almost fluorescent, after shedding its winter shroud. The sheep are followed around the pasture by their little delicate babies, grazing in an idyllic setting that Maxfield Parish would covet. All the gray shrubs have come out of their dormancy, and now parade about in the most festive of costumes. (Yes, a straight man is writing this, happily married and father of one.) It is such an incredible display of spring, that comes quickly here. ( don’t even want to comment on that)
But as I have mentioned before, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This may not be for the faint of heart, but in all the surreal beauty there is the reality, farm life is about necessity. The dandelion and small white flowered pastures are a stunning visual, but in the back ground you hear the cows mooing with a deep angst for the calves that were taken away a few days ago. They have been sold for the needed income a farm requires to stay afloat. It is a deep mortal moo that they issue as if to direct their little ones back. Yes spring in the southern regions of France is glorious, but a price is paid for the panoramic beauty. You wonder how such docile creatures have endured for the ages, with the perpetual rites of spring.
On a brighter, much brighter note, there is also the comical, the rooster that wakes us up at five a.m., now has a pupil, for the past couple weeks the little bantam will echo, although in an adolescent call, the older seasoned rooster. We have nicknamed the little pupil, snooze, after the alarm clock setting that goes on after the initial rooster.
And Cindy, who is a sundial , has been stalking any signs of spring that remotely start to show promise of budding, she is happy. We made a trip to Marmand to get a basic spring outfit. She has kept a eye skyward, hoping the southern French countryside would deliver the promise it has always held for her.
Caleigh has also gotten her report card, and she did quite well. For an English speaking kid to be dumped into a French local school, and to have caught on so adeptly, we are very proud. The assistant principal said she would be more than welcomed back, which says so much about her integration into this environment. It probably helped that she had a French boyfriend, as her conversational French was boosted by his influence. But enough about that aspect about spring.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

As time goes by.....

It is Saturday morning in France, last night we had our rehearsal for our part of the presentation in “ La Sauvetat Du Dropt sans frontieres” (1). I was incorrect (imagine that? ) in that it’s actually being held next Saturday night. It is a collection of seven different couples, and a description of their native homelands and their reasons for moving here.
In a rush of memories, I am reminded of the people that we’ve met and how they have wholeheartedly taken us into their life, with no reservations. Isabelle Janssen who is the proprietor of the Gite we are renting, and her nonstop help with everything. The parents of Caleigh’s friend Hannah, who allowed us some sanity by embracing us, and sharing their experiences of seventeen years on this soil. Our friends Arlette and Andrew, who have been our lighthouse during some dark days in the planning stages, when we first arrived, and Arlette’s constant positive encouragement.
And of course it reminds me of the first time I left the comfort of the East coast and moved to California, some twenty years ago. After living in Los Angeles for a year, I met Cindy through a friend of mine Joe. ( Thanks Assclown!, It was actually the best thing that happened to me. )
I started dating Cindy, and I pretty much had a black tone of sartorial attire, and not even remotely having a clue about beach life, or relaxing and enjoyment of the simple things. Well through the years Cindy’s folks had watched initially thinking, “How long is this experiment going to last?” and they weathered my peculiarities, my love for all teams from the Boston environs, being a boy from Maine, and constantly trying to be funny. ( a trait that annoys even me)
As time passed, I hope I’ve passed their test, well not test so much, as to see that their Cindy is happy and respected by her partner. Because it works both ways, as these eighteen years have passed I’ve also seen something.
I’ve seen Gary and Susan grow stronger together, travel the planet together as they broaden their horizons together. I’ve seen the photographs from their trips together, and admire the shots of them together, smiling and at ease, on one of their many, constant, unending paradise island vacations. I read Susan’s and Gary’s e-mails, describing with details the places they visit, and I wish I could capture Gary’s sense of at ease in any environment they land in. Just so you know this blog would have died on the vine, were it not for Gary’s constant comments, and support. But these grapes (blog entries) reached their Cuvaison, in large part, because after all these years Gary and Susan’s approval still means a lot to me.

Happy Anniversary Gary and Susan Brown.

All my Love. Henri’
Go Patriots…..And Chargers!

Cuvaison….I’ve always wanted to incorporate that word, how fitting.
The French term for the period when juice from the grapes is kept in contact with the skins and seeds during both fermentation and maceration. Critical in the making of red wines, cuvaison allows color, tannins and aroma to be transferred from the skins and seeds to the juice. For rosé or blush wines the cuvaison would be very short (measured in terms of hours) so that not much color or tannin would be extracted from skins and seeds.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Saint-Cirq Lapopie Review

Saint-Cirq Lapopie; Heaven on earth, the most romantic village I’ve ever been to, they also have the food and wines to match. We have not however stayed the night, I think we will look into that. The approach to town is either the high road, or there is a low road. ( no comment needed I would think! ) Our first time here two years ago, we approached from the low road and wrapped our way up the mountain, its effect was wonderful, you were driving up a hillside peering over the edge into certain doom, then you arrive and are greeted to a storybook village. This year, due to coming from the southwest we were already high in elevation, and as we approached the town we saw great vistas beyond the town, and eased our way to the upper parking area. We first had lunch, as described yesterday, and my maladroit handling of the wine selection, then made our way to the overlook. A cliff pathway that you climbed, even higher than the towns already vertigo inspiring effect. The path was stone steps, that were worn smooth, and rounded, all you needed was a little regular rain, a little moss / alge, and viola! The French equivalent of Six Flags water amusement park, mixed with Disney’s, Raiders of the Lost Arc ride, mixed with an episode of House. “ You say this body was flung from 200 feet and bounced off twelve medieval arches and landed in a river bank, buried up to his waist?” House queries, then continues. “ I know this man, and he deserves it.” So we make it to the precipice, and I take a dozen photo’s and not one does it justice. We look around, Me walking around the Darwin fence, and Cindy resting in the center of the landing, away from the edge and any indication of how high up we really are. Glorious, then we walk back down the pathway, and make our way into the heart of the little jewel. It was after we returned to our rented farm house that I decided that I would focus on taking more photo’s of buildings elevations. After reviewing our photo’s I was blown away by the incredible beauty that these wonderfully crafted and aged houses possess. Anyway back in Saint-Cirq Lapopie, we meander around the labyrinth of alley ways and streets, every where there are boutique shops, wine shops, artisan wares, art galleries, and as it is not season, ( tourist ) there is a lot of construction going on, getting ready for the hoards. We spend an hour hiking about the town and have to get back on the road, as our drive back to our temp. home is a couple hours. We drive down the low road, so to speak, and take a couple snaps (photo’s not football ) of the town as seen from the road out. It is the photograph at the top of this entry. For anyone planning a visit to France, I would strongly recommend you look into, Saint-Cirq Lapopie, Domme, LaRoque Gageac, Rocamadour , and Sarlat. These are all near each other and you could spend three days and thoroughly enjoy some of the most beautiful spots on earth. Oh and if you want to throw away a lot of money, and really, really love lots of people, go at some point in late June, all of July, or August. We went in mid-March there was no one, free parking, great service at restaurants, most things were available, and the local people were great, as they weren’t frustrated yet and inundated by swarms of the worlds stupidest people….Tourists. (For all of you playing at home, I’m well aware of the fact that I am by definition a tourist. ) But if possible, when planning a trip abroad, I strongly recommend off season travel, ideally just before the “season” starts. Cindy and I now joke that, “ We winter in France.”

A new Wine for Henri'

Caleigh left for school, bright and early and Cindy and I got up and out of the house and drove off for another full day type road trip. Our destination was Cahors; and then Saint-Cirq Lapopie, a revisit of two years ago, it was along with LaRoque Gageac, our favorite beau plus villages. I had reviewed the route we would take, and decided that we would first drive just past Cahors and drive up to Mont St. Cyr. to a look our point above Cahors. This would allow us to get a birds eye view of the town, and scope out where we would focus on visiting. Then we would scoot over to Saint-Cirq Lapopie for lunch, hopefully to the place we ate at two years ago, after reading about it in a Conde Nast article. So as we’re driving ever more west, Cindy leafs through the various guide books and as we drive, and we learn; our lunch destination is closed for the season, another thing we learn is an alternate lunch place.
So we continue ever west and realize that the environs of Cahors are dry in appearance, and Cindy and I joke about maybe that’s why Cahors wines are so dry and dark, no water, harsh heat in the summer, having to fight for every drop of water, well you get the point. The trees have a dry lichen coating them, kinda like a dry swampy look, or as we joked “it’s a dry, kinda dry.” Finally we enter the outer burbs of Cahors and make our way to the main bridge, instead of entering into the medieval town, we head out of town, up a winding narrow road. We found out halfway up, that it was only one way. Nothing worse that driving up this windy hilly road, thinking that at any moment there may be an oncoming delivery truck, with the driver concentrating on the list of items that he needs to drop off in the next town. So after 8 kilometers of the Burma trail we reach the peak overlooking the town of Cahors. Man Oh Man is this town packed with Architectural beauties. Sure the burbs may be mundane, but cross that bridge and there is a lot of photo’s begging to be taken, coincidently enough the bridge goes over the Lot river.
The town is surrounded by water on three sides, as one of the towns leaders, diverted the Lot by building damns and escarpments to direct the natural defense. Then they built some bridges, the beautiful medieval one still remaining is said to have been completed, because as it was way behind schedule, the architect made a deal with the devil. In exchange for his soul ( some contractors (yours truly) might debate the validity of an architect having a soul) the architect made the arrangement that the devil see that it was sped up, and completed. When the job progressed quite rapidly, the architect got cold feet, he asked the devil to fill a barrel using only a sieve, the devil made a historic attempt but alas could not fill the barrel, the architect got his soul (?????) back, and while finishing the last keyway stone on top, the piece repeatedly kept falling out, through the years. In the renaissance some masons ( probably without the direction of an architect ) finally secured a piece, which interestingly enough had the added detail of a devil trying to remove in chiseled into it. So as we looked upon Cahors, we decided to drive straight through as the drive was longer than anticipated, and truthfully, I really wanted to photograph the town from a distance. We decided to continue on this narrow widow maker of a road, which shortly thereafter turned into a two way road. Cindy was surprised to find out that the map was correct and we dissected the mountain between us and lunch in no time flat.
We finally arrive in Saint-Cirq Lapopie and it is pleasantly deserted. We park the gasping little Citroen, and visit our old friend. We made our way to the substitute restaurant, and wow did we make the absolute correct call, or Cindy did anyway. We asked for a recommendation for the wine to accompany our meal, and this wonderful waitress, who proved to be the best, most helpful, non rushing, not standing over you every second, not replacing water after every sip, young lady said. “Well this is a nice Cahors wine, pointing it out to Cindy. I could have sworn you could hear a duck being stepped on under our table, accompanied by, “ Wah, Wah, Wah, Waaahhhhh.” We had spent fifteen positively sophomoric moments on the drive over chuckling about the wonderful black tar Cahors dry, dry, dry wine. We looked like the proverbial deer in the headlights. I thought I should ask “Well, if you say so, do you have Chicken, duck, or crow on your menu?” We countered with “We like Bordeaux, red wine.” She smiled, honestly and just said. “This is a red wine that will pair nicely.” Again pointing at the Cahors wine. We knew we had no choice, because how would this sound. “No thank you, we will skip the tar laden local swill and have the toffee nosed Bordeaux,but good luck shilling the local
product." There is no way anyone reading this could remotely side with our dipshit logic, I think we’re good people overall, but I was about to get served…in so many ways, a lesson which is best served room temperature. Cindy being the ambassador looks at her and smiles and say. “That sounds great, we’ll have that with our lunch.” I look at her as if to say, “Enjoy your bottle of pitch tar local dry wine, Baby cose I‘m having an aperitif.”
We both order the Chef’s Suggestion, as we ordered the waitress’s selection might as well keep symmetry. Cindy and I ordered an aperitif, I had the Truffe Vin and Cindy had the house special called Fenolon which consisted of some Cahors wine, cassis and brou de noix. For some reason I love, adore Truffles, there is an earthy flavor, difficult to explain, I just connect with it, this white, sweet wine was infused with truffle. I don’t care for sweet wines, to me they’re an oxymoron, but this sweet truffle flavor was good, it was silly, it was so good. You can quote me on that. Cindy’s house special was like Kir, but darker and syrupy. The young lady returns with our bottle of Cahors, and leaves it on the table, no ceremonial “Would you like to sniff the cork, you nitwit poser, lick the top of the bottle and breathe through your………..She wanted to let it breath while we enjoyed the aperitifs. Being the whistledick that I am I’m thinking. “they probably have to come back in five minutes and add a thinning agent to the wine.” Anyway we finish the aperitifs and nibble on the bread with Truffle butter, and I pour a glass of the Cahors wine for Cindy then myself. Hmmm interesting color, darker than a pinot noir, but a little lighter than a Bordeaux. Doesn’t smell like a diesel and limestone blend, tastes kinda light but full bodied, but not like you could stand up a fork in it. “Let’s get Mikey to try it, he‘ll try anything….He likes it!” As we ate our main course paired with this wonderful red wine, I savored the lesson. You know what you nincompoop, at least you didn’t make a fool out of yourself in front of the waitress, I think we handled it pretty well.
She walks over smiling in her genuine way and asks how I like it. (She actually meant the meal, but shiferbrains me answers. “ Wow. that’s really great wine, I’m surprised.” Cindy, thank god interjects nicely. “ We don’t have any much of a selection of Cahors wine in the states, but we will now look.”
Lesson learned;
A preconceived incorrectly, biased non factual, set in ones ways elementary life lesson. Check
Tomorrow our spoiled ingrate blogger will describe the beauty that is Saint-Cirq Lapopie.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Saturday Night Fever

They say in life “when one door closes, another door opens“, well in my life, when one door closes, more often than not, I’m on the other side locked out, with out the key. This is especially true when it comes to cars, friends houses, rented farmhouses, etc. And usually the missing key is easily spotted by looking through the window, there it will be highlighted in a ray of sunlight, or hanging in the ignition, in plain view, shining gleefully.
But there is also the old saying “every once in a while even a blind squirrel will find an acorn” I think that’s how people view my finding Cindy, what on earth did Cindy do wrong in a previous life to deserve this flub. Well the easy answer is, it’s balanced by the wonder that is Caleigh, the ledger is even. Well then you think, what did Caleigh do to deserve her father?, I don’t know, but if I ever meet the guy…..I’m joking for the love of God, relax. Caleigh has a pet saying about Cindy and I, “See, two wrongs can make a right.” Delightful child; so bright and witty.
Well, they also say “whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger“, (except leprosy, polio, rickets, syphilis, dengue fever, and malaria, but you get the implication, gonorrhea however may build up immune systems, if treated with liberal dosage of penicillin) and that brings to mind my thought for the day.
In a few days we have our rehearsal for the La Sauvetat Du Dropt sans frontieres (1). La Sauvetat Du Dropt (the name of the town, Du Dropt (over the Dropt river)) Sans frontier- Without Borders.
A night with couples or Families living in the area from other countries. These brave people have volunteered to get up in front of everyone in a gymnasium and present a slide show of where they are from, why they chose this area, and things about themselves. I don’t remember volunteering, but somehow I got roped into presenting with Cindy the views of the average American (North American) family. The image of the typical North American family will be lowered considerably after this shindig. Cindy and I chose a bunch of photographs together, she then edited out mine, and made a power point presentation, and translated it into French, after editing out my jokes. Rehearsal is Friday evening, and we then present on Saturday evening. I’ve never had public speaking, and am by nature a nervous type. So I’m counting on a half bottle of liquid courage and Dramamine. In as much as they seem like really nice group of people, I am reminded of my final quote,
Or as Groucho Marx said, “I wouldn’t want to join a club that would allow me as a member.”

Saturday, March 13, 2010

On one side of the Atlantic longing for the other.

I was driving back from our latest fieldtrip, to Arcachon, on the Atlantic coast , with Cindy and listening to the radio and the song from the movie; Breakfast Club started to play Don’t you forget about me. And funny enough, I started thinking about the states, that song encapsulated a block of five years in the late 80’s for me. And I realized with alacrity, the importance of the experiences that it held for me. It was a time in my life when I was living in a loft in Boston, and it held a lot of romantic memories. I want to clarify that I’m not talking about relationship types of romantic images, moreover the retrospective collage of friends, experiences, and what it was like to be young and experiencing life. There was an unparalleled music scene in Boston at that time, that a lot of my friends were part of. I was able to have a front row seat and watch history, for that chapter anyhow. It seemed like that old cliché’ where everything tasted better, every shared experience was larger than life, there wasn’t a lot of spending money back then, but life was over the top. My friends were icons to me, we had a pretty magical time. And as much as I have been spending time in France, and loving it, it doesn’t hold a candle to what I’ve had in the states. There are too many instances in my life that will never be supplanted by France, but I know that there is an infatuation with France that has a hold, a promise, a chance at a better quality of life for me and my family. I find myself standing out on the patio, of our rented farmhouse, and looking off to the adjacent field, and they are fertile with promise. I realize, as I’m living over here, that I am consciously aware of how good it is over here. When I was living in Boston, it wasn’t until years later, that the gift of perspective allowed me to see how wonderful my time in Boston was. There is a guaranteed life back in Topanga, there are job offers looming, there is our wonderful house that Cindy and I have remodeled into our dream environment. But there are also fires, traffic, and earthquakes that are ever present. Storm clouds are gathering, my country has dropped to the level where in politics, the hope is for the failure of one party, so the other party can hold up their collective hands and say “These guys failed; so we win” It‘s just that, at that point, no one wins, well the country loses, kind of like the two guys fighting over the steering wheel as they drive off the cliff. I really do not want to write about politics, but it is really something that does effect our sojourn. Being away from the American news and T.V. cycle does let you get out of the constant bickering. I wish for better, the USA deserves alot better, we must be going through a growing spurt. The photo is of me in a WWII german shore defense gun emplacement, that has slid down the dune, like three more inthe area. Like I said , “Don’t you forget about me“.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The three wise guise guys

Today Cindy and I decided we would take a road trip to Fumel, and tour the Chateau De Bonaguil. We drove Southeast for just over an hour, and arrived in the pretty little village of Fumel, not known for its Fumel cakes, interestingly enough, or not. Outside of the village a few kilometers lies the Chateau De Bonaguil, it is located between a tall outcropping of rock and a hill, which was serendipitous because it gave the chateau a ready built foundation. The other nice aspect was that there existed a vertical fissure, enlarged by hand to form a well, which gave fresh water, some believe its name is derived from “Fresh water” or Bonaguil. Without this gift of fresh water, life would have been impossible living within the fortified walls. ( O.K. it’s obvious I’m getting some of this from the brochure, but this allows me to save energy for jokes later on, lucky you.) Around 1271 there was only a tower and a rudimentary wall. (probably stone, not rutabaga,(Thanks, Gary) see how that works, not even tired yet.) Then in 1448 for the next thirty years they constructed the fortress that it is today. Then in the 1750 Marguerite de Fumel got rid of all the drawbridges, added bridges and had the royal apartments “fitted” out. I wonder what the decorators were like in the 1750’s? O.K. present day Cindy and I are buying tickets to enter the Chateau. …..Action.
“Gee, I’m really glad we drove here today.” I say.
“Me too, only three other cars and a tour bus” She says.
“Here is your ticket, sweetheart.” I say.
“Thank you, you are the best.” she says. (Quite often I must add)
We join our couple as they walk over the bridge that leads them to the Chateau De Bonaguil.
“This fortress has it’s own well, hand carved out of a vertical fissure” I say
“Boy I bet life would have been a real downer without all that fresh water within those walls.” She replies.
Eh hem!! Anyway, Of all the Chateau’s we’ve toured over the three years visiting France, this was by far my most favorite. The workmanship of the stonework alone is staggering. The layout of Windows and doors all having radius edges, O.G. sills at some windows, I can understand why it took thirty years to build it. I was surprised that it’s well was not a common feature for any fortification. If under siege and running low on water, well that would really stink. ( Literally) Poor planning, I know a lot of places had all their water diverted to cisterns, but that is still a limited supply. As we’re walking around this awe inspiring group of structures we are aware that the one group in the tour bus are actually a school field trip, and that they have split off into groups of three and are running about doing different research items from a master list from the teacher. It seems that they would race to one part of the fortress and take dimensions of the ten foot thick base walls, jot down four or five dimensions and race back to the staging area. Well Cindy and I are making our way around the fortress, observing stone O.G. window sill detail’s and the like, and as we are walking across one of the walking bridges, below I hear one of the groups of three squeal, “anglais” and out of the corner of my eye, I see them dash off below the bridge we are walking on and say to Cindy. “We are about to be inundated by a hoard of French seventh graders. Cindy asked how I knew. “Well when that kid mentioned Anglais and pointed to us, and raced towards us I knew we were about to be swamped.” Well, it wasn’t that bad, the three boys bounded into the keep we were in and politely asked.
“Anglais?” The front man (boy) asks. Looking at us as though figuring what to charge, the way a shop keeper does in Provence.
“Oui.” looking at him and waiting for the pitch.
He hands me a slip of paper with instructions of a homework looking assignment.
“We are needing sentences.” he says.
“O.K.. lets see,….je regarde.” Trying to say I’ll look.
“Ave’ vous un stylo?” I ask, impressing myself at remembering the word for Pen.
“non…” Then the quiet one behind them says in a quiet tone. “ Portable”
Which I found out then meant cell phone, and the bright quiet one was saying, transcribe the sentences on your phone. It was adorable, there was the brash idea man, who upon recognizing our language didn’t miss a step and raced towards us to procure the easy smart way of problem solving. Then there was the quiet nonplussed guy, who was cool headed and didn’t panic, except probably when around the fairer (Fair? Ha!) gender. And the third guy, the social chameleon, because I don’t remember a thing about him, other than this occasional giggle when I would mispronounce something.
So on their handout were instructions that they should write two sentences in English using the matrix of words on the bottom of their sheet, and that one sentence should be present tense and the other past tense. So we spoke for about five minutes, spelling individual words to construct their sentences. Every once in a while there would be a stealthy giggle, and the idea guy would sort of respectfully giggle and continue typing and showing me for corrections as needed. I will say as much as I loved the fortress, the experience of being a part of these guys problem solving escapade was priceless. And after an hour and a half of touring this stone beauty we made our way through the entry courtyard, where all the kids were spread out having lunch. As we were nearing the front arch to leave Cindy tugs my sleeve and says, “You hear that?” and we both turn around and see our group of three, waving and saying in perfect English, “ Thank you Guys!” Cindy and I wave back, saying “Good bye, good luck.” And I notice all the other students looking at the exchange and the three guys beaming, I smiled and turned around and Cindy and I left the fortress. I imagined that those three would be questioned on the return trip back, and them smugly telling their classmates, how the Americans helped them with the sentence assignment, and all the other kids would respond. “Sacre re bleu!, why was I not thinking this? ” (Well, o.k. maybe not that, but close.) We spent the next fifteen minutes comparing notes on the three guys and cracking up, just like kids anywhere. But these three unknown kids will stay with us forever.
The picture at the top of the post is of the kids having lunch.

The hills are alive with the sound of freezing

Well, after the 11 day trip to Italy, and having a weekend to decompress, this morning it was my week for chauffeuring the kids to the bus stop. Woke up to a brilliant orb of red, rising to greet me. “Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning?” Luckily I’m not a sailor, but I always shoulder that warning and keep a watchful weathered eye. There was a dusting of snow yesterday, and this morning there was no sign of snow, just the freezing temperature that accompanies it. Having lived in southern California for the last 20 years, my blood really has thinned down. I am not hating the cold weather as much as when I was young, but my fondness for the memory of it, has almost left me. After dropping off the carload of youngsters, I make my way back to the rented farmhouse.
Enroute back to the farmhouse I stop on the roadside part way down the hill from Soumensac, and get out to take a couple photographs. A few days ago I was talking with Caleigh’s friend Hannah’s parents, and one of the many things we spoke about was art. Specifically, in photography, when you think of a composition and framing a shot, it seems as though what you see in your minds eye rarely matches what you see in the picture afterwards. Well in my minds eye, I’ve always wanted to get a photograph of the hillside covered with vines leading up to the Church and abutting houses that is Soumensac. Kind of like the old village looking down with a cool sereneness, over the neatly organized rows of dormant vines. Well in my mind the church was larger, more of a dominant presence, and the vines were undulating in a more pasturey setting. I mean the photo is fine, just not the image I had in mind. Life is all about interpretation.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Half empty or half full

I think of the things I miss, and things I don’t. I think of the United States, and I miss her greatly. I’ll be back in 6 weeks, and back to work I go, to the building of dream homes. We left on December 16th and have been eating, drinking, and occasionally speaking French, we have been welcomed in a great country. There are funny similarities and odd differences between these two cousins. She watched mildly amused and optimistic as we grew, and she helped us on occasion, and we her. She has suffered the same growing pains, interestingly enough one in the same country of Vietnam. She has been misunderstood, just as we have by the communities around the world. Our greatest light has always been our beacon, her greatest gift to us. She is perceived as a people who dislike Americans, and are rude to our tourists, that is absolute balderdash, her people are the warmest giving people on the face of the planet. We walk into any store in France and say “Bon Jour” and have always been greeted with a smile. The second it comes out of our mouth, we are instantly pegged as outlanders, but outlanders trying, and I say it over and over, if you try they will open their arms to you, they will fall over each other to help in any way possible. It’s obvious why some of our administrations have painted them as anti-American, pushing an agenda, simple separation-ism politics. If your not for us you’re agin us mentality. The same thing we’ve done to Iran, we have friends that travel there every couple of years, they are greeted as gentle giants, as they loom over most Iranians. But there has never been an unkind word to them, and believe me they can spot an American in a crowd.
Yesterday it snowed, the day before it was 56 degrees out. When we drove from Antibes to Bordeaux it was like driving through small versions of Oklahoma, Wyoming, New Hampshire, then central California. It was bizarre, the similarities are funny. I think my biggest reservation will be coming back to American T.V., and the nightly news. The repetitive news cycle of tragedy based breaking news is horrible. It’s as though the National Enquirer was picking lead stories. Although to be truthful, I don’t watch a lot of French T.V., its worse than ours. I don’t have an answer, so I should shut the you know what up, but it is depressing to feel anxiety on coming back to the states because of the state of hate in our politics, and that’s something that everyone see‘s. If we can’t win, then you can’t win.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Technical Difficulties- sleep deprivation

I am working on a new lighter post, as some of you ingrates don't like me waning and waxing on about Shakesperian tragedy. I was at a loss of sleep, after 11 days driving through the Italian countryside. ( I will omit the comparison to Dante's Inferno for some of you lowbrows) But I appreiate your feedback, and will endevour to lighten up. Now if you'll excuse me I have some Foie Gras to nibble on.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Getting ready to head home, in France

Well we woke up in Paradise and aren’t really even awake yet, I thought I would read what I’ve written lately and also comment on Bellagio, Italy. The pervious narrative regarding Bellagio doesn’t really do it that much justice. Our view this morning is of a mountain range, a varied mountain range, that overlooks Lago del Coumo. Varied in the sense that on peak is snow capped and soft in appearance, another beside it is shardy and outcroppy, and the third beside it reminds me of Bald Mountain in Yosemite, Interesting as I don’t think I’ve ever noticed a collection of mountain tops so dissimilar? In looking across the lake at the small town clinging to the shore, I see a old world motif, I’m aware that these aren’t newly constructed, that they have evolved over hundreds and hundreds of years, I guess what strikes me is that they haven’t had all these new logo-istic type new Architecturally significant homes inserted willy nilly. Willy Nilly not being the name of an Architects firm, rather the Malibu-ification, where a perfectly good, maybe in need of modernizing, house is torn down and replaced with some monument to financial investment for the sake of art. There is a rhythm to the shoreline, houses that look related, of the same species even, not the look where random boxes and post modern or Mediterranean statements are yelling at each other. It is unspoiled in Bellagio, in the off-season. Well it was until we got here anyway. Well gotta wake up the sleeping beauties so we can go have our breakfast and wander down by the shoreline to catch a ferry.
Oh how I wish our Family and friends could be here. “Exit stage left even………”

We drive to the center of Bellagio and park our car behind the only other occupied car in town, he is also in the line for the ferry. Cindy goes to the ticket window and purchases the required tickets. The ferry arrives ten minutes later, and we don’t realize how lucky we are, as it could very easily have been us driving up to the parking area as the ferry pulls out and the next ferry would be two hours later, like I said, we are lucky. The ferry ride over the smooth lake takes 10 to 15 minutes, the view is spectacular, seeing the adjacent towns from the water level just reinforces how beautiful the place is. We depart the ferry and drive towards Como, we pull over in the next town and try to see if we can walk to the Villa del Balbianello in Lenno. It’s not open till later in the season, however around the corner we see the towns weekly market and we walk over to investigate. It reminds us a great deal of the small French town markets, every thing from small inexpensive tools, bargain rate clothes, fresh produce, hats, leather goods, music, etc. We don’t linger long and make our way back to the car and leave Lenno. We pass through the rest of the Lago del Coumo region and make our way to the Italian Autostrada and start the southerly trek to Genova. There aren’t any real frantic drivers along our trip to the French Border and three hours pass without incident. Once we arrive in France I have to decompress from my tense style of driving and relax. There is a real difference and I try to acclimate to the revised civilized traffic, it was stressful to calm down and recalibrate. As we head into Provence, we look forward to being back in Antibes.

I hardly even got to know you.

We left Venice in the morning accompanied by a thick marine layer, and headed west towards Milan, with our destination being Lake Como. The traffic was nonexistent and flowed nicely, no more repeat performances from the Flying Wallenda’s trick driving academy. We stopped for the required W.C. breaks every five minutes and decided to head towards the picturesque road that skirts the Lake at Como, to get there we had to traverse an industrial environs leading to paradise. After a half hour of nondescript back road driving we finally hit the lake road, it took fifteen minutes before we experienced one of the most beautiful spots on earth. We stopped at Bellagio and had a nice lunch, one young lady had gnocchi, and one had proscuitto pizza, I had spaghetti with clams, and Cindy had a healthy salad. While finishing our lunch we enquired about lodging in the area, what with everything being closed in the off season, and were referred to an incredible hotel/apartment setting. We were led to the lodging by a young lady that worked there, as we parked our car I commented on the lack of a view sarcastically. The picture above this posting is of our view from the terrace. Cindy and I later returned to the sleeping town of Bellagio and walked around the small town on the water. What an incredible town, almost completely closed, a step back in time. The towns and cities of Italy are in need of a little cleaning up and a bit of paint, plaster, trim, and such but none the less quite fetching. We finished our walk and returned to the lodging and I quickly grouped three posts together and posted them on the internet as a triple update on the blog from Florence. Tonight we return to the evening setting of Bellagio for dinner. I would be surprised if even cloaked in darkness, with street lights lighting the town, that Bellagio would not find a way of being more striking. Tomorrow we plan on taking a ferry across the lake and drive the northern route. If possible we may try to visit or see Villa Del Balbianello in Lenno, which was in the later Star Wars movie where the expecting mother of Luke and Princess Leya Character, Natalie Portman and the future Darth Vader are seen in that incredible Villa. We were also told to tour Cadenabbia, another of those pin up type cities. To get a good idea of how well off people here are, just imagine seeing an airplane with floats circling the lake to land, nice getaway commute eh? We have essentially been without internet connections for the last week, and updating the blog, and keeping in touch with family has been horrible. We heard of the 48 people that passed away in the Aquitaine due to hurricane force winds, and flooding from levees and dikes breaking. Even more horrible was an 8.8 scale earthquake in Chile. The weather in the Dordogne, where we are renting the farmhouse, has been horrible, so the good weather we’ve been blessed with really has been a bright spot. Well dinner was even better than lunch, I absolutely love Bellagio, it has a beauty that cannot be replicated, a natural beauty. I will return, maybe a little later in the spring, not in summer when its packed with the uber-wealthy, but when its warmer and deserted, and appreciates beauty lovers. I can’t, and don’t want to, imagine what it’s like here in high season. I know it’s expensive, but here it’s worth spending what’s required to enjoy heaven on earth. I just think it would be Hell with all the crowds. This is a place that spoils you with its beauty, you feel as though you are being let in on a secret. And to tell you the truth, you don’t mind sharing the secret, it’s that good. Tomorrow we will take the ferry across the lake and drive down the northern side to Como, and on to Antibes, France, our old friend, and it’s cousin Nice. Ah familiarity with a different kind of beauty, that of calm unhurried old world pizzazz.

The Italian Driving job II

We leave Florence, and I’ve got to add yet another true story of driving in Italy. This is a story that Caleigh will verify, I saw this happening and told her to turn around, she turned around and saw this. Here goes, in Italy the extreme left lane is for passing, the middle is for passing the large trucks that drive in the right lane, O.K., I see this Mercedes Mini van (class A 180) driving in the left lane, I’m in the center lane passing a column of big rigs. There is a guy in an Audi A3 wagon coming up from behind this Mercedes Class A, he parks on the Mercedes bumper at about 130 kph. The guy in the Mercedes is coming up on a lane of cars in the center, so he’s going to stay in the fast lane and make Audiboy wait until he’s cleared the deadwood in the center lane. Well Audiboy is indignant of having to subjugate himself to anyone so he starts to get closer and get in the extreme left of the passing lane. I’m watching this in my rearview and drivers side mirror, and chuckle. “Hey Caleigh, check out this joker in the Audi.” She replies “ the one behind the Mercedes?” “Yeah, where is he gonna go?” Caleigh looks around and gauges the options, “ he’s going to have to wait for the lane to clear.” then I go back to watching the traffic and hear Caleigh say, “ oh my god dad, check this out.” I look back and Audiboy has just started to pass the Class A guy in the same lane. The Mercedes guy has started to hug the right side of the fast lane, and Audiboy is making a move on the left side of the passing lane, I kid you not, he’s passing another car in the same lane at 135 kph as they pass me. I’m looking around trying to find a spot to dump into in case their bumpers lock and I’m pretty boxed in unless I downshift and jump in between two big rigs. Luckily they complete their idiotic maneuver and the guy in the Mercedes pulls over a couple lanes as his un amused wife is shrieking in his right ear, and Audiboy proceeds to his penis enlargement appointment. I’ve never seen someone pass another car in the same lane. We manage the rest of the drive without incident. Finally we arrive in Venice, Italy and drive over the first bridge to Trocherro Island Parking Structure, after making our way through the continual construction zone every parking structure has, we finally find a space in the almost vacant garage and unload our sartorial provisions and after loading me up walk from the outer parking Island to the residential island. We stop at the information area and Cindy purchases a small map of the islands, armed and dangerous we proceed, after fifteen minutes we have narrowed down the environs of where our hotel should be, now all we have to do is isolate it. We make more turns through the labyrinth that is Venice, a man walking nearby guesses we are tourists who may be lost, why he guessed that I’ll never know. I don’t think it had anything to do with me yelling at Cindy, “ Since when does south come after north?” well I would never say that, but he probably heard me thinking that. “ Where are you staying, and from which part of the United States are you from?” That obvious huh?, well long story short, he calls our hotel from his I-phone and gets directions from the owner, it happens to be a couple corners away, and leads us to the door. I think to this day this helpful guy was a plant from the tourist department, real nice helpful, English speaking guy. It would so make sense that they would have people positioned where it would do the most good. I’ve got to tell you that a little help at that point so turned our four hour drive state of mind, into a real start of an adventure feeling. So he leads the explorers to their hotel and we check in. The lady running the hotel with her son is marvelous, she was so graceful and nice it started our stay with a lot less stress than normal. We get to our room, not much of a view, just a canal down one street and another canal down another. After unpacking and having the young ladies shower we set off to that which is Venice, and only Venice. We go for a walk down alleys after alley, each corner brings another unworldly vista, we see age old buildings, with cracked plaster, chipped cornerstones and aged wood windows and doors at each turn. This place reeks of history and unfortunately sewage, age old sewage. We found over the course of three days that the odor was the worst at low tide. However at high tide, no pun intended, it was a crap shoot. The night before we left the streets were flooded by eight inches of high tideness, it may have been tied to the earthquake in Chile, or global warming, as the clerk mentioned to us? I wanted to get to a tower in order to get a birds eye view of Venice, so we looked it up on our map and made our way to the tower in San Marco Piazza, the view was priceless, we could see a lot of the old historic buildings, city squares, wider canals, and the ocean and Venice’s perimeter. We ate at this really fun sort of casual restaurant located on a bridge and have one of our better dinners in Italy. We explore the city and get comfortable with our bearings. I can’t say enough good about how wonderful Venice was, I am unfortunately writing this after a day in Bellagio, on Lake Como, and there is nowhere that compares to the beauty of Bellagio, other than maybe Schoodic Point in Maine at Arcadia National Park. Sorry, back to Venice, Caleigh and Hannah get out on occasion but we really aren’t familiar enough to give them free reign. There is an appreciation of the history and architectural beauty of the place, but they are thirteen and getting bored with being exiled with two fogies. I can’t really say that I blame them, as they are thinking, naturally so , that at their age they should be out partying with Lady Gaga and the girl that sings Tick-tock ( you ever listen to the vacuous lyrics to the song she sings?-Tick Tock, my opinion anyway- I prefer Lady Gaga as her voice has at least talent) I think that Venice would be great for Cindy and I to return to, Caleigh and Hannah did enjoy it but the list of fun things for thirteen year olds to do doesn’t include this waterlogged elder lady.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Florentine trifecta, 3 posts as we dont have internet

Morning in Florence, we awake and have our Lincoln Continental breakfast, and prepare for the day. We start at the Duomo tour, and are surprised to find that it incorporates the climbing of 432 steps through the structure of the building, a vertical catacomb that one can imagine time parading through it, in it’s dank narrow stairs climbing upward in elevation, but downward in feeling as you see close up the paintings on the upper dome depicting heaven , middle earth, and hell. Heaven is light and cloudy, with winged wonders flying about effortlessly, middle earth, or life as we know it is a proving ground for the afterlife, you are tested for your worthiness, your good deeds and your obedience to the scriptures, hell on the other hand is the large stick Christianhood has yielded over the sheep like followers. The graphically depicted hell contains such reassuring images as a flaming post stuck in your rectum or vagina depending on the manner of plumbing you possess. And for the children watching it depicts less offensive recreational activities. The stairs continue “upward” to the inner roof structure, which terminates at the top of the church dome, on a rotunda overlooking the city of Florence. Then we slowly climb down the interior of the church walls to the main level. Wow, incredible hike, felt like the hunchback of Notre Dame going to work. We then made our way to the Gallerie del Uffizi museum, and enjoyed the lack of a crowd. We must have seen twelve hundred paintings by Italian masters, mostly religious, but the portraits were fascinating. We finished the museum and made our way down the street to the Ponte Vecchio, the bridge that spans crap and nouveau wealth, all sorts of stuff that I can’t understand who buys, trinkets and brica crap. After that we made our way to the Piazza Signoria and people watched in the square of statues. We had a nice overpriced lunch at a outdoor restaurant. It was nice to sit down as we had covered an incredible amount of history and mileage. I think if I can get a chance to view some etchings by Piranesi tomorrow I will have more than accomplished seeing some of my favorite Italian masters. We finished our day by going to a real nice Italian restaurant, and shared a half bottle of Villa Antinori Toscana blend. Then home to the Hotel Accedemia for sleep and perchance a chance to dream of heaven, without the flaming posts.
Second full day in Italy, we get up and have our breakfast and coffee, and head out to the other side of old Florence to the Mucee Accedemia, we are followed by the usual 20-30 same mopeds which seem to lap whichever block we walk, that will give them the opportunity to constantly come toward us and push us from one side of the street too the other. I’m not sure but I thought I heard one say, “hey sorry I’m late today my dog wasn’t feeling well” as he joined the pack 20 minutes later then the rest. I was really impressed by Michelangelo’s David, it took him two years to carve, chisel, out of a spare block of marble, but what a testament to mans artistic talent. Awe inspiring, I wasn’t as impressed by the four thousand plus gold tempura shriney depictions of the crucifixion. I get it already, guilt inducing reminders of the bible story. Funny they are all gathered up in two or three museums, still having people pay to see them whether in the collection plates for the ancient corporate catholic organization, or the modern day Italian Museum fund.
Then we made our way to the Salvatore Ferragamo museum, located in his home corporate office, he having passed away in 1960. Interesting guy, born in Italy in 1898, moved to Boston, picked up the trade, moved to Hollywood during the start of the movie industry, gleamed a few wealthy clients and then moved back to Italy as he couldn’t find people talented enough to build his shoes in the states. Well you know the rest of the story after that. On the way back to our Piazza I noticed in the crowd, I kid you not, one of the beggars who usually drifts in and out of the mass of tourists. He was walking on the sidewalk, as normal as you or I, and he had hanging from his right arm, a partial crutch. I literally stopped in my tracks and turned around and watched him, both his feet were walking normally, they were parallel to each other, and no noticeable limp. “Well, I’ll be god-dammed” I said out loud. This man while “ at work” is hobbling around with his torso wretched and about a foot from the ground, his back is arched and he is only supported by the miraculous use of this half crutch, he ambles around with both his feet grotesquely pointed towards each other, with one hand sadly reaching out for what ever kindness this cruel cold world can pitifully give him from the warmth of their wonderful humanity. I am positive this person is one and the same, it made me sick to my stomach seeing this guy in his normal guise, sure I was happy that he wasn’t this sad lame soul, but I resented how seeing him in his act made me feel full of such pity, then feel duped. I started thinking of the other few beggars that had made an impression on me, the woman with the folded up newspaper, chanting “mi bambino, mi bambino “ then switching to “ mi baby, food for mi baby” when her fishing lines didn’t work, this was as we were enjoying our one splurge at a posh sidewalk café in one of the Piazzas, she stayed on station until I was so embarrassed by having the good fortune to be sitting in the lap of luxury, and ignoring her, that she finally left. Boy, didn’t that really add to the experience. I think that if these people put half as much effort into a normal job, they would excel and climb their way up to corporate ladder, with the cutthroat ability they display, without the least regard of other peoples feelings as they play on any angle they can use, they now remind me of Donald Trump without the ridiculous comb over.

It’s a great evolution ( or creation?, for the more Christian among us) watching the decision making process as it matures in front of your eyes. On our trip from France to Italy for ten days, we; consist of My wife, Cindy, My Daughter, Caleigh, her friend, Hannah, and myself. Firstly of the four I require the most in regards to maturing but with that aside, I’m thinking of the two thirteen year old girls. I have just returned from watching the decision making process at its most critical, that being the shopping, hunting, snipeing, that is; for young women’s fashions. Specifically for the purchase of a purse, while in Florence. Not an easy formula, as it includes the following givens and the following not givens, in no order or relevance; What to wear with it that they already own, how it will look, others perception of it, texture, function ability, aesthetics, and the other intangibles, color selection, what’s sheik, and blasé’ what others will think of it, what they can buy to accent it, price, how much will mom add in, what’s in fashion, not only now but in a year or so. Essentially its like graphing the sub nuclear particle reaction when hydro synthetic molecules are introduced in a vacuum, and the cyclic growth rate of the waste silica manganese solution that would naturally occur when the synthetic molecules are introduced. That simple. I liked the cheap black one, with the chrome button thingy.

Day Six, we have been isolated in the same car and hotel rooms for six days, they have left me alone in our room at the Hotel Alex in Venice. We had a wonderful dinner and returned to the room and they realized they needed ice cream or chocolate or something, the sensation is surreal, like the end of a bad dream. Alone at last, savoring each second like a glass of cool water with ice after a four day journey across the scorching desert. No more relentless noise for the sake of noise, no more talking as a means of getting oxygen. They have recharged my sanity just by the sacrifice of their leaving me alone for five minutes, euphoric, giddy at the thought of being able to not answer a question three times to ensure each of them isn’t slighted. Crap I hear footfalls on the stairs, is it them?, nope some other family trudging to their own solitary confinement. The feeling of me time, no having to listen to idle chatter, busy talk, thoughtless how do we keep our selves amused, while traveling through Italy, how do you keep us amused. I hear them crawling toward me like a mutinous crew, with their sabers drawn, blood in their nostrils, foam in their mouths. The key in the lock rattles like a thousand cutlasses, they are throwing rope over the yardarm, the noose spells my name in coils. They walk in like the third Reich in a blitzkrieg through the room. Oh they brought me ice cream, glad you’re back. The enzyme that eradicates the memory of individuality.