January 5, 2003
Our flight to France was delayed three hours because of bad weather in Europe. The Air France Airbus 330 is a nice plane, but with less room in coach than I've gotten used to on American Airlines. The video screens at every seat were a nice feature, they had Austin Powers, which was still silly, and I tried to watch Decalage Horaires with Jean Reno and Juilliette Binoche. I kept dozing off and would only catch it in various places out of sequence as I woke up again and again, until it became a bit like Memento. I never did see the end or the beginning. The sun came up brilliantly over Brittany before we descended through the murk to the dark continent.
Monday, January 06, Paris
At Charles De Gaulle the plane was parked far from the terminal, we walked down stairs to the runway as if in the boondocks and were crowded aboard a bus. The whole place was in a complete tizzy because of about an inch and a half of snow. We rushed to catch another bus to another terminal to make our long gone connection. Rob, Jason, Nick and I were given tickets for the next flight and discovered that it was delayed two hours, Andrew was told there wasn't room for him on the plane, he d have to wait for the next one. We had a coffee at the Amuse Bouche and waited. We wished Andrew luck and boarded at last, then sat at the jetway for another two hours. I dozed again, but my French seatmates demanded explanations from the flight crew for the wait and the half dozen empty seats as so many were turned away. Baggage matching we were told, which must be done for security reasons, some people were registered on the plane but did not board. Their luggage must be found and removed from the flight. It s too late to take on other passengers.
We waited at the carrousel as a few bags came down and then nothing. Baggage handlers climbed the ramp into the ceiling and hollered down that the belt was carrément bloqué. After a time more bags descended but no one picked them up. All the fellow travelers watched as the strange bags went round and round. Scrutinizing the tags revealed that these bags from our plane belonged to a previous flight whose passengers had long ago left the airport. Baggage matching my foot. After another twenty minutes, my toolbox appeared, but no suitcase, Rob got a suitcase, but no toolbox, Nick got his backpack, Jason got nothing. We reported the missing bags, hopped on the train to Lausanne and rolled up along the lake in the dusk. We took a cab to the apartments, and arrived about 6 pm. Andrew had beaten us there. Steve and Colin welcomed us to our new digs.
The apartments at 4 Avenue Warnery will be very nice when they are done. There is a five bedroom and also two twos. Madame Ernst is very accommodating and is doing her best but has a way to go yet. The hardwood floors are newly finished, each bathroom and kitchen is outfitted with new appliances and the whole place has fresh (but smelly) paint. The rooms vary from palatial (mine) to monk's cell (Nick's). Steve and Colin are upstairs to the east and Jason to the west. So far the inmates are only minding the lack of shower curtains, but it will be much nicer when the light fixtures replace the bare bulbs and there are curtains and finished kitchens.
Andrew and I went up to the Cathedrale about 9 pm. After all the hassles of the job and the travel, it is still breathtaking to be in that space. I stood on the edge of the thirty-five foot high balcony and looked down the long nave. I remember standing on stage at the Dallas Symphony my first day there, looking out into the hall and thinking, It won't get any better than this. Now it has. The history and the acoustics of this building surpass anything we have encountered.
Tuesday, January 07, 2003
We decided to make the morning over to the bureaucracies. First, the Controle des habitants on the rue Beau-Sejour below the Place St. Francois: there wasn't anyone to talk to, no help desk or anything, just odd little booths with lights and buzzers announcing when they were open for business and an assortment of other folks who looked just as confused and non-Swiss as we did. I walked the empty hallways until I found someone to ask questions of who told me to fill out such and such a form and then wait our turns at the booths. We all filled out the wrong form, which I discovered by taking the first turn. Now we have multiple copies of the right form that can be filled out ahead of time, have a picture attached and mailed in to register as being a foreigner living in Lausanne, seemingly a completely separate process from the work visas. There s another form to fill out when one quits the city.
Bus passes next in the Swisscom building at St. Francois, such a deal at 53 CHF for a month. The funicular from the apartment to Lausanne-Flon and all the busses in Zone One are unlimited. These passes also require a photo, but they will scan it from one s license or passport right at the window if those photos aren't too shiny.
Our Polish/Texan colleague, Szymon Januskiewicz, was waiting for us when we got to the Cathedrale. Now we are eight. We spent the rest of the morning unloading the blowers and bringing them up the stonemason s lift on the North Tower. They went in through a window and then down a ramp to the sharp side door. The intake hoods had to be removed to pass through the doors but despite their size, we had them in place quickly. Lunch at the Creperie at the bottom of the long stair that leads down to the business district and then we assembled three sides of the South blower box and started rearranging parts to create more space. No word on the whereabouts of the three containers, with the Rhine at flood stage they may have to go from Antwerp to Basel by truck, pass through customs and only then make their way to Lausanne.
Rob and I walked down to the Internet installer s place to see about our DSL only to find that our contact there was away. We had a barely comprehensible conversation with a colleague of his (wearing a peace symbol on a neck chain!). It is hard enough to understand techno-speak in English, never mind in French. We ll be stuck with our steam-powered dial-up for a while I fear.
No word from Air France on the baggage and they don t answer their phone. Rob loaned me a pair of socks and I bought a toothbrush, but I m still wearing the clothes I put on Sunday morning in Newton. I wore a sweater and a tweed blazer, but I miss my parka. It was 4C this afternoon with a twenty-knot breeze.
Wednesday, January 08, 2003
Breakfast at the apartment and then the funicular up the hill. Nick deciphered the bus map well enough for us to chance the #16 bus and indeed it runs from St. Francois to a stop just below the Cathedrale saving a great deal of hill and stair climbing. It s just the thing if one is carrying a toolbox or is underdressed for the weather.
We modified some pieces of the North blower box to allow room for a huge conduit the electricians want to run through it and did a bit more arranging, but there wasn't a days work for 8 people so most of the guys packed it in after lunch and went to a museum. I did some assembly drawings and then went shopping for clothes as Air France is still unreachable and their touted digital baggage tracing system website lists my bag as pending delivery.
I went down to the Manor department store and bought two pairs of socks, four of underwear, (semper ubi, sub ubi) and a shirt, which, altogether, set me back 65 CHF, about $45. And this was the after holiday half price sale. So far everything here is more expensive than at home, except high class chocolate.
Late this afternoon, Steve had word from the freight forwarder that the containers had reached Basel and were in customs. There is an outside chance we'll see them tomorrow. The much ballyhooed indoor crane is to arrive tomorrow and Rob will be trained in its use then pass on his knowledge to the rest. The outdoor crane for lifting the 1000 pound steel beams through the North window is reputed to be strong enough to lift entire containers (40,000 lbs) off their chassis and set them on the ground allowing ground level unloading.
We had a serviceable supper at the Movenpick on the lake. We met the New Zealander who lives in the basement studio apartment and tried without success to set up the TV in the living room.
Thursday, January 09, 2003
The crane for inside the church arrived this morning. It is about five feet wide, fifteen feet long and six feet high in collapsed position. It has a strange insectoid beauty and also a scorpion-like menace. Something Sigourney Weaver should pilot. It moved into the nave from the North transept on its caterpillar treads and M. Blanchet gave Rob the total lowdown while I audited the course. It telescopes to the top of the vault of the nave and can reach almost all the way into the back of the balcony, but at that angle it can t lift much more than a few hundred pounds. We will have to find another way to raise the largest pipes at the back corners. In addition, the widely spread spider legs of the crane and the heavy wooden cauls they bear on may interfere with the scaffolding as it had been planned. We may not need as much scaffolding as we initially thought because the crane has a two-person bucket on the end. We'll see.
At about 11.30 we finally got a call from the broker who said the small container would arrive in the afternoon and the other two large ones tomorrow. A 10 cubic meter compacting dumpster arrived for all the trash and another smaller plain one for all the wood. Jason talked to an actual person at Air France s lost baggage depot; they had nothing to report concerning our missing bags, but did say that waiting a few more days is not unusual. We got a partial tour of the crypt from M. Pistolato while we waited for things to arrive. Under the present altar there are 8th century skeletons exposed in an archeologic dig that were buried next to the walls of the church of that time. Stonework from the middle ages is all around, and the bones of the Bishop who started the Cathedrale in the 12th century still rest in their sepulcher down there. I hope to get a more thorough tour from M. St ckli, the Cathedrale archeologist, one of these days.
Suddenly everything shifted into high gear when the twenty-foot container arrived, it was great to be unloading at last after days of waiting around uncertainly. We emptied the small container in about two and a half hours, and spread the pieces over the two-thirds of the nave that we have been allowed to appropriate. We had to be firm with the constant stream of tourists who will blithely walk past signs and barricades as if they did not exist and give us the eye as we struggle past with huge organ parts. Nick hit on the idea of using the big bags of used excelsior as if they were hay bales to form a defensible perimeter around the West door, which kept almost all of them out. It will be interesting to see what happens after the television people run their organ arrival stories tomorrow night.
We put a few smaller pipe crates in the balcony with the crane by lashing them to a platform on top of the bucket and all the gear and tools went up easily in the bucket. We took turns riding back down. The walkie-talkies Nick and Francie gave me for my birthday work well in situations when the bucket is not visible to the operator standing on the floor 35 feet below.
We had supper at the house in a celebratory mood. We all fanned out through the shopping district and came home with various breads, pat s, sausages and drinks; Jason made a salad and bought a tarte au pomme, which was eaten with excellent Swiss ice cream. Rob allowed as how life might just be okay, but only for the moment. Szymon and I did laundry with the machine in the cellar, I wore a robe that we found upstairs so that I could throw everything in; tomorrow I'll wear all clean clothes. Ah, the simple pleasures of life.
Friday, January 10, 2003
The big crane arrived at 8, a massive thing wheeling through the narrow streets on five axles that were independently steerable. To make a tight corner the three front axles turned in one direction progressively and the two rear axles went the other way. The two containers arrived a few minutes later. The one with the big steel was lifted off the chassis and set on the street by the North tower. The other was parked by the West door. We went at it all day with the help of five stonemasons employed by the Cathedrale, who are no slouches when it comes to lifting heavy things. One fellow, Danni, who hails from Kosovo, was very pleased to be working with Americans. We had saved his country, he said. Bill Clinton is a great man, he said. Other countries stand around and do nothing but we went to help his people and he expressed his gratitude the whole day, and worked like the dickens to boot. A refreshing change from the usual USA bashing one hears. All the guys in that crew seemed to be from somewhere else, they told me that the Swiss do no manual labor. The tourists continued to try to walk in the through the West door even though it was barricaded. Andrew asked one persistent group, What part of ferm don't you understand.
There was a scare at midday when Steve took a call from the freight forwarder saying that Swiss customs had found a discrepancy in the reported value of the organ and that the local police were being sent to shut us down. Since it was lunch hour no one came and by the time the customs people got back from lunch the whole mess had been straightened out. Their bad.
The operator of the big crane did a lot of waiting around, because the half-ton pipe crates and thirty foot 14x38 I-beams he had to lift were on the bottom of the containers and we were sometimes slow in figuring out the reverse 3-D jigsaw puzzle that is all part of the packing artistry of Terry and Marshall. But at days end, in the dark, all 61,000 pounds had been unloaded, the steel was in the balcony, the big pipes were in the North tower, and the nave resembled the scene of an organ explosion. We had a good supper at the Chinese restaurant just off the Place Centrale and limped down the hill to Avenue Warnery. Szymon recommended Aspirin hach for breakfast with a light sauce Tylenol; I might give it a try. Still no luggage.
Saturday, January 11, 2003
Our first day of assembly. With such a large crew it was possible to split into two fluid groups, our Swiss helper and would-be organbuilder Thomas Murray-Robertson showed up as well, so we had a large contingent unpacking pipes and unwrapping parts and another setting up the steel framing. Since the November advance team had done the layout and our friendly stonemasons had drilled the holes in the floor, by mid- afternoon the four beams that support the cantilever were attached to the rear transverse beam and had been located and leveled. All the pipework labeled for unpacking had been arranged in the North tower, and we had begun the search for places to put the pipes that will remain in their crates stood on end. Some may have to wait until the ramp is cleared from the tower to be moved into that space. As Andrew says, Pound for pound it was a good day.
Because everything shuts for the weekend promptly at 5 pm, we knocked off early and did our shopping for the next few days. All kinds of strange foodstuffs appeared for an impromptu late mugup back at the house, including fish jerky, lotus seeds, and durian flavored ice cream. Madam Ernst joined us for a time and blamed the shortcomings of the house, as she saw them, on her architect son. She said, to my relief, that shower curtains have been planned. After the muscle aches of the past few days, the contortions needed to keep the bathroom relatively dry are getting old.
I miss my stuff and grow weary of Air France and their cavalier attitude toward returning our things. Now that a week has gone by, I have begun to give in and buy some of the things that I don t have, but I resent every centime I have to spend and clothing is so hideously expensive. I miss my family and friends and would like to be at home.
Still, I feel lucky to be here, glad to be assembling at last, and thrilled to be part of this historical project and this first class team of organbuilders.