The next day found me at the Vieux Port, about which my first thought was none other than that, between “vieux port” and “vieux porc” French was unable to distinguish, between long-established water infrastructure and repugnant personality types, there could be no difference. Fortunately, for those speakers confronted with such a dilemma, context lends its aid.
From one of the artificial islands at the waterfront’s center, I watched for a few minutes the maneuverings of a small shuttle set to ply the waters of the St. Lawrence River. As best I could tell, even a mere crossing required considerable skill. Crossing from the haven’s still to visibly swifter St. Marie current, the boat swung about its nose upstream and turned motors to full and angled for the other bank as best it could. Watching the boat caught as it was, I felt the current threatening to sweep it and its passengers to the sea.
My attention returned to the mostly hairless apes wandering from one end of the isles to another as I made my way back inland. Reduced to a description of this sort, I found that the human race proved rather more frightening, no matter how their behavior exhibited more highly developed and high-functioning dispositions.
Having gone without lunch for no better reason than indecisiveness, I sat down to a midafternoon meal of Taiwanese sweets, procured from one basement supermarket in the so-called Chinese Quarter. As I worked the flesh off a spicy dried plum with teeth and tongue, not from the Palais du Congrès, I noticed a grey-stone Chinese church across the way, and, to no end entirely apparent to me, pondered for a brief moment just how the Asian languages had gone about translating the original Ancient Greek, given the lack of links, direct or indirect, between the language families.
If the commonalities between the Septuaginta’s Old Greek and English had already proven tenuous, then what of those between Mandarin and the Greek? Consider, anecdotally, that these languages themselves represent the height of incomprehension in French and English, respectively: c’est du chinois; it’s Greek to me. Seen in another light, this may represent an altogether different way to the fantasy which closes Claude Levi-Strauss’ Tristes tropiques. In his words, one can detect a longing to study that Greco-Buddhist civilization of learning and culture, arising from their intersection and interference in the Indian subcontinent, and which had been precluded by the rise of Islam. Or; perhaps instead, this represents only a lesser, derisory form of an old man’s anthropological fantasies. Such are, in any case, the thoughts brought on by a plum.
In that same park, I watched a sparrow drink from the water pooling in a clover leaf and marveled at the change in scale. Yet no further thoughts came to me, though I could posit no difference in potentiality between plum and clover.