Sunday, June 28, 2009

some pics for you


on one of my first days in nevers, i walked outside with my hosts and said, "look! a parade!" it turned out to be a labor protest. it was interesting- in spite of my gripes with this complacent small town i'm in (see yesterday's post), seeing this was really cool and showed me how different things are here. people regularly protest things and aren't afraid to be seen in the streets like this. on the down side- the protests are generally organized by the unions and so people aren't really taking to the streets of their own accord- they're just showing up on the day the union folks tell them to. but it's more than folks do in the states, and so i was happy to see it. and che. this particular protest i think was put on by the educators' union.

from the amazing cathedral in nevers, i give you gargoyles. an infinitely interesting and highly amusing architectural development that i wish we would embrace in the states. this cathedral is about 5-10 min walk from my friends' apartment where i'm staying.

this is one of the towers that is part of the wall that used to surround nevers in the good ole days, back when cities were walled and there was only one way in or out, through the gate.

this is a duck on the loire, the river that runs through nevers. it's lovely and i like to walk by it.

the aforementioned cathedral of nevers. it was originally a roman construction, but was overhauled in the 14th century in gothic style. it was accidentally hit during air raids on nevers during world war 2 and most of the stained glass windows were demolished so now they're done in a more modern style. it took them nearly 20 years to get things back in order after the bombing, but in the course of things an 8th century roman baptismal thing was discoverd below the actual cathedral. it had been forgotten for hundreds of years.

this is the ducal palace of nevers, sort of like the county seat. nevers is in a region called nievre- the guy who oversaw all of nievre historically lived here. nevers is a city in the county of nievre, in the larger province of bourgonne- aka burgendy. like the wine. yum.

today was a nice day. we drove around and ended up going to this archeological site on a mountain called mont beuvray. originally there was a celtic city there, around the time of jesus. then it was subsumed by romans and became a roman regional capital. in the 19th century, an archeologist discovered it all and excavations are still happening. i took some pictures, but they don't really show much. it was really interesting, though. hard to picture it today, as now it's all forested and were it not for the tents covering the archeologists' holes in the ground and various signs posted around, you'd never guess there was once a pretty good sized city there. this history here really is incomprehensible to me, the naive american. i can't imagine what it would be like to visit a place like that and feel that history as your own. whenever i see something human made in the states that is more than a couple hundred years old, it's something native american and i can't claim it as my own and feel that ever present guilt in knowing that my poeple pillaged their people. here, when a french person visits a 2000 year old french ruin, they know that it's theirs and that those people are where they came from. in america it doesn't work that way.

last night we went to an art show reception. part of it was really pretentious and i had to bite back my snorts of cynical laughter. especially when the music came on. michael jackson featured prominently, much to my dismay. the one good american song they played- debaser, by the pixies, got vetoed by somebody about 1/3 of the way through so they could play more crappy american dance music from the 80s. parts of the reception were cool and i had a nice conversation with this woman who was very patient with my terrible french. i told her about my search for anarchists and she had some ideas and was very interested in the whole thing. all in all, it was good to see the french folks get down- lotsa drunk dancing going on and people enjoying themselves.

that's right- now i have "terrible" french and am leagues beyond where i was when i got here nearly 3 weeks ago when i simply had none. little by little.



Saturday, June 27, 2009

and so

i'm still in nevers. it's a very cute town, but also kind of a drag. people's primary activities here are buying things and drinking. not really my style.

and i feel more objectified by men here than i do in the u.s. it's really ridiculous. i expected france to be way more ahead of the game. but in many ways it's more backwards than the u.s. some basic trends that never seem to have caught on in france:

1. cigarettes are bad for you. women still smoke while pregnant here and most people i've met smoke.

2. you should clean up after your dog if it craps on the sidewalk.

3. if women wear tiny high heeled shoes all the time, they won't be able to do much except sit and look helpless.

4. not all women like to be stared at. did the feminist revolution somehow miss france? i thought it was international, but perhaps i was wrong.

very basic things. somehow these tidbits of wisdom never reached france. i've been going through a lot here, intellectually speaking. i expected things i have not found and have found things i never expected. men oggle me on the street and i hate it. i hate it in the states but it's way worse here. women definitely are expected to fulfill a particular social function here- namely, to look good when standing next to a man. it's very 1950s and disgusts me. it makes me realize how great my community of friends in tucson is. most of the men i know there are very aware of how messed up it is that women are perpetually seen as objects of attraction. i have many male friends who deliberately try to resist the patriarchal and dominating upbringing boys face in our society and they are very conscious of these aspects of masculine culture. in the same way, i know many women who, like me, strive to overcome what we've always been told we should be- submissive weak little things who look good on some big man's arm.

in france- not so. men still seem to be under the impression that i will be complemented if they stare at my breasts while they talk to me about this or that. not that this sort of thing doesn't exist in the states- it happens to me all the time, actually. the difference is that in the u.s. there are some people who are trying to do things differently, like my aforementioned comrades in tuscon. i have yet to find anyone like that here. i'm sick of constantly feeling like my body is an object of either attraction or rejection (here and in the states). i hate that i worry about men finding me attractive. i wish i could just not care and live totally for myself. i'm trying, anyway. i suppose it's one of those lifelong struggle sorts of things.

one exciting thing happened earlier this week, greenpeace volunteers came to nevers. they weren't from here- i could tell that right away. nothing activist related happens here, except for very specific, top-down union organized labor protests. cool when compared to the absence of such things in the u.s. but not at all radical. they aren't working toward anything really different. not that greenpeace is all that revolutionary or anything, but they do some good work and people involved are usually pretty cool and at least trying to bring some progressive change into the world. i took it as a hopeful development. i talked to a couple of the greenpeace folks and asked them where the anarchists were at. they agreed with me that there were none in nevers and i should look elsewhere. one kid said he was from grenoble where "there are beautiful mountains and beautiful anarchsits." so i think i'll head that way soon. monday i'm going to try my luck with the trains again. i have some destinations in mind, all to the south. we'll see how it goes. grenoble, lyon, montpellier, toulouse. this time i'm not worrying about booking a hotel first. bonjour, adventure!

sorry this is so ranting. i've been learning a lot, but like most things worth having in life, it's been a bit of a struggle.

been reading tons. highlights so far-

bakunin, god and the state (in french! it's slow going but i'm getting it)
hunter s. thompson, the rum diary
ayn rand, the fountainhead (actually i read this before i left az but i loved it)
raymond carver, short stories
harry potter (it's a perennial vacation favorite of mine)
oscar wilde, the picture of dorian gray
emma goldman, various essays on anarchy

while i'm on the topic of my perpetual struggle to be myself in the face of this dominating emasculated world- i love emma goldman a lot and am very thankful for her existance.

i gotta go... but lest you think i'm having a terrible time- i'm not. it's everything i hoped for- i'm being educated. i'd rather undergo the painful process of learning how troubling the world really is than live a blissfully ignorant lie. and really, i can't complain too much. i sleep in everyday, wander around town from coffee shop to park to coffee shop again, reading, studying french, and taking pictures. and there is an adorable little kitten to love on. i have even met a couple people of interest. of course my inability to communicate significantly limits my interactions. but that was also what i wanted when i went on this trip. i wanted to be lost and alone in a world i don't understand.

i've been taking pictures. lots and lots. maybe next time i'll post some more.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

dijon sucked

okay parts of it were cool but it was the 1st place i've been here where there were lots of stupid americans around and french people who were obviously sick of them and- by virtue of my accidental status as an american- me.

people were obviously annoyed with my inability to communicate rapidly in french. i couldn't find a hotel because the whole town was full of idiot frat boys whose parents had sent them to france for a few days. i ordered a salmon sandwhich that turned out to be raw salmon stuffed into a bagette with lettuce.

Monday, June 22, 2009

off to dijon

if all goes well, i'll be gone a few days.

found the addresses of some anarchist stuff. think lucky thoughts for me.



finding a cheap hotel in toulouse isn't going well. looks like tomorrow i'll be going somewhere else...

i feel the need to be out of nevers awhile. the clermont adventure worked out well. going somewhere random in the am and returning in the pm. so maybe that's what i should do instead. there are interesting things everywhere.

music day

last night was this music festival all over nevers. apparently it was a french cultural holiday known as "music day" in which cities and towns all over france have music in the streets. it was fun and interesting. my favorite part was the punk show at the skate park. i went to my first punk show here the other night (puny runt was headlining- i don't get why but bands here tend to have english names) and found myself missing dry river and all the kids back in tucson. and i couldn't help but picture particular friends from the tucson scene superimposed on the nevers kids. my impression of punk in france so far is that it has many surface differences- subtle things in style of dress and the way people get down in the pit (although so far french pits got nothing on dry river's angry love). but punk is still punk and it warms my heart to find that even in tranquill nevers, there is a healthy population of pissed off disaffected youth.

there were many other wonderful things besides the punk show. i took a bunch of pictures- i'll post them later. i'm wandering off again tomorow. after the clermont train adventure i'm feeling more confident and am going to head to toulouse. it's a much bigger trip- i'll have to change trains a few times and it'll take about 8 hrs. to get there. not exactly sure how long i'll be gone. a couple nights at least. there are a few different anarchist projects there that i want to check out. aside from paris, toulouse has the most anarchist stuff listed online. who knows what that is in reality- could just be that it's the place with the most tech savvy anarchists. but i'll go check it out in person and see.

also last night i was introduced to an iraqi man who owns a kabab shop here. my friend who introduced us told him i speak arabic. i tried. but linquistically i'm such a mess right now. i couldn't remember the most basic things and ended up speaking this gibberish combination of french and arabic. i feel like a two year old. french is hard. if they'd just spell things the way they say them, i'd be fine. but no. leave it to the french to pretentiously flaunt their insanely difficult language at foreigners who have no hope of understanding anything.

i'll post pics when i get back from the toulouse adventure. i hope you're happy and enjoying your life.



Friday, June 19, 2009


yesterday i got up and decided to take a train somewhere. i didn't really know where and didn't really have a plan. i don't like having plans, actually. i mean, of course i had a loose plan about this trip and have been making arrangements as to where to stay and that sort of thing. but i don't really like to do the guide book travel thing. i'd rather just wander aimlessly and figure it out as i go. plus, whenever i'm out wandering, i seem to find myself exactly where i need to be. i also feel that i am my most authentic self when i travel aimlessly. there's a rhythm to the universe that i feel tapped into and the right things always seem to happen at the right time.

i got to the train station here in tiny nevers and bought a ticket for the next train that was leaving- destined for clermont-ferrand, a place i had never heard of. i also had no idea how far it was or where it was located in france. i figured it couldn't be more than a couple hours, though. the train system here is pretty amazing and way cheaper than trains in the states, but you can't just take one train from one end of france to the other- there are these various hubs where different routes connect and if you were to travel someplace really far you'd have to change trains.

turns out that clermont-ferrand is sw of nevers and about an hour and 20 min train ride. not bad. i got there and realized immediately that it was a pretty big city. much bigger than nevers, pop. 40,000, anyway. i bought a return ticket for the last train that evening and then had about 7 hours to wander. and wander, i did. my legs are sore today, in fact. the first thing i saw right outside the train station was a sweet flier for some anarchist events. there were apparently several consecutive days of events scheduled- things like planting vegtable gardens in public spaces, various squat commerations, communal dining events- that sort of thing. my heart was warmed. nevers is adorable, but really homogenous and bland. i tried wearing my beloved shredded black hoodie with the patches and people stared at me. but in clermont, it was different. there was a much more diverse population and i saw many women around who defied the french norm of super-feminized daintiness that prevails in france. i swear- the women here all walk around super dressed up all the time, in tiny shoes with high heels. and i thought american women had it bad...

but i digress. i left the train station and found the poster and was happy. then i found a cemetary and walked around that awhile. i like cemetaries. french cemetaries are interesting because there are family graves, where everyone is buried on top of everyone else. honestly- many of the graves are the same size as american graves, but somehow they cram like 8 people in there. after the cemetary, i walked around awhile and found a place to eat my lunch. then i found myself walking around michellin land. you know- the tire company. apparently they are from france. yet another thing i thought was american and it turns out it came from europe. there have been a lot of those for me lately. so i walked through several consecutive blocks of michellin factory and was beginning to get the impression that was clermont's thing and i had a long 7 hours ahead of me waiting for my train to go back to nevers. but then... i saw a gigantic spire shooting up into the sky across the city. i decided to head there. when in doubt- head for the local ancient cathedral because it's usually amazing and located in the older, interesting part of town. after several setbacks in which i ended up bypassing the cathedral and finding myself back in michellin land, i made it- and it was worth the entire trip. after spending some time refreshing myself by a lovely fountain that was probably built around the same time as the cathedral, i finally found it. turns out it was the cathedral notre dame of clermont. made of black volcanic rock in super-ornate gothic style- it was incredible. i wandered around there for a long time, went inside to check it out- the stained glass windows were gorgeous and the whole experience was profound. i didn't realize it at the time- but apparently there are lots of cathedral notre dames in france, the one in paris of course being the biggest and most impressive. but the clermont one was pretty amazing. originally it was the site of two basilicas built in 450 and 949. the cathedral was built over those sites (of which now only the crypts remain underneath) from 1248-1285. pretty sweet.

the end.

Monday, June 15, 2009

france is old

there are insanely old buildings all around me, all the time. yesterday we visited an old cathedral that was originally constructed by the romans and then overhauled in gothic style in the 14th century or so. it's just a short walk from my friends' place.

i went to a bbq with a bunch of french folks who didn't speak english. it was at this lovely community garden that folks have going here. if i had drawn a picture beforehand of what i thought a french bbq evening would be like- it would have been exactly like what happened. a group of 8-10 folks sitting on blankets on the ground, surrounded by lush greenery. bagettes and bottles of wine abounded. a guitar was passed around and once in awhile someone picked up the harmonica. i had no idea how important the bagette was until now.

i can't get over how much american music is here. yesterday i saw a guy with elvis tatoos all over his arms. it's annoying, actually. i mean- it's good to see french folks have a healthy respect for bob dylan, but i was really looking forward to listening to french music. seems like i hear american music more than french.


Friday, June 12, 2009


jetlag sucks. i couldn't sleep last night- read a book until about 5 this morning and then told myself i'd sleep till 10 or so and then be able to sleep at a reasonable time tonight. but instead i slept till 2. ca va.

dunno what i'll do today. wander, i suppose.

i hope you have a nice day.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

and some pictures

first is the sacred heart cathedral. you know that scene in amelie when she has him meet her for the album handoff? he runs up the stairs to a little telescope thing and then down to a living statue with a pointing hand. sacred heart is where that scene was filmed. i was glad that i watched amelie over and over again before i left.
next is some detail from the arc de triumph in paris. it's a giant arch that napolean built.

my new friend. currently he is perched on the back of my neck.

and a painting of a fish in a paris alleyway.

next is the little theater of happiness. also in a random parisian alley.

the sacred heart cathedral was riddled with tourists, but it was pretty great. there was this living statue guy outside. he moved slowly, semi-dancing with his flower. and then there was an interesting old monastary across the street.

next is the view of paris from atop the sacred heart catedral. pretty sweet.

lastly- i love the patios on french apartments. there are many with flowers.

soon there will be pictures from nevers. i slept off my jet lag most of today and didn't take any pictures. although i did successfully order myself a cup of coffee in french. it was a tremendous accomplishment.


day 2

hi friends-

got into paris yesterday morning. my friends met me at the airport and we wandered paris awhile before heading to nevers, where they live and where i'll be for the next month or so.

discoveries so far:

french keyboards are different from american (making typing excruciatingly slow)

french people don't drink water (true desert girl- i've still got my water bottle next to me at all times)

french people don't carry their coffee around with them

french kittens are just as cute as american ones

french people are less afraid of strangers and are more likely to talk to random people than americans

french people listen to a lot of american pop and are unaware of indy music

wine really is cheaper than water

it is interesting to be in a situation where i don't speak the language. i feel it all at the tip of my tongue, but actually communicating is hard. i'm confident it will come. i just have to keep trying.

today i found a circle a carved into the sidewalk near my friends' apartment bldg. i was happy.

i have been taking pics. i'll post them soon.


Sunday, June 7, 2009

tucson activist walt staton

i leave tucson tomorrow.

anonymity will soon be mine.

have you heard about the fate of walt staton? he left lifesaving water out in the desert and is now facing the possibility of jail time because he "knowingly" littered. it's pretty ridiculous, especially considering walt and other no more deaths folks routinely go out into the desert to pick up trash. so far this year, around 80 people have died crossing into az from mexico. they died because they didn't have water. i hear walt is in good spirits about it all and is optimistic that he can appeal the decision. good luck, walt.

check out the democracy now piece on him.