I sleep the way I always sleep in Montpellier.
Strangely. I wake up feeling more tired than when I went to bed. Like I’ve switched universes about 10 times.
I get up and eat a brioche from the neighborhood place. Drink some coffee in my little kitchen. Listen to the neighbors talking to each other — which is somehow cheerful in the morning, rather than sad.
And I get on the bus and go to the uni.
Since it’s a weekday, the folks on the bus don’t discuss me much. Or perhaps I’m just not listening.
There’s something weird about the Universite Paul Verlaine, named after the guy who has always been on of my favorite poets. The place looks like something out of the 1950’s. Not picturesque at all. And the facilities…There are no phones in the offices, and no copy machines. You have to use this oldschool blue paper to make copies. There are all these old typewriters.
And it’s weird how there are no computers.
In fact, there are no computers anywhere in Montpellier. I wondered about that when I first arrived, but since the Jardin des Plantes time-travel-halluciniation thing, I haven’t really had time to think about it. And then I kind of got used to it. I write things down in long-hand. People who want to see me, write me a note, or just show up. Like Joseph did that day of the garden. It’s not bad in certain ways… but there is a certain lack of efficiency.
So where to go to find out about 17th Century France….I walk over to the main library. The library is under permanent reconstruction, and so I have to walk past those smocked guys smoking and pretending to build or paint of do something, that they are– pretty ostentatiously — not doing.
Say, says one guy to the other. “Did you see how tall that one was?”
“Foreigners,” says the other.
Well, it’s good to know the reaction is consistent.
I walk over to Reception where the nice lady tells me that the encyclopedias are all being stored in the basement of the medical school, and I’ll need to fill out these requisition forms and the wait time is about 3 months. I go ahead and request a bunch of books, since I’m there anyway.
I walk over to the French Department, and try to locate some profs there. The lady at THAT reception desk tells me that all the professors are out of town at a special conference.
“When will they be back?” I ask. She shrugs.
I go to the cafeteria for an expresso.
The servers there are Catalan mostly and they hate the French and so they are nice to me.
“How’s it going?” says the expresso maker person.
I explain about how I need information about French history.
“What you should want to know about is the history of HERE,” he says. “You should want to know about our struggle.”
I explain about how this needs to be about the 17th Century.
“Why not ask HER?” he says. He points at a grey haired lady with thick black glasses sitting by herself. She looks like someone’s grandmother.
“Oui,” the guy insists. “She’s a retired professor of American something or other but she knows alot.”
I shake my head. I don’t need an American. I need a French person.
But maybe… maybe…
I walk over to her.
“Professeur?” I say.
“Oui?” she says.
“Do you speak English?” I say.
To which she replies in an accent that is all Brooklyn. “Sure, if that English, is New Yawk English.”
to be continued!!!!