Marseille (This is not a love song)


I will preface this diatribe by saying I am a tough broad with a (mostly) functioning moral compass. But probably a bad influence on children.

My French roommate was planning on driving down from Orleans to Marseille for the Toussaint holidays in October, and it was more than clear from her sporadic eye twitches that she needed a vacation. Having recently moved to Orléans only 2 weeks before, my other North Carolinian teaching assistant roommate and I decided to make it a roomie road trip, despite mounting tensions between 3 very strong personalities with vacillating levels of mental and emotional stability. The one stipulation was that we American girls find our own place to stay via hostel, couchsurfing, etc, as we couldn’t stay more than a day or two where she was going for some nebulous reason, but hey no big deal. As mentioned previously somewhere (many places) in this blog I was experiencing a quarter-life crisis at this time that caused me to be “difficult” and “weird” as I tried to navigate the self-indulgent post-BA mire of unbearable disappointment/malaise/overwhelming sense of my own flaccid inability to achieve even the most banal of my white girl dreams (at this time I was listening to far too much darkwave music, and wearing gothy lipstick, so you can imagine I was difficult to be around).


Ridiculous view from our temporary apartment, with equally ridiculous lounge wear and coffee

Once we got to Marseille (after long leagues of cow-speckled country side and the worse kind of American pop-music radio) we stayed in the most perfectly french-filmy little apartment overlooking the skyline of the city, complete with the cathedral on it’s high hill and the constant din of bottles breaking and young men yelling in languages I won’t be able to learn. The air was warm and everything was the color of dun. At this point the violence of modernity was giving me insomnia (which makes me cranky and poetic), and for the next 2 days the three of us begrudgingly spent time together during the day, whilst I was fed wine and Valium by night by the Carolinian, to make me more docile and civil.


We have come to France to teach your children (and drink your wine)

Marseille is quite the locale for mopey bacchanalian introspection; the Pastis flows like water, the port is picturesque as hell, and the inhabitants are friendly, aggressive and loud. The people in the streets buzz like flies in the hot sun, and on every corner someone is drinking, dicing, or breakdancing along a backdrop of street art that stretches out like a rainbow to wrap around brick corners and flier-lined sand-colored walls. Yet even so eventually my American homegirl grew restless and too bored and hopped a train back to Orléans to visit some dude with a very French name (Jean-something, or Something-jean). So I remained, wandering aimlessly trying to find something authentic to cling to so at least I could say “yeah I don’t have a good job or prospects or boyfriend or social mobility, but I’m in the south of France so suck it you degenerate mo fos”. I sure as hell wasn’t going back to Orléans (that one-horse town) any sooner than was strictly necessary given my work visa requirements. And of course I was also very mindful that I didn’t have a place to sleep that night, but that’s kind of romantic in a Patti Smith Chelsea hotel sort of way, and she is my spirit guide, so I persisted.


Ms. Smith, being all about it


I threatened to sleep in the car, but we couldn’t remember where it was parked. The hostels were mostly booked for the holiday, or else they were uproariously expensive (and if there is one thing you’ll learn quick about me, it’s that I can be thrifty beyond reason when the mood strikes me). Besides, at this point in my life I had been feeling the need to be exceptionally reckless (and I still got that feeling y’all). I’m a generally good kid, but like anyone confronted with the reality that modern society is a dream-killer that will turn you into a dried up husk, leeching away all your childlike wonder and replacing it with an impending sense of doom and permanent ennui, as you slave away at a job you hate with people you don’t like, and you’re made to believe that this should be taken as “accomplishing” something at the end of each insufferable day, when really, in Thom Yorke’s words, you’re just a “pig tied to a stick”, I was feeling like Stella trying to get her groove back.


Le Vieux Port

But hell I’m a trooper, and a romantic; at least I ate an ungodly amount of good pastries in the mornings. And if I wasn’t going to find some churning artistic inspiration or deep spiritual awakening, man I’m red-blooded, I’ll set my sights to more temporal pleasures. After all there is something spine-tingling about hearing your name growled in your ear in an earthy french accent (n’est-ce pas?). Not that I condone seeking happiness solely through one’s libido, but I grew up with MTV and punk rock; it isn’t wholly my fault that people are DTP at the drop of a hat these days, and why not capitalize on all the cute/American/San Francisco/skinny-jeans-and-bangs social capital that seems to be en vogue right now, so readily available to me and every other traveling young woman lacking any glaring congenital defects?

Anyone who says that love and lust aren’t a part of travel, sucks, and people who suck are unacceptable.

So in said recklessness I found 2 of the best looking guys with a couch available and exerted some feminist will upon them.

We still keep in touch, bless their hearts.

patti face


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