The Comedians and I.

In the summer of 1980, after having visited friends of my parents in New York and San Francisco, my mother and I sent my father back off to Europe and continued our journey to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where we stayed at the Grand Hotel Oloffson, a 19th-century Gothic gingerbread mansion, set in a lush tropical garden, a place once described as the darling of the theatre people, the literary set and newspaper men. And a literary place it was indeed. The moment we sat down on the Hotel’s beautiful porch to have a cold drink, we were directly transported into a novel, all of a sudden we were part of the set of Graham Greene’s The Comedians. None other than Petit Pierre approached us, ever so elegantly, just like in the book, wearing a fine double-breasted suit despite the Caribbean summer heat, his perfectly knotted tie seemed to be mocking the indolent temperatures, a walking cane with a silver knob gave him even more grandezza, as he strutted from table to table, looking for some material for his columns. Of course it was not Petit Pierre, but Aubelin Jolicœur, so my mother explained to me, as I at the age of 12 was not that familiar with Graham Greene’s work, the Haitian journalist and columnist that was the inspiration for Graham Greene’s character who then took a place at our table, started chatting with my mother, even flirting a little bit, totally ignoring me, leaving me to sip my icy lemonades for ever and ever. And so, before he took us to his gallery with Haitian naive paintings, in a black limousine steered by one of his sons, I started to write one of the hotel postcards to my best friend Daniel in Luxembourg. For some reasons, I never sent it off but took it home with me, as a souvenir maybe, just like my mother took one of the ashtrays. Looking at it now, it makes me smile that while somebody taken out of a famous novel was sitting at my very table, I had no other things to tell him about than the beautiful hotel pool and its cool water. But I can somehow get my 12-year-old me – the pool situation was gorgeous indeed. I must return soon, this time with the book…

Summer in the city.

In any city, summer is strenuous, public transportation resembles sauna with a dress code, the air gets saturated with pollution and the wrong kind of perfume, you feel like signing any petition that wants to ban these repugnant heavy oriental colognes for men, unless you’re on a diet, then any repulsion is convenient, anything that keeps you from eating, you might want to sign anyway, think of the others that want to enjoy their ice cream cones, all kind of tourists ask for directions, nice and off-putting ones, and while they’re heading for a drink, enviously you sent the nice ones to a nice place, you have to face another meeting in a tie. Escape, I say! To Zurich! That’s the only town where heat is enjoyable, it’s got everything you need, lots of shady places, a lake to jump into, and a fresh breeze from the Alps. Besides—I have no scientific explanation though—nowhere will you find a bluer sky. That photo you see above, it’s not photoshopped, really, it isn’t! I cross my heart! It’s just that blue. Absurdly blue, actually. So blue, it makes me just blue to write about it.

Late summer, indoors.

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We’ve enjoyed two days of late summer, this early autumn in Berlin. Everybody was frolicking through town, through parks and streets, trying to forget about those grey, rainy days ahead of us, soaking up the sunshine before its deficiency sets in and makes us miserable and eat tons of cookies, double chocolate chipped, I am pretty sure without all this extra chocolate intake during the holidays, peaking on Christmas Eve, we’d all be among the suicides in the morgues, no way we could survive this period of leafless trees, grey skies and endless colds without it, anyway, as much as I wanted to join my compassionates, I for one stayed at home, soaking up the impact these last sunny days had on my interior decoration, everything looked so splendid, the sun was bringing out everything at its very best, I just had to. And now I have to go out, I do need some fresh air.

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A summer in the garden.

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I’ve spent summers in all of the Mediterranean, and however beautiful it is, none of them compared to a summer in my parents’ garden, not even the sea, although, who am I kidding here, the sea, I do miss, but having breakfast in a hotel, lying on a beach or at a pool, next to people draping their labeled belongings around themselves like an Egyptian pharaoh in his tomb, clinging to their bank accounts, their status is on display 24/7, all year, over-symbolized, logomania in extremis, but no heaven lies ahead here, deadly sinners, all of them, it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for logomaniacs to enter the kingdom of God, yes, I’m a Catholic, no thanks, that’s not for me, at least not this year. My Hermès beach towels are off duty, I couldn’t relax anyway, I have to trim something in that garden left to my mother’s devices, planned as an urban jungle, too many trees, too much ivy, too much of everything, lush, overly lush, beautifully lush, hydrangeas emerging from unindentifiable green masses, roses emerge everywhere from ivy, so richly blooming they look like a bouquet, but before I trim something, I’ll look out for some shade, under an apple tree, or the walnut tree, or whatever tree appears inviting…

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