medieval art history, navel gazing, horizon scanning
Thursday, July 31, 2014
"Vous êtes joignable"
Here is Eleanor perching on the front stoop of our house in Courbevoie (still on the Metro line but definitely a marvelous world apart from Paris). She is delighted, and we are amazed: at the garden and the ivy and the roominess and our lovely landlady and the wooden staircase and the story that houses like this one were built for the engineers and their families of the Suez Canal. All of the usual travel indignities have been endured and in my remaining minutes of consciousness I just want to feel lucky and revel in a new French phrase I learned today. My dissertation research year was 20 (twen-ty) years ago and while monuments aspiring to transcendental importance haven't changed, the set-up of quotidian life absolutely has. I've never lived in a neighborhood like Courbevoie, either - let's be more specific. I've never lived within walking distance of La Défense. The kids were downright heroic in this shiny, ginormous (there is no more critical term) distopia that I will be posting many images of eventually because it's utterly fascinating. We went to see and take care of a few things (Metro passes, maybe a cell phone). An Orange kiosk was right there so we jumped in and were set up with cell phones (flip phones are still the best options for the those (like us - urgh) whose iPhones rejected any SIM card not put there by the manufacturer. My happiness at having these (basically) walkie talkies through which Mac and I could communicate in the city was clearly visible, and the excellent guy helping us smiled and said "Oh oui! C'est bien. Maintenant, vous êtes joignable." I am JOINABLE. You can join me. I am able to be joined. I absolutely love this phrase - contemporary, utterly clear, a distinct layer from past experiences living here.
But then again, maybe there are more transcendental entities around me than a day of jetlag and tooling around a new neighborhood and La Défense would allow me to realize. A trip to the nearby FranPrix yielded these two powers. I keep talking to the kids about the "persistence of matter" (because of all the medievalist work being done there, and my own fascination with the persistence of natural matter in artistic form) and the kids found some "very persistent" (Oliver) cheeses indeed. The Morbier is an old friend that you can often find in the States. But few cheeses are as angry to see you as a Pont l'Evêque. And yet it is a rich and loyal cheese whose stench brought tears to my eyes for both sentimental and chemical reasons. So here we are, starting five months together, this first day rendering us joinable to this new place, joining the unrelenting modernity of La Défense with the unyielding tradition of stinky cheese. Tati plays with this idea of Paris new and old a lot in Playtime. Now we'll give it a go.