Friday, January 11, 2013

The Croissant Fairy Guy - Again

He is a great bear of a man,

He is not especially tall – maybe five foot nine or so.

He is surprisingly round, given the fact that I think he subsists primarily on alcohol.

One would expect that sort of person to be skeletal: even the various fairies that feed him – the croissant fairy and perhaps the apple fairy, if such fairies do in fact exist - with offerings laid at his side as he sleeps on the sidewalk are not of an order of magnitude to compete with the omnipresent tall can of fortified beer or the occasional bottle of wine.

So alcohol must be his major food source.

The first thing I noticed about him is how black his beard and his hair is.

His hair is a tangled mass of lightly curly black with red highlights hair surrounding his head and engulfing his cheeks and joining his equally black with highlights beard somewhere down the side of his face.

His beard is almost a mirror image of his head of hair.  It makes his face seem very long since it drops quite a way below his chin.

He wears a khaki colored quilted jacket that is long enough to reach to his mid thighs.  It is probably a brand of clothing that gets extensive marketing money.

His pants appear to be – I know how unlikely this sounds, but I think it is true – to be Armani jeans.

He wears athletic shoes the brand of which I haven’t gotten close enough to ascertain.  There are no socks on his feet.

He is either always lying down and in a coma - or asleep - or standing up. and awake.

When he is awake and standing up he is always drinking a bottle of wine and staring out at the Quai as if to learn something from it.  Other times when awake he sits on the vent and drinks his can of beer.

I see him every day.

He moved months ago from where he slept when I first wrote about him – when I saw the croissant laid by his sleeping body one morning in September – from the little pseudopod of rue Guénégaud that pushes out into the high speed rue that defines the boundary between Quai Conti and la a vent from some subterranean dungeon below the sidewalk on rue Dauphine.

He has been consistent - since his move - in his residence on that vent with one exception.

I saw him one time sleeping back under the arch that covers rue de Nevers.

That is sheltered from the rain.

But apparently he isn’t very interested in being sheltered from the rain.

His new place – the heat vent – is out in the rain.

But he seems not to care.

That is where he has chosen to live.


So that has been intended to be a sort of background statement to the brief story that I am now going to try to tell.

As I have watched this man for almost five months now I have wondered how long a human being can live on huge cans of beer living on a chunk of sidewalk or, now, on a vent.  I have been in complete expectation – some morning as I was walking to the market – for him not to not be there.

But he always is.


And that is the ultimate question that this little story raises for me.

How can anyone not die living like that?

And how can a society let someone discover the answer to that question?

And the “society” to which I allude is not France.  It is the entirety of our self absorbed, consumer driven, keep the bubble pumped, but not so much that it pops, society.

How nice.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Ma Poitrine est Fumé

When I first lived in St-Germain des Pres in 1998 I started buying roast chickens at Boucherie Claude. 

This establishment consists of an old fashioned butcher shop in the building and a large outside in the street display case from which chickens, potato gallettes and various other delicacies are sold, and a large outside in front roaster where the chickens are roasted in volume and the hot fat from them drops down on to masses of petit potatoes in the bottom of the roaster cooking them to a luscious turn.

The first chicken I bought there was a “poulet”.  One size served all.  It cost trentes  francs which was five dollars.

I still buy my chickens there after brief flirtations with other chicken roasters because the ones at Boucherie Claude are the best I know of anywhere close.

Today, if one doesn’t count the Poulet Fermier, which costs fifteen euros a kilogram, there are three sizes on offer at Boucherie Claude. 

There is the coquelet for six euros or  almost eight dollars, the petit poulet for nine euros and the gross poulet for eleven.

I have eaten a lot of Boucherie Claude’s chickens over the years but until this trip I have never bought any fresh meat from the actual boucherie. 

When I was first here in the years surrounding 1998 the Marché Champion (which was the small store marketing format with which the hypermart company Carrefour did business as in cities.  French law requires the huge – beyond big box – French retailers to remain outside the dense urban areas) had a perfectly acceptable in-store boucherie and I did business there for fresh meat.

In those days Champion also had a full scale in-store fromagerie. 

And on Fridays a chef came and spent the afternoon making a giant kettle of paella that went on sale in portions to take home at 16h00 and was gone by 18h00.

But things change.

Champion is no more.  It has various names, depending upon where it is in the City and what its intended purpose is: Carrefour Cité, Carrefour Express etc.

The old Champion that I still go to is simply Carrefour.

And the boucherie is gone from the now Carrefour.

And so also is the fromagerie.

And if one were to ask for Friday afternoon paella one would be confronted with gales of Gallic laughter.

So when I decided to make côte de porc moutard avec capres in my first couple of weeks here I went to Claude.

And I got a great côte de porc.

As long as I was there inside for the first time I decided to walk around and look at all the refrigerated display cases to see what they had.  Having been in other boucheries, just not this one, I could see that it was typically well supplied with choices.

There were big chickens with the feet still in place and with the neck hackles still on the neck.

There were quail that had been mostly plucked but with some esthetically pleasing vestigial feathers left.

There were partially skinned rabbits.

And there were pheasants done up in a manner similar to the chickens.

And there was bacon.

It was a large slab that looked like the best bacon that I had ever seen anywhere and in front of the slab, as a sort of illustration of what it was and why one would want it, there were four thick slices of the best looking bacon I had ever seen.

I immediately was glad that I had ready use of the word “tranche”, having been using it on saumon for several years, and knew that it was feminine.

But the real bonus was that it had a place card saying what it was.

“Poitrine Fumé” it said.

“Of course” I said.  Then I said “Bien sur".

To myself I said these things. 

I have a rich interior life.

And this little story would have been about all there was to tell about a sort of Steinfeldian “nothing happened” series of vignettes from my life if I had not been harboring in the back of my mind a T-shirt that I was going to design.

I have drawers full of T-shirts that I have designed and ordered on line so another one in the hopper wasn’t any surprise.

The difference this time was that I had a graphic that screamed out that, if put on a T-shirt, it should have some sort of snappy tag line associated with it.

“What could be more natural”, I said to myself, “than for that smiling pig to be saying “ma poitrine est fumé”?

I consulted my iPhone French dictionary app and found that poitrine meant something like pork belly when used with a pig and something like brisket when used with a cow.

That seemed reasonable.

So I decided that the pig T-shirt project would go forward under the banner of “Ma Poitrine est Fumé”.

I thought it was lighthearted T-shirt humor.

Unfortunately I had forgotten how to spell poitrine and Boucherie Claude had removed the placard with its name by the time I had decided all of this.

So Google entered the picture.

And I was amazed.

When the various guesses that I had about what the word I was looking for was spelled like had finally been winnowed down by Google to poitrine I couldn’t believe what it brought up.

The word seemed to mean “bosom “ and a number of synonyms.

And those answers were all supplied with ample image support.

“What about bacon?” I said to myself.

There was no answer.

Luckily I scrolled down through all that voluptuousness and finally found bacon and beef brisket.

But I had a permanently altered view of my tag line.

What had started out to be – I had hoped – a whimsically clever little thing was now a fairly significant double entendre.

I can’t banish from my mind the constant barrage that I have experienced on American television of an ad by some weight loss company that features a young woman who epitomizes the fantasies of generations of men, endorsing whatever the weight loss program or product that she is being paid to hype, saying something about “my smokin’ hot body”.

“Ma poitrine est fumé” I heard someone say.

“This is going to be fun” I heard myself say.

The T-shirts will go on sale in February/March.finished pig with coppyright statement

Parrots Redux

I have gone back to Parc Montsouris several times since I first saw the parrots and posted the item about them.

Parc Montsouris has always – since I first discovered it in 2010 – been a special place for me.  It is the stimulus for and the location of the most magical parts of The Story of Adrianna.

But it is special even if it hadn't manifested some sort of supernatural influence upon me.  I guess it has become my favorite green place in Paris – even more favorite (my lexicon allows degrees of favoriteness) than le Jardin du Luxembourg.  But then that is easy to say because the walk that I take to get to Montsouris involves a walk through or circumnavigation of – depending upon the amount of time I have allocated – le Jardin.  The subsequent – to le Jardin – walk through le Jardin des Grandes Explorateurs as I wend my way toward l’Observatoire de Paris and on to Avenue René Coty and the gate to the Parc is not a bad little bonus either.

Anyway I have been to Parc Montsouris several times since the initial 19 December encounter with the parrots, including twice in the last three days.

And each time I have seen the Parrots.

And each time I have gotten better pictures.

I have learned a lot from taking their picture how to control the light on my camera to get the best possible color.  The light setting I would use for any of most of my pictures yields images of small dark lumps that could be parrots or could be birds, or could be squirrels, or could be some form of cancerous growth growing on a tree branch.

Proper light and maximum zoom yield pictures that due, to the 24 mpx density of my camera, can be cropped using Photoshop to produce some pretty good pictures.  That is what produced the ones in my previous post.

But distance is still the enemy.  And these birds like to sit way up in some pretty tall trees.

Then the day before the day before yesterday the holy grail appeared.

I had decided to walk around the lake and maybe go up the mountain to the trees where the birds had been on my other expeditions – or, maybe not.  It was a grey day and getting dark and those are really adverse conditions for trying to get any decent pictures of birds sitting high in trees.

I had just started down the path that skirts the lake on the side that abuts the mountain.  I watched a few of the coot or coot-like birds that are such clownish presences on the lake and its immediate shoreline. I looked for the black swans but they were somewhere else.  I was standing there doing these things and was about to move on when I heard over my head – very close – a shriek.  It was the unmistakable shriek of a parrot.

I thought I saw a bird that could have been a parrot land in a small tree just ahead of me.  And then I thought that several more followed.  And then several more came in.

I couldn’t believe it.

As I got in front of and under this small tree there were ten parrots. 

And they weren’t paying any attention to me.

And they were unbelievably close.  200mm might even be overkill.

They were happily and with great abandon ripping to shreds the cranberry sized green berries that grew on the tree.

My fleeting observation about 200 mm overkill turned out to be correct.

When I went through the inventory of the day’s shots I was hard pressed to find one where I had not cut off the birds’ long tails.

But there were some.

Here is one of them:

paris 2012 parc montsouris parrots 010713 00000

Yesterday I didn’t get out of the apartment until 1420.

I decided that I had enough daylight left on a dark, grey, foggy, drizzly day to go to Montsouris and then walk to Port d’Orleans Metro station and go back to stop St-Sulpice and have a late lunch – I hadn’t eaten yet – at Café du Metro.

I thought in passing about the parrots but thought that they had probably eaten all the berries and moved on.

As it turned out I was wrong.

paris 2012 parrots in parc montsouris 010913 00000

paris 2012 parrots in parc montsouris 010913 00001