Moments in Montpellier

31 January 2022 11:44 

Random observations of note, not always about Montpellier, sometimes just in my head.

As always in these cases, it’s E.B. White style.


Strange but true

In the nearby park a woman was picking up poop from her dog. I almost took a picture. Clearly she is not French 1My two regular readers know that the … Continue reading.


Ménage à trois

My work notebook computer has a Swiss German keyboard, but I can map the keys to other languages, such that a key that appears as ä on the Swiss German, is ù on the French version; and on the English. The toggle is Windows key + space bar. Most of the time I get by with the U.S. English version. However, now that I am an employee of the French company, every now and then I’m in need of a é or ç or even a ê.

There are moments when typing, maybe something to Mike (American), maybe a note Heike (German), or sending a form to Loubna (French) in human resources, when the muscle memory stops, and I have to look a the keyboard and think.



Best I can tell, anecdotally, the covid situation has been France has been well handled. We were able to get all shots within a short amount of time of deciding to. There’s phone app that stores all vaccine information, which we show at restaurants. Tests are free for the vaccinated; at first you needed an appointment about a day ahead, now you can walk in, get tested, and get the results via SMS twenty-minutes later.

For the DIY crowd, there are plenty of home tests available at pharmacies.


Liberty vs. community

Mid-1980’s, while working for a defense contractor in California, I sat among a bunch engineers. I overheard one saying to another, about a new federal law, “I know seatbelts are a good idea, it’s just that I can’t stand the thought of being told what to do.”

No one likes being told what to do: seatbelts, shots, speed limits. But….what defines the common good? How should this be mandated? If you don’t want to wear a seatbelt, and would rather be ‘thrown clear’, that’s really not my problem, and perhaps you will benefit society by one day being a brain dead organ donor.

Further along the spectrum, if Jesus is your vaccine or believe in something nefarious at the World Health Organization or the CDC, then that’s a problem: your extremism threatens others.



Something I’ve wondered about with regard to the anti-vaxxers: do they imagine something awful happens to them the moment that needle pierces their skin and all that science and data goes into their bodies, probably for the good, but sometimes not. Do they feel violated, dirty, in need of a shower or counselling with puppets? Do they think Bill Gates begins tracking them?

Do they question other givens: chlorinated water, operating room procedures, toilet paper, the ingredients listed on a box of cereal?

With vaccines, so it is with most things: nothing is absolute, nothing guaranteed.

In 2014 I got a shingles booster. In 2016 I had a shingles flare up, on the right side of my face (frequently it appears on the torso, but I guess I just got lucky): hurt like hell, I looked like the elephant man for a few days, and to this day I have chronic pain over my right eyebrow, a sort of cold, dull itchy knife that comes along a couple times a week (pain along a thin stretch of skin atop some bone is particularly lovely).

The shingles booster wasn’t completely effective, but damage could have been worse, including to the optic nerve. Smart people made reasonable efforts in developing the vaccine and booster; I’m not going to whine like baby.



Dr. Fauci has been in the new again recently. Dude reminds me of Ibsen’s Dr. Stockman in An Enemy of the People. Fauci was and is an enemy of (some of the) people, and his case, with those enemies, to him, much honor.

Oh, yes—you can shout me down, I know! But you cannot answer me.



The address of the doctor’s office was on Avenue Nina Simone – gotta love that. You may have encountered her music and not known it. It’s not too late.

In Point of No Return, getting a new chance at things, Bridget Fonda goes shopping.  When you’ve been through some bad shit, and somehow made it through, you’ll get it… And I’m feel’n good…

Or here…

With the lovely Julie Deply, when every now and then…Just in time….you get lucky..



Looking at some photos on the anniversary of the attempted insurrection, given the way that those duped and deranged men were dressed, it seemed that they were a bunch of Chris Kyle wannabes. They don’t seem to realize they were, in fact, performing a variation on a theme by Timothy McVeigh.


Mehr Licht 2Supposedly Goethe’s last words.

I’m not sure what intersection of weather and geography give the light its qualities, but it seems since my return to France, the light around here has been marvelous and intense. Or maybe it’s due to climate change or perhaps physiological changes in my head. Regardless, more and more, walking around town, I’m halted by a tint or hue or illumination. From Aleksander Wat:

Blond light blew away grayness, shadows, mists… 3From the poem Facing Bonnard, by way of … Continue reading

Related: I sometimes wonder if photography is art, in the same way that painting or music or poetry are. The American Heritage Dictionary defines art as:

The conscious use of the imagination in the production of objects intended to be contemplated or appreciated as beautiful, as in the arrangement of forms, sounds, or words.

I like this definition. Certainly the photographer must think about arrangement of forms, what to include and exclude, what to emphasize. But the initial production of the object is simply a capture of what is already there, like a recording of a speech, there doesn’t seem much need for imagination, at least initially. You just need to be paying attention.


Don’t ask

“Eyeballs go down well with milk.”

Waking from a deep dream, this phrase was said in my dream about odd things you can eat to entertain people and make money.

It might make a good short story title.



The Pig got braces recently, at least for her upper teeth. Lower ones will be added soon. They went on pretty easily, the glue dried with a UV lights, and the braces themselves are hard to see.

Around the time of the Nixon or Ford presidencies, I had something similar done, my braces being made with surplus ball bearings from World War II and left over steel cable from the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Back in those days, every few months I’d go in for an adjustment, in which a former government employee of a TLA 4Three letter acronym agency with a redacted personnel file, would tighten the wires on the braces (as I type this I can feel the memory of that pain), causing my teeth to hurt for several days afterwards.

But there were compensations. At the practice there was Dr. Carew (sp?), who had seven or eight female technicians to assist him; they were always pretty, slender, between twenty and thirty years old. To a thirteen year old boy reclining in the examination chair, having one of these lovely technician leaning over, quite close, at times touching, made the torture not so bad.

And indeed, it must be said, when sometime later the braces came off, the feeling was near sexual.


Wisdom Un

Blaise Pascal on what ales us:

All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone. (Tout le malheur des hommes vient de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos, dans une chambre).



Finally made it back to the pool. I went to one near the house, a 25 meter pool, which is fine for my condition right now; I need a lot of wall. I arrived on a Sunday morning a few minutes before opening, and there was a crowd of regulars there talking among themselves, well known to each other.

Once in the pool I did a warm up, some drills, a lot of kicking (doesn’t bother the knees at all), a bit of speed work, which doesn’t mean much, but mostly just getting back the patience and discipline to keep at, and not pause, to keep at it, keep going.

The water was a bit warm, and heavily chlorinated. Since I’d forgotten my nose plug, I knew the rest of the day I’d be sneezing and the nose flow and sinuses turned into a sort of Ganges flood plain. The one advantage is that if any insect lands on me, exposed to my chlorinated skin, it immediately falls to the ground, dead.


Wisdom deux

Moliere wrote:

All the ills of mankind, all the tragic misfortunes that fill the history books, all the political blunders, all the failures of the great leaders have arisen merely from a lack of skill at dancing. (Tous les maux de l’humanité, tous les malheurs tragiques qui remplissent les livres d’histoire, toutes les bévues politiques, tous les échecs des grands chefs ne sont nés que d’un manque d’habileté à danse.)

Hard to know on this last one. Childhood polio crippled FDR, but he did pretty well.

Meanwhile, my tour of duty at Junior Assembly 5I could not find a link to the program … Continue reading certainly scarred me.



We’ve started the process of looking for a home to buy. We’ve decided to stay in Montpellier. This will be home, and it is both wonderful, and strange.

Again, the AHD:

Especially 4a.

We got here by accident: not France, but Montpellier. A few years back, in our old village of La Garde, our friend’s daughter, Maya, had finished lycée and was supposed to apply to the university at Aix. Instead, she applied to and was accepted at Montpellier. This gave Kieran the idea to see about Montpellier. After a trip to visit the campus, Annie returned saying we should consider moving there. We loved La Garde and the people, but it was a bit small for our taste.

So now we will be Montpelliérains, but I’m thinking something like Monty Pells will be easier to say. In the region of Occitania,  department of Hérault. Between the Mediterranean and the Cévennes, not far from Barcelona and the Pyrénées, and across the sea is Morocco.


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