30 October 2007

Live, from the bus

This morning I was buoyed by the sight of blue sky and sun--it has been so many days since I have seen either. As I got dressed, full of energy to face this day, one that came with a long list of to-dos clenched in its fist, I looked forward to getting my sunglasses out of the backpack where they had languished since my surprisingly summery trip to the US at the beginning of this month.

But as I pulled on my jacket and gathered up my things, the house darkened precipitously. "Oh no," I muttered, "Can't you just wait?" Hurrying my pace, scrambling for the papers I needed for my visit to the parking reservation office (yet again), I glanced at the windows. Sure enough, the familiar sinister pelting of rain. Sighing, I grabbed my umbrella and put my sunglasses on the table.

I should be glad, at least, that I had warning in time to get the umbrella, because when I stepped outside the rain was coming down SO hard--I think the technical term is "cats and dogs." The kind of rain that had my pants drenched up to the knee in a minute, even with the umbrella.

I made my way through the downpour toward the office of "Administration Communale de Saint-Gilles Urbanisme et Travaux Publics." Fortunately, once there, the man understood my tortured French enough to grasp the problem, and a discussion ensued among him and several other jumpsuited public works men as to where the panneaux should have been placed, requiring specialized knowledge of the locale in front of our house. I even drew a picture, pointing to where--BOTH times--the signs had been placed and a big X where our window is located. Clearly, the two did not align. Someone brought up the friterie across the street as an orienting landmark. Yes, that's it! I say. In the end, I left with yet another "clear off the street-side parking" reservation, one that I hope will, this time, do the trick.

I caught the bus to head downtown--oh, did I forget to mention that that's where I am right now? I'm on the bus! writing longhand--for a visit to the costume store. Yes, that's on today's to-do list, given priority even over that conference proposal I have to write, because that I can do after 5:30 pm, whereas the stores, they close good and early in this wet, dark land called Belgium.

Why a costume store? I am hosting a petite soirée at my house tomorrow night that will be a mixture of Catalan All Saints (making panellets, little almond cookies, with a friend), Thanksgiving (making pumpkin pie), and of course, Halloween. That's where the costume store comes in. Normally, I endorse entirely homemade costumes, but this year I've taken it into my head to be Cleopatra à la Elizabeth Taylor, and I just can't get around the wig--everything else I can make, but the wig sort of has to happen.

And besides, it will be for more than one party. In Barcelona in a few weekends we're holding a similar party for all of our family and friends at our new apartment, sort of a housewarming event and, we hope, a way to institute a holiday celebration at our place. All Saints/Halloween is a good one, because people have the day off but don't usually have family commitments already, it's kid friendly and fun for all ages, and can easily combine American and Catalan traditions. Although, obviously, this year we'll be having it a little after the fact...

M. can go as Antony to match my Cleopatra for a good couples costume. Now that I write this, I can't remember if I've mentioned this to him or not. Hmmm... He'll be a good sport about it. We've been known to put together some successful costumes in th past, Bonnie and Clyde and Vermeer and the Girl with the Pearl Earring among them.

Oops, must go. Bus has arrived.

Hello again. Back on the bus, heading home. Mission(s) accomplished! I got a witch's wig that will do the trick, with long straight black hair and straight bangs. Several other stops produced some accessories. At Brico, Belgium's answer to Home Depot, I bought several meters of shiny gold chain that I can make into necklaces and hair adornment. Cost? 1-2 euros a meter. Cost for the stupid and fake-looking plastic Cleopatra jewelry at the costume store? 10-20 euros.

I also recharged my cell phone and went grocery shopping for the stuff I'll need for tomorrow. I had never shopped at the grocery in the center of town before, but I will do so again, because it was awesome! Large, well-lit, interesting food, great wine selection, and even good music (Jamie Cullum)! Although, as in every Belgian grocery store, there is one whole cooler section devoted to gross-looking mayonnaisey salads in every pastel shade of the rainbow, each one a mixture of some kind of meat and some kind of sauce. Ah, Belgians and their sauces [insert shaking head motion here].

Oh, and another thing about the grocery store: although our French teacher says they celebrate Halloween here--and judging by the costume store, they do--there was a noticeable lack of brown and orange M&Ms, or any orange and brown candy. I'm just saying.

Digression: Isn't that an odd phrase, "I'm just saying"? It really means the opposite of what it says; it means you're implying something that you're not saying. I had never noticed it until writing it down right now. Because usually it's something you're saying out loud, so I guess in that sense you are "saying." You're both saying and not saying. Isn't language wonderful?

Digression #2 [written in margin earlier]: This morning I read in the NYTimes that mice who are placed on vibrating pads for 15 minutes a day, 5 days a week, lose a significant amount of fat and gain considerable bone mass. They're going to start testing that on the elderly, but it makes me wonder (as I write this with shaking script and teeth clattering to the vibration of the bus) if regular bus riders (especially in Europe, where the cobblestones make for superduper vibrations) also have relatively less fat and better bone mass? Hey you scientists, you should get on that.

Anyway, we're nearing home and I feel happy to have completed my errands. There's even a little sun peeking out of the low clouds. I'll type this as soon as I arrive [editor's note: NOT].

No comments: