Saturday, April 4, 2015

Nurse the Hate: Rock and Roll French Stairs

I had been walking around the city of Bordeaux for a couple of hours.  I had spent an entire day sitting in a classroom learning about viticulture.  As I can barely keep my lawn alive despite a team of well paid chain smoking technicians applying mountains of dangerous chemicals on it weekly, this is not an area of strength for me.  As I struggled to retain the concepts of photosynthesis and the mechanics of plants while staring at a flood of presentation slides, it reminded me of being in sixth grade not paying attention either.  Then again, I was also sitting near Corina Luciano, as exotic a thirteen year old girl that I had ever laid eyes on.  She was a recent transfer student from Italy.  I was a boy with a struggling boner, bad hair and bad clothes.  The current edition of Webster's Dictionary has a picture of me from that year looking at her sitting at her desk as the definition of the word "unrequited".

After a day of not retaining viticulture and fighting off memories of Corina Luciano, I decided I needed a beer.  When I walked by a shithole bar with The Stooges blaring out of it I thought, "That looks promising.".  It was a typical Euro "rock and roll" bar.  This means that a weird juxtaposition of rock and roll influences are proudly displayed on the walls, like David Bowie posters, Bon Jovi stickers, a Cliff Richard photograph, Madonna album cover, and an MC5 banner.  While here, those things would never be grouped together, there it announces "we are very rock and roll".  As they also had LaChouffe, I figured this was as good a place as any to check my email and see what was doing.

The bar begins to fill up with students and lowlifes.  Almost all the lowlifes were drinking enormous glasses of Meteor Beer, a very forgettable lager.  The place is very small, with lots of little nooks to sit in.  A winding staircase goes upstairs to another hobbit hole to drink giant Meteors.  I look around for the men's room, as in a Euro bar it could be anywhere.  To the right of the tiny bar, behind it really, is a tiny little door festooned with stickers.  That couldn't be it, could it?  "Excuse em moi?  Toilet?  WC?"  The bartender chick points to the tiny door.  Alright then.

Let me describe to you France's most lethal staircase.  The door itself is small, only five feet and a half tops.  As I am of normal height, this catches me by surprise as I carefully duck to avoid bashing my head on the door frame.  It is almost as if they did this as some sort of evil design, as not hitting your head becomes the primary thought as you enter the pitch black staircase to the basement toilet.  This takes your mind off of the real challenges ahead.  At the very bottom of the stairs a dim glow emanates from the far left, just out of sight.  This, you assume, is your target.  No light fills the actual staircase itself, so there is no way to judge the ridiculous steep angle that the stairs are positioned.  These are stairs designed for a mountain goat.  They somehow have achieved becoming a midpoint between "stairs" and "ladder".  Making matters worse are the stairs are ludicrously thin, a real test for any human being with a shoe size larger than an adult five.  The piece de resistance however is the radical right turn these skinny stairs take in the darkness, away from the only light source, and at an angle designed by someone at the NFL combine to test agility.  Let me be perfectly clear.  There is not an insurance company or city building permit that would allow this in Mexico much less the United States.  It isn't so much a lawsuit waiting to happen.  It is a mythological trial set up by a terrifying creature guarding treasure, in this case a place to pee.

I laugh so hard by myself in that dark basement that tears roll down my eyes.  I take photos from multiple angles, none doing it justice as I have to use the flash to get any image whatsoever to register.  It's like trying to photograph the Grand Canyon or a rainbow.  The pictures cannot capture the majesty.  I return to sit back at my trusty stool to nurse my LaChouffe when providence strikes.  A vodka sales rep arrives with some promo bullshit stuff in a box.  He is instructed to take it downstairs.  He gingerly opens the door and begins to descend uneasily when I see panic strike his face.  He drops the box as he begins to fall downstairs, the promo items falling to the ground as he instantly disappears from view, the door closing behind him.  Two employees see this, and leap to the staircase to check on him with worried faces.  He emerges from the basement, a little embarrassed, and gathers his materials.

At this point I get the bartender chick's attention.  "That man?  He fell?"  Yes.  "Does that happen often?"  Oh yes!  It happens all the time!

That is what I love about Europe.  Something is fucked up, they know it is fucked up, but no one does anything about it because that's the way it is.  Viva la France!



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