Every when is now
“I had an example of a cosmogonic ecstasy, more powerful than the preceding ones. I had a precise vision of the constitution of the Universe.” — Salvador Dali
The center of the world
That’s what the shopping center built above Perpignan train station calls itself. El Centre del Mon, to be exact. Catalan, not French.
It seems like a lofty claim for a half-empty shopping center, the vacant storefronts looking like a hockey player’s bashed-in teeth to eyes still tuned to Canadian landscapes. But it has some pedigree.
On September 19, 1963, surrealist artist Salvador Dali experienced an ecstatic mystical vision in Perpignan train station. A regular user of hallucinogenic substances, Dali had spent years probing the nature of existence through art and science and psychology. And this vision led him to believe that Perpignan’s train station was a structural model of the limited universe we inhabit.
By measuring the platforms, by careful observation of the exact angle of the roof and the iron girders streaked in pigeon shit that support it, the artist was able to calculate the weight of God.
Two years later, he completed his painting ‘La Gare de Perpignan,’ in which the artist is shown tumbling either toward or away from the viewer, shafts of golden light spreading out in every direction while a train bears down from above.
You’d need someone who knows something about art to explain that to you.
It’s always windy here
It’s the tramontane, the cold northern wind that blows from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. Picking up speed between the mountains of the Pyrenees and France’s Massif Central, it tears through Perpignan before twisting away over the sea. It makes autumn leaves rise like ghosts and sends clouds of starlings shrieking like bullets through the turbulent air. It rips clothes from washing lines like a mischievous child and can hurl dinner plates off outdoor tables to smash like empty vows on sun-scarred walls where lizards hide.
It keeps the sky blue. But Catalan speakers talk of people being tocat per la tramuntana, touched by the tramontana, driven mad by…