Saturday, August 07, 2004

You've been cheated

Today was like spring more than summer: a sunny day, crisp air and not a hint of humidity. I went for a short bike ride. The town, 4 or 5 miles down the river is bustling with people. About 100 meters from where I parked my bike, there is an Irish festival. People singing and enjoying food, and music. Some kilts (I thought only Scots wear kilts ?), a lot of beer and some politics as well. One one side of the music stage is a large booth handing out "Kerry-Edwards" stickers. One the other side, a bit closer to the water, there is a table and a couple of people handing out flyers for "Lisa Marie Cheney". I'm curious about the name so I ask one of the volunteers. "Is she related to Vice-President Cheney?" The woman smiles. "No, she is not. But she is a republican." "I don't care, " I tell her "I am a foreigner. I can't vote."
The standard conversation ensues. France, US, politics, welfare state and capitalism. She seems very surprised that, as a French, I do not hate the US. It's funny that my telling that "I like it here" and that "not all French hate the US" is enough to make her smile, open up and welcome me into her world. She tells me that I "should absolutely meet Raphael!" the owner of "Traditions de France" a furniture shop on the main street. I should go there now and tell him that I was sent there by Laura. Laura from the armoire. Laura from "Laura and David", her husband that I should also meet. We're there, two strangers one minute, hugging each others the next, as she says goodbye and sends me on my way to the French store. I feel a sudden obligation to visit it although I have no intention of buying any furniture today.

I leave her and stroll among strangers in this celebration of Irish culture. People are following the singer on stage, one guy wearing a T-shirt too small for him is enthralled by the song. He is clapping and singing, his face red from the sun and the excitement.

I am standing next to a family of five. There are two boys lying down in the grass and the parents tending a toddler next to them. The older boy is reading a book with large illustrations. I lean to take a closer look. There are guns, and firearms everywhere on the page he is reading, some nuclear device too. The boy turns the page and I see Ursula Andress in her white swimsuit. The book is a review of the James Bond movies. The boy is leafing through it with the seriousness that kids devote to illustrated books that bring them in the world of adults. I remember them vividly from my own childhood. There would be books about dinosaurs, about astronomy, about trains and planes, about the oceans and dolphins. They had some text but what would fix my imagination would be an image that I would exhaust with questions. Everything in it had to be explained. From the color to the scale to the smallest details. This kid is learning about all the episodes of James Bond. The face of Goldfinger and the color of Ursula Andress's swimming-suit.

I recall the words from a literature professor who asked his students about their readings and discovered that they had never heard of The Iliad or The Odyssey, never read Don Quixote or the Brothers Karamazov. They quoted him large amount of pop culture and sang the praise of "Star Wars" as the modern equivalent to these dusty books. He didn't argue with them. Only said "You've been cheated, you've been cheated".

I did go to see Raphael at the furniture store. Nothing that I would have bought, even if I could afford it. "Faux" old armoires and antique looking new furniture for an astronomical price. The bookshelves have leather-looking bindings to hide magazines or alcohol. Everything is fake.


Post a Comment

<< Home