strange fire

books. poetry. paganism. feminism. queerness. blog.

there are bats in the belfry September 30, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 4:23 am

I never thought I’d have the chance to say that and mean it literally, but it’s true.

I’m living in a rambling old collége, a boarding school, probably 200 years old if not more, with an 18th century Jesuit church attached. My bedroom has 20 foot ceilings and a teeny fireplace. The windows in the hallway look out over the courtyard, which the church forms one side of. I was coming back from the kitchen the other evening and heard these giant crows (or maybe ravens) making a racket as they perched on the steeple; and as I stopped to watch all these bats came flying out of the bell tower.

So now I say hi to them each evening; I was listening to Loreena McKennitt sing Yeats’ “The Two Trees” and watching them dart around in the dusk while the cathedral bells were ringing and I thought, Oh yeah. This is why I came here. It’s so ridiculously Romantic it kills me.

The French for bat, incidentally, is chauve-souris: a bald mouse.

I’m getting settled in; Verdun is a nice, fairly ordinary town with an understandably morbid streak. There are about five thousand monuments to the dead; but I like it; the river Meuse runs right through it and there’s a pretty little park five minutes from my flat. Still wrangling with the bus schedule.

It helps that I’m living with another American, also teaching at the local schools. She’s lived in England, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and just finished 2 years in Madagascar with the Peace Corps (she’s only 26), so she’s got this whole living abroad thing down solid. I pretty much follow her around like a puppy dog and do whatever she does. My French is better than hers, though, which keeps me from feeling like a midwestern hick. And she has two dads, so there’s at least one person in France I don’t have to watch my pronouns around.

I’m missing my books something awful; I bought Joanne Harris’ Jigs and Reels in Heathrow and am stretching it out as much as possible. Last night I did the unthinkable and actually skipped ahead in Life Mask, just to double check that there is, in fact, actual Sapphism occuring and not just scandalous rumors of it. I never skip ahead, and Emma Donoghue is an author I trust implicitly. But I guess I was needing some reassurance or something. The Girl hasn’t emailed me back yet, and I haven’t found a tabac that sells La dixiéme muse (surprise); I did find Tétu, but like The Advocate, I refuse to buy it until there’s a woman on the cover.

But, luckily, I’ve found this cheapo internet place that’s full of 15 year old boys playing computer games, so I can keep up on my blog reading and email.


Dear Universe September 27, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 5:58 am

I trust, after the events of last week, that all my karmic debts are marked as “paid in full.” I fully expect to be reincarnated in my next life as a goddamn movie star. Someone along the lines of Bette Davis or Katharine Hepburn would do nicely.



oh god that trip was hard. Monster-layover-in-Chicago hard. Wearing-the-same-clothes-for-three-days hard. Grand-total-of-eight-hours-fitful-sleep-by-the-time-I-arrive-at-my-flat-in-the-middle-of-the-night hard. Spent the flight to London listening to Joni Mitchell’s Blue album and missing the Girl. Then promptly coming down with the mother of all chest colds, the kind where you cough so hard you pull a muscle in your neck.
Have been “experiencing culture shock” in the same way a person who’s run over by a truck is “involved in an accident.” Have managed to lock myself out of my apartment once (because I was so jet-lagged I didn’t realize I was turning the key in the wrong direction); have nearly locked myself into the bathroom twice (who puts a deadbolt on the bathroom door??); found myself curled up on my bed sobbing “I can’t do this!”; and yesterday was Watch Anne Fail to Catch the Bus Day.
Not that there weren’t bright spots. Chocolate mousse Pims have been the only thing keeping me sane. On the plane to Paris I sat next to a drop-dead-gorgeous British Indian girl who literally threw her arms around me and buried her head in my shoulder because she’s afraid of flying (she must have been real terrified, because I reeked by that point). Went to a movie Saturday, Ma vie en l’air, which was good, because it mostly kept my mind off the previous Saturday night that I had spent with the Girl. My contact person, an English teacher at one of the schools I’m working at, took me out to dinner with her husband and daughter. Juliette is probably no more than four and kept singing “I like to move it move it!” in adorable four year old manner. Also went to a flea market type thing in the country, very picturesque, but it convinced me that there is some universal law requiring junk sales to circulate used copies of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Not Without My Daughter. And today was a good day; nothing bad/humiliating/frustrating happened. I managed to catch the bus–twice! I was not made fun of by adolescent boys in the park (Verdun is not a college town, but there are two lycees, which means the streets are roamed by packs of feral teenagers). I met the principal of my school and got some paperwork done. Go me!


The Journey September 19, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 6:29 am

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.
Mary Oliver

And now, Dear Reader, I shall place my elegant Bonnet upon my gentle head and set out to seek my Fortune. I shall return, interfrastically.*

* I always wanted to say that. First person who can identify that quote wins…er, my esteem.


Mission: accomplished September 18, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 7:55 am

Except, unlike the pResident, when I say it, it’s actually true.

Last night was the most perfect night ever, excepting the night I met her. We went to the bar, had a few drinks, played some pool, danced till closing, and were definately the couple that needs to get a room. A little bittersweet too, since I’m leaving, but not in a tragic way.

I texted girl#2 but she never did show up, or at least I didn’t see her, so it all worked out in the end.

But next time I won’t take three weeks to work up my nerve.


dooooooo jesus September 17, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 6:11 pm

So, remember how I said I was inexplicably dating 2 people? And by “dating” I mean “sitting around having coffee in an utterly platonic manner”. Well, the Girl and I are going to the dyke bar tonight; but I just got a message from girl #2 (whom I haven’t heard from in over a week) suggesting I meet her at a queer dance club tonight. The dance club that is right across the street from the dyke bar. Because in this town, all the queer places are on the same street.


I had all summer to indulge in Dyke Drama, man. Why now???


I am such a coward September 16, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 11:23 pm

I’ll probably regret this post in the morning; late night blogging is never a good idea. But I went out with her tonight, without a doubt the loveliest, most beautiful person ever, and do I kiss her goodbye? No. Because I suck and do not deserve to live. Yes, that’s right, four dates and we’re still at the shy-nervous-glances stage. I totally despise myself.


conundrum September 14, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 7:45 pm

okay. I have a place to live (I got an email containing those magical words, “chez vous“); I have a crazy ass train ticket from Paris to Challons to Verdun (that was an adventure. I’m already annoyed with the natives and I’m not even in the damn country yet. The lady on the phone acted like I was an idiot because I didn’t know that I had to take the subway from Charles de Gaul airport to the station downtown. Well excuuuuse me. Fucking Parisians.) But I’m still facing the biggest obstacle: what books do I take with me to France?
There’s only one that’s absolutely going with me on the plane, Life Mask. But I can’t seem to stop myself from involuntarily adding more to the list, like Colette, and Sanditon by Another Lady, cause I’m gonna need some comfort food through that first month of culture shock (oooh, Byatt was really good for that, last time! damn), and then there are all my pagan books, there’s no way I can ask my mom to ship them over to me (no I’m not out about all that yet. One thing at a time). And then, what if I get a hankering for some fantasy or sci-fi in the next week or so? Maybe I should take Child of the Prophecy and finish up the Sevenwaters Trilogy finally. And then there are all those French books I bought last summer and didn’t read…and I’ve been wanting to start on Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s letters forever…
It’s like all 50+ of the books I own and haven’t read yet are sitting there looking at me with big puppy dog eyes, saying “Don’t leave me! Take me with you!”
But I know from experience that a couple of paperbacks weigh a lot more than you’d think, and there’s no way I’m lugging a backpack full of books around France again.
I’m a light traveller in every respect except books (poetry!! shit!! which anthology should I take???); combined with my chronic indeciveness, it’s a problem.