DIARY OF A MARKED WOMAN


August 2004

Wed. the 4th of August: Opportunities to write and surf the web to read the news and do research are getting rarefied since the Italie libr. is closing until May 2005 -they're going to put in an elevator for the physically challenged and other amenities, and the "Cyber Emploi" at Melville is closing for ever. So there will only be the internet access at Melville or else at other libr.

I laughed so hard recently I thought I would bust a gut. It was one or two days after seeing a plastic octopus in the window of a pharmacy (go figure!) that I had an epiphany: I understood at last the strange behavior of my mother when, shortly after I moved into my apt, I invited her for dinner and served her some octopus salad I had bought from the Greek deli. She looked at me with an air of extreme indecision and she said "But... but..." and she refused to eat any of the octopus salad. I had a lot of things on my mind so I didn't pay it "no mind" and forgot about it but the sight of this octopus in the window of a pharmacy jogged my memory and all of a sudden I understood my mom's strange attitude when offered octopus salad: she had taken it personally! As a taunt, or a challenge, or an insult, who knows? Because she identifies with the octopus. It's her thing, her org, her symbol, her power-game. Was I perceptive when I embroidered one for her as a present when I was six years old!

So now every time I think about her hesitant "But... but... no thanks!" I have a good belly chuckle. Oh and another laugh: I found it quite by chance, it's a piece of music by Rossini I think that was in a Clockwork Orange. It starts light and gets heavier and heavier until it's quite oompah pah, and instead of singing it I LAUGH on the melody. Inevitably I break down with a good belly laugh.

It's been a week since EDF cut the power to my apt without any legal grounds to do so since I had paid 65 euros on the 12th and disputed the 71 euros that remained as a gross overestimation of my power consumption and the bills are due for power already consumed, not for future power usage goddammit!

The trick is to get up early to do everything by daylight, and toward evening to do first the things that absolutely need good light, for instance sewing or reading. The rest can be done in dusk light or candle light: peeling potatoes or whatnot. It reminds me of some books I read when I was a child and they said that "the sun was already high in the sky when they started on their journey", which means that they lived by daylight and had wasted some time, but nobody ever made any comment on that among the adults.

I thoroughly cleaned my fridge. Lost two fowls and a piece of cod that got bad in the freezer. (I had the good idea to eat what was in the freezer shortly befor the cut-off). It took some effort to get rid of the bad food smell. Lots of bleach and incense-burning but I did it, now it smells clean. Aaah...

With no cool space in full summer heat I can't buy any butter or anything requiring refrigeration. The trick is to buy small quantities of fresh vegs or fruits, use olive oil, and cook only enough potatoes, pasta or rice for one or two meals so nothing will go bad.

I've been sampling the ratatouille at G20 and at Monoprix. The Monoprix is horrible! Precooked white beans were very bad too. Enough with canned stuff!

So my experiment in post-petroleum survival is going on. In the evening I eat by candle light and go to bed and look at pix in bed and then blow the candles out when I wanna sleep.

Yesterday went to EDF to get General Conditions of Sale. I asked the receptionist if there was anything in them about the pledge of EDF to maintain 1KW electricity even in case of non-payment as I learned they committed themselves to doing so in Feb. 1999. The fem. advised me to see a customer-relations employee but there was nobody at any of the four or five desks that were visible. I said I would read the document first and get back to them later.

The mayor is in a chainsaw frenzy as tree limbs have been sawed off in front of my apt these past few days though it's not the season at all to do this, as the sap is circulating in the trees. It has to be done in late fall when the trees go dormant after shedding their leaves. So what's the deal?

Been busy doing molashiko (a blending of mola and sashiko techniques). Finding the patterns by looking at lots of art books, then drawing it, cutting the stencil, all these preliminary operations are time consuming. The embroidery proper seems to take less time than all the prep that goes before it. And once all the embroidery is done the thing -whatever it is, a bag, a napkin or whatever, has to be sewn. So that's what I've been doing these past months. I have a crop of great designs that I'm constantly thinking about, re: how to adapt them to textile because they'rre so beautiful I want to make them known to other people. So there you go.

Last Sat., the 7th, I waited in line in the morning at La Pyss to withdraw my last 14 euros. Yes, FOURTEEN euros. I couldn't take them out with my card so I had to wait. Yes, people, I was robbed and gypped and left like the proverbial guy naked except for a barrel to hide his middle with. And I'm not ashamed to admit it. Lately I have a different attitude towards well-dressed men and women, people who seem to be well off. Instead of envying them I think of them as robbers. Wrote Mom asking for dough.

On Mon. the 9th I had to spend 10 out of my 14 euro on pharmaceuticals bec' of an eye inflammation, a nasty little thing that made my upper eyelid swell and burn. Wrote Mom asking for dough, reminded her her duties. Same day my neighbor Arsene, the black guy with the attack german shepherd slipped a note under my door saying he'd like to buy two bags from me and asking me to call his cell phone nbr. I didn't do it.

On Tues. the 10th he slipped a note AND sixty euro in twenties under my door. Said the dough was for a bag. He's illiterate and makes a lot of spelling mistakes. Asks me to call. Didn't do it but wrote Mom saying I knew she had been in touch with him and he was doing what she asked him to do. I said that obviously she wants me to work only when it suits her. But I thought there was a trap. She wanted me to call Arsene so he could threaten me with his dog. Anyway he has the face of a criminal and I have no intention of speaking to him. And in case she tought I might call just because I'm impressed bec' he's a MAN (superior to me, a woman) she's sorely mistaken as I have noted many many times that stupidity is evenly distributed between men and women.

Fri the 13th: A letter from EDF, your friendly electric co. asking me to get in touch to restore power. Woman says I have no phone, it's so hard to get in touch with me (lays on the guilt trip rather thick). But she doesn't need me to restore power since it was cut from outside my apartment. She doesn't acknowledge receipt of my fax where I ask for a bill that takes into account the meter readings I gave them on July 8 and 12. Their bill with an estimate of gas and electric is about SIXTY euro BEFORE TAX more expensive than if the readings had been used.

Been working on a new sashiko design that works out very well. After one day work I find the trick for doing it best. With only daylight to work by I start early and around 7 or 8 PM start working very fast bec' daylight is slowly fading. And when it's dark for good I'm happy for a day well spent.

Fri the 20th; Wake up around 6:30 AM with sore eye. Lots of tears and runny nose. Make and take coffee (sugarless since I've run out a few days ago).

At 7:30 go out to phone sophie but phone card doesn't work. I can't see what the screen says bec' I don't know where I put my glasses and tearing eye can't see. I ask a passing man who says card is exhausted. Go upstairs to take my bike gloves and start to go to Sophie's on the Grand Blvds. Almost no traffic at this time but when I get to the Claude Decaen side street where I have to cross the blvd a small van is driving towards me at high speed. It's far but coming so fast I think I may not have the time to cross... it looks like it has no intention of slowing down and if there was an impact I would be sent in the air. Not nice. So I wait a few sec's to let it pass and it whooshes past me on the left lane. Then I cross.

It's just about 8 AM when I get to Sophie. Forgot the code on her door downstairs so I wait. Remember she leaves to work around 8:15. At that time she comes out and starts running away from me across the street, not looking at me. I follow her with my computer bag in hand and call after her that I want to talk to her. She says it's not the right time, that I should call her (yeah, how do you get cash on the phone?). I say my phone card is expired, I have no more money and no more food.

Across the street she stops and faces me and says "traitor!" I am astounded. Think that's what SHE is, not me. She brings up again the papers she says were stolen from her apt, says I took them when I moved out of her apt two years ago. I say if I had done that I wouldn't have been able to socialize with her, have her at my apt and go out with her like we did for a year. She has no answer to that bec' SHE was able to be duplicitous even worse than that.

Then she says accusingly "Why didn't you ever accuse Norbert of stealing my papers?" "But I don't know who took them!" I say. Then she says that she gave me the address of her lawyer (somewhere in the south of France, in Privas, outside the jurisdiction) to get an alimony. The bus is here and she gets in. "You stole my inheritance and left me penniless!" I say loud enough for everybody to hear. Then I say it again while she climbs in, and I add "Assassin! Assassin!" and she has the nerve to say very coldly "OK, do your little number."

Back home in early PM I write a letter to EDF where I explain that if they used an average to estimate my power usage they would not claim that I owe them so much. Actually between their June and July bill there is an overcharge of about 150 euros. I also answer Mrs "Lajouanine" who says they want to bring back full power and to make appt with them to do so. But they took out all the power, not just part of it like she claims, and they cut it off from outside, no need to get into my apt to restore it, is what I say in my answer.

I bring the letters to the desk at 74 av. d'Italie but the receptionist refuses to take the envelope. She asks if it's not in anybody's name in particular so I give the name "Lajouanine". She calls and a horrible looking small blond woman comes down. She has brown spots on her face and she acts very self-conscious, as if she wanted to disappear. I give her the envelope, saying there's a letter for her and she reads it but gives it back and refuses to sign the paper I had prepared acknowledging receipt of the hand-delivered mail.

Then a tall man with reddish hair comes from the area with the desks and computers where the clients are received and he says that he'll talk to me. I say I'm not ready to discuss the matter now, I don't have the time, I want him to read my letter first but he insists on talking to me right away and the ugly little fem comes with us, saying she'll "help", and she sits down near the man across from me.

So you're Mrs Picart..." he says after bringing up my file on his screen. "Letter sent on Aug 6th..." (Lajouanine's letter) He doesn't mention my fax to them of Aug. 5. "Last meter reading November 22 2002..." "What are you doing?" I ask. "I'm just reading off the screen the information that's there," he says. "Your information is wrong," I said.

Then he and the fem both tried to make me accept the visit of a tech man. I refused on the same grounds as before. I said the power had been cut from outside so there was no need to come to my place to turn it back on. The guy almost made fun of me for not opening my door to anybody. I corrected him and said "I would open to anybody who has a valid reason ("une raison valable") so he said "a valid reason! Ha!" and he snorted in disdain. The press is full of crime, the big word is "insécurité", everybody is afraid of being mugged, raped or stabbed, yet when you take elementary precautions they treat you like there's something wrong with yr head. "Why are you so reluctant to have one of our men at your place? He's not going to rob you!"

The guy and gal both insisted that the meter is their property and they have a right of access at any time they please. The fem added that they have to check the circuit breaker. Now they were trying to make the power outage look like a breakdown, not a deliberate act intended to make me open my door to an assassin posing as a tech man.

He changed tack and said the meter hadn't been read since end of 2002. I stopped him right there. I reminded him that last feb. I had taken appt with them to reduce power bec' I couldn't pay the whole bill but I had paid it at the last moment and had put a post-it-note on the check asking EDF to cancel the apt. But tthe day of the apt - March 1st, 2004 - the man came anyway. I was singing my head off not expecting anybody and had been surprised when I heard a knock on the door. I didn't answer it and resumed singing, but he kept knocking so finally I said I had paid already and to leave me alone. But he kept knocking and said he had to read the meter so finally I opened him. He made me show him the check stub to prove that I had actually written the check. After he left I looked in the street and saw him climb in an EDF car.

So where was he coming from telling me the meter had not been read by an EDF man but by me on March 1st? He insisted I had done the reading, not an EDF guy. So I asked what was wrong anyway if it was me, what about what they call the "trust reading" (relevé Confiance"). I asked "Does "Trust Reading" means that you don't trust the customer's reading?" Yes, exactly, that the Orwellian French for you. But I insisted an EDF employee had come and he kept denying it. I was so upset I got up with the two letters he refused to take and walked back to the front desk, asking, very irritated, why he couldn't admit that an EDF guy had come on March 1st and I ended up almost screaming "He came on March First! He came on March First! He came on March First!" bec' I knew that if I gave up on this point I gave him the oppty to impose on me a visit by one of his "tech" men.("Un de nos agents-releveurs" as he said (of course he was not going to say "our Special Ops guy" or "our wet-job guy"). So what was the guy coming for on July the 28th at 1:30PM? It's bec' EDF has no rational explanation that the guy insisted nobody came on March 1st.

The guy followed me to the front desk and to my absolute amazement he addressed me in a very vulgar way. He used the familiar TU form instead of VOUS. He said "Allez, ça suffit, casse-toi! Tu ferais mieux de retourner à Maison Blanche!" and I think what he meant by "Maison Blanche" was in fact "Eau Vive", le psych hosp where I was shanghaied in June 03. In other words he meant to say that I was nuts but I had studied the case very well, I had spent hours with my calculator figuring average use of gas and electricity, I had read the General Terms of Use and knew exactly which articles they were violating when they billed in advance and were not using the average to bill the customers. So I said to him "Je vous EMMERDE!" and rode my bike to the library where I arrived just in time for my internet appt.

The next day I realized that the fat woman in red at the front desk was intended as a threat. All the customers seats have their back to the front desk so the sumo lady or whoever is intended to intimidate could be feared to sneak from behind on the un-compliant customer. I also realized that the little shrimp with the brown blotches on her face was a model they expected me to imitate. She acted very shy, like she wanted to disappear into the ground but I was anything but. The fact that my skin has an uneven coloring is what makes me think this was a psy-war tactic. Well fuck you guys and gals. I have a big mouth and lotsa things to say and I ain't afraid of nobAdy. And my skin looks much better than this anyway.

The funny thing abt the fat woman in red is that her fat feet couldn't fit in those extremely narrow pumps she was wearing and she had one foot bare when I arrived at the EDF joint and she was rubbing it on her ankle for some pain relief I think.

Sat. the 28th: The black guy with gold chains around his neck was at the desk where the internet computer is. When my half hr was up he asked me to leave but since nobody was waiting I asked to continue. He said no, that I had the right to only 30 mins. "How come the rules are not the same in every library branch?" I asked. Be' at the Italie branch you can stay 1 hr if nobody's signed up. "You have to leave, come on, leave this computer now!" the black asshole said to me. There was almost nobody there on the 3rd floor and I was fuming inside. I finished looking sthg up and closed down the explorer and got up. After I had put my two bags around my neck and was ready to leave the black asshole told me I could stay so I took off my bags and resumed my internet session.

I told him the French were such a stupid people, no wonder they had a bad reputation overseas. To make it short, the guy told me that I could have only 2 internet sessions per week bec' the "cyber-emploi" desks had been suppressed. So the rationale is that bec' 4 computers have been taken offline, you can have only 2 half hrs per week. This was an answer, I surmise, to my accusation that I had no proof that someone was not paying them off to prevent ONLY ME from having internet access, and that the unwritten rule applied to other people.

Been crocheting lately. An octagon with an 8-branch star inside. Took me 3 hrs each the first four pieces but then, light bulb flashing above my head (figuratively of course 'cause I still have no electricity) I did it in a jiffy, now it takes me only half the time. The key is to RELAX int the job.

Also been working on a new sashiko pattern, studying "boutis", thinking about new stitching patterns, parallel lines, typography, Japanese gardens...

Hey I'm still alive, you betcha!

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