Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Corner of My Room - 10 minute writing assignment

The corner of the living room at 21 Quai de Grenelle consisted of a small wooden table attached to the wall by the window that faced the Seine. Beside the makeshift desk, gold rayon drapes hung looped on a brass tie back. This is where I sat with my computer, battling the slow internet and a server that attempted to translate French websites into English.

I was in France for three weeks, escaping the holidays and creating new memories. My days and nights were filled with magic. I walked for hours marveling at the architecture, the art, and loosing myself in the streets of Paris. After late long dinners, I would walk pass the Eiffel Tower and return to my apartment, settling in to the corner of my room. I would turn on my computer write about my experiences. It was a joy to recall the places I had seen that day, and the people I had met in one of the world’s greatest cities.

However, the true joy was the miracle of the connection. Through the wires that powered my computer and joined me to the internet, I was one with my friends an ocean away. They would read my observations and admire my photographs. Through the words typed to me in their emails, I knew they were thinking of me and sharing my great adventure.

From the corner of my room in the tiny apartment on Quai de Grenelle, with its view of the Seine, the boats that floated by, and the lights that twinkled on the opposite shore, I had a window to entire world. My small corner desk was only large enough for my laptop and my coffee mug. Yet, with the internet connected, the walls of my room opened to my friends a half a globe away. It was my favorite place to be in the magical city of romance and light.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Departing Thoughts

When my mother died, her pain was so severe that she could not clench her fist. She was unable to utter a cry for relief. The morphine, finally given, produced a drug stupor which allowed for rest; a temporary respite before the lasting permanent sleep of death. I never bothered to ask her what was on her mind during that last day of her life. She would not have been able to articulate her thoughts. While she waited to die, I talked to her of her grandchildren, and a tear formed in the corner of her eye. She could hear. I read to her from the Book of Common Prayer, and she mouthed the memorized words of the communion prayers. I felt as if the poetry of the Sunday service would bring her peace. I never thought to ask what she would want to bring her comfort in those last moments.
Now as I contemplate my thoughts when I die, I know what were my mother’s last dreams and her dearest memories. Mother loved Frank. He was not my father. Frank was the bad boy from her youth. He was handsome, self assured, and drank in college. No one discussed drinking publicly, nor was it allowed on campus in the late 1930’s in DeLand, Florida. However, everyone drank at the Stetson University fraternity parties. Frank drank a lot. He was not a man to follow the rules.
My mother told a story of a date with Frank on an Easter Sunday. She recalled with a smile how pretty she looked in her new blue suit with fur trim on the collar and cuffs. She was slim with thick brown hair, and she loved clothes. Frank had decided that she was too cute, too confident, or perhaps not paying enough attention to him. He scooped her up in his arms, and placed her in the middle of a large mud puddle. Forty years later, mother laughed as she remembered that day. I was too young to understand why this would be a fond memory.
Frank named his airplane, Little Bit; his nick name for my mother. Little Bit flew many missions during World War II, and earned Frank the rank of colonel. One morning in North Africa, Frank emerged into a hotel lobby wearing a woman’s dress. His colonel’s uniform was worn by his female companion. Because of his impressive record in Little Bit, his rank was reduced to that of a private, and he was discharged from service. Although no further action was taken against him, Frank returned to Florida and submerged himself in alcohol.
He never married. Mother and Dad would talk about the late night calls from her college boyfriend. Frank is dead now. I never knew him. I know that the passion my mother felt for this bold young man, who abandoned rules and who loved her until his death, accompanied her as she followed him away from this world on the day she died. She was 74 years old.
I would have wanted her to think of me that day. I wanted her to remember me as an infant, cradled in her arms on the day I was born. In reality, my mother did not hold me. I came two months early, and was whisked away by hospital staff to an incubator, where I lived until I was healthy enough to go home. I was the fragile miracle of the family. Now that I am older, I know that her last memories were not me at my birth. I know what was in her heart, unclouded by morphine in those final hours. She left existence with the memory of Frank. As I read words from the Prayer Book, Frank held her hand, ignoring what was proper, and took her way for one last time.
Will I think of my children, fragile and helpless on the day they were born, as I lay dying? Will I smell their sweet skin again at those last moments? Will I feel their softness as they nuzzled against me for warmth and milk, joined breast to mouth as one? Will I remember their tiny hands, just hours old, instinctively grasping my fingers? Or will I remember the passion I felt to be loved and touched by the bad boy who was not my husband; the man who broke the rules and, for a brief while, wanted me as completely as Frank wanted my mother?
I talk to women who at the end of their lives still cling to the memories of their passions for the young men from their youth. They hunger for the intensity of a body’s attraction to another and the joy of having that intensity shared and returned. The names of their young men are private. Their feelings are always the same.
If granted the luxury of time at my death to hold a memory with me as I depart existence, I know it will be one of love. If it becomes an expression of agape, then I will think of my children when they were born. I will recall my own innocent and perfect creations, and how I loved them without reserve. If it becomes a spiritual love in anticipation of what will soon be, then my heart will soar like the vaulted ceilings in Chartres Cathedral. However, if the intensity of passion is what I remember, then I will leave with the memory of a physical attraction to a man I knew a long time ago. If I am truly blessed, I will be surrounded by all three forms of love, ushered away by a type of trinity. Perhaps as my mother heard the words from her daughter reading scriptures in her final moments, she left embraced by a trinity of love. She loved her daughter, her god, and she loved Frank, who was reckless, loved her, and made her smile.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Memory from Childhood-10 minute class assignment

My childhood was dressed in mouse ears from Disney and birthday cakes in the shape of princess dolls. My parents celebrated every holiday with gusto and every breath that I took. I am lucky. When I was sick, my mother would bring me noodle soup, present me with art supplies from the drug store, lay cool wash cloths on my forehead, and make sure that clean ironed sheets were on my bed each afternoon after my bath. Yes, I am lucky.
When I think of childhood, I think of our den, the small square room to the left of the front door on the first floor of our little Cape Cod house. Later, the den would become a bedroom for my grandmother who came to live in our home through her battle with cancer. From there it became a guest bedroom, a luxury for a small house.
When I was four years old, the den was the center of our family’s activity. The tiny corner beside the brown and white checked sofa was my space. This is where the doll house that my grandfather had built stood. It was electrified with Christmas lights, protected from the weather with thin plastic tacked over the windows, and decorated with the skill of my mother’s sewing ability. Curtains hung in every window. Small braided rugs protected the imitation hardwood floors, and bedspreads warmed each plastic bed. My dolls lived in grand style, with a side porch for entertaining, a separate formal dining room and columns on each side of the front door. The siding was painted in white, and the shutters were dark green. My dollhouse was a little girl’s dream.
I played with my dolls every day until the late afternoon when the Mouseketeers danced across the screen of our only television. We were proud of our black and white TV. We were the first in our neighborhood to own one. At four o’clock, this, the most coveted item in our home, belonged to me.
The Mickey Mouse Club Show was the first television program for children and about children. It debuted in 1955, when I was four years old. I sat in my rocking chair with my mouse ears on my head, and rocked back and forth to the rhythm of Annette Funicello singing of her dreams for the future.
“Hey there, Hi there, Ho there. You’re as welcome as can be!”
This was my time before the television. I rocked to the cartoons. I rocked to the guest entertainers who danced and sang for the daily half hour show. I dreamed the dreams of Walt Disney and his glamorous young gang. I knew that I was lucky to grow up in that Cape Cod house. At four in the afternoon, I knew that my future was limitless.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Bombs, Underpants, and Charles De Gaulle

It was snowing when our cab pulled into Charles De Gaulle Airport outside of Paris on January 7th. It was not the weather that had caused us to arrive three hours early for out flight back home to the United States. A week earlier, the attempt to blow up a Northwest Airplane arriving into Detroit failed. Thanks to the bravery of passengers and crew, the bomber’s explosive underwear had not detonated. The concept of a Taliban plan of terror that centered on exploding underpants would have added humor to my view of the newly heightened security procedures, if in fact anything had been funny. This morning reminded me of a Pink Panther Film in which I was one of thousands of travelers at Charles de Gaulle trying to comply with Inspector Clouseau-style security bumbling. I could hear the dual horn cry of the French police sirens in my head.
Five planes leave from Paris daily for Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta and Pittsburgh within fifteen minutes of each other; poor planning on the part of Air France. Most travelers this morning were Americans. The airport was bedlam with crowds trying to form unorganized lines that fed into the two Air France counters. There was no English speaking staff available to assist in the confusion. After thirty minutes of waiting, I found my place in what appeared to be a queue funneling toward counter number six. Suddenly, camouflaged soldiers began barking orders in French at the travelers. I do not speak French. The crowd began to push in a large mass forward. It was a bomb threat. An unattended suitcase had just been found near the entrance to the terminal. Bilingual fliers explained that our area of the airport needed to be cleared incase the bag was to be blown up for our security. We pushed forward like cattle in a feed lot. I herded my black suitcases and my carry-on, as I was swept past the check-in counter. It had now been an hour since my arrival at Charles De Gaulle.
No one seemed frightened of a bomb or concerned about their personal safety. The ordeal was endured as an inconvenience, an irritant that caused flights to be delayed or connections missed. Barricades of black straps held the massive crowd back from the immense empty space of the terminal check in area. An exasperated airline employee told me in broken English that I could not join my traveling companion who had been pulled by the crowd to the other side of the concourse. I had to remain in place for my own safety, which I dutifully did for thirty more minutes. There were no sounds of exploding suitcases. Without explanation, the straps were opened for the queue to form again for check in. I watched my friend feed into the line from the opposite side of the airport. I was trapped with my bags to push my way forward. It took thirty minutes to reach the line opening. I explained to the attendant that my plane for Seattle was leaving in an hour. He pointed to the snake-like queue on the right, and I took my place.
I inched my way forward with the other people. We were told that the cut off for passengers to check in would be delayed for the bomb scare. No more passengers would be allowed to fly after 10:20 am. At 10:15, I arrived at the counter. It had been nearly three hours. The agent took my two suitcases. I ran from Air France check in to immigration. Through the clear passageway, I could see the vast line winding through a new holding area. I explained to a security officer that I was late for my flight and pleaded for an escort through the crowd.
I am 58 years old, five feet tall with blond hair and wore a fur coat and black felt hat. I did not look like a threat. The security officers pulled me aside and said my bag needed to be scrutinized closer. I had packed three souvenir music boxes for my niece and my friends. Every item from my carry on was pulled out and fondled. I explained that I was late for my flight. The officer stared at me. She proceeded to look slower and closer at my items strewn on the metal table. I wound the music boxes which played the French National Anthem and La Vie en Rose. Another officer was called over to examine the musical souvenirs. They rolled their eyes at me, and I crammed my carefully packed items back into my case. I ran for gate thirty-seven.
I was stunned to see another long, curving security line at the gate. Series of metal tables obstructed the exit to the jet way; blocking the ultimate prize, our flight out of France. I took my place at the end of the line. However long this took, I was guaranteed a place on board now. I relaxed and began to talk with the people around me. We watched as every passenger was patted down by the hands of an officer or wanded. Every bag was emptied on the metal tables. We were tired and waited patiently for our turn to be inspected.
I asked the young officer who examined my passport, how long he anticipated the heightened security to remain in effect. He responded that it would be this way as long as the US insisted. When I took my place at the examining table, I explained that my bag had been pulled apart only minutes before. It did not matter. The music boxes were unwrapped and played yet again. The tinny sound of the French National Anthem filled the air.
I could hear the young man at the table beside me complaining. He was flying through Paris from Spain and on to Seattle. His back pack was filled with his dirty laundry. The officer rummaged through is clothing until he reached his underwear. The US was concerned about exploding underpants. Finally, a procedure seemed relevant. This thin bearded man was not happy as his dirty underwear was tossed around for everyone to see. He snapped a photo with his camera to record the absurdity of the moment. An argument ensued with the officer about the photographs of his laundry. His stick antiperspirant was held up in the air. The young man insulted the officer. Tensions were elevated.
I repacked my carry on again, placing my music boxes back in their wrapping. I was as directed to a female officer for a pat down of my entire body. I laughed, thanking her, and said that it was the most action I had experienced during my three week stay in France. She did not smile. I watched as a woman my age with shoulder length grey hair, a fleece vest, reading glasses and leather sandals was enduring the hands of another officer on her body. She quietly turned to have her back and legs felt up. She did not look like she had ever attended a Taliban training facility. Children cried when placed on the floor, so that mothers could be felt for explosives. I shook my head and boarded the plane.
I discovered that the young man with a beard was seated beside me. I learned that he designed sneakers. He lamented that he had to fly frequently for his work. We taxied from the gate, three hours late. We watched as maintenance men sprayed deicer on the wings of our Air France plane. Finally another procedure seemed to make sense. When the steward arrived with the drink cart, the sneaker designer ordered wine, and I ordered champagne. We were in the air, and it seemed appropriate to celebrate. I pulled out my tiny music box and played Le Vie en Rose as we flew away.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Au Revoir Paris!

Brasserie Lipp has stood on the corner of Boulevard Saint Germain since the late 1800’s. When you enter through the revolving door, you feel the history; the presence of the diners who have savored the warm food in this classic bistro and laughed together. I do not feel alone in my corner table. The white cloth and the red wine set a festive atmosphere for my dinner tonight. I have ordered sole from the frigid waters of northwest France. I munch on my baguette and look forward to my fish. It will be difficult to survive returning to Seattle without a nightly late French feast.
The waiters in Brasserie Lipp are dressed in tuxedos with white shirts and black bow ties. Crisp white aprons are tied at their waists, and starched white towels drape over their arms. I wish I had brought my oils, or at the least my camera. Tonight my words will have to paint the picture. My waiter has nice eyes, and doesn’t mind that I don’t speak French. His long grey hair and chiseled nose makes him look like a friend I knew a long time ago. I can’t control my flirty gaze when I order. He returns the compliment with his eyes and for the rest of the evening; I receive an abundance of attention from the staff.
The dining room is narrow with small square tables lined together and touching. White tablecloths and napkins stand stark against the bankette of dark brown worn leather seats. The silverware is oversized, noting to the diner that food on a large scale will be served soon. I sip my wine and listen to the New York couple two tables down from me. They laugh with a Swiss couple, who speaks in English, and converse about trips throughout the world. I enjoy dining in silence and continue to observe my surroundings.
No paintings decorate the walls here. There is no gold leaf. The room is adorned with painted tiles and mirrors. The frieze along the ceiling is turquoise with white cockatiels and parrots. Between the mirrors, the ceramic tile scenes of exotic flowers and palm trees are framed by dark wood moldings. I sit across from the carved mahogany bar and the door to the kitchen.
The waiters carry finished dinner plates covered with napkins back through the double doors, which swing open to reveal the bustle of activity in the stainless steel kitchen. The stemware gleams on the bar shelves, reflecting the golden glow of light from the antique iron and tulip-shaped glass ceiling fixtures. In a single file parade, the waiters march out of the kitchen at a brisk pace, carrying chin high platters of ham on the bone, bowls of onion soup, and chocolate tarts. My smiling gray-haired waiter brings me a second glass of wine and my dinner.
Dining alone was a terror to me three months ago. Of all the activities that I feared doing alone, eating without a partner was the most difficult. Paris has taught me the pleasure of enjoying a meal. My golden sole lies before me alone on the plate, waiting for my taste. The center of the filet is skinless, the white meat framed by tail and sides. My side dish of French green beans, steams. I start with the thin beans, eating them one at a time. I savor the warm delicate taste that requires no salt or butter, returning my fork to the plate after each bite. This is how I am supposed to eat, slowly and thoughtfully. I sip wine. I wait. I taste the sole. It is flakey and light. I place my fork down and think about the flavors. I sip my wine and look around the room as I smile. The waiters come to me and remark that they know I am enjoying my meal. I am not in a hurry. This dinner, like my others in Paris, will last for several hours. I have learned that my eyes and my nose are as important in learning to dine as my mouth. I wait between bites and admire my fish and beans. I enjoy the wine’s reflection on the white tablecloth. I sip the still water and try to decide what to sample next, the sole or the beans.
The gentleman seated beside me receives a flurry of attention from the staff. Papers are brought to him. Handshakes are exchanged. He greets the Sommelier, the waiter, and the Maitre D’ by name. His order is quickly served to his table. I excuse myself to him in French, and comment that everyone at Brasserie Lipp knows him well. He smiles and tells me that he eats here frequently. I sense that he is someone important. We have been purposefully seated so close that we could touch. He reads his papers while he eats his Jambon.
Now the favorite part of my dinner arrives, the profiteroles. These are the best that I have had in Paris. The hot fudge sauce is nearly as good as I make at home! The three gems sit in their dark chocolate sauce on my plate. I gather all restraint to keep from gobbling them down. I slowly cut through the flakey pastry puff to reveal the ice cream within. It will be difficult to not pick up the plate and lick it clean. The waiters know I am at the peak of my meal. They laugh walking back and forth in front of my table, giving me thumbs-up hand gestures at my pleasure. I will have to order coffee. I need to prolong the meal. I have traveled long way in my culinary journey. I have left behind bagged salad, bottled water, no caffeine, no alcohol, no sugar, and power bars. I have embraced a loaf of bread at each meal. I have added to my dining repertoire, chocolate, desserts of all types, cream, coffee, several glasses of wine, and of course, champagne. With these dinner companions, one is never alone.
I have eaten my way through Paris. I have dined at the fanciest restaurants. I have eaten food that looks more like art than anything edible; displayed with careful intent. While I sip my coffee and think about my trip, I am grateful to have taken advantage of such an important part of Parisian life. The people of Paris enjoy their food. I enjoy their food as well.
Before I leave the Brasserie, I stop at the table of the New Yorker and his companion. I tell them that I have overheard their conversation about Long Island, and that I might be living there in the fall. He graciously gives me his card and tells me too call him if I go to school in Southampton. Perhaps he likes knowing writers. So, I end by writing about my new, New Yorker friend, who was kind and generous to a stranger in Paris. The cab whisks me down the left bank to my neighborhood near the Eiffel Tower.
Tomorrow is my last day in Paris. I will have lunch where Napoleon and Josephine dined. I will shop at the Paris sales for a last purchase to cram into my suitcase before I fly home. It is snowing. My dinner companion for my last evening is trapped in Normandy and cannot get back to Paris. I will have farewell drinks with my girlfriend at two of the fanciest Parisian hotels, and then walk to my local bistro to hug my new waiter friend goodbye. I will miss Paris. I hope to return soon.
Postscript: Went back to Brasserie Lipp tonight. Gerard, the darling gray haired Maitre D’, remembered me and gave me his number….I will be back Gerard…I promise!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Last Days of Paris

Paris is cold tonight. To walk through the streets requires a scarf doubled around the neck, wool gloves, boots, and a brisk walking stride. I step into the corner bistro one block from the metro entrance. It has become my neighborhood restaurant. The waiter recognizes me, and we converse in English and French.
“Ca va?”
“I am great. Et vous?”
He smiles at me. The conversation continues in English, as I have reached the end of my French vocabulary. He takes me to a corner table to write, eat, and watch. I have learned more about myself in Paris. Tonight, I realize that I am an observer. It is necessary for a writer to have a keen eye. My brown eyes study the room from the corner table. They have always watched from the corner table.
In college, I would rally my friends together for whatever mischief was in order for the night. I would put the pieces in play for my amusement and watch in the distance as the game began. I was not the player. Paris has taught me no regrets for having not played. I am proud to be the observer. For my pleasure, I have walked through the avenues and plazas contemplating the action of one of the world’s greatest cities. I have scrutinized the people, the cars, and the turning carousels. As my time in Paris draws to a close, I write my memories in hopes that my joy will last beyond my time here.
What I think about tonight as I dine alone in a bistro, is the Paris of love. I have stood in awe before the marble statues of a lover’s kiss at the Rodin museum. The white stone flesh of the life-sized monument was alive in a permanent embrace, entwined with inseparable legs and arms. I could feel the passion in the turning of the carved muscles and two hearts beating within the stone. Visitors held each other and traded kisses as they looked at Rodin’s creation. My eyes glanced from lovers Carrera to lovers real, kissing in the Parisian afternoon.
At the Pinacotheque, a small museum on the Plaza de Madeleine, I huddled in the cold for an hour to pay my respects to the Dutch visitor, Vermeer, who had traveled to Paris via the Rijks Museum. The treasure that I had waited so long to observe was The Love Letter. The young lady in a gold satin dress trimmed with ermine, puts down her lute to receive her lover’s note. To me, Vermeer is sacred, perhaps more sacred than the great gothic cathedrals that had drawn me to services each Sunday in France. I was fascinated with the lovers who gazed at Vermeer’s tiny oil painting and were moved to kiss, How appropriate to respond to the sacred with passion. The tall young man with a wispy beard who stood before the Vermeer, wrapped his arms around his girlfiriend’s waist, and drew her tightly to him. She responded by tilting her head up to kiss his mouth. I watched the two lovers embrace while the painted sweetheart waited for her love to return. Love is everywhere in Paris.
Early in the morning, I went to the Louvre to see the Venetian painting exhibition. Titian’s canvases vibrated with deep reds and soft flesh tones, dark backgrounds and glowing light. In a life-sized painting of Venus, two old men hide in the background to watch her bathe, naked and sensual. I watched her bathe as well. In another room, the painted Dianae writhed in her bed, while cupid observed her seduction. Visitors held hands and touched as they walked by one nude female after another. They looked at the paintings and kissed.
It seemed like everyone in Paris was kissing. Couples kissed on the metro. They kissed while they waited in the cold to enter the Eiffel Tower elevators, when they walked through the frozen Tuileries garden, in the circular rooms of the Orangerie, and on the sidewalk outside my apartment. Paris is the most romantic city I have seen. I am the observer. l did have a kiss; a thank you kiss for a pleasant evening of dining in a famous Parisian bistro. I shared a polite kiss, awkward and uncomfortable; a distant kiss, light and fragile; unsure if it should have been given or received at all. This is not the kiss of Paris; passionate and inseparable in embrace like the marble statues, or red and glowing like the oil of masterpieces.
The waiter has introduced himself to me. His name is Michael. The patrons at the table opposite have turned several times, smiling until they build their courage to ask if I am from the USA. They come over to compliment my computer, anything to begin a conversation. I talk to them in a southern drawl, and the portlier of the two asks for my phone number. He leaves by plane in the morning for southern France, and wonders when I will be back to visit Paris. His companion, who I am told is wealthy, laughs. His English is not as good. Michael watches. He is an observer too.
Michael watches all his patrons. He knows their eyes, their expressions, the way they walk. I tell him that I am an observer as well. He reads a story from my lap top and serves me anther glass of wine. He smiles each time that he passes and lingers between customers to discuss Obama, Paris, and love. He tells me that I am sexy, not old, and we both watch each other. I turn off my laptop to pay my bill, finish my second glass of wine, and wonder if tonight, peut-etra, if my French will improve, and two observes will stop observing.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Contemplating What to Order in a Paris Bar

I perch on a low stool in the small Hemmingway Bar at the Ritz in Paris. It is the evening of the first day of the New Year. I contemplate my choice of drink. I will need to order soon. I usually choose Merlo. It is comfortable and known. I love the smooth red taste, every glass just like the one before, a known quantity and not too expensive. But this is Paris.
How about a glass from an old French vineyard? I could enjoy grapes from vines inherited in estates passed down from generations. Perhaps a Chateau Lafite Rothschild? I might enjoy a sip of wine with a long pedigree, luxurious, smooth and reserved. It is something to consider.
But this is not what I want. I see a woman with a glass of whisky on her table. It sits undisturbed in a cut crystal glass. She doesn’t touch her drink. She is dispassionate for her whisky, straight up. I want to walk over to her table and snatch her glass.
My attention shifts. I think of beer, fresh, foamy and cold. Beer is a drink for the young, drunk from the bottle. I see the image of a baby bottle and laugh. I feel too old for a beer.
This intimate bar, lit by white Christmas lights on the banisters, wooden stools with leather seats, and dark carpet is named for the great old writer Ernest Hemmingway. First edition brown and gold leather bound books line the shelves behind my head. I pick up a tiny volume, and open to the title page. I see that it is from 1814 and signed. A very long time ago, I managed a book store and collected first editions. As I cradle the ancient volume in my hands, I think about my drink order. No, I am too old for beer.
At a nearby table, another woman fingers the glass of a Manhattan. Her untouched drink stands in a red martini glass. Sophisticated like its name, this drink is a work of art, something that I, an artist, can appreciate. I watch as she aloofly takes a swallow. I could grab her drink and guzzle it down, but that would cause a scene, too much for this quiet bar where couples whisper to each other.
I think of the whisky again. The woman, who was served the drink, remains staring at her glass. Perhaps she wishes she had ordered something different, not such hard booze, unblended, unsophisticated, and too strong for her. This is what I want.
The waiter arrives. He is deferential, and smiles with tight lips. His thoughts are transparent behind his smile. He folds his hands in front of his white jacket. He offers that I might like the like bar’s special after dinner drink, The Serendipity, made with mint, apple juice, an unfamiliar liqueur, and champagne.
Yes, champagne. I have been drinking champagne all night, and last night as well. At the Bar Vendome, where the piano player sends mellow songs into the air from a large black grand piano, and famous patrons go to hide in nooks which guarantee they will be seen, I ordered what I could afford, the Ritz Brut. I wanted the Dom Perignon. At the Vendome, I split the bottle of the Brut with my girlfriend. Perhaps I should have waited for the proper champagne. I giggle to the waiter in white, filled with the tiny bubbles, and order The Serendipity.
I listen to the young German investment bankers beside me. They try to seduce two French girls. They speak in English, the common language of the two pairs. I join in the conversation.We laugh and discuss; Tolkien, the economy, Frankfurt, and love. I warn the girls to not be reserved, like I was at their age. I freely offer, from my champagne filled brain, key words of wisdom gained during my 58 years: go take these young men to bed and have a great time tonight. They only have two days left on their holiday. They work long hours. This is the time that they have. The investment bankers love me. When I turn back to my table, I hear them praise the words of the older American women. I taste my Serendipity. It is light, fresh and smooth. I love this Parisian bar.