Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Soooo Out

As a family, we are a little less discreet these days. Along with Mylène Farmer, her gay public, Cindi Lauper, her gay public, Christophe Ciccone, his méchante soeur (Madonna), their gay public, at least one scantily clad guy*, and numerous other examples of what is fashionable and hip, our little family is having it's five seconds of fame.

The most striking aspect is just how normal and fuddy-duddy we look sandwiched among all the glitter. (And yes, how old, some of us look.)

Even coming of age in the turbulent and psychedelic place that was San Francisco in the 70's, never in my wildest youthful fantasies did I ever picture myself spread out in such a fashion on the pages of a magazine.

The world moves on, people change, and irrespective of any méchant ravings by those* who would still like to deny us our place, we exist. We be gay, we be proud, and we be family.

*I carefully perused each and every page (strictly for statistical reasons!), and I can say there is not a single image displaying full frontal nudity, male or female, in this issue of the magazine. If I missed something, and you found it, then I need to change my glasses, and you need to get a life. So the prudish corner of my being, however small, is quite safe, and even the strictest American censors would have nothing to hold onto. Not that the French give a rat's a' about American censors. :))
*Admittedly and fortunately there are not many of "those" types around our little corner of the world, this area being a hot-bed of left-leaning politics. And we have to thank a very large and very supportive family, from grandparents, to sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, and cousins galore.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Vacation Frenzy and the Missing Olympic Event

August. The height of the craziness that is vacation in France, particularly in the south.

Appropriately in the French language, the word vacation is only available for use in the plural form LES vacanceS. The Larouss Chambers French-English dictionary uses the example "to take two months off" or "to have a two-month holiday". Anything less is hardly considered "vacation"; so for short periods you are more likely to hear the word congé, as in congé maladie (sick leave), or un jour de congé (a day off). Vacation in France is sacred. Beat me, whip me, god-forbid-pay-me-less, but don't even think of touching my vacation.*

I've never researched when this rabid attachment to vacation started, (sometime after WWII maybe?) or how it came to be that such a large portion of the rest of Europe and the world should gleefully participate.** But, rarely in France can you escape the glaring evidence, and in the south, anywhere near the Mediterranean, it is an inundation of gargantuan proportion.

Reasonable people, with the means to do so, escape well before the hordes arrive.

Sadly we are neither. So we are left with little alternative but to slather on the sun-screen, pinch our nostrils and jump into the maelstrom, hoping against hope that it doesn't suck us down to the lowest level of humanity so well on display in the streets and on the beaches.

We limit ourselves to rather short outings, and venture onto the roads during periods the least likely to get stuck behind a 20 kilometer line of camping cars. And surprisingly, delightful moments can be found, even near the sea.

As evidence, I present photos of an outing to the small but commercially viable port of Sète, a few kilometers down the coast from Montpellier.

This day was I believe, the French Championship of Joute Nautique. The biggest jousting tournament on the water is the tournament de la Saint Louis, held also in Sète on the 25th of August. (Every year since 17something or other.)

As you can see from the first photo, we arrived on time.

No one in the south of France arrives on time, so naturally, nothing starts on time.
But eventually, the crowds and the participants arrive and prepare for the first joust.

In our neck of the woods, it is always the red versus the blue, and everyone is dressed to the nines in white. No tacky shorts, no flexible (sissy) jousting poles. These guys are serious.
Line up.Prepare for the attack.
Go for it. (PS: Aww, I think it is just too cute the way the guys throw their arms around each other to protect their seating partner from accidental blows. "Honey, watch your head!")

Winner still standing... loser in the drink.

All in all, not a bad way to suffer through a day of the dreaded Les Vacances.

*... I know, neither self-employed people like myself, or farmers, or some minimum of civil service personnel, and all sorts of normal schmucks are stuck working and rarely if ever have the opportunity or take the opportunity to go on vacation. Martyrdom is our lot.
**... neither the time nor place to get into an analysis of vacations-school vacations - childcare -government support or lack thereof - family values - US vs France - etc etc etc.