So okay: Geneva, Switzerland. Word on the street is that it's a fabulous place to live, but that you wouldn't want to visit there. This is exactly right. It's a lovely, textured city set on a gorgeous lake with mountains ringing it. But show your guests this lake, and these mountains, and the "Vielle Ville" (Old Town) with its Calvinist-inspired medieval architecture, and you're pretty much done.
Unless, of course, you want to take them to the Museum of the Red Cross/Red Crescent for a multi-media experience of all the world's human and natural atrocities over the past two centuries. Or the house where Rousseau once...Zzzz...Snore... Or the Museum of the Reformation, which, as you might imagine, is a particular hit with teenagers.
To be fair, I'm not complaining. If you spend your time as I do -- sitting on your ass alone in a room for months on end typing and deleting -- Geneva is a godsend: elegant, not too hard on the senses, slightly hermetic. The week that the Iraq War broke out, headlines of both local newspapers decried the fact that the Swiss village of Gruyeres was overcharging for fondue.
Every season, there's also a festival (fete if you want to get all French about it)involving music, and you can crawl out from under your rock and be a human being for a few days with other citizens of the world. You'll likely be dancing to West African music with West Africans, Bulgarian music with Bulgarians, etc.
But you will always know you are in Switzerland. Because, inevitably there will be a Swiss oompah band, too, trying to keep up with the times by playing "Oops, I Think I Did It Again" and "Dancing Queen." You really haven't heard these songs in all their glory until you've heard them played on a tuba accompanied by an accordion.
The first time the Amazing Bob and I heard the Swiss' oompah version of Britney Spears' greatest hit, the tops of our heads almost came off. For about a week afterwards, I kept suggesting we adopt hip-hop names as a way of sort of resisting the culture: I could be Su-Z-Jay, and my husband could be The Notorious B.O.B. "'Yo. Bon-jour," I went around saying. "Shout out to all my peeps in the Alps."
"Qui est le mec', baby?" I asked Bob. "You da mec? You da mec?"
Oddly, my husband ignored me. Later, he said that he kind of liked the oompah band -- and that Richard Thompson had done a cover of "Oops, I Think I Did It Again" too. So much for our career as a Swiss ex-pat rap group, which, I admit now, was every bit as terrible an idea as it sounds. Though Richard Thompson's version of Britney Spears' song turned out to be pretty good...
Anyway, that's this week's Postcard from Smack Dab in the Center. Hope you've enjoyed it. I'm going to try blogging every Tuesday and see how it goes. Until then, as always, buy my books, and thank you for reading.
Etiquette for an Apocalypse
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