Thursday, June 29, 2006

The movie Trainspotting was supposed to be set in my neighbourhood. It's yuppified these days but a few traces of the old Leith is recognizable. Having lived in Leith for a year, I can testify that if Trainspotting was true, Spud would have been the best looking one.


Monday, June 26, 2006

My childhood was spent in a land where, though man had drained her dark swamps and laid concrete over her cleared forests, nature refused to be ignored. She made her presence known through swarms of insects that left my tiny child’s legs covered in large red welts until it looked like I was afflicted by an ancient pox. She knocked at our doors with apocalyptic winds and rains. She scattered among our waters and brush creatures large and small that could, if not end your life; make you regret its capacity for suffering. This is why I am a city boy through and through. I prefer to live in places where the natural order is completely conquered and the only dangers I face are manufactured by man. Man is much more predictable than the capricious spitefulness of nature. Angry drunks can be avoided, but an angry warthog is another matter.

The wilderness of Europe if far more tame but I am still uneasy. My first query of Scotland was a request for an enumeration of the creatures which are capable of injury1. On my recent travels through France, it was a few days before I could relax at the pleasant country house where we staying. It had been so long since I had been away from the steady night glow of the city. I woke up the first night to think I had gone blind2, because of the inky natural blackness that had packed into our room from the open windows. After a few days and a few more bottles of wine, I settled myself to enjoy the gorgeous views and easy life.

1 The worse thing they have are midges, though they bring new meaning nuisance, are harmless.
2 Goddamn French blinded me with their cheap (but delicious) wine, I thought.

Monday, June 19, 2006

There are certain national generalizations that are safe bets such as never try out-drink a Russian and don’t talk politics with anyone from the Middle East. I have made both of those mistakes. I recently discovered another.

I am pretty proud of my adventurous nature when it comes to cuisine. Having grown up in the south of the states with a number of hunters in the family, I have eaten a children’s alphabet worth of god’s creatures (A is for alligator to Z is for Zebra). I can usually trump any bizarre culinary dish that a person comes up with. That is until I met the French. I was aware of the Gallic penchant for guts and offal. No worries, I’ve had hog maw and chitlins.

In conversation this is always a fun topic to bring out when chit-chatting with strangers. On this occasion the conversation naturally settled on differences in national dishes. I was feeling pretty confident and brought out some of my standards such as my experiences with Dorian fruit, chicken feet and barbecued squirrel. We all took our turns regaling each other with bizarre dishes but I knew I was out of my league when the owner of the guesthouse told of the Senegalese dish of meatballs that are spiced with chillis and then buried until they are good and rancid. They are then dug up and fried. Wild animals never disturb these meatballs as they age. She says it is due to the chillis. I thought it was more likely that there are limits to what even a scavenger will put past its canines. By the end of the night I was thoroughly humbled by the fearlessness of the French appetite. In hindsight I should have known better having encountered on a few occasions the breeze the wafts from the Frenchman’s cheese box or in their tongue “la boĆ®te de mort”.

Here's a little dish we had in Paris. Waiter! My ice is infested.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

I have lots of ideas. Not many are worth much or will ever become a reality, like my dreams of having a private army. One of my dreams is to open a gay bar called 'Moustache'. I was so happy to pass by this little place near Gare de L'Est in Paris.
Too bad, they were closed. I would have loved a t-shirt.

I am back at my post after my wanderings in France. I'll copy my little journal entries into this blog eventually.