Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Accompanying Spouse In Lausanne

This apartment. On the 2 etage, because there is a rez de chaussee below and first floor for formal entry.

So reminiscent of my father’s apartment on the second floor of 6 East 76th Street. The one where he said he was going to live in genteel poverty, like a decadent Southerner:

The French doors and long windows.
The plasterwork on the ceiling.
The parquet floor.
The ornate, unusable fireplace.
The basic kitchen.
The woodwork wainscoting.
The entry way and squeeze-in-two-people elevator.
No closets, per se, but armoires of assorted vintages.
Furnished with a mix of old and new.
The view of other similar edifices across the street. In New York, it was the Lebanese Embassy.
The chocolate and patisserie across the street; Lausanne equivalent of Schrafft’s, founded by a German candy-maker.

No longer usable fireplace.
Plaster work.

View from french doors

Lacking at 2 rue des Alpes:
Mirrors, two of them, one over the mantle, the other between the two windows.
Plaster cupids holding sconces, replaced after an upstairs apartment flooded and melted everything made of plaster. Replaced with non-period lighting, as here in Lausanne: center chandelier with Japanese lantern.

As large as the one, high-ceilinged room at 6 East 76th Street was, the kitchen was microscopic. You had to squeeze through it to get to the bathroom, where hung an Esquire centerfold with writer’s thoughts on women, ranging from Mark Twain (“a woman is only a woman, but a good cigar…”) to Thomas Wolfe (“There is no spectacle on earth more appealing than that of a beautiful woman in the act of cooking dinner for someone she loves.”)

Both buildings were constructed for people with servants. Closets and kitchens were squeezed in later. The Lausanne kitchen is of IKEA, as was our kitchen in Singapore. I recognize the knives. I purchased a similar set at IKEA in Menlo Park. Longingly, I gaze the Swiss cutlery in store windows.

However: internet and television. We use the first, and perhaps the second to practice our French.

My father had friends on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and sometimes went to dinner or cocktail parties with them, and I tagged along.  We don’t know anyone here in Lausanne, and I will talk to the shop-keepers like Taya, the vegetarian café owner across the street, or one of the many Lebanese restaurateurs. Yesterday, one explained to me how to form the great faux haunches of lamb and chicken that turn on the vertical spits: Slices are put under pressure for about a day.

6 East 76th Street was located around the corner from what was the new, and is now the old Whitney Museum. Lausanne has a host of museums---everything from Art Brut to Roman Archeology.

As I am my father’s daughter, I will try to understand the minority population of Lausanne. Yesterday we made our obligatory stops at the various offices where foreign residents must register. You are given a number and wait; sometimes you find you are in the wrong office. We were not the only white people, but we were in the minority.

When Croswell Bowen came to New York in the 1930s, and later Washington, the capital, he thought he could make a difference as a muck-raking journalist, and he did, in his way, through his reporting for PM, and later some of his Annals of Crime pieces.

By the time I knew him, he was less hopeful. Still, like a Quixote, he railed at the machinations of J. Edgar Hoover, who was still in charge of the F.B.I. He went to Washington for anti-war protests shortly before he died. Much of the changes younger people had wrought in the 1960s; the anti-war movement, Civil Rights, Women’s Liberation; were outside of his upbringing, he respected them, he knew they were right.

Of course, here in Lausanne, I’m a stranger, deserving no voice in its affairs. In my own country, I look to the young, and am following them to a purpose.

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