zirconium: the word "SANGUINE" engraved in stone (sanguine)
The subject line is from Edmund Keeley's translation of René Guy Cadou's "Poème d'amour à Hélène" (Love Poem to Helen).

On the morning of 30 May 2009, I walked around Marseille for a little while before catching my bus. I hope to spend a longer while there someday, less encumbered with luggage and better versed in modern as well as classic writing about the city:

Marseille parking meter


The Marseillais themselves [are] today as varied and original as Fisher described them in "A Considerable Town." They stroll, or rather, strut, in colorful African fabrics, or navy blue woolen fishermen's sweaters; in haute couture purchased from the fantastic boutiques along the Rue Paradis; or in skateboard garb. Fisher claimed that her classic university-learned French deteriorated while in Marseille, for she spent many happy hours talking with its inhabitants--Italians, Tunisians, Greeks--who spoke anything but Parisian French.

-- Mary Lou Longworth's 1998 essay on MFK Fisher and Marseille


Marseille market


The mistral is a violent wind that swoops southward from the center of France and along the Rhône valley. It torments the Mediterranean coast, particularly the stretch between Toulon and Marseille. It shakes windows, it tears laundry from clotheslines, it tears clay tiles from roofs. The people of Marseille like to say the mistral even causes temporary insanity.

--Jeffrey Mercer, When the Guillotine Fell


The bus took me to Aix-en-Provence:

IMG_1555

Aix-en-Provence


Thou fair Marseilles, who openest on the sea
Thy haughty eyes and gazest languidly...
...and in this hour
Art proud once more; but other storms may lower.
Forget not, then, amid thy revelries,
Whose tears they are that bathe thine olive-trees!

-- Frédéric Mistral, Miréio


...Oh, that won't do for an ending. Here's Amy Wilentz in a 2011 blog post:


In one fishwife's basket there was a score or more of lovely striped rainbow fish that I was pining for; she was charging a lot.

"Awful," said my friend Grégoire Alessi, leaning in over my shoulder to see what caught my eye. "Don't even think about it."

"But they’re beautiful," I protested.

"Yah, yah," he said, giving a shrug, possibly the most common gesture in Marseille. "They may look good, but they taste terrible. They get caught by accident, I guess. I wouldn't even put one in soup." He pointed to a bunch of ugly, flattish brown fish. "Those are the good ones," he said.
zirconium: the word "SANGUINE" engraved in stone (sanguine)
[Today's subject line is from Christophe Willem's "Berlin," which is on the album advertised on posters at Lyons Part Deux seven years ago.]

090527 strasbourg 142


Seven years ago, I was staying in a (comparatively) cheap hotel in a slightly sketchy section of Strasbourg. From a 27 May 2009 e-mail to the BYM:

Slogging away on the [] manuscript and missing American ice machines (I literally pried four cubes out of the hotel tray yesterday afternoon so that my liter of Coke could remain drinkable), takeaway coffee, and clean glassware.

Minor nuisances: the shower's so small the water temp changes whenever I turn around (because my body keeps hitting the faucet), and some dude tried to hit on me by asking if I was from Japan, which is a lame pickup line in any language.

On the plus side, I do think I looked pretty good yesterday [], I bought strawberries and scallions at an open market near the Jewish quarter, and there was a fantastic countertenor busking in front of the Cathedral. Got in a half-day of sightseeing just from getting lost, so I will feel less lame about staying glued to the laptop/netbook all today.


Two mornings later, I took the train from Alsace...

French train station Strasbourg train station, I think

to Marseille, which included a transfer at Lyons Part Deux, where some passengers sit on a bank by the tracks between trains:

IMG_1489 IMG_1485

30 May 2009:


Marseille even noisier and rowdier than Strasbourg, but I was expecting that. I'm getting a good sense of what 65 EUR hotel neighborhoods are like, I guess. ;-)

Also, the further south the train station, the crazier it is. Well, not really, but Lyons Part Dieu was like JFK/O'Hare combined (in terms of sheer mass of humanity and chaos and I even first got on the wrong train, because somehow everyone is supposed to know that the TGV to Marseille will be on track I as opposed to the normal train on track G, and though I at least suspected something was wrong since the train I was supposed to catch had two levels and the Ter had only one). When I got on the right train, some dude was in my seat, so there was a moment of "Oh no!" -- and then another dude mistook it for his because *he* had gotten onto the wrong car.

The drama at Marseille St. Charles was seeing a dozen people pelt through the station, trying to catch their connections.

Dinner was pasta from Chicken World, where I also threw back two espressos (at 11:30 pm).


Today, I ended up discarding plans A, B, and C in favor of housework, yardwork, and time with the dog. Lots of tugging at stubborn vines, stubborn roots, and occasionally stubborn canine. (Me to the BYM: She was chomping on some of ivy. Do you suppose it has hallucinogens in it, and would that explain why she ate half of my poodle-print scarf earlier this week?) I transplanted a hollyhock seedling (which didn't look happy about its new location, but it was one too many further down the row), a cactus cutting, and a bunch of pepper seedlings. I harvested a handful of radishes. I am planning to sow zinnias and maybe marigolds.

We are worried about the dog. Some days she gallops from one end to the house like a puppy; some nights, like tonight, her hind legs intermittently give out on her. It may be time to revisit medication options; it is certainly time to steal more time for her, as it were. I spent a good chunk of the afternoon pruning branches and yanking at stems in a corner of the yard she likes to disappear into, the better to let passersby know that they're on her street. I can't save her from tripping over herself, let alone most of the wide, ever-beckoning universe, but I can at least clean up some of the corners. Digging at the roots unearthed an old shard of glass, some blue-green netting, and the usual jumble of rocks and clumps.

Some of the branches are now propping up parts of the fruit-heavy mama pepper plant, whose pot I also tidied up today, adding soil to cover roots that our spring weather (or the dog) had disturbed. I am resisting the urge to stock up on sale mulch; given the music I need to have in my bones by mid-week (on deck: a recording session [touching up some spots on the forthcoming Heritage OP album], a workshop with Ysaye Barnwell, and two Music Sunday services [also featuring Dr. Barnwell]), I'm unlikely to get through the bags already on hand. As it happens, the dog is now napping in the room with the piano. When I practice tomorrow, she'll probably jog my left elbow before I'm ten minutes in, because (planting snout firmly in my lap) don't I already spend enough time not paying attention to her?
zirconium: Detail from Paris Polytechnique building (Paris Polytechnique)
[The subject line is the opening line of Wislawa Szymborska's "Clochard."]

The first day I spent in Paris: 8 May 2009. There were daffodils painted on poles within CDG airport, and I paid I think two euro for a bouquet of muguets from a Latin Quarter street vendor:

my first day in Paris my first day in Paris

I had to bring work along (plus ça change...), and I also had a requiem I'd promised to learn by the time I reached Prague, which would be the following morning. But first there were pork rillettes for breakfast, with gherkins...

my first day in Paris

and there were sights to be seen, including flowers tucked into statues (this one is of Romanian poet Mihai Eminescu)...

my first day in Paris

and pianos being played:

my first day in Paris


Everything's mine but just on loan,
nothing for the memory to hold,
though mine as long as I look.

- Szymborksa, "Travel Elegy"


my first day in Paris
zirconium: photo of ranunculus bloom on my laptop (ranunculus on keyboard)

Subtitlers face a number of questions beyond how much to translate. Slang and jargon are perennial tests, but so is humor.

Pascale Joseph, who specializes in translating from English to French, used to go to gun shops to find out certain arcane vocabulary; now it’s message boards on the web.


-- Nicolas Rapold, A Freelance Career, Found in Translation
zirconium: photo of ranunculus bloom on my laptop (ranunculus on keyboard)
Par la bouche de ce canon il neige. C'était l'enfer dans notre tête. Au même moment c'est le printemps au bout de nos doigts. C'est la foulée de nouveau permise, la terre en amour, les herbes exubérantes.

Snow is falling from the mouth of this cannon. There was hell in our heads. At the same time, spring's at our fingertips. Permission's granted to step forth again, the earth's in love, the grasses exuberant.

-- René Char; translated by Ralph Freedman, Donald Justice, and Paulène Aspel
zirconium: snapshot of oysters enjoyed in Charleston (oysters)
This one's for the lawyers... ;-)


He often took his manuscript [of Physiologie du Goût] to court. In fact, it was in idle moments in the halls of justice that he wrote most of it. His other companion, besides his manuscript, was his dog, who went under the uncompromising name of Ida. She followed him everywhere and sat on the bench next to him both in the courtroom and in his favorite Café Lemblin. [His biographer] Monselet relates that during the hunting season the judge's presence was sometimes pungent. This was due to his habit of shooting small game birds and then carrying them around for days in the capacious pockets of his Prince Albert-like coat. As the birds became higher, his neighbors on the judicial bench became more uncomfortable, understandably enough.


-- Samuel Chamberlain, Bouquet de France


I also finally finished Amy Stewart's Flower Confidential last night (it seemed appropriate to do so on V-day), and then I turned to my Southern Living handbook to see if it had anything to say about building cold frames. (We have two window frames, one with the glass still intact. I shall probably turn them into cold frame lids eventually -- but right now it would be an elaborate variation of procrastination. Back to reading about bisphosphonates and selective estrogen receptor modulators...)

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