samedi, septembre 02, 2006

Rosemary and Georgian Polyphony

Today was one of those mildly frustrating days where you start with one itinerary, and slowly watch it come apart and (hopefully) reassemble itself. So, to balance the tone of this post, let me start with a real surprising upturn to my day: ROSEMARY! That's right: I was walking past the garden in the entryway to my building and saw this patch of wildflowers:but when I looked (and smelled) closer, I saw this:ROSEMARY!! !@#$ YEAH!!! I realize my reaction was a bit over the top, but this was delicious, pungent, lemony rosemary, growing in bushes in front of my domicile. When I've finally washed the dishes that were left in my apartment, I'm going to buy me some chicken and have a rosemary-lemon hoedown.

So, the plan for the day was that I would wait for the 4 remaining students to arrive today, and then I would call Val and we would head out to spend the rest of the day wandering around Paris and eating. Although I was scheduled to be waiting at the residences from 10-4, I presumed that most of them would come in the morning, since the direct flights from Chicago usually arrive overnight around 9:30am. Of course, I didn't think about two things:

  1. non-direct flights, and
  2. lost luggage delays.

You can perhaps see where this is going...

I got the first call from security at the front desk at 11am, and I thought to myself, "Here they are! I'll just waltz down and give them a quick how-do-you-do-here's-your-room and then tell them where to buy toilet paper." Don't think I was trying to shirk my responsibilities; I was going to give them a group tour of the building and neighborhood the next day, so that was all they needed. Anyway, I get downstairs and there's just one guy. I nonetheless greet him and take him to his room, but on the way I discover that he didn't fly in—in fact, he had been in Paris for a few days already. So the tide of arriving kids hadn't happened yet.

I wrap up the welcome and head back to my place and work a bit on my blog, check a bit of email, and generally kill time while I wait. I manage to get onto iChat with Val at her hotel, so I tell her about that Georgian choral music concert tonight and convince her to make a night of it. The concert is located in a church on Île Saint-Louis that happens to be near France's best ice creamery (Berthillon) as well as an amazing specialty olive store (Oliviers & Co.). Oh, and another place I had up my sleeve, called The Beaver. Oh yes, you read that right. I can live in Paris and have poutine.

Anyway, my chat with Val was interrupted by some IT issues (i.e. someone was having trouble connecting to the wireless network at the residences). While fixing that, I finally met the person living in the room with the other DSL/wireless setup—which had been busted for a while, apparently—so I quickly wrapped up problem #1 and headed down to this other room to fix the DSL modem & router. After nearly an hour of running back and forth from my room to hers, getting locked out of my room, and searching the web for support on the Linksys ADSL2MUE modem, I made two discoveries:

  1. Linksys' online support is USELESS; and
  2. This particular modem is CRAP

Despite the fact that this was nowhere mentioned on Linksys' support site, a solid red power light (as opposed to green) mean total and irrevocable failure (i.e. I hope it's still under warranty). If the online discussion boards are any indication, this has happened a lot, and sometimes repeatedly to the same person. Hooray! The DSL/WiFi setup in my room uses the same model! I can't wait to see what fun this brings me.

All of this mess nearly made me forget that it was already 2pm and nobody else had arrived. Finally, suddenly, I get a phone call. It's not the front desk, it's a student, calling from the airport and telling me that her luggage has been lost and she gave my phone number as her contact number. Sigh. Rather than taking a speedy taxi, she was taking the RER from the airport, transferring through the mess that is Châtelet, and then the métro 11 all the way back out to Porte des Lilas. Sigh.

To make a long story less long (I'm not going to pretend this is short), it took more than an hour for her to get here and get settled in, by which time it was well past 4pm and there were still 2 more students due to arrive. At that point, I dropped off their welcome envelopes with the security guard at the front desk (who took care of assigning them their rooms, anyway), and headed out to see Val. I had a dinner and a concert, dammit.

In my absence, Val had busied herself by wandering up to BHV near Hôtel de Ville (a department store much like Target for the French) to buy herself a hair-dryer, and in the process she also got herself a crêpe. So she wasn't really famished for a full dinner. So, we ditched the restaurant plans, but still headed for Île Saint-Louis. After all, there was still "Le Beaver" and poutine. We hit Berthillon for some earth-shakingly good ice cream (and no lineup!!) and then over to the olive store, where I bought a few containers of Lucques and Cailletier olives (who knew there were so many kinds?) and Val bought nearly half the store as gifts for everyone she knew. The salesperson was kind enough to ask me with a straight face if I was French, which would've totally earned her a tip if she was my waitress.

As we stepped out, I realized that my phone had rung a few times and I hadn't heard it. As it turned out, the phone's ringtone wasn't working; it would only vibrate, which I couldn't feel when the phone was in my bag. So I checked my voice messages to find a very confusing message from the security guard at the residences. I called back and clarified things, although not by much: one of the expected students arrived; another one didn't; and another un-expected student arrived. As far as any of us knew, she wasn't due to arrive until October. With reassurances from the security guard that all was fine, we set off to The Beaver for a pint of Strongbow cider and some poutine. Mmmm. Poutine. It made the whole day a lot brighter...and greasier.

I followed my cider with a beer (Québécois Fin du Monde, to be specific) without thinking that I hadn't eaten anything that day except for 1/2-bowl of poutine... I arrive at the concert a bit tipsy (notice a trend in these last few posts?) and try to purchase our tickets. Here's where the comedy begins. Making an effort not to slur my words, I ask how much admission is. The gentleman is kind enough to give me a student rate (even though I'm over 26), and then he says, "Hmm...10, 20, 30." What I hear is: "10...30." Which I interpret as €10.30. So I hand him a €20 bill and then ask him to wait while I fetch the 30. He thought I was going for a €10 bill, when in fact I whipped out my change purse, partially spilling its contents across his table, and fished out 30 cents. He looked at this and said "C'est quoi, ça?" which translates roughly to "What's this?" but with a disapproving tone that doesn't translate well. After a moment of confusion, he finally realizes what I was too dizzy to formulate: "Oh, it's €30." With the faith in my French skills in tatters, I sheepishly ponied up my money and took a seat with Val.

But it's not finished yet. Just before the concert begins, this same man comes to my seat holding a bag that looks suspiciously similar to the rather expensive olives I just bought. Aware that I am clearly too stupid to speak French he asks in English, "Euh...Is this yours?" Val was kind enough not to laugh outright at me; she only chuckled.

The concert itself was nice, although €30 for 2 people in the non-reserved seats seemed like a bit much for what sounded like an amateur ensemble. Mind you, I don't know that they were amateur, but that would explain a lot of things. The main tenor singer was very tentative in most of his solos, and tended to be drowned out when he did k'rimanchuli parts (i.e. yodeling). How can you yodel and be drowned out by a handful of voices? Also, tuning was an issue; it was clear that they were trying to emulate the particular tuning systems of particular areas in Georgia, but they didn't sound like they meant it. When an ensemble like Trio Kavkasia or Anchiskhati sing "in tuning," it was always clear to my ear that they weren't making a mistake. That flat interval was supposed to be flat, and that sharper one couldn't be anything else. With this ensemble, it was less clear. They had good moments and bad moments. Ultimately, it was a good but expensive amateur concert, or a loose and underexperienced professional concert. Am I being a bitch about this? Of course I am.

At the end of all of this, there was a minimal techno night that I had discovered online while checking the listings for this Georgian concert. It was at a neat-looking place called Glaz'Art a few minutes away from my place. It started at 11pm. I could've gone. But I ate poutine. All I could do was run home, take out my contact lenses, and write this post.

3 commentaires:

leo a dit…

I love how your stories are all punctuated with meals. Several times in one post. Fantastic. You're a man after my own heart.

Also, my translation of "c'est quoi, ca" = "what the HELL is this?!?!" Maybe even "what the hell is this, you IDIOT."

LMGM a dit…

Hah! While there was a time when doing embarassing things distressed me greatly (i.e., high school) this sort of stuff amuses me endlessly now. Just yesterday, I said something to a co-worker that, when mispronounded, turns "I stole this from you" to "I f*cked you with this." How's that for amusing?

leo a dit…

Yeah, I laughed out loud at that "I f*cked you with this" story. I mean, let's be honest - Americans/Canadians are just not going to pass for French, so we all might as well give up the ghost and resign ourselves to be treated with contempt when makng stupid mistakes with money/words/electing a president, etc, and get a good laugh out of it.