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Monday, 24 November
Avignon, Meal One
On our first night in Avignon, we got completely and utterly lost. This is easy to do in Avignon, as the city is laid out in a completely chaotic fashion, without regard to sense, direction, logic or geometry. Walking the streets of Avignon is a lot like watching I Heart Huckabees: a desperate, sweaty plunge into madness where around any corner you might find Dustin Hoffmanesque nebbishes yelling gibberish at cobblestones.
This sophisticated metaphor breaks down, however, with some prolonged exposure to Avignon, as Avignon actually eventually becomes really charming once you work out its more challenging features, as opposed to the ongoing urge to rip Avignon out of your DVD player and fling it forcefully into the Negative Zone.
Our lost first night led us--eventually, circuitously--to Mamma Corsica. I couldn't find it again if I tried, I don't think; it was located somewhere on the fringes of Avignon's non-Euclidean environs, off in some dusty corner of this French hypercube of a city. Mamma Corsica greeted us herself in the small space and immediately seated us at a Lilliputian table, slapping down a couple of menus for us. Then, beginning what would be a theme for the evening, she immediately left us alone with a giant, propped-up menu for us to examine.
Then she immediately returned and said something incomprehensible in her rat-a-tat French; the wife discerned it had something to do with aperitifs, somehow. The wife has mickle powers. She ordered a kir, and I panicked instantly, but then spied a large beer poster ad stapled to the bar. It was some sort of Corsican beer; everything in the place was (not surprisingly) Corsican. I pointed at it, and Mamma Corsica beamed. I got the feeling not many people ordered the Corsican beer. She rushed off.
And immediately rushed back, drinks in hand. CLANK! She dropped them on the table as if they were radioactive (well, it is France--they love them their nuclear power) and looked at us expectantly, ready to take our order. The wife calmly ordered the pork planc--basically a charcuterie plate, as far as I could tell, and that sounded good, so I turned to Mamma Corsica to order the same thing, and beheld the empty space where she moments ago had stood. She had noticed something at another table that required her attention and had sped off, leaving me to gape at the Mamma Corsica-shaped hole she had left in the fabric of reality. I glanced at the wife, and she shrugged. Was I to go hungry this evening?
Suddenly, there was an urgent, Gallic voice clattering in my ear, and I stifled a small scream. Mamma Corsica, having put out whatever notional fire that had ignited at the other table was now hectoring me for my dinner selection; the woman was a terrifying dervish. She was like one of the Triplets of Belleville, only insane and capable of drawing on the Speed Force. She made some meth addicts I've encountered look positively lackadaisical.
We had, somehow, also managed to order a pre-pork salad to share, and it of course arrived picoseconds after we had taken a sip from our drinks. Thank God we agreed to share it. BLONK! The now-supersonic Mamma Corsica delivered it to our table without actually slowing down enough to become visible; the salad was the size of, oh, I'm going to say Denmark. Happily, it was delicious. Periodically, as we munched the dish, Mamma Corsica blinked in and out of quantum superpositions around the room.
Soon after we finished our salad, it vanished from existence, possibly thanks to invisible ghouls, Mamma Corsica presented us with our pork plancs, served rustically on wooden cutting boards. The bacon alone was enough to cause Road-to-Damascus-like conversion reactions--I have seen the pig! And I was starting to warm up to the Corsican beer; it was all wonderful for all the chaos surrounding us. It should be noted that nobody else seemed to notice that our hostess was a living Feynman diagram.
At length, we finished our ridiculously great meal; Mamma Corsica materialized again beside our table to see if we wanted anything else. The wife ordered a cafe, and meanwhile I had been eyeing the mysterious bottles behind the tiny bar. Whiskey? I asked, taking a stab.
Mamma Corsica's face lit up like a Pachinko machine, but then crumbled into a rather piteous look, as if she expected that what she was about to say was going to be terribly upsetting.
"Whiskey," she breathed, and pointed to the three lonely bottles on the shelf. "Is Corsican, all." She wrinkled her face at me. She seemed like she had met disappointment before when explaining this. To which all I could think was, Who in the fuck passed up the opportunity to try out Corsican whiskey? She needn't have worried.
"C'est bon!" I hollered. I embarrass myself. I pointed to my selection, and she fairly roared over to the shelf to pour me my libation; I had picked the ten-year (trying to economize, y'know; she also had a twelve-year that I ached over).
I shouldn't have worried, of course. She was so pleased to have someone order her whiskey, she brought over a sample of the twelve-year as well, so I could compare. This is, of course, the way the world should always work. I try to behave this way. You like a thing I like! Oh, God, you have to try this similar thing! For the record, Corsican whiskey, while nothing that will blow your mind, is pretty good stuff.
If I think about it--not too hard, of course--this is sort of the essence of why we like to travel. We're not so different! Shall we share? Mamma Corsica clapped her hands at us when we bade our good-byes, and then she whirled madly for a moment and disappeared, a singularity occasionally, magically visible to those lost enough to stumble over her.
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When Thaddeus and I went through France a few years ago, we got off the train in Avignon and landed in the midst of some freakish sort of condom festival. We were handed many free condoms and then dined in a cafe with the largest locust I have ever seen. Memorable! We skipped town and stayed the rest of the week in Chamonix. :)
Mamma Corsica=dinner in Brigadoon? Loves it.
Not too many blog entries make me wish I'd studied advanced mathematics and physics at university. While eating piles of bacon, of course.
You had me at Speed Force, but you fucking killed me at quantum superpositions.
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