Tuesday, July 12, 2005

In the Loupe, Chapter 31

Alright, Guadeloupe is upping the ante. I fly out Thursday morning at 7:30, which means I had to talk Franck's friend Hervé into driving me to Point-à-Pitre at 5:00 in the morning, and the whole scene was looking pretty stressful to begin with. Early morning, long drive, saying good-bye to Franck in the cat litter-smelling airport... there was never anything to look forward to in the first place.

Today we heard an explanation on the radio for the wild heat and unruly storms of late; there's a hurricane heading this way. Now, obviously, anything I say from here on in sounds selfish, as I'm mostly concerned about keeping my own butt covered, but it's a bit lame that the hurricane is supposed to hit Wednesday night. They've been wrong before, and some people are talking about the week-end instead, but I feel like getting a hurricane the night before I'm supposed to leave is a bit much. Not only because of having to deal with a hurricane because I booked a flight 24 hours too late, but also because how am I going to get home? And if the thing misses Guadeloupe, it might be heading towards Puerto Rico, in which case I still can't go anywhere. Obviously, what I am hoping is for the hurricane to miss all the islands. Or if it has to hit, the least possible damage to everybody involved. But after that noble wish, let's hope that my flight isn't screwed up and I don't have to hang around in Guadeloupe - and in a hurricane - for a week.

On the non-natural-disaster front, I met a friend of Hervé's one afternoon, the famous "Laurent" I had heard so much about. (Undoubtedly you have too; this guy's on FIRE.) He came to drop off a futon for Hervé, who was really psyched about adding it to his old futon and making the ultimate "L" couch. As it happens, you can't sit at the connecting point because there are pointy springs poking you in the bum, so it's a bust, and now Hervé has another big couch in a small living room for nothing.

Laurent is rumoured to be a wicked good guitar player, which is always fun, and he's also in aquaculture. This means that he's raising some kind of shelled creature to use in medicine - the shiny part of the shell, from what I understood - I wasn't really listening; aquaculture doesn't do it for me - because it has a special property that can help fight against osteoporosis. If it works, you realize, and the funding comes through, I know the osteoporosis guy. Glass of milk? None for me, thanks. I've got Laurent.

I liked that he had long wavy hair and kept his sunglasses on all the time, like a movie star. And SPEAKING of movie stars, Hervé asked me who Laurent reminded me of. He's kind of a Jeff Bridges-Tom Cruise amalgam, but that wasn't the right answer. Nick Nolte? Kevin Bacon? Hervé says, "how about Leonardo Di Caprio?" which is obviously not happening, but the thing is that our Laurent was Leo's stand-in for "The Man in the Iron Mask."

Fun, you may think, to hang around with ol' Leonardo for fifty days in a French castle - well, I see your Leonardo and I raise you: John Malkovich! Jeremy Irons! GABRIEL BYRNE!!! "Is he as beautiful in real life as in his movies?" I gushed, like he was my favourite Teen Magazine idol. Really now, Kathryn. I guess Gabriel just has that effect.

But it gets even better. For as well as being a guitarist, aquaculturist, futon-bearer, Gabriel Byrne's best friend and the unlikely cameraman for the "making of" video of a terrible Hollywood movie - they let him do the making of! - Laurent is an astrologer. You heard me, a reader of the stars. I must admit upfront that I am highly skeptical about most things astrology-related, tending to believe that if we're different from each other it's because we're different people, not because I was born on an ending moon and you have water associated with your month.

(A wild coincidence: I met, at the age of fifteen, a new classmate who turned out to be born on the same day in the same hospital - Mount Sinai in Toronto, in case you want to add a bit of reverence to your University Avenue experience - our mothers were maternity ward roommates. We therefore have exactly the same astrological birth map, including our precise location on the earth at the time. And yet - and yet - we are completely, even fundamentally, different from each other. See?)

For all my naysaying, however, having an astrologer run through your personal zodiac stats is the best. Based on my birthday and year, after a bunch of adding and dividing that ended up with the numbers three and sixteen, I am kind, determined, balanced and social. I am creative and sensual, diplomatic and feisty. I accept a challenge but have no need to one-up my fellow human. I am even-tempered and understanding, I am discerning and thoughtful, I relate well to children, I am expressive and gentle. I am extremely emotional and take things quickly to heart.

I am deep. I am passionate.

I am Scorpio.

Obviously the list is hit-and-miss (balanced? challenge-accepting?!) and our having spent an afternoon together made the objectiveness of his findings a little fishy. He often used examples from my life - teaching camp this summer? that's because you're a Scorpio and you relate well to children - which made it feel more like a personality assessment than anything else, but I totally lapped it up. Who doesn't want a near-stranger to tell you you're every good quality in the stars? I don't imagine he would get many clients if he said, "you're whiny and unmotivated, you're vain and jealous, you have a wicked temper and you hold a grudge. You're selfish and immature, you have no will power, you offend people wherever you go and your body odour is unbearable. There are no trips in your immediate future, you will come into no money and you haven't a single lucky number. You will die alone."

He did say I was "gourmande" (which I would translate as sweet-toothed, or just someone who enjoys food) - as if it takes a psychic to figure that one out - but he put a little spin on it and it turned out to prove my sensuality and my lust for life. (Nice one, Laurent.) He predicted a life change in the fall (after I told him we're going to France in September) and told me karma is on my side and I've got good things coming my way. (Like hurricanes.) I asked him if this interminable cut on my arm will ever heal, but he said the stars don't decide that kind of thing. (Ah, but they do, Laurent; you just didn't remember that three and sixteen also indicate an obsessive-compulsive tendency to pick at scabs.)

Overall, I was quite satisfied with the afternoon. I found out all sorts of reasons why I'm an excellent person, I got a semi-clean futon to sit on when I'm baby-sitting (I can't even describe Hervé's couch; just thinking about it makes my throat close up) and my buddy Laurent said he'll put in a good word for me with big Gabriel. My life is falling into place. I guess this is the last update, so thanks for following along.

Oh, that crazy Guadeloupe -- good times, good times.
Now get me out of here.


Wednesday, July 6, 2005

In the Loupe, Chapter 30

There's a real nutter in the computer room, freaking out about his photocopying card and being generally chaotic. He seems otherwise on the ball, though, which makes me wonder: am I ever someone's nutter? Anyone could witness a stressed-out moment of mine and think that I'm off my rocker, when in fact, as we all know, I'm as much on my rocker as it is possible to be. I AM my rocker.

So listen. I've spent my entire time in Guadeloupe calming my terrified heart each time something streaks by and I think it's a mouse. Relax, Kathryn, it's just a lizard. Or a frog. Or a snail, a cockroach, a bat, a caterpillar, what have you. I am always open-minded about these creatures who share my space, even helping them when I can: I scoop the frogs up out of the toilet so they won't be flushed away; I take the fist-sized snails in my shower and put them outside so they won't get shampoo in their eyes; I crush the cockroaches in a swift, clean movement with my heavy-soled school shoes, so as not to cause them pain.

Indeed, I do considerably more than my share to keep the critters of Guadeloupe alive and well - or dead and so much the better - which is why I feel I have been stabbed in the back: we have mice. So far I've seen two of them, scurrying behind the stove, but I am not fooled for a moment; I am no stranger to the world of in-house rodents and I have learned, oh, I have learned, that where there are two mice, there are always many more lurking just behind.

We found a home for Sprocket and Chisel, you see, which made for a heartbreaking goodbye but was undeniably the best decision for us all, and so now the mice have nothing to be afraid of. I obviously emptied the apartment and scrubbed like I was losing my mind, and I obviously cleaned out all the food and organized it in boxes so that we can have easy daily checks for mouse droppings; this goes without saying. But I have a feeling it won't be enough.

We have nightly power failures, usually lasting about 25 minutes, but Hervé's house across the way has a solar-power back-up system, so it never goes out. The result is that the trees outside our house are backlit and we can see all sorts of night life that is usually hidden from our eyes, namely the rats running along the branches to eat fruit. Big, fat, hungry country rats, scurrying at head-level and surrounding the house - I'm getting itchy just writing about it; can you get hives from anxiety? - so that all I can think of as I try to fall asleep is one of them coming into the house, chewing through the mosquito net and eating my face. (Thank you, 1984.)

This morning, though, I glimpsed salvation: looking out of my window, I saw Hervé's huge tom cat stalking something on a big branch. Of course! The tom will take care of the rats! He's big, tough and usually hungry, and he obviously knows where to look. Long live the tom! So why couldn't he have waited until I turned away? Just as I was beginning to think I might be able to sleep at night, maybe even be spared my otherwise inevitable death-by-rat, the tom scratched behind his ear, lost his balance and fell off the branch into the bushes below. With him crashed my hopes, as I realized that I counting on a moron.

I have a good eight days left and I don't know what I'm going to do. I don't complain about the nine wasp nests over our porch - which we take down every couple of days and then the wasps come back and build them up again - or the flooded bathroom that smells like sewage. (The plumber's coming tomorrow; he's been coming tomorrow since May.) I don't complain about neighbour Eddie's constant and aggressive ragga music, which wakes up the neighbourhood in the morning and sees us off to bed at night. (My old Latin-playing neighbour lived way over the ravine and the music sounded like it was coming from my bathroom; this guy lives in the little wooden cabin next-door, so it sounds like the music is coming from my stomach.) I think I'm being a jolly good sport about most things, in fact. But rodents - rodents I can not bear.

I've been distracted from my rat-face panic by the presence of Hervé's four kids these last few days. Suzie, at eight years old, is the oldest, and seems to be looking for a female role model, as she took to me very quickly and wouldn't let go. She asked me to bake with her, to walk to the store to get stuff for her dad and to make little dolls out of yarn. Apparently nobody's told Miss Suzie that being a girl doesn't mean you have to be impossibly girly, and I can't think of a worse week-end combination for me than cooking, shopping and yarning. Get out of my face!

She also used my last bananas and my special Ultimate Lunch apple-cheese-and-bread apples (Royal Gala from Chile - look into it, my friends; you won't be sorry) to make a "dessert" for the whole household: you carve apple halves into little cups and fill them with banana slices, which you sprinkle with sugar and lemon. Suzie's invention. Wait a second, you're thinking, that's just an impractical version of fruit salad! And you're right. Stupidest dessert ever.

I agreed to show her how to make cookies, as it's not something they do here and everyone is excited to taste the better, home-made version of what they buy at the store. I nearly burned my hand off trying to light the gas stove, I slaved in the heat for three times as long because they don't have cookie trays so I had to use a frying pan and could only do five cookies at a time, and all she did was pour in the flour, which I had measured and which I then stirred in, since there are no automatic mixers. And she took all the credit, like she had made these awesome cookies! Get off of my cloud, loser!

Maybe my hostility towards a clingy eight-year-old is a bit unwarranted, but I got bitter when she told me I reminded her of Nora, the tenant before Franck. Nora's nice, and she's a girl, and I think I'm those things too. Other than that, she's a flaky, vain, pot-fried and irritating French girl, and Suzie is way off the mark when she says we have the same essence of character. Really, Suzie? Am I a lame thirty-something who thinks she's still sixteen? Great. Thanks. I can't wait to hang out.

She left this morning to go back to her mother's, and gave me a potted mint plant to take back to Canada and an ugly little seagull figurine (that one of you is getting as a travel gift; consider yourselves warned.) So now I feel like a jerk, on top of everything. Thanks a lot, SUZIE.

Get me out of this place.