Sunday, October 21, 2018

a brief Saturday walk

I don't know why I do this to myself. I made the very poor decision to go take a walk right after lunch. I had wanted to explore, in the daylight, the path that I had walked in near-total darkness this past Tuesday. On that day, my walk through the dead-quiet marais had felt a bit like a trip through a Lovecraftian horror scenario; in full daylight, nothing felt threatening at all, and all was beauty and splendor. Had it not been for my obstreperous intestines, it would have been a perfect stroll.

I set for myself the goal of walking to La Garette, the next village over, a little over an hour away. Barely ten minutes into my walk, I could feel my guts rumbling, though, so I knew I was in for some rough chop. Despite the impending gastric troubles, I did my touristy best to take photos along the way.

Around the thirty-minute mark, I could feel that things were going from bad to worse. I don't know why the Good Lord wired me this way, but whenever I eat a meal, it's not long before the previous meal starts clamoring to be let out. During my recent church tour, I attributed my troubles to still being sick (which I still am), and that might have been partially true, but more fundamentally, I have intestines that move to a very particular rhythm, and if I don't take proper precautions, my guts will do what they can to ruin my day.

With almost forty minutes to go to reach La Garette, my insides were screaming so badly that my brain was making desperate calculations as to where, along the path, I might be able to duck out of sight and take a shit. The fact that I hadn't brought along any tissue paper was becoming less and less important as the screaming of my colon began to take over my entire consciousness. Walking was actually becoming difficult, and my puckered asshole was starting to tremble like a muscle that's been forced to hold a weight for far too long. I was actually worried that I was going to burst in my pants right then and there.

About thirty minutes out from La Garette, I was in full-on "fuck it" mode. I reached a point of the long country road where I saw no one ahead of me and no one behind me, so I ducked over to a spot under some trees (that provided no actual cover should a biker suddenly appear), dropped my pants, and launched the brown version of Regan MacNeil's projectile vomit out my ass. Having no tissue with me, I relied on nearby grass and leaves to help me with my wiping. Miraculously, I avoided getting any shit on my fingers.

As I was finishing up my wiping, I saw to my horror that a biker was tooling toward me. He was still a couple hundred yards off, but I was totally exposed. I quickly yanked my pants back on, then turned away from the approaching biker as I re-buckled my belt and tied my windbreaker (windbreaker! ha!) back around my waist. I knew the biker could have easily seen me from a distance as I was pulling my pants back on, but there was nothing I could do except play it cool as I resumed walking. The moment the biker and I passed each other, I gave a curt nod and the standard on-the-trail "Bonjour"... and just like that, the moment was over. The man either saw me doing my dirty deed, or he didn't. There was nothing I could do about that. Thank God he didn't make a big deal of the incident. He could have done so, and I'd have had that ringing in my ears for the rest of the walk.

The moment was over, but the intestinal crisis wasn't. Another annoying quirk of my guts is that I can't shit a whole load out at once, which is highly, highly inconvenient: it comes out in "chapters." With thirty minutes to go to La Garette, I knew I'd need to find a legitimate toilet into which to blast out Chapter Two of my warm, stinking load.

I could feel the second cataclysm building as I walked, but I made it to La Garette before the urge became as insane as before. I had been hoping that a public toilet would be immediately visible; one wasn't. Instead, the first building I encountered was some sort of community center, inside of which were a bunch of happy French guys in cowboy hats engaged in American-style country line dancing. I saw an open door near the back of the building; this turned out to be a kitchen with a ton of food being laid out and prepped by caterers. One man saw me, and I asked him whether he knew of any public toilets around. His lips tightened as he took in my massive frame, my sweaty shirt, and the bandanna on my head. "Nope. No idea," he said in a clipped tone. I thanked him and limped off, the second load of shit in my ass now pounding against the gates, begging for sweet release. Walking around the grounds a bit, I finally spotted a toilettes publiques. It was the same one I had encountered in the dark last Tuesday: shabby, run-down, and lacking any running water. I went in, anyway.

The public toilet had two cubicles in it, and miracle of miracles, someone had left a small wad of dry toilet tissue in one of the stalls-- just enough to wipe my ass. Cringing at what I was about to do, I sat on the porcelain and let fly into what was essentially a dead toilet. I think I was the first person to shit there in a long time. I sat there for several minutes, letting my intestines convulse and pause, convulse and pause, until I was pretty sure I had emptied myself out enough to be able to turn right around and walk back to Dominique's place. Thanking the gods, I used the fortuitous toilet paper to wipe myself, then I left the nasty toilet behind and successfully walked home without incident.

I've had bad luck with public toilets since arriving in this part of France. When I did the church tour with Maman and Papa, the public WC turned out to be a fucking squat toilet. I didn't know those existed in France, but there it was, and its manner of flushing was horrific: a misaligned PVC pipe belched water all over the filthy floor of the cubicle, carrying flecks of shit everywhere. That cubicle also lacked toilet paper, but luckily, I had brought my own that day. So fuck you, Murphy's Law!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the following pictures, especially now that you understand what they cost me, emotionally and physically.

This first pic is important because it showcases a local motif: blue shutters. I don't know why that's such an in thing here, but many houses in the area sport blue shutters like these:

Someone wrote "Kevin" on the street, so I had to take a picture:

If you look at a map of the marais, you quickly realize that a lot of these watercourses are actually manmade canals:

A more focused look:

These long roads that run parallel to the canals can go on for nearly a kilometer before turning or ending:

Stretching into the distance...

"There are fields, Neo. Endless fields..."

Another long stretch of road:

Giant rolls of hay:

A small herd of cows, plus people in the distance. Lots of walkers were out enjoying the beautiful weather and the lovely scenery. This is definitely walking country, especially as it's mostly flat.

Those bovines and humans:

Here's another shot of the same cows. Notice that one cow has somehow crossed the narrow canal to graze on the other side, putting it in the path of us humans. I don't think that that was supposed to happen.

And here's a mama letting her baby feed. Can you see the calf under there?

At this point, I've left the marais and am back in civilization. Here's a particularly spiffy-looking property:

I liked the way these houses were staggered to match the curve of the street:

This sort of masonry is common throughout this region. Note the patchwork nature of the brickwork:

And here's a closer look:

When I finally made it back to Dom's neighborhood, I stopped by the tiny local grocery, the one that sells "éco" products, and bought myself some bottles of juice, a weird bottle of cola, and two organic cookies that turned out not to be very good. The store's proprietor reminds me a lot of Jodie Foster. I need to take a picture of her before I go back to Korea.

Thus ended my Saturday peregrinations. Coming back was much more pleasant than walking out, and thanks to my ass, the day ended up being way the hell more exciting than it had any right to be.

1 comment:

John Mac said...

Wow, love the street graffiti. It also brought to mind one of my favorite poems--Maud Muller.

"For of all the sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these--it might have been!"

Hope things turned out better for Kevin and Maud.