mercredi, mai 23, 2007

Carla&Friends Day 5: Revenge of the Anus God

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while might know where I'm going with the title of this post. The rest of you will have to wait. No scrolling to the bottom!

I took the day off work, so the plan for lunch was to go to a wine shop near my workplace with DJ and Carla (the other girls were at Versailles that day). This was the same wine shop / table d'hôte where I had eaten last Friday with a colleague, called Les Coulisses du Vin. Upon arriving, unfortunately, we found out that the table was taken for the afternoon. So much for eating without reservations.

Nevertheless, we bought a couple of bottles of wine for friends that we would be seeing in Le Mans, and then I called DJ (who was using my office that day) to break the bad news. As it turns out, there were some IT issues going on at the office, so I dropped by to fix it, and then sped off with Carla and DJ in tow for lunch. At DJ's suggestion, we ate at a brasserie near the Bibliothèque Nationale called L'Avenue. (No, not the famous L'Avenue restaurant in the 8th arrondissement.) The food was very good for the price and location; Carla and I had rather protein-heavy salads (goat cheese for her, ham and gruyère for me), while DJ had a pretty tasty-looking pizza. While we ate, Carla found herself vastly entertained by the young girl sitting behind me, carrying on what appeared to be an unending phone call in Russian, ostensibly to deter the very interested guy sitting at the table next to her.

From there, we released DJ back into the wild (i.e., the office) and wandered over the Simone de Beauvoir footbridge, and over to the park at Bercy on the other side of the Seine. Carla had wandered through here before, but I never had, so she directed me through the park. We headed eastward, pausing in the roseraie (Rose Garden) to taken pictures of the zillions of varieties of roses that they had growing there. We continued walking through the variously-styled zones of the park, all of which were gorgeous, and over to the Cour Saint-Emillion. This area (and the neighborhood surrounding it) is made up of simple, small houses that used to store the wine that came in by train from the Saint-Emillion region of Bordeaux up until the late 20th century. Now, most of the little houses have been converted into "quaint" living units for upwardly mobile families, except for one cluster of about 20 houses. These houses were converted into a shopping mall.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love shopping as much as the next girl, and whoever did the design for the remodelling did a good job of preserving buildings that could have otherwise been razed and replaced by high-rises. In fact, my immediate reaction to the place was similar to the one I experience at the Distillery district in Toronto: relief that the wave of gentrification preserved rather than erased a historical site, but also disappointed that it turned it into a celebration of normativity. The crowd was just so bland, compared to other parts of Paris. Looking around at my fellow shoppers, I couldn't help but notice that they were almost exclusively white-French, expensively dressed, pushing baby strollers and/or walking dogs, and paired heterosexually.

Anyway, we still had a lovely time wandering around and snickering at the merchandise in many of the stores. Of course, there was no snickering in La Cure Gourmande, where we gave in to temptation and bought a boatload of choupettes (sort of like old-fashioned lollipops), berlandises (hard candies filled with exceptionally good fruit pastes) and caramels. Once we had our sugary payload in hand we decided it was time we finally checked out the Institut du Monde Arabe.

The Institut du Monde Arabe is an organization dating from 1980, established by France and a large coalition of Arab countries, to act as an academic and cultural centre that would represent the Arab world to France and Europe more generally. Although we weren't particularly in the mood to check out their museum, Carla and I were intensely interested in the building that was designed for the institute, which is a fantastic example of what Arab ultra-modernist architecture could look like. (You can see a picture here, although it doesn't quite to it all justice; check out Google Images for more.) We spent a fair bit of time staring in wonder at the automated diaphragms in the south-facing wall, which evoked Arabesque geometric patterns and created a filtered-light effect that was very effective in controlling light. What was the coolest was the automation; depending on the levels on sunlight and the seasons, the apertures open and close. After ogling the hot modernist design (and pondering how a building designed in the 80s could still look like it was designed yesterday), we headed up to the top floor for a bit of tea on the terrace. With a lovely view over the city, carla and I enjoyed some mint tea and sparkling water with rose syrup, along with a few middle-eastern desserts (lots of layered pastry and honey and nuts).

Carla was up for more walking (she's still got that sciatica that flares up when she's sitting), so we wandered up to Bastille and hit the FNAC store so that I could finally buy Björk's new album, Volta. From there, we headed back to their apartment to drop off the stuff and meet the girls who had been at Versailles. They were already home when we got there, so we both got caught up on each other's day and then started planning for the evening. The other girls didn't want to do a big night out, so they headed off to spend a bit of time in the Centre Pompidou, and then from there grab a quite bite nearby and head to bed early.

Carla and I decided to head off to Montmartre to walk around a bit more and see the Sacre-Coeur and the neighborhood. We headed over to the Anvers métro station and wandered up the hill to Sacre-Coeur, doing our best to ignore the enterprising black men trying to con you into buying a bracelet from them. They walk up to you and say "Excuse me!" and ask you to hold length of thread or embroidery floss. Then, they quickly braid and/or knot a bracelet out of it and tie it to your wrist before you can do anything. Once it's tied, the cut of the remaining string and demand payment. Anyway, I brushed past one of them with Carla while saying "Désolé, désolé" over and over (which translates to "Sorry, sorry" but in this context is more like "No, I can't spare any change") and the guy yells to my retreating figure, "Hey, are you a Parisian or something?" To which I replied, "Yeah, sure, whatever." It's funny that this would be the moment that I successfully pass a Parisian.

After hiking up the hill and seeing the church (which is as lovely as ever), we decided to walk down the hill through the garden pathways on the east side, rather than through the place de Tertre and tourist-crammed gift shops of the west side. I had never been down this way, and I was pretty impressed with what they had done with it. A series of steep stairs and zig-zagging paths traced this much steeper side of the hill, cutting through tight clusters of bushes and trees, and passing over a presumably man-made set of waterfalls and cascades that ended in a small grotto near the bottom. The pathways were far less travelled than the streets and squares on the other side of the hill, which meant that were were able to meander and chat without being bumped and shoved, but also meant that we had to manoeuvre around the occasional cluster of homeless men chugging liquor or disaffected youths smoking hash. Mind you, nobody bothered us, so it was still a good time.

From there, we cut back across the front of the hill and over to Abbesses square, then over to Le Café des 2 Moulins (obligatory in a post-Amélie world), down past the Moulin Rouge, and back towards the Anvers station. By then we were getting peckish, so we headed over to the Indian neighbourhood around La Chapelle métro station, with a quick stop at the Indian Grocery store, Gopaul & Co., to buy Carla some rosewater and orange-flower water.

I took Carla to Krishna Bhavan, which is a this fantastic South Indian vegetarian restaurant that I had visited twice before. The food was as good as previous visits, and our waitress spoke better English than French (which suited us just fine), but the main difference this time was that we scored these pics:

Carla is the 3rd person that has seen this thing in person and all three of them can't deny that this is, indeed, a butt playing a flute. Add to this the fact that the eyes are half-lidded and askew, and I'm at a total loss. It seems to me that this must be some minor deity or important character in an otherwise unknown-to-me epic narrative, but I have no clue where to start figuring it out. I've decided the least I can do is post the pictures and hope that the Internetz Hive Mind™ will have something to contribute.

I had been wanting to get a picture of this image since I had first laid eyes on it, but I was worried about the social niceties of taking it's picture. Imagine explaining myself if one of the servers asks: "Yes, sir, I find your deity highly amusing and just a bit absurd. Can I take a picture of it? I'm sure you're thrilled to know that your religious beliefs provide me with entertainment." So, clearly, some degree of subterfuge was necessary. Since I was sitting between Carla and the Anal Flute Deity, we struck upon a great idea: I posed as if Carla was going to take my picture, but Carla would aim at the image over my shoulder, and I would lean out of the frame. The results were good and nobody gave us a second glance.

After a deliciously satisfying but (for once) not excessive meal, we headed off at a brisk pace again. We walked over to the locks between the Canal St. Martin and the Bassin de la Villette (near Jaurès Mº station), and then kept walking to a little café / bar called L'Ile Enchantée. I had been to L'Ile Enchantée once before to meet Laurent and Nathan (that was when I first met Fantômette as well, I think), and I remembered the place as very nice, not overcrowded, well-priced and friendly. We wandered in and sat down, my sister getting a mojito (which was lovely) and me getting a pint of Afflighem (which was great, although Afflighem always make me wish I was drinking a trappist beer). We chatted until well past midnight, and then continued our walk at a brisk pace until we came to Belleville métro station. From there, after having walked what felt like all of Paris, we went our separate ways and called it a night.

10 commentaires:

LEO a dit…

Yeah also, how could you ever find anyone who would know anything about said anus god and then ask them about it? "Hey, so you're Indian, what's up with the anus god?" That might not go over super well. Is is too weird and offensive to go on ask metafilter? I mean, I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume that the flute-playing god is Krishna, but I have no idea why his head would be shaped like an ass...

Kate a dit…

Hey Luis, Last time I was in Paris with my brothers my little brother Stu fell prey to the bracelet men. We eventually turned around and wondered where he went and saw him being held hostage at the bottom, totally broke, and we had to go save him. He made the mistake of making eye contact and then suddenly there was tread on wrist :)

LMGM a dit…

Lauren: Actually, I finally posted the question on Ask MeFi and got a pretty reasonable (if not completely convincing) set of responses.

Kate: Yeah, those guys are fast and pretty assertive once they've got that bracelet going. I went to Montmartre again on Saturday with Carla and the rest of the girls, and I gave them a little pep talk about this before we hiked up the hill.

By the way, is this Kate van Rooyen by any chance? If so, OMG HI!!!

abhi a dit…

its not a butt

Its Lord Krishna.

LMGM a dit…

abhi, dude,
check out the link in my comment above.

If it's Lord Krishna, someone's decided to portray him with two mis-aligned and half-lidded eyes that are disproportionate to his face, no nose, and a crease that splits his chin in two. The flute and hand-positions certainly suggest Krishna, and someone else suggested that it might be Krishna merged w/ Radha, which would explain the butt-like shape as two profiles joined.

Either way, I've seen a lot of Krishna in my days, but nothing quite like this.

Kate G a dit…

Haha nope Kate G of Toronto. Hey, Mary Ann told me you were going to go clubbing with her daughter when she headed over (I forget when she was leaving) and we tried to convince Mary Ann to join you guys :P I don't think she bought it. take care!

LMGM a dit…

Ah, that explains it, Kate! Good to hear from ya. I just went out with Mary Ann's daughter last night, and there was indeed some idle talk of dragging her out with us. By the way, I'll probably be passing by Toronto some time this July! And you still need to visit Chicago when I'm in town.

Kate G a dit…

Yes, Chicago with Luis is a must :) I am around for half of July. I am vacationing July 1-15 and overlapping with the IMS conference. But I will email you this rather than leaving an account of Kate's summer on your blog! I hope Mary Ann's daughter came back with some stories for Mary Ann. I would have loved to see Mary Ann out at a club though - that would have been blog-worthy

Sharon a dit…

It's just an extremely stylized alagam of Radha and Krishna. Hindu mythology has a lot of the half 'n' half happening - Ardhnarishwara
(half Shiva - half Shakti)is one such example.

Check out for realistically rendered Ardhnarishwara paintings

LMGM a dit…

Thanks for the link, Sharon! I think we can settle on the Radha/Krishna answer as the definitive one by now, despite the fact that I was hoping to have discovered a new character from the epics...