Carl died unexpectedly three years ago today. On the first anniversary of his death, I posted a tribute from friends and others. Here’s a photo from a trip he took to Marseille, where he was gathering impressions for a novel he wanted to write, which wasn’t all that long before he died. His absence among us since then has not diminished, although the date of his departure has grown more distant. (Update below.)
torrential rains, high seas, snow on the highway in the Massif Central! wind tearing at the awnings and you. 22.00 Olymp. Marseille wins championship — thousands of fans congregate at Vieux H. and in front of hotel, and the ruckus lasts until 2 a.m.
cold; heavy wind. Lesson learned: don’t show up for dinner at the viet. resto in the arcenaulx before 7:30 PM. he decided to take a photo of the pavement so that he’ll be able to stare at it in 50 years. everything else presumably wld have changed.
Carl always had a notebook with him to jot things down and may have used diaries at random. So the descriptions may not actually correspond to the printed dates on these diary pages. But here’s the reported weather in Marseille on May 5, 2010 and on May 6, 2010, which does indicate rain, chillier temperatures than normal, and gusting winds. And Olympique de Marseille did win the league football championship that year in May.
Postscript: Jan. 25 — After this blogpost went up, my staff of thousands eyeballed it and did some serious detective work — much of it google gumshoeing, some of it metadata detecting — with results that animate the ghost in the photo: Carl of course.
The key discovery, now corrected above, is that I somehow missed a line on the righthand page in my transcription of his diary notes: “Lesson learned: don’t.” So it becomes “cold; heavy wind. Lesson learned: don’t show up for dinner at the viet. resto in the arcenaulx before 7:30 PM.” This means, as the staff reminds me, “that he must have shown up early the previous evening and had a bad experience.”
As to my confusion about the word “orcenard(?),” also corrected now, the word is “arcenaulx.” It refers to the “anciens arcenaulx” near the old port, viz. “Les anciens Arcenaulx de Marseille occupaient un espace compris entre la rue Breteuil, le quai de la Fraternité, le quai de Rive-Neuve et la rue Fort Notre-Dame.”
Furthermore, the staff enlarged the photo, and examined the receipt on the table. It shows that Carl “was at a famous old café called La Samaritaine at 2 Quai du Port. The date on the receipt is May 7 but the metadata in the file says May 6 2010. He was using a Canon digital camera. The receipt shows a coffee and a vermouth.” Trusting the receipt, I figure Carl was sitting there on the 7th and took a photo of his diary entries from the two previous days.
On a more speculative note about the entry on the righthand page — where he writes, “he decided to take a photo of the pavement so that he’ll be able to stare at it in 50 years. everything else presumably wld have changed” — Carl might have been thinking both about the previous night and his youth (see the pricelessly outrageous: Le Regard D’Autrui, which recounts a trip he took to Marseille as a 19-year-old a half century earlier):
The 9-hour ride from Marseille was ass-chafing and uneventful as usual, except that near Montpelier the Italian Vespa developed a bad stutter, and I had to change the cylinder head and scrape off a layer of caked black soot. There was something wrong with the 2-stroke oil and gas mixture provided for scooters at French filling stations, and I could never quite figure out what it was. Once again I cursed myself for getting a cheap driver’s license good only for motorbikes and scooters. I had been in the army then, and a scooter, cheap enough and easy to handle, seemed to make sense. Only it didn’t. Hell, what was I doing anyway acting as a mule for a small-time Marseille hood, delivering stolen goods for the cheap thrill of consorting with colorful underworld characters plus the cigarette and gas money. What an idea for a raison d’être. Nor did the drab, parched landscape of the Herault do much to jolt me out of my morbid mood . . . dusty poplars, dusty vineyards, dusty houses, off-white and grey under a leaden sky. It hadn’t rained since early spring.
The trip was real and so, presumably, was the broken love affair it recounts. Carl was adventurous, but the idea that he was a mule for a Marseille hood is, um, fictional I am sure.