02 February 2008


That’s Punxsutawney Philippe to you, buster.

A great deal has been going on in the world that intrigues me lately, and for which I have no explanations.

Groundhog Day dawned with a crunchy frost covering the garden at Beynes, yet by early afternoon the azure skies over the surrounding hillsides were bespangled with hang gliders, and the temperature was warm enough to permit caps and heavy jackets to slough off. It’s a gorgeous day. My question is whether this means spring will arrive sooner than later. And my next question is: How do the French predict the weather when they have no groundhogs?

Trust! (Except when inconvenient)

Back in Washington on Monday night, during his State of the Union address, President Bush repeatedly exhorted his listeners “to trust the American people.” I found this fascinating. Is he talking about the same American people who, by whomping majorities, believe he’s led the country in the wrong direction, is bungling the economy, and ought to get our troops out of a war they believe to be misguided at best?

Granted, he probably thought nobody was listening to him.

Next question: Are we sure he stopped drinking?

Now that John Edwards has dropped out of the race to replace Bush, Ralph Nader is talking about running again. On account of how he has the best interest of the country at heart, and all. Speaking of Groundhog Day, haven’t I seen this movie already? Yet I remember it as being funnier.

Ask not what you can do for your country.
In fact, just shut up.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey appeared before Congress, too, where he showed off his Alberto Gonzales imitations. Though he was a bit too authoritative (he still speaks in complete sentences), Mukasey is new to the job, and I’m sure he’ll get the hang of it. In the main points, he excelled: he refused to answer questions or to give opinions, he irritated the senators, and he insisted that the President is not necessarily obliged to obey the law. Perhaps emboldened by this performance, Bush promptly issued one of his famous signing statements, to explain that he didn’t intend to obey a recently passed defense appropriation bill. Because obviously the Constitution didn’t mean what it said about giving Congress control of the nation’s purse strings — what it meant to say is that appropriations are the President’s prerogative. Obviously.

The curiosity here: How much are we paying these guys? And is it too late to hire a temp?

My point, and I do have one:
Justice is blind. And also dumb.

There was one incident this week about which I have no curiosity whatsoever — and that’s in the interest of self-preservation.

The cellar at the house in Beynes hadn’t been cleaned out for three decades or more, but on Tuesday Bernard and I tried to sort through some of the detritus. We found a doll’s baby carriage that probably belonged to Bernard’s mother; we found coal scuttles and a laundry vat; we found three disused lawn mowers, one of which had no motor; we found tin cans, a suitcase, chairs that crumbled at a touch, a bidet, a Franklin stove, and a water heater from the 1930s. We found straw, too, covering the dirt floor and practically begging for mice to take up residence, and so I began to clear it out. And there I found a most unusual object.

It was pale grey and longish and flat. At first I thought it was some sort of plaster saint, in low-relief, worn down by the passing of time. Not to my artistic taste, and not what one ordinarily finds in the home of Free Thinkers, yet the sort of thing one finds in country homes all over France. Then I noticed the tail. And the teeth.

You’ll be glad to know I didn’t take a picture.

For the object was not kitschy but kitty. My conjecture is that a cat strayed into the cellar, and started poking about the straw, when something fell on him. Now he was mummified. An offering, perhaps, to the Egyptian cat-god, Bastet.

I do not construe this as a curiosity, however. Because that’s how cats get killed. Even in France.