Friday, November 18, 2005

foiled in search of the Belgian dream; one too many laughs and way too much ice cream

I should have seen it coming: for the last few weeks, the morning trains to Brussels have had between 5 and 25 minutes delay practically every single day.

The plan was to go home, skip Dutch class and take the 8:28 train to go see Amina Figarova at the new Palace Music club. I stepped aboard the 5:04 at Brussels-Central. We passed Brussels-Midi and ground to a halt around Forest-East. Eventually, we were informed that a train ahead of us had broken down. We started moving again. Then stopped outside Rhode-Saint-Génèse. For a very long time. The ventilation system cut out, half the lights died, but the electric doors still worked. A conductor came by to inform us that a 20 kilometre-long section of the electric grid had given out. Seven trains were stuck without power, which I would estimate to be carrying around 4,000 people. Weirdly, no announcements were made over the PA system, which suggests that the conductors have no way of informing all passengers simultaneously in case of an emergency. All sorts of ideas were evoked: heading back to Brussels, being evacuated onto another train on the other track, being dragged by a diesel locomotive, one person was reported to have fled the train - against conductors' orders - and gained RSG on foot. Some passangers feared suffocation. Personally, my left buttock is kind of sore. Miraculously, we started moving again.

We stopped at Waterloo and a few people got off, which was puzzling, as this train wasn't supposed to stop there, so what were they doing on the train in the first place? At my stop, masses disembarked, far more than usual, their confidence in the rail system clearly shaken. Understandably: by that time, it was 8:50 and Amina was a distant memory. If you missed her, or even if you didn't, I recommend her album September Suite or, better yet, the Live in Amsterdam DVD, both out on Munich Records. The content of the DVD will apparently be broadcast, to quote her website, "On Dutch TV: Nederland 3 NPS Output Monday November 21, 2005 at 24.00."

Normally, when I get home, I'll work out a bit and attempt to limit my strong urge to eat all night long. I felt harassed and deserving of comfort, however, so I skipped the exercise and wolfed down the remaining halves of two packs of crisps and vast amounts of melted-chocolate covered vanilla ice cream. Also watched trafic.musique on France 2 and saw the pretty Chistopher Stills, the transatlantic son of Stephen Stills and Véronique Samson (who also sang on the show), play a very pretty song about California and French hip hop group Saïan Supa Crew display mind-blowing flow over some excellent beat-boxing. All that after Envoyé Spécial and its investigations of the incredibly poor housing conditions in Paris (not the suburbs) for low-income immigrants and on a fundamentalist Muslim terrorist/freedom fighter organisation in the Philippines. A pretty stimulating evening.

Another TV notable: an innovative car ad. Cars used to be fast, safe, comfortable, eco-friendly or cheap. In France's troubled socio-economic context, Toyota has decided to add employment-friendly to the list. The ad for their new Yaris doesn't talk about the car at all, but about the 1,000 jobs they created to build it. I don't know if it's an efficient selling-point, but it's one I'd certainly never seen advertised before.