Chez Yakman a Geneve
Claude Marthaler is a renowned author, bicycle adventurer and tour guide based in Geneva, Switzerland. I am trzing to tzpe on his machine, which as switched the Z and the Y so my fingers are getting a good workout.
In stark contrast to a man of 52 who has spent seven continuous years in the saddle (a Brooks, of course), I sit cozily in his efficiency appt on rue Vermont, with birds going on strong, and traffic loudly contributing to the soundtrack of this note. He is truly independent, courageous, and organized..I type anxiously (I know I will dump every word of this if I don’t figure out how to save it… ). On a borrowed PC that i pray I won’t destroy.
Out there in town, it is sunny.
I have already followed Claude on a too-big but still rideable mtn bike, through town for a great lunch at the Bains Paquis, then a stroll on the quai to the phare (lighthouse)…past the rainbow of shrieking, colorfully dressed kids (including one naked, crawling on the warm pebbly strand)…a kid’s United Nations. Is this just a dream, to have countries allied peacefully all around the globe, not “making the world safe for democracy (sic), just making the world safer for children everywhere?
A pair of trees sport gorgeous knitted sweaters.. if i can get my camera to behave, I will share.
We went to Peclot 13, the popular bicycle repair cooperative, half the workers were women, and all kinds of people stood near the entrance, waiting for a fix. We pushed on in and I ogled. Like the Bike Station of Edinburgh, a recognizable vibe–simultaneously “we’re busy” and “available for assistance” that I never find in a traditional macho bike shop. Then onto “Les Enchâinés”, a soulful new store near Peclot 13t, that his friend Valentin opened recently. The “enchanined” immediately struck me, same as Peclos: found wood stair bannisters, wood floor, 1930’s turntable, and chic green couch plopped right in front of the work stand.
Claude-Yak fetched a couple of gingerbeers and a swiss stout for me…it was my fifth hour off the plane and I hoped it would embolden me to remain awake another couple hours. A couple of young guys came in to have their bikes worked on, and finally I announced that if we didn’t move, I’d be rooted to the couch all night.
We tooled off in search of cheese (a perpetual quest in any country, but in Switzerland, closer to a pilgrimmage). At his local Migros, Claude bought me chocolate and some nice soft cheese. I circled to the rear of the tiny store and found excellent cilantro (they sell herbs in potting soil, for longtime use),
white Belgian asparagus, and a liter of 2.5% milk in the dumpster.
Which I TOOK.
And we enjoyed at supper, along with a masterful fresh ricotta and veggie salad he conjured up for me. Over my (formerly fluent, now battered) French and his rapid fire French plus English when he detected confusion in my face…we talked about the various writers we worship. It dawns on me that Claude has already written several books, recits de voyage, he calls them. He placed a musette packed with them by my bed (his, which he gives to the visitor). Also a compendium of Nicolas Bouvier, a Swiss traveller analagous to our Paul Theroux, only discovered after he died, alas. Claude has met him, and a handful of others, such as the guy who lived with the Dalai Lama in the 30s. I told him he needs to visit beloved Dervla this year or next, so he can share some of his tales with her. She’d be all ears, I know it.
Must run. Must try swimming in that turquoise blue Lac de Geneve, where bronzed old women sunbathe unapologetically topless, and furry fat fellows bake nearby, and the kids are all screaming with glee.