Friday, November 4, 2016

Fontainebleau Diaries Part Three

It’s been a while since I’ve written, and much has happened. Mikael has arrived, bringing rain. My friend Lucy visited from Spain for the weekend, and we climbed many, many things.
Finally, after what’s felt like ages, I feel as if I’ve started to get my Font legs and it’s been great fun.
 Here’s the thing about the climbing here: it’s tough. Everything save the few roofs feels hard for the grade, and if I cared more about climbing big-number boulders then I’d probably be pretty frustrated. That’s the great thing about it here though, it’s all hard, and honestly, I’ve had more fun failing to climb easy slabs and bizarre mantles that anything else. Groups gather together on these goofy little slabs and humans of all ages, skills, genders, and nationalities try to struggle their ways to the top with laughter, smiles and exaggerated arm gestures as the common language.
 Which brings me back to Cul de Chien, a place I’m still quite infatuated with, and where the other day I nearly fell off an easy slab because of a Voodoo penis. Cul de Chien evidently is one of the more family-friendly areas in Fontainebleau, as shown by the distinctive stroller tracks left in the sand. Everyone likes to play in the sand, building castles, digging tunnels, and, like the four or five little British kids playing near the problems I finished my warm-up with, sculpting gigantic cocks and balls.
I began one problem, doing easy moves on good holds, stretching my shoulder when I heard the most adorable British voice, “Let’s make dicks!” this child’s voice exclaimed. I looked down to see four kids carefully crafting enormous members in the sand. One was focused like a monk working on a Mandala on getting the shape of the head just right. Sculpting with a wooden spoon, erasing, starting over.  
I high stepped, and reached to a small dimple, which was worse than I expected. “I’m going to make Peter’s penis!” One of the kids said. “How’s that look, Peter?” I rocked over my foot and stood up, trying not to laugh. Looking over my shoulder, Peter’s cock wasn’t very realistic, but hey, it was made of sand.
I climbed back down as a man, presumably the father of one of these young artists, came over to the children.
“What are you making?” he said, also in a classic, Mary Poppins kind of British accent.
 A boy leapt proudly to his feet. “We’re making cocks! Look, that one’s Peters!” He pointed. I expected this guiding parental figure to say, “No, no, no. you can’t do that. We’re in public.” But instead, he took this brilliant opportunity to give an anatomy lesson.  
            Sex Ed in Europe must be quite different than in the US, I thought. Then, as I cleaned my shoes for the next boulder problem, I realized that I already knew that. My own sex Ed consisted of a woman from Planned Parenthood coming to my microscopic middle/high school three days in a row and talking for an hour about sex, STDs, STIs and other reasons that sex will almost certainly kill you. It seemed like even talking about sex was dangerous. And that was pretty much all I can remember.
I wonder how it is here? Of course there are probably a million video essays out there on the internet showing like, Finnish preschoolers putting condoms on bananas or something, while in the US we have commercials like this one, (whose message I completely support) where two boys play with some found dildos, embarrassing a mother. In fact, just the other day I was talking to a German woman I met at Bas Cuvier, who told me her sex Ed began in kindergarten. Kindergarteners can’t even tie their own shoes, but they can sure learn. To me, that means the taboo of talking about sex will be destigmatized, and instead of a bunch of kids snickering like Beavis and Butthead at some teacher talking about how cool clitorises are, they might be able to listen, and not learn everything they know about sex (pleasure) from porn. But that’s just me.
As I palmed down to mantle on my last warm up, I looked over to the kids and their dad. One of the kids was shouting, “It’s a Voodoo penis!” as he kicked and stomped in the sand.

The father grabbed his crotch. “AHHHH, Voodoo penis” he said, feigning pain. Then, once he recovered. “Okay, pack up your things it’s time to go.”

Monday, October 17, 2016

Fontainebleau Diaries Part Two

After a late start today, I finally made it out to the boulders this afternoon. Of the endless supply of problems here in Fontainebleau, I only know a few. Also, I didn’t spend days pouring over climbing videos and books to put together a tick list. I just want to climb what looks good, regardless of what other people have to say. But I went against that and went to try one of the few roofs in Font, Eclipse.

I have to say first, Cul de Chien, the area where Eclipse is located, is maybe the most idyllic climbing area I’ve ever been. It rained a bit this morning, just enough to brighten the colors of the birch’s turning leaves, and the paths snaking through the sand and heather were now untrodden. After days of grey skies the clearing clouds almost seemed to cut into the blue.

I found Eclipse after some wandering and set into figuring out the movement. Starting in a good undercling and then shouldering out an opposing rail which is then matched and flipped to an undercling as well. After crossing right to a bad sloper, a high toe hook almost seems to invert you. To work the top of the problem, I was pulling on at the second undercling, and every time I moved off the right hand sloper, body feeling inverted, I took in the sky. Soon, I was falling off the last move from the beginning, and conditions were improving. A Polish couple came around the corner, and then, a few minutes later, a few Germans. My solitude had been interrupted, but company is always welcome.

Then it began to rain. Lightly at first. We pulled all the pads and gear under the roof, and I started to brush up the sit start to Eclipse. A skinny man with a baby appeared and stood under the roof out of the rain, which had picked up its pace. Rivulets of water were making their way down the walls, soaking the pockets and narrowing the dry ground.  Three women, soaked, came out of the woods and joined us in our shrinking shelter. We talked mostly about climbing in our homes and climbing in Font as the dripping rivulets of rainwater brought us all closer and closer together. A brief tangent was made to make fun of me for being American. Donald Trump? How could that happen? Hardy har har. I’m glad to be in Europe, though it’s pretty hard to tear my eyes away from the train wreck that is American politics.

Cigarettes were rolled and smoked, beers were drank, laughter was in the air and I think friends were made. The rain slowed and I walked back to the car park with the Polish couple and got their contact information to meet them tomorrow, when I will hopefully not fall off the top of Eclipse.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Fontainebleau Diaries

I arrived here in Fontainebleau late yesterday after a few wrong turns on the network of highways surrounding Paris. I met Pascal, my Airbnb host in front of my little house, and he showed me around my little flat. It’s not much to see—just a small room and a bathroom. Pascal took a suspicious amount of care to explain a small locked door in the hallway. Nothing but electrical panels in there, apparently. But when I told him I didn’t bring a duvet cover, he pulled out his keys and opened it. A narrow brick stairway led down into darkness. He could see that I was curious, and offered a look. I went downstairs expecting to find a dirt floored cellar, but when he turned on the light I found myself looking at a hot tub. The room was completely tiled, and there were some cases of wine stacked in a corner. “this room is not included” Pascal told me, and then, changing the subject quickly, offered me a couple bottles of wine.

Today, I picked my Mom, Ellen up from the train station in the early afternoon. She’ll be here for the next week, and we’ll hit some of the sites around Fontainebleau and Paris, which will be great, I’m sure. After we ate, I left her at her hotel, and went climbing.

I went to a little area off the beaten path called Mont Ussy, and just climbed whatever looked good and protectable with one pad. I did Gazoline immediately, and then a couple of other 7a’s just as a couple of cars pulled up. The sun was setting and I was enjoying just being. The light in the forest. Little nuthatches flitted around the oaks and pines, chirping softly. The people from the car got out, and their golden retriever sniffed around as they began to play Bocce. I sat and listened to the satisfying knocks of bocce balls coming together, to snippets of French, and to the rare car driving by someplace out of site, their motors muffled by the trees. I’ve spent good amounts of time in Scandinavia and Italy, places whose native languages are not so pleasant on the ear, so listening to French is a real treat. A few rain drops started to fall, and I sent the problem I’d been trying. The sun had set, and while the Bocce game hadn’t stopped, I decided to call it a day. Tomorrow I’ll try a more popular area, depending on the schedule with good old Mom.
Au revoir!