Some updates

First, we’ve updated my Chalabre website with new photos including some new shots of Shmoo, the Spear of Destiny, our booksigning on Friday and some other miscellaneous shots.  I need to take some pictures of the newly renovated attic and will try to get to that later this week.

The big update is on the Whack-a-Mom story. Today’s Depeche had an interview with the brother of the murderer. It turns out that she was not only super-religious, but obsessed with witchcraft and satanism. Talk about a trifecta! To top it all off she had a history of mental illness and the poor mother had said that her mental condition had been deteriorating of late. So, I’m guessing that although this was perhaps a bit over the top, the mental breakdown was not a totally unexpected occurrence for other family members.

So far autopsy results have not been released to the public, but since the funeral were today, I suppose it is understandable that the authorities might have wanted to wait a bit before doing that.

My friend Cheryl from Oklahoma is coming to visit us in May and we plan on taking her to Lourdes. I hope none of us decide to bludgeon each other while we’re there…

Ciao for now.

Randy

Wacko Whack-a-Mom

In my efforts to keep you up-to-date on the latest news stories from the region, I just HAVE to tell you all about this one!

A few days ago, there was a story in La Depeche about a murder that took place in Lourdes. A middle-aged woman had moved there with her mother a couple of years ago. By all accounts they got along great and loved each other.

Now, like Jerusalem, Lourdes does have a tendency to attract a certain type of overly-religious fanatic, and these two women seemed to fall into that category.

Several days ago, the daughter seems to have had some kind of psychotic break in the middle of the night. She woke up and beat her mother to death with various pieces of furniture, including a wooden crucifix. According to her own, rather garbled account after the event, she felt as if she had been taken over by a demon who told her she had to perform evil acts!

She was committed to an asylum for observation and to see if she was capable of being accused and standing trial.

Yesterday, she was found dead on the floor of her room with no apparent signs of foul play! A toxic screen is being performed to see if she took pills, but at this point there is no clear cause of death!

I’m sure you can all hear either Tubular Bells (theme from the Exorcist) or the Twilight Zone theme music playing in your heads! Talk about creepy and weird, I think this beats the case of Mme. Peille hands down!

I will give you the word of any future developments.

Ciao from the land of spooky,

Randy

Possum Potluck

I’ve posted in the past about our neighborhood potluck dinners. It is a “tradition” that I started here a couple of years ago so that those of us living on our Cours can get to know each other a little better, without anyone feeling the need to do major entertaining.

This is not a particularly French thing to do, and when I started it, none of the neighbors had ever done anything like it before. But it was an instant success. Everyone saw the benefit of not having to spend days cooking and how much fun it was for each of us to get to taste the variety of things that our friend could prepare.

Last year we only had one get together though. It wasn’t for lack of desire, just life getting in the way. But JM and I decided that if we didn’t get the ball rolling again the whole thing could just die out, so we offered to have one here.

The day did not start out too well. While JM and I were cleaning, I heard a loud THUNK/BANG/CRASH, then screaming. That is just never a good combination of sounds. I was in the attic and the sounds came from near the garage. I ran down the stairs and found JM crumpled in a pile at the base of the staircase.

I wasn’t sure how badly he was injured and ran across the street to our friend Mireille’s. She immediately came over in case she needed to help. Luckily after a few minutes, JM was able to weakly get up the steps to the main room. I gave him some arnica and went out to buy something like an Ace bandage, but when I got back he thought he should go to the ER, so off we went.

Now, I was not a happy camper, and wanted to cancel the potluck, but JM convinced me not to. Mireille offered to have it at her place, but I felt that we had gone through all this angst, so might as well just keep on going.

Luckily the x-rays at the hospital confirmed that it was only a sprain; the doc gave JM a brace and told him to stay off it for a couple of days, use ice, etc., etc., and we came home where I proceeded to spend the next 7 hours getting ready to have 18 people over for dinner!

In fact, it turned out to be okay despite my being pretty darned tired. My contributions were a Cobb salad and garlic cheese bread, which was a last minute change from my planned buttermilk biscuits. And, that turned out to be a happy accident, because none of my neighbors had ever had typical Italian-American style garlic cheese bread and it was an enormous success!

Indeed, that and the Cobb salad both got rave reviews and requests for recipes. But everyone’s contributions were gobbled up by the masses! We had peach halves stuffed with tuna salad (sounds weird but was actually excellent), asparagus quiche, some kind of tart with bacon and beet greens, a pork roast and a beef roast and way more desserts than anyone should ever eat!

Our new bakers stopped in for drinks, but were too exhausted to stay, so the next potluck will be on a day that is better for them so they can fully participate. But even though they didn’t stay, they brought us over two amazing cakes to add to the dessert cache. You see why I said we all ate too much dessert?

One of the things that surprised me was that Didier and Mireille’s 15-year-old daughter, Audrey, came along with her boyfriend. Now I would have bet just about anything that she would have rather done almost anything on a Saturday night but spend it with a bunch of old fogeys, but NO, she was thrilled to join us. I guess we’re still interesting enough to hold a teenager’s attention for an evening.

I’ve seen everyone since then and it was roundly declared a major success. Our biggest problem for the next one is having enough room for us all to fit into one room! That’s a rather nice problem to have, all in all.

Ciao for now.

Randy

Possum Kingdom Updates

My good friend Rose reminded me that I owe everyone updates on some of the latest and greatest Possum Kingdom news stories.

First, she wants to know about the green-crossed trees: We don’t have an answer yet. The tree trimmers have not gotten around to that section of the village as of yet, but I’m pretty sure I’m right, as I noticed that even here on Cours Colbert there was a tree with an X on it that has been cut down. I don’t think it has to do with the scandalous removal of trees from roads where there are lots of accidents, but more to do with the trees getting diseased after they reach a certain age.

Second: what happened with the homeless man and the apartment in Toulouse? That turns out to be a bit more complicated than it appeared at first (isn’t it always?). The squatter was interviewed in the Depeche to give HIS side of the story, which not unsurprisingly, was vastly different from the report given by the official renter. However, even though I tried to keep an open mind, I didn’t find his story convincing. He just said a lot of things that really made no sense at all.

Here in France, you are not allowed to evict anyone, even a squatter, during the winter months. I believe the dates are mid-October to mid-March. This past weekend was the end of the winter non-eviction period, and the police had told the squatter he had to go. I haven’t seen whether he actually did go, but that doesn’t really make news, does it?

What DOES make news is that with the economy tanking as much here as elsewhere, the various associations in aid of the poor and homeless are lobbying to make it mandatory that before evicting anyone for non-payment of rent, that they have another place to go. I find myself very torn about the issue. First I DO believe that people should have a place to stay, but should those who own property be punished by being forced to have them living in their properties rent free? I think that if landlords can’t evict tenants, you will have a lot few rental units available, unless these associations or the state take it upon themselves to pay the rent.

I know that JM and I will now never finish turning the empty part of the building where Mom lives into rental units, because we do not have the financial resources to do it, especially if at the end of the day we wind up with tenants who do not pay. We would wind up going bankrupt in such a situation. It’s a real dilemma as far as I’m concerned.

Now, the FINAL update: L’ affaire Georgette Peille!!! She has been found! At least her body has been found.

You all laughed when I asked where Inspector Barnaby was in this whole business; but in a turn of events worthy of any British cozy, she was actually found by a man walking hs dog! I’m not kidding; who could make this stuff up?

At any rate, said man and dog actually found her basket full of mushrooms and called the police, who found her in a ravine not far from where she lived. This leads to all sorts of questions, such as: with all the police, the dogs, the gendarmes, the helicopters, the hunters, etc. who were hunting her, how come THEY didn’t find her? The last story in the paper said it was being treated as an accidental death.

I don’t know about you, but I feel that it’s a bit of an anti-climax.

Ciao for now.
Randy

BSP

Cover of my new book

Cover of my new book

I’m proud to announce that IF YOUR POSSUM GO DAYLIGHT, my new children’s book collaboration with talented artist, Raven Okeefe is now available from Black Coat Press, as well as all the other usual online booksellers.

This is a project that Raven and I have wanted to do for about 10 years, but the time and technology were not right until today.

It’s a bit of an “Ogden Nash” style of poetry, which isn’t exactly bestseller material, and the children’s book market is not the easiest to break into at the best of times.

Luckily, Print On Demand publishing has finally allowed small press publishers to take a risk on material that isn’t exactly mainstream and also now permits full color printing at a reasonable cost.

Take a look and let me know what you think!

Ciao for now,

Randy

Sprung

Yes, Spring has Sprung and in a major way! It is truly outstanding today and was yesterday as well. You can see it in the faces of those you meet on the street; they are HAPPY! And, getting everyone here to agree on the weather is no easy thing!

I took Shmoo Alexander on his walk this afternoon and was actually hot, and I was only wearing a long-sleeved shirt! Really amazing for this time of year. I would guess that the tmperature was about 22 C, so that makes it mid-70s F.

There are daffodils springing up all over the place, and I would expect to see the trees (what’s left of them) leafing out soon.

I don’t even know how to describe the sunrises and sunsets that we’ve been having. I must take my camera out with me tomorrow morning and see if I can get a picture of the mountains glowing pink and gold! It really makes getting up in the morning worthwhile when you can see something like that.

Ciao for now.

Randy

Trees

We are really lucky in the Possum Kingdom to have a village with beautiful platanes (plane trees) on all four of our Cours, as well as leading in and out of the village. In the summer, when they are fully leafed out, they provide a lovely, canopy of green that shades us and softens everything.

Keeping them nice, however, is a bit of a chore, and once every two years it is time for “elagage” or tree trimming. They started yesterday and it is loud, messy and inconvenient. A large crane comes into town and each tree is individually trimmed, dropping branches and assorted “shmootz” everywhere. Then, another big machine comes around so that the small branches can be fed into its giant maw and crushed to sawdust.

The bigger pieces of wood are cut into logs and loaded onto a truck where they are taken “somewhere.”

Each Cours takes about a day to be totally completed, and for obvious reasons, you can’t park while they’re busy doing the whole thing. So, of course, this being France, people park ANYWAY and then the workers have to try to either track them down to move their cars or drop large bits of tree on top of them!

Today is the day for our Cours to be trimmed, and besides having moved the car, I have to say I’m getting really tired of the tree-trimming noise. Even with the windows closed, it is VERY loud. Then, when you go outside, you get sawdust in your eyes, hair, mouth, everywhere. I will not be unhappy when they are finished.

Now, besides this, there is also something else mysterious going on. About 3 months ago, green painted dots started appearing on some of the trees on the Rte de Lavelanet where we walk Shmoo most days. No one has been able to answer what the dots mean, but earlier this week several of the dotted trees (but not all) suddenly also sprouted large green Xs. This, combined with the elagage has me thinking that the marked trees are going to be taken down. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am.

Now, I would imagine that if they are doing this, it is because the trees are sick, but it still breaks my heart to see them go. Even though they replace them with new trees, let’s face it, they aren’t going to grow big and tall like their brethren till I’m long gone.

I suppose it’s a lesson for all of us that immortality just don’t exist.

Ciao for now.

Randy

Don’t Leave Home!

Today’s Depeche du Midi has a story in it that leaves me in shock and disbelief. It is rare that I read something that has this effect on me; making me believe that Kafka still lives amongst us.

In January, a resident of Toulouse left his rented apartment to go and help some friends who were opening a restaurant in a different department. When he came back about a month ago, he noticed light coming out from the door of his apartment. He tried to unlock the door and discovered that the lock had been changed!

While he was gone, a homeless man had broken in and taken possession of the apartment and all of its contents!

Now, this is where Kafka comes in. The legal tenant has not been able to get rid of the squatter, because French rental law actually PROTECTS HIM from being evicted!!! So, the poor bugger who actually pays the rent, electricity, etc., is now homeless, while the homeless man is eating the food in his refrigerator!

The police can do nothing. The poor bloke isn’t working right now and is having to stay with family, and the squatter is in the clear.

There is apparently a law that MAY help our poor tenant to get his place back. However, will he get it back with his belongings, or will everything that is not nailed down be gone when he gets back inside. I hope he gets the place fumigated as well.

I can’t imagine what I would do in such a case. I suppose hiring a hit man is going to far, but I am sure I would be tempted.

Ciao for now from the safety of my very own 4 walls.

Randy

We’re Back Baby!

Just a quick note to let you know that Possumworld is back up and running. Our webhosting company had a MAJOR crash event over the weekend, and we have been without websites or email since sometime on Saturday.

So, if anyone emailed me, I will THEORETICALLY receive all pending messages and will then get back to you ASAP.