France Insider/Paul Ben-Itzak

May 25, 2009

Out of the past

“Je ne suis que ‘pour le moment,’ comme je le chant. Je me passioné pour l’air du temps, pour le succes de l’heure, pour l’esprit de l’instant.”

— Juliet Greco, Para Vendu weekly newspaper, May 22, 2009

Of all my collections, my assemblage of Pastis 51 carafes, ashtrays, glasses, key-chains, serving trays, ice-tongs, and mirrors is emblematic of how for eight years (at least) I’ve taken refuge in a secure past — not even my own — to avoid the risks of trying to secure a vivant present, specifically with someone else. I don’t even like Pastis, except as a traditional Frenchy thng in which to indulge now and again, especially now that I live in the south (when I’m not in Paris). But one day at a vide grenier (literally: empty the attic; kind of like a neighborhood-wide garage sale) I found an orange Pastis 51 carafe at a bargain price and bought it intending it to be a gift for one of my brothers the next time he visited; as it was plastic, I figured it would be good for travelling. Five years later, the old stone house where I live in an isolated village in southwest France is crowded with the Pastis 51 memorabilia enumerated above, and its sister memorabilia from two other Pastis marks, one gentiane brand, Aveze, Pelforth brune and various Belgian beers, Martini, etc., etc. Some of the stuff I’ve found in eight years of ‘chine-ing’ at the vide greniers (literally, empty the attic; kind of like neighborhood-wide garage sales) of France is actually useful: My raclette maker (I left two behind in Paris when I moved to an isolated village in Southwest France in 2007), my fondue maker, my vintage churro maker with a Franco-era family on the box happily eating the fried dough, the three thermoses I just got in Paris for 5 Euros, two of them so vintage they’re closed by corks, and the three mixer-babies I got, hand-held blenders with various attachments.


My collection is not life.

It’s a museum in which I’m interred.

And which scares women away. (I thought it might impress French women with my engagement in their own history; in the past two days two French lady friends have confirmed that my ‘stuff’ is more likely to send the messages that I live in the past and that I don’t have room for them.)

So when I saw that glass Pastis 51 carafe on sale at a bargain price at a vide grenier in the Latin Quarter last week-end, I passed.

It was the best deal I never made.


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