Just Above Sunset
August 29, 2004 - How the World Ends (This week's version...)

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An exclusive dispatch from Ric Erickson, publisher of MetropoleParis, received Saturday, August 28, 2004 3:40 PM Pacific Time


If Samuel Beckett were still alive and writing plays, well, this would work well.  Did I say end of the world?  And I am fifty-seven and solitary.  This could be me.


Boring TV Show


France, Saturday: - Unknown to the residents of a non-descriptive public-housing apartment building in the town of Châtellerault, an unremarkable town of 30,000 souls between Poitiers and Tours, one of their neighbors passed away quietly while watching television.


The event happened with so little drama that nobody noticed the missing 4th-floor neighbor until this Friday when a process-server attempted to collect outstanding rent and utility bills. Rent and utility bills unpaid for nearly two years.


The man, unidentified by police, had been 57 years old and unemployed. His neighbors, interviewed by France3 TV-news, said they weren't aware of their neighbor's absence. The man's skeleton was discovered in a lounging position in front of the TV set that had ceased when the power had been cut some time ago.


A spokesman for the town hall, somewhat distressed, guessed that the unknown man had 'slipped through' the usual controls that beset everybody. There was no record of the dead man ever applying for welfare aid.


However, a postman who delivers mail to the building, said that he alerted postal authorities several times about the unemptied mail box in the building's lobby. There was some irony too, because a branch office of Châtellerault's social services is located in the same building.


Not mentioned in tonight's news report was the name of the program the dead man had been watching at the end. Police investigating the incident do not suspect foul play.


Châtellerault, which is seldom mentioned on national news, was in the news last Wednesday too, when four youths were arrested that morning by police for degrading 14 tombs in the town's Antoigné cemetery the previous night. No racist or anti-semitic slogans were found in the Christian cemetery, but crosses and funeral plaques were vandalized.



Compiled from TV news France 2 - Sat 28 Aug 20:00  //F3 19/20/ AP / Reuters


Not mentioned in tonight's news report was the name of the program the dead man had been watching at the end?  I suspect the fellow was watching an Arte documentary on early existentialism and its relationship to theories of agrarian land reform, or maybe he was watching Star Academy over on TF1.  I don’t believe the Oprah Winfrey Show is carried in France.


This does seem emblematic of something – alone, unemployed, unknown, slipping into final oblivion in front of a cold, silent television.  Everyman?


I need to get out more.


And should I strike it rich and retire to France, I won’t settle in Châtellerault.


Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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