Crooked Finger (crookedfingers) wrote,
Crooked Finger

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a municipal fumigation center

In one of my recent videos where I review the book "Paris Vagabond" by Jean-Paul Clebert I read from the book this selection-

"In Rue du Chateau-des-Rentiers, just by the Nicolas Flamel shelter, is a municipal fumigation center which is the workplace of Martini, a tough guy who can put up with anything, including the immediate downing of a liter of the aperitif wine that earned him his nickname. Martini has the least fun-filled of jobs and when he invites me, as he does regularly, to accompany him to work, he warns me-and this is what makes me turn him down-that it will nauseate me and put me in urgent need of cleansing my stomach with a good does of dry white wine, because according to him, and I am inclined to take his word for it, it is truly unappetizing and you need to have a cast-iron constitution and call frequently on Dutch courage, because habituation and insensitivity come only after long years of experience, something to which most workers are unwilling to subject themselves, preferring to sacrifice their pension and go and look elsewhere. Being close to two shelters, and run by the City of Paris, this laundry is responsible for cleaning the clothes of the homeless, and every evening, as soon as a cohort of derelicts has been mustered in an observation anteroom, they are asked to strip naked and hosed down with cresol disinfectant, after which the fumigators come with wooden pitchforks to pile the men's clobber up like manure before tossing it into steamers for treatment out of sight but not beyond the sense of smell, which takes a big hit, for the tattered garments are rife with the piss, vomit and like minor accidents with which dozens of habitual winos have "soiled" them. And even when they have been removed from the tubs the operation is far from complete, because the rags are steam-soaked, twisted, rumpled and tangled up and must be sorted, identified by function, and wrung out before being hung up to dry on frames. For my part, all I know of shelters is the aspect familiar to the boarders, and whatever my interlocutor may think, I would rather remain in ignorance of the aspect familiar to the staff.

But Martini has more than this to tell, because he also adds variety to the joys of his profession by performing home disinfections, meaning that he fumigates the dwellings of the sick and the dead in the neighborhood, and so great is his experience in this regard that he claims to know, from the moment he enters a room, whether a stiff is a victim of cancer, tuberculous, syphilis or some other disease, and this on the sole basis of the smell impregnating the walls, None of which, however, is especially surprising. Close acquaintanceship with someone who works at Lamy-Trouvain, the funeral directors, is all that is required to learn in intimate detail just how corpses are washed and their strategic orifices stoppered. But what fascinated me in Martini's stories was his description of certain lodgings that he had been obliged to enter, generally those of old men and women who had died in a state of incredible physical deprivation and surroundings of hellish darkness, fetor, and terror, not to mention those of suicides, their ends becoming apparent long after the fact by virtue of telltale odors escaping from beneath their doors, as for instance in the case of a beautiful young woman asphyxiated three weeks previously whose rear-end was swarming with worms of various girths." pg. 277,278

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