Phones off the hook on Shabbath

Back to the bled, as I used to say, or in a less affected phrasing, to the family home in the hills of Provence. My brother is back from a trip in Israel. We spent the better part of the afternoon diluting the noxious products he uses to develop him black-and-white Leica pictures. After scanning the negatives, he showed me what looked like a mistake: a row of phone booths, with the receptors hanging at the end of their wires on the empty wall.

‘Awrh, that was SO disappointing", he said. "It was the first evening of shabbath, and there were those guys taking public phones off the hooks in case someone picks them up and breaks shabbath, and can you believe it, they left right while I was adjusting the distance scale…"

I stared for a second.

"You mean, that was in the kibbutz, right?"

While in Israel, he had been visiting our granduncle’s daughter in her kibbutz, and had found a lot to tell us about it.

"Not in the kibbutz, no. That was Jerusalem. Near the Wall of Laments."

"Near? Like, they have a security perimetre of holiness arount the wall or something?"

"Nope. They just do it around all the city. I bet the Arabs hang them up again once they’re gone, though."

Hum. Jerusalem must be a kick-ass place for any non-Jewish people to live in, then. There followed more pictures from the Wall of Laments, with people lamenting, praying and occasionally falling asleep on their Bibles. Never saw that many hats on the same picture. The picture of my brother’s room in his dorm at Lyon with all his hats on the same shelf doesn’t count.

The negatives turned out to be rather good. While we were hanging them on the cord in the middle of the bathroom and wiping the last drops of water off their shiny surface, we exchanged some news of our respective weeks. I told him of my upcoming conference in Maryland. He told me about dissecting mice brains for his neurology class. I remembered that dissections tended to put him off somewhat when he was at school, and asked him if he had actually done it. 

"Yup. And I even had to do it for the girl sitting next to me. She was scared she would mess up."

"So girls get squeamish about cutting up mice, then?"

"Not squeamish. It’s just that they don’t want to mess everything up and have to go fetch another mouse in their little cage. But nobody really wants that, you know."

"Oh. Makes sense."

So, one advantage of studying humanities at last. You don’t get a job, but at least if someone asks you whether you would have the guts to kill a mouse and then cut up his brain, you can just answer, "Oh, sure. All for the good of science, you know. I’m no sissy.", and simply prepare the poultry in advance the next time you invite them over, so they don’t see you making faces when it comes to cut out the little birdies’ heads.

And after those pleasantries and useful afternoon well spent for the sake of art, we ended the day with a wonderfully non-vegetarian dinner in honour of my brother’s belated birthday. All hail Andalusia that gave birth to pork in whiskey sauce.

UPDATE: and for dessert, framboisier with caramelised meringue on top and just enough whipped cream. Aix-en-Provence beats Andalusia.


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