Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Vampire for the Lord

France is a country that possesses in its character a certain sense of beaten back Catholicism. The French remain latently Catholic. This manifests itself in an Evelyn Waugh-esque studied conservatism of person that gives way to hedonistic impulses born from prolonged self-repression. With the high secularism apparent in the modern French societal idiom, this poses an interesting dichotomy. As for myself, while I personally want as little to do with Catholicism as possible, I must admit, I have, how shall I say this, never missed an opportunity to “take communion”. It is a culture then that loves to imbibe the blood of Christ, even if it agrees with me that perhaps the body tastes better with a bit of Roquefort. I am then a quite proper vampire for the Lord. A positively liturgical drinker if you will; albeit one who delights in the more macabre side of Catholic literalism.

Which is entertainingly where my prior knowledge of Montpellier came from before living here. Certainly, I’ve visited France before but I’ve never been this far south. The Montpellier regional wines however, are noted by Thucydides (though sadly not Herodotus, who remains the favored Greek historian). These wines may have slid some since then, many holding a slight metallic bite that is not necessarily bad with food, but which seems to be the impact of the international decision in recent years to ratchet up alcohol contents of wine, which in my mind has damaged the flavors. But I digress. The Greeks clearly knew something of Montpellier as they left their share of borderline creepy artifacts to be restored and considered by the population of the city in the years that followed. For example:

I think that I am also beginning to feel a certain dislocation vis-à-vis the English language. While it is easy enough to speak English in France, vocabulary limits dictate that certain things can simply not be discussed; as I also lack the French vocabulary to breech certain subjects. It is interesting to feel ones linguistic capabilities slowly drift away, to be mangled on the shore of platitudes. It genuinely pays here to be demure, coy even. The French, deep in their Catholic recovery are reserved, and often plane spoken. The hedonism only boils to the surface at certain carefully considered moments.

I spent last Saturday in the Pyrenees, two hours to the northeast of Montpellier. The snow stood in marked contrast to the Mediterranean. Again, blood of Christ for breakfast makes a bountiful if slightly disorienting morning. I have every intention of attributing this to the ‘religious fervor’ induced by early morning consumption of the bodily fluids of the heavenly host rather than its alcoholic content. It is clear to me that we need reclassify wine as food, leaving the ostentatious and often time unfair characterization of ‘booze’ to the harder stuff. We, (my party and myself and not to be confused with the royal we) of course moved on to the harder stuff as we charged down the side of hills in uncontrollable sledges, often colliding with the mountainside, trees, and I hope not small animals. The snow was nice, playing out a blanket of the virginal that we insured was soon to be irreversibly defiled. Following this was a long, semi conscious bus ride home and a celebration of such indisputable gusto that it was days before I was able to declare myself free of hangover.

I’ve also managed to abandon my recently acquired habit of smoking; in the midst of a city-wide Mardi Gras celebration no less. As a result, my body is deep in a nicotine crisis. My newly carcinogen starved lungs can’t decide whether to thank me or simply play dead. This weekend, I finally see the Mediterranean, which is some consolation.

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