Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Desires of Desiree Fauchon (Conclusion)

     It was an easy go. By the time afternoon had come they had pedaled quite a ways, and found the inn they had been seeking, right off the throughway. They ordered chowders, and a pitcher of stout. By the time they finished, they were well warmed, and ready to deal with the headwinds they would face returning. But all went well. The sun shone and the headwinds were light. They made good time. When they got back to their inn, however, they had decided to call it a day for England.
     The entire ride back, through the tunnel again, Roget kept his silence. Trixeme played more T. Rex and Who over his car stereo, and once they were back in France, everything was again, all too weary and plain.
     “You can’t ever get away from yourself, however you try,” said Roget.
     “Ah yes” added Trixeme, but you can’t but cease trying. To get out of ourselves, off our fine comfort station, to risk, to give a chance that somehow something might turn out a little different, just for having tried?”
    “Perhaps I am just too world weary  now, only I have what I have long sought, a woman’s fine love. I will resign to whatever blessing that means. “
    “I am afraid they are always a lesson we are constantly learning, Roget.” Trixeme’s smug smile spoke of not more than his moment, reflecting on his now lost wager of a weekend.
     When the car pulled in at the cottage, Roget was puzzled. Here were two extra cars outside- Claudine, he recognized. But the other? He did not. They pulled their bags from the trunk, and Roget thought he could see a hand pulling aside the curtain for a look.
    “Oh we are back early. She was not expecting us so soon. Ah, well.”
    Roget drew himself up tall and opened the door. There in his easy chair sat Michel De Lamartine, smiling, enjoying a cup of hot coffee and a plate of madeleines.
Claudine beat Desiree to the introduction.
    “Roget, I would like you to meet a  friend of ours, Monsier Michel de Lamartine- the tennis…’
     “I am aware of who he is. What…”
     Desiree attempted an explanation, but Roget brushed her aside, headed into the kitchen, and poured himself a shot of Marnier. Trixeme sidled up beside him. “Another wolf on your hen, eh, mon ami? Not to fret. We shall make short work of him.”

     “Who does she think she is” fumed Roget, “Dredging up her old boyfriend as if nothing…”
    Desiree was now standing in the doorway. Her eyes a little downcast, but she realized she’d made a gaffe.              “Roget, I want you to know, there has been nothing here. Claudine just thought…”
     “Claudine, so, Claudine just thought. Claudine. So she is the one behind this! Claudine, decides you must make a fool of me in my own home! Look, there he sits, drinking my coffee, scarfing my madeleine! The pouf! This hurts, Desiree. I am giving you all I can give. And you let your little… ah what can I say. Where can I go?”
   Trixeme piped up- “Perhaps we can go for a walk along the shore…”
   Roget looked up. “Oui! Nous le ferons. venir, Trix, nous allons marcher le long du rivage. Et quand je reviendrai-je veux monsieru sortir de ma coquille oysterbed!” 
     And he grabbed his jacket, his scarf, and stormed from the house without a look behind.
    When they returned, of course, Lamartine had fled. Desiree had given him no uncertain warning, and of course, she was very sorry to have bothered him, she had no idea her husband would have become so jealous. But Claudine’s car remained, and Roget had all he could do to keep his temper as she and Desiree continued their conversations exactly as though Lamartine had never been there.
    But he did not notice, that while Desiree and Claudine held court, Trixeme had himself caught Claudine’s eye, and was in his own way, circling vulpine about her. He negotiated a calling card from her with her telephone number, and as mysteriously as Lamartine had dematerialized, Trixeme himself seemed to vanish from their presence. It was another two hours before Claudine herself had played out her string of tales, gossips, and intrigues, but eventually she too took off down the highway, headed back to Paris, and they were alone again.
    Roget lay silent in the bed, as Desiree cuddled up beside him. “You know I am only nuts about you and always will be, non?”
     “Non. I do not know this. I barely know what to say.” He rolled over and forced himself into the reserve of sleep.
     In the morning he was out the door without a word, driving to the office, where he was greeted by Marianne. He had barely noticed the curve of her calf within her stockings before, nor the way her hips were set just so, the way her hair fell in brown ringlets just past her shoulders. He made a pass. He was rebuffed. The very next day when he came back to his office he found a letter on his desk. It was Marianne’s resignation.
     Garconteaux was certainly going to be rather upset, but Roget noticed she had cc’d him as well. So he might have some explaining to do, when Monsieur Grand-G came this way again.
He could get by without Marianne. And he realized he was really playing another fool’s game in walking off in such a foul mood with Desiree. On the previous night when he arrived back home, she had gone to great length to make him feel as though he had become, once more, the king in his castle. But she could not yet crack his icy resolve, his determined ego, which probably required a little more subtlety than Desiree was currently capable of, at this particular hour.
    And just as though he might have predicted it, as he was musing on what Garconteaux might say, the telephone rang. And yes, the man himself on the other end.
    “Mobiele, I am so upset with you right now. Do you know how long Marianne has been a friend of my family? I gave her that job with you so that she might be able to spend some time away from her silly and ridiculous husband, who is not the gentleman. The reason she is so upset is that you, someone who has a committed and contented wife yourself, you are playing like a stooge on her vulnerable case. I do not want to lose you, Mobiele, nor drive you away, nor do I care to fire you. But you are walking on thin ice here, and you really must agree, no more will you play footsies and such games with your subordinates, do I make myself clear?”
    Roget had been trumped, put in his place, and of course, found a humble voice to apologize.
    "Of course, it will never happen again, sir. We have just been having some difficulties, my wife and I. I think perhaps this will all come out in the wash soon.”
     Roget, however, was not quite out of the woods yet. Not only had Marianne notified Garconteaux, but she had also undertaken to send a brief email off to Desiree.
    “Madame, your husband is making serious errors in his career and his position with me. I am his secretary- Can you believe this? Yesterday he comes into my office and sits down on my desk, right in front of me, as I am opening his mail. He tells me that I have beautiful eyes, and a fine and shapely body. Would I like to spend some time with him, oh, possibly, say, spend an afternoon at the seaside café, dining on lobster and some fine vintage? I am so embarrassed. You have no idea, Madame, what my own husband has put me through. I have come north here to get away from his cruel self, his beating me for no reason other than his stupid pride, his own position in life, he does not care. And I find your own husband is quite the raconteur himself, now I see! Mon dieu, are they all so easily distracted, are they all so numb to the feelings?”
     Desiree, for her part, was to say the least, more than a little annoyed to hear this. She had been doing whatever she could to keep Roget on her side, and had apologized profusely, explaining to him that her bringing Lamartine to Villers had really been Claudine’s idea. Nobody’s idea but Claudine’s. And now it was as though her own words had turned to dust within her mind, as though Roget had never heard her! Sneaking out on her – and his secretary, for Pete’s sake. As if he could only go for the easy throw, the cheap shot, the fast bet! Roget, oh, Roget.
     And so it was, that when Roget swung the Corvette he now leased up the highway around the last turn to the cottage, and saw the curtains drawn, and the fireplace blank against the sky, not a wisp hurling the promise of an evening’s contentment by the hearth, he had a feeling something was not settled well.
   Indeed it was not! Desiree launched into him no sooner than he had removed his cap, and set his coat on the hallway rack.
    “OOOH! I can’t stand this! How could you?”
    Feeling his best defense might be a pretense of ignorance, Roget put on a quizzical face.
   “How could I what, dear?”
    “Don’t give me that, ‘how could I what’ merde! You know well what I mean! You make advances on Marriane at the office! You have no shame?”
     “ I am sorry, Desiree. You drove me to it. You told that little sheepkin Lamartine while I was away, he could come by and foll and fiddle on his own. Well, I had to get even. But you are right. And you win.”
     “Damn right, I win! And you must no more make these, these embarrassing actions! After we invite Grande Monsieur Garconteaux into our little house and feed him on flattery and quinces, and you made such good progress with him…”
   “I know, I know, Desiree. He had me on the carpet this afternoon. I told you, I am sorry.”
    "Roget, I have been tearing my hair out over this all afternoon. Do you really love me?”
   “Yes, Desiree, I do. I know it seems stupid, but believe me, if that little rat had not shown up…”
    “Maybe you think you are less the man than him? Well I don’t believe that. And I told you, it was Claudine put me up to it.”
    “As it was Trixeme, put me up to a stupid trip to bloody old England to have “one last fling, old chap.”
    “And I would not be surprised…”
    The telephone rang. Of course, who might it be but Claudine. Roget rolled his eyes and laughed. As he sauntered to the refrigerator to draw himself a bottle of cider, he overheard Desiree’s side of the conversation.
    “Non! Really? You’re kidding! You are? He is? You mean that? Interesting. Well I suppose we won’t be seeing too much of you for a while, huh? Oh. You are. Oh. Well. Well it is pretty short notice. OK. Talk to you about it later. Hah. You too! Adieu.”
    Roget’s eyebrows rose with curiosity. Of course Desiree had to share.
    “She’s met the man. She says she has met her man. Finally. Well I suppose she can just have her cake and eat it…”
    “And this man?”
    “This man, Roget, is your own friend Tricycle.”
    Roget burst out laughing. “You are kidding!”
    “Would I?”
    “No, I guess not.” His eyebrows fell, again. “Well, wouldn’t you say…”
    “I know…”
They said it together-
     “They’re perfect for each other, aren’t they?”
  Laughter floated up the walls of the cottage and up out the chimney, where a passing gull passed it along.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Desires of Desiree Fauchon (Part 2)

      The little cottage that Roget had put a down payment on (this was actually a considerable investment, which required both a bank loan- cashing in on the firm’s good reputation, as well as his own)- and reasonably slender mortgage. Now that he was a homeowner, he looked forward to all the work involved in the fixing up.
     In the first weeks, however, he found himself at times flustered- as perhaps, old Man Fauchon might have warned him- wishing that Desiree had a little more interest in getting her jeans and her hands dirty. There was so much to do! The wiring, he could get done with a little help from the local electrician, the plumbing as fine, that was not it. The trouble was the attic as he found it was full of a jillion gewgaws and purposeless knicknacks- valuable only to the trained eye of an antiques salesman, which he was not. But nonetheless, he felt a need to organize all of it, appraise what might be worthy, and cash in somehow on these former relics of somebody else's life he never knew.
   It was located in Villers-Sur-Le-Mer, just down the road from Trouville-Sur-Le-Mer, where Garconteax (along with Crouvet, of course) had set up their new municipal project. As a part of Roget’s “promotion” he was to be put in charge almost completely- of engineering the new city plan. And there would be ample help, of course, from that other, younger partner, as well as a personal assistant, Marriane. And he would have first pick- according to the city council of Trouville- of the contractors and construction firms he would employ. It was not merely a matter for a low bidder, although that was a consideration. The project was to involve only those contractors who had shown adequate respect for the national Solar Energy and Design plan. And while they weren’t all that hard to locate, still, they were few when compared to the old school of brick and mortar men, who saw fit to “stick it with the union” and were, as such, slow to give in to the new paradigms and ideologies behind Green Design. A paradigm, of course, that Roget himself represented boldly in the flesh. “Meet the new boss- not quite the same as the old boss-” he hummed the Who song to himself as he happily rummaged through the attic, behind coffee grinders, bedsteads and decayed mattress springs, bundles of tied newspapers- some of which went back as far as the Invasion- (Not of Rollo the Hairy, of course, but of the Yanks and Brits)- and pickling jars, odd old pieces of china, bricabrac, someone’s pair of skis, a photographic enlarger, and several more layers of articles that sat behind the decayed mattress just beyond his current vision.
    Desiree crawled up into the attic now, herself. She actually did want to spend time with Roget, although of course, the dust now settling through the air had turned it a fine shade of sepia.
     “And what are you finding, Roget?”
    “I won’t get fooled again, no no! Won't get fooled again!”
     “Whatever you wish, Roget, just hand it to me, I will take it down and park it out on the back terrace.”
    “I have plans for that back terrace, Desiree. One day it shall have a zen rock garden, but for now, we will outfit it with a patio set with mosaic dining table and a sun umbrella!”
     “Yes, yes, Roget. Whatever it takes. You think you will also do the bar-be-cue?”
    “Oh, for that, I shall have install a great brick grilling space, with an oven that burns real wood and can bake our own bread! And pizza!”
    “Bien, cela certainement ne semble pas très vert à moi, alec futé!” Desiree chuckled.
“Arrêtez-le, idiot ! Vous devez penser comme un rustique. Avez-vous déjà oublié votre pays au delà ?” Now it was Roget’s turn to chuckle. But arguing over lifestyle was not going to get either of them anywhere.
     Roget’s smartphone rang. It was – but who else? Trixeme.
    “Hey, Trix! What’s shaking, you pommes-frite?”
     “Roget, I would like to come up to the seaside to see you. I have the week off next week. Everything is fine with my work, I trust your is going well also?”
    “Most certainly, Trix. I have now got an entire community to shepherd over, from cart to horse, from car to tram. And footpaths. And parks. And subdivisions, water rights, land grants, olive trees, apple orchards… Just what more would you like to know?”
    “It all sounds good, mon ami! Well. Since I have the week off, I hoped perhaps you and I might make a little pleasure jaunt. How about, just across to Faire Olde England for the weekend coming after? We could take the train to Dover and check out Brighton. I hear the girls there are- ‘like the moon’, eh?”
    “Come on, Trix, you know I am almost married.”
   “L’ mot d’operatif ce’st ‘almost’, c’est ne pas? Come on, old chap, let your hair down! Let’s do the bachelor roll! Get your feet wet, one last fling, before the lock and stock of holy matrimony steals your golden egg and goose your pantry!”
    “And how do you suggest I explain this to my beloved? That I am just going over the waves for a bit of fresh air- I can just hear her, “What’s wrong with our air? Is this ocean not fresh enough?”
    At that, Desiree pricked up her ears. “So, you are talking about me?”
    “Only in a manner of speaking, my love. It’s Trix. He is coming up to visit in a few more days.”
    “Well, there goes my plans of a weekend alone with you…”
    “But I will not be here. We will be traveling to Dover just for an overnight. You will see. I will give you your space!”
    “But I do not want space. I want to- how you say, ‘coccoon.” Desiree was now pouting. The frown spread across her face like a gibbous moon.
   Turning back to the phone, Roget was brief. “OK, Trix, you come up. You bring your bag and you sleep on the couch, OK, for two nights, then we travel to Dover, then we spend only two days and nights and we are back home by the Sunday afternoon, OK? There is big works happening on Tuesday. Garconteaux himself is coming up to check on how I am running the show. I cannot not be there for it!”
     “You got it, Rog. I will mind my best manners when I am in the presence of the Princess.”
    “She’s not just the Princess, Trix, she’s the Queen herself.”
At that, Desiree gave a smug, pleased smile, and could not resist her own riposte as a parting shot.
     “And if you get my man into any trouble, you sick old oaf, I will slice up your tail with my carving knife!”
     They could hear Trix give a short cry of exasperation as they signed off.
     The next day found Roget back at his desk. Marianne left him a large sheaf of the collected estimates for the various aspects of his new project. He was beginning to call it “the Doom Machine”, since for him, each and every aspect and detail seemed rife with potential pitfalls. Such things always had “cost override” written all over them. And for another thing, as it happened, not all of the residents of  Trouville-Sur-Le-Mer had wanted to see it happen. Some of them had been downright vocally hostile. They asked if Crouvet and Garconteaux had even begun to consider the aspects of possible sea level rise related to global warming, in their consideration of placement of certain facilities, like, the new elementary school, the five apartment complexes, the concert hall, and the football pitch.
     Just the memory alone of his first afternoon speaking with the town council- who after all the above complaints, had already made their decision to endorse the big idea, was enough to obscure whatever peace of mind he would get out of bringing the project to completion. And he had but barely begun!
     While Roget was at the office, Claudine had called, and Desiree let her ramble, as though there had not been any disruption of mood at end of their last conversation. Desiree did not enjoy, however, the idea of one single weekend out of the company of Roget, so she invited Claudine to visit, while Roget ran off to Britain to play.
     So they had their camps, once more, arranged for the set-piece de la guerre, which would commence with a bow shot. Who would fire first, however, was not yet in the strategies.
     Roget’s next unwelcome surprise was that Garconteaux himself had decided to come up to check in on things – he gave only the fortnight’s notice, and now he’d be arriving the very next morning. They would go over every little detail after its devil, and when the day was done, perhaps after a large luncheon, Garconteaux would drop in and check on the little cottage himself. So now, as well, Marianne was making plans for a little B & B where the boss could take his night’s rest. Roget could foresee spending the hours by the fir, Garconteaux with a hand tucked into his vest, leaning back, polluting the house with his foul cigar smoke as he reminisced upon the early years of the firm. Another migraine in the making. Well, at least he could count on Desiree to whip something up that would provide both conversation and satiate the old goat in some manner that would send him to bed feeling full of pride for the new young Turk, who would soon be making his name in a big way on the North Coast.
     Like all things planned by mice or men, however, Roget’s vision of a great evening on his account and expense was perhaps doomed by its great expectation. Yes, the next morning had gone well, at least, as Garconteaux inspected the very same papers with Roget, they had not had any arguments about the priorities of the project. But when Roget tried to interject any sense of ambiguity regarding the feelings of the few townsmen who had raised the sea level objections, Garconteaux became a grey cloud, shadowing his brow, and sternly admonished him.
     “We know that some people do not recognize progress. Look, if they really are so worried, then why do they not build themselves a seawall, a dike, or something which might at least prevent this sea creep- themselves? I suppose what they would really like would be for us to write that cost into the project too. But the council did not state this themselves, ever, remember? We are concerned with the development that they preferred and the elements we already presented. If there are problems, then they ought to have discussed and voted on this before. But has anyone raised the objection with us, ourselves? Non! I have received no letters of objection, and none have been forwarded. All this seems to me is city politics, and it isn’t like our firm to be sanctimonious, but we have already created the basic design. If we move any of these elements around, geographically, then all that would once again need the council’s approval. And we need this project to go on, simply because we like to rest on our honors- If we can get this one up and running, designed and constructed within budget, and when  the people see all the green elements for energy distribution- they might think again. And that might inspire their sea wall. I don’t want you to have to get your feet wet dragging the oldsters over the coals.”
     It was certainly a convincing argument, (maybe), but Roget went on to the afternoon lunch at the Olivia Restaurant with a predetermined case of gastritis. Garconteaux, gastritis… the two seemed to go well together, eh?
     In the evening when they had finished the second cost analysis together, they drove singly to the cottage in Villers. Roget went in first, Garconteaux pulled his Porsche up behind and parked rather haphazardly next to the stone wall which defined Roget’s new home territory. Desiree, who indeed had expected them, had spent an afternoon constructing a pot-a-feu which – her father’s objections overruled- actually left Garconteax licking his chops and asking for a second bowl. And after the second bowl, a fine glass of wine, and one of brandy, and his- Roget kept a straight face, but would run to the backyard to cough when he had enough of it  -everpresent cigar. Garoconteaux made a few comments regarding their furnishings, which, for the most part, being better adapted to a small apartment in the city, rather conflicted with the ancient stone and timbers.
    “You should try to get some of that old ancient regime stuff in here, Roget. Something to keep with this rusticity. It will be good for you, all this sea air, and the summer sunshine, when you have it- will keep both of you content. I congratulate your wife on the excellent meal!”
    Desiree blushed, but beyond his innacuracy of their not-yet-legal arrangement, deferred to his sentiment. He was a nice old walrus, after all. Desiree couldn’t see what Roget did- the persnickity, perfectionist, all-full-of-himself grand old city planner, but then again, she’d let Roget do the worrying. It was all her own worry, what the upcoming weekend might bring.

     When Trixeme pulled up in his ultra-light Pugeot five speed, all was still mist and shroud on the coast side where the cottage sat, plainly and resolute, smoke curling from the ancient fireplace into the low hanging greyness. Trixeme stood at the side of his car, jingling the keys, just observing. There were gulls a few doors down fighting in the sky over a fish. When one dropped it in flight, another would grab it, and in  this freefall flight the fish exchanged its master three or four different times. He chuckled to himself. Such was the world.
    He knocked on the door. Roget emerged, a little dusty from another afternoon of rummaging in the attic. Trixeme stepped into their lving room, where half of today’s  research cluttered the better part of the floor. Desiree was going back and forth from the patio with different items.
    “So! Tomorrow we will go to Merry Olde England, old chap. And how will Mrs. Thesaurus get through without her darling companion?”
     Desiree looked up, wrinkling her brow, and grinned. “Just fine, Tricycle. I have a friend coming to visit.”
    “That would be the one and only Claudine. I am sure you have not met her yet,” added Roget. He was never much fond of the times people called him Thesaurus. What was he, some heirophantic dinosaur? He made a rumbling sound, and clawed with dinosaur fingers at the air.
    “I am afraid I should not have had the pleasure, yet, that is true. Perhaps one day you might introduce me, eh, Desiree?”
    “Might is the operational factor. Now are you taking my husband away from me tonight, or what”
   Roget turned and assured her, no, he had arranged that Trixeme would spend the night on the sofa, and in the morning they’d be departing for the Eurotunnel Shuttle at Calais.
    The evening was rather well balanced, in any event. Trixeme had hauled out all the Marc Bolan records he could from their collection, and insisted on playing each three times, as well as drank at least a bottle and half (all himself) of their finest reds. Yet in the morning, it took nothing for him to bounce up, bright eyed and bushy tailed, and start prodding Roget from his slumber, and into packing his flight case.

    The trip seemed to take but little time at all, really just over half an hour, and when they emerged in Foulkestone, Trixeme headed out on the A297 south  along the coast. “It will take us a little longer than it would by going inland, but then, we can see our home country from the roadway quite a bit”
    Through Sussex to Brighton.  Through Hastings, where William the Bastard had landed, and changed the flow of history. Through Bexhill, Eastbourne, and Seaford.
     To Brighton, the stomping ground of Mods and Rockers, the ancient seaside home to fun and frolic, pain and hangovers for holiday British officebounds.
     Trixeme wheeled in the Pugeot to a car park and they lit out down the street to find a motel room. The first two they visited were taken, but the third was accomodating. They stashed their gear and headed to the nearest pub.
     Inside, they didn’t turn a head as they sat at the bar and ordered. Trixeme couldn’t resist but ordered a lemon shandy. Roget snorted, laughed, and couldn’t keep his mouth shut.
  “ Old T. Rex, he’s the Anglaisman through and through. I should buy him some bully beef and an old brown shoe!”
    “Now just a minute, Rog. I’m the one who brought you here, not so you could mock me, but that you should get your turn to pull a bird or two while the old hen runs the roost for you…”
     “I’ll have none of that talk about her. She is a sweet girl. And all mine. Why should I try to get myself in trouble- I have it, Trix. You should be so lucky!”
    “Well if you aren’t going to try something then let me. You play wing dude for me.”
    “Wing man.”
    “Whatever, dude! Hey check them out.”
     Trixeme indicated a pair of young women sautnering into the pub. They placed pocketbooks on a table and came to the bar, just a few stools over from Rog and Trix.
    “You really must see the Royal Pavilion,” Tixeme slid over a stool, as the girls were being served. Two large spiced ciders in ale mugs, and one, a blonde, turned to Trixeme and just as soon, back to her friend.
     “I say, I think that’s the fairest drink- You know where I am from I get all the cider I can ask for.”
     “Is that so?” asked the brunette.
     “Why certainly! My father ran the biggest orchard in Calvados!” (Trix gave a leering wink to Roget, who, expected to play along, was actually more amused than in any mood to help Trix out of this pickle.)
     One thing led to another, and soon Trix found himself invited back to the table with the two women. He gave a nod to Roget to come over and join them.
     “Allow me to introduce myself, I am Trixeme Dubonnet.”
     “Of the famous Dubonnets?”
      “Why but oui!” His affected English accent hadn’t lasted long. Nursing his shandy, he inicated Roget.              “And my friend here is the famous Roget Mobiele, renowned architect and urban planner. He is now designing a ciy right across the way over there!” (he indicated the shore of France out over the horizon on the other side of the Channel).
   The girls gave a somewhat interested look at them.
   "But don’t get ideas, mon chers-ami. He’s taken.”
    Roget indicated the ring on his finger. So much for the playing the bachelor, anyway so far as Trix’s stated plan went. But now he could tell Trix was winging it. He made an excuse, headed for the bathroom, and decided just to head to the hotel to read for a while. If Trix was going to get any luck, he looked like he had a chance well, Roget didn’t feel like sitting there looking any sillier. Besides, with his head in the book on treehouses, he wouldn’t need to make excuses for himself in front of two strange women.
    After an hour or so he called Desiree.
   “I know. I am here. He is out at the bar where I left him. Talking with two girls. No, of course not. Yes. Yes. Yes. But we are like one! Even if you are one thousand miles away, Desiree, you are but a thought away! Of course. That was why I called you. Yes. Yes. But I love you more.”
     When he hung up the phone he was surprised to hear the door open. Trixeme stood there, hair askance, looking for all the world as though he had just been hit by a bus. But of course, he had not.
    “Some wing dude.”
    “Wing man”
    “Same thing.”
   “Well, what happened?”
    “Oh, but it was horrible! I do not wish to talk more about it. Hey, let me have a cup of that ugly coffee over there. I think maybe we should just go home in the morning”.
     “What, and waste the money it took us to get here? I have a better idea. Let’s rent bikes and go for a ride, tomorrow. Let’s ride up the coast a ways until we decide we want to stop for lunch, then turn around.”
    “Perhaps that might help me clear my mind. Right now I think I just want le café and some time alone.”
    “My sentiments, exactly, Pour me a cup too while you are at it.”

     Across the Channel back in Villers, Claudine had arrived and was harranguing Desiree.
     “You, like I told you, you will have to do something more. Look, already he is flying away to play with the other boys, is he not? Well, you must do something. Who do you know from ages past, that you can invite up here and show him he is not alone?
    “Why ever in the world should I want to do that?”
     “Why? To keep your man, of course!”
    “Well, there is someone…”
     Michel de Lamartine. Fencer, three time national tennis champion, instructor to the nouveau riche. Was at one time Desiree’s beau, but she broke it off when they were both fifteen. And now, look at him. He was someone maybe who’d enjoy this challenge, if it was guaranteed that Roget himself would not. Desiree felt as if it had been someone else who had looked through her black book, found his number, and dialed him up, inviting him (if he were free) to come to Villers. Of course. By the morning train.

     When the lazy cloud of morning had slipped into the ether and the bright English sun cast its warming notes down upon the land, Roget and Trixeme wandered the quay until the found a little bike shop. Renting each a sturdy mule, they started down the highway headed back eastwards.

 To Be Continued...

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Desires of Desiree Fauchon

Part One  
    Light broke in mottled patterns through the trees outside their window, where Roget lay on the rumpled bed with his girlfriend, Desiree. He lifted his rumpled tousled head to the outside world. Somewhere, a dove cooed. He turned to gaze upon Desiree’s lithe body, slumbering on in oblivious wonder. Yes, he had done well, but Desiree was quite the handful, wasn’t she?
     They became lovers, as many do, in a fit of passion and infatuation. On the second day of their friendship, Desiree had introduced him to her best friend, Claudine. Claudine was every bit as attractive as Desiree, perhaps, but somewhat less possessing of street-smarts. Roget was always attracted to those with an independent streak. On the third day, Desiree had called her father, and introduced Roget by way of the telephone.
     Her father’s thick, country-Gallic accent barked out through the handset. “What do you want with my daughtair? Cannot she can cook, non cannot she can sew, eh, what possible good can she do for you, citee boyee?”
   “But Monsieur Fauchon, your daughter has made me very happy indeed-”
    (Indeed, what could an old fart like Fauchon know of the joys his daughter materialized from simply being? Apparently he had not learned the appreciation of brilliance. For Fauchon had seen his daughter many times as not but a millstone, a vain drain upon his meek resources, simply a mouth he fed for many years and was relieved to be sending out on her own, at last!)
     “Happy! What do young men know about happy? All you care about is to get it wet and runaway! I swear, if you so much as harm a hair upon her head I will come to you citee boy and strangle you weeth my own bear hands!”
      Roget chuckled inside. His “bear” hands? What, this dumpy suburban clerk, Roget imagined, handily stuffed into a maple armchair in the office of the Province Telegrapher? Fauchon would need to be swift on his feet indeed, and Roget knew this could not be.
     “Zo. Eef you think you cain handel my daughtair, zen you must take her! Take her, ziss good for nossing young upstart, with all of her tantrum and perfume! I loved her mozzair dearly- and yet, all she shows me in return is her lust for la cite grand and les lumieres neon! She will see, she will see, when she comes back hanging her haid in shame!”
   The shame of it, thought Roget, was that her father could see no good in her. For as he looked upon her, stretching with the first rousing of morning’s awakening, he looked upon her with eyes of love. What was it Claudine had told him?
“Desiree is the only woman I know who can blend desire with spiritual innocence.”
Surely this innocence was lost on old man Fauchon! Surely, her desires existed in a world beyond him, a generation’s timeline and a half, perhaps… nothing an old dumpy father could get a handle on, believe him or not.
      Desiree’s eyes opened blinking.
     “Ah, mon cher Roget, please fix for me un coffee si vous plait?” Roget was out of the bed in a flash, wrapping swiftly around himself his sleeping-robe, dancing into the tiny kitchen and setting up the coffee machine. Humming  rather offhandedly the melody of Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”- the riff from which was dominating his mood. And just at the point where David Gilmour’s barbed-edged lead guitar breaks out of the gathering dust of forgotten stars, he stumbled over  the chair Desiree had left impertinently out in the center of the floor while changing last night’s dead lightbulb. “Mais non! Desiree, I have stubbed my toe on that ridiculous chair! Come and make it better, would you?”
     Desiree began laughing. Her laughter, thought Roget, surely could destroy a thousand police cars. It could pull down temple walls, set free the captive slave, set a thousand doves off in a flutter of new hope and courage. Rising from the bed she came to the kitchen and approaching him from the back, wrapped her arms around him.
     “Oh, my Roget, you really have me this morning. I will try to be kind to you- Look, the chair it is already out of our way!” She kicked away the chair with a flourish. Still holding him tightly, she pulled him closer, and before Roget knew it, she had raised his mainsail once again.
     They collapsed on the floor as the coffee machine bubbled.
     Now, as it happened, Roget was not of such bad circumstance as to need the assistance of anyone to get a handle up on things. He had begun his career, as an architect, with one of the finest prestigious firms in all of Paris. Crouvet & Garconteaux were well known for their planned neighborhoods, with a full attention to green systems, and a high premium set on “walkability, livability, and sociability.” In fact, he had coined the phrase itself in a moment of inspiration- on an afternoon when there had been absolutely nobody left in the office- they had all gone down to the riverside to watch a naval reproduction of the invasion of Rollo The Hairy take place- and while he was sure nobody could do better to encapsulate the goal of the company, the managers made sure he was well paid off for it. The slogan now appeared on each and every of their business cards, and Roget as fond of passing as many as he could to the different city planners he encountered. He had a hope he might one day convince old Fauchon of the sincerity of Crouvet & Garconteaux and get them a contract for renovations in Fauchon’s little backwater. But that could wait. First, Roget thought, he must conquer Fauchon’s daughter. Already it seemed, he was off  to a good start.
    And when the machine ceased its relentless bubbling, he was up off the floor pouring the first cup for Desiree. “Aux sucre, ou sans?”
     He dumped a tablespoon of the stuff into her cup, and put a packet of stevia into his own. He liked it that way. The sickly taste of sugar had corrupted his young mouth- corrupted it to the tune of several thousands of dollars of his parent’s dental insurance- he wanted as little to do with it as possible, nowadays.
    “Roget, what is your agenda du jour?”
    “Desiree, I must be at the firm by eleven-thirty. Several of the city engineers wish to speak with us about renovations to important buildings. When we are done with them, we have to go over the plans. Several barge-loads of blueprints. It’s the headache.
     “I find your work so interesting! I wish I had studied archtecture more.”
     “Study is natural. Have you never been moved by certain buildings? Do you not think sometimes, I wonder why they did it that way? Well that was my young life in a nutshell. I was always affected by the grand façade of the palaces, the struts of le Tour D’Eiffel, the intestinal gaucheness of Le Pompidou. And so, one day, while wasting my ink in drawing class, I decided that the next year I would become a draftsman. Le discipline involved! Just what my stupid, anarchist mind needed. No more of this, dreamy clouds in my coffee, thinking I can overdo Piccaso and Matisse! It was then that I knew…”
     “I often wished I could have had a mission in life like that”, said Desiree. “All I seem to be able to do is break hearts. And I have never had mine broken, not yet. People tell me, well, just you wait, someone will do it! I am not in a hurry to know. But Oh, Roget, please, never to break it for me? I only wish us the best of health and living. I know you can do it. I know you will have a hard time with Papa, but I can show him, too.”
     Roget had no clue what the next few weeks would bring, of course, but he would find Desiree to be certainly more than the comfortable handful he could help himself to, in the course of time.

     Desiree was on the telephone with Claudine.
     “How is your man made of words, Desiree? That man whose very name speaks syllabus, syntax, and simile?”
    Desiree laughed. “Oh Claudine, mon Roget c-est le grand bachelor. If I can get him to succeed where others failed, I know he will make me so happy. I am already halfway there.”
     “Mon cher Desiree, I think you are missing something. Surely you cannot let him win you without a test?”
     “A test?”
   “Mais oui- a test. What man could ever hope to hold a woman’s heart, lest he break his balls upon the rocks of her fickleness.”
     “Don’t give me ideas, Claudine. Or, do. But Roget is so easy-going, I hate to think I can stretch him on the rack, or, guillotine his ass, or –as you say, ‘break his balls upon my fickleness'. He satisfies me, Claudine. What more can there be to l’existence?”
     “Mon cher Desiree, your naivete is so all-consuming. Do you not know there is no man worth his salt would not willingly take on a great quest, to win one he loves? What man respects an easy roll-in-the-hay? I tell you, in order to gain him, you must test him. Make it easy, make it difficult, whatever. You must make him think he is grand by virtue of his winning you. Make it a diamond, make it a duel, whatever you must do, you must never seem so easily pleased! For only then will he devote heart and soul to you. Otherwise, like all the rest, he will keep his eyes out peeled for his next easy ride.”
       There seemed to be a sinister logic in Claudine’s words, thought Desiree. So- perhaps she may be right. Surely there must have been something Mother did to get Papa’s devotion which compared. But their life was so long ago and faraway now. And there was no way of knowing, now that Mother was gone, of just how she had gone about it.

     Roget spent that afternoon at the flat of his best friend Trixeme. (Also known to most of his friends as Tricks, or as he more preferred, T. Rex, as he was an insufferable Marc Bolan fan). It was a humid afternoon, slightly seeming out-of-season, but made pleasant by the atmosphere of hope that had been sweeping the city. It appeared one of the scandalous city fathers would soon be getting a comeuppance, and the populace was almost impatient in their waiting. Not every day could they grasp the broom of fairness and give a clean sweep to the general corruption that usually set in when things became too staid.
     And so it was they laughed away the better part of the afternoon. Trixeme had been wagering on the European Cup (Roget enjoyed football, but not enough to place bets on it)- he was picking Barca over Roma, although it appeared Prague was going to make a strong showing this year as well. They discussed the discovery of a ship off the Channel Coast which seemed to offer a promise of diver’s treasure- there must be dozens of these across the North Sea and North Atlantic, not to mention the Med. But now, Roget’s fascination with treasure focused on one thing, and one only- how could he obtain a diamond for Ms. Desiree?
     “Trixeme, I not knowing what I am to be doing. You know they have been telling me that the diamond should cost a month of my salary! A month! And this you must toss away on a stupid little lump of crystal carbon, on a band of gold. Otherwise, is to say, you do not value the love of the woman. I say this is stupid! Think of the practical things might be done with that money, it could found a bank CD, it could keep a man and woman housed and clothed for a month, but non! You must spend it on a pretty stone to make the woman feel she is owned. More like she is owning you! I say, why not they should let us just give them rocks, like les penguins! That is much more practical- and the money can still go to where it ought to go!”
     "My dear Roget, you must understand the thinking of the woman. It is not because she does not believe in your love. She needs to feel that she has found someone who shall cherish her enough to represent it with the most indestructible substance known to man.
    "So, unfortunately, you must go and bring home this rock, so that the one who loves you will know somehow you will not run astray.”
      “Bah! All men run astray with time! It is only fair, for being locked in to this unnatural thing, which we know as monogamy. We all get bored, even the woman, she will get bored. You know what it’s like.”
      Trixeme frowned. Indeed, he did remember what it was like. But he felt he should not discourage Roget. Desiree was the sort of woman any man could be happy to be her arm-ornament, so he thought Roget should man up, take the bait, do the deed, just get on with it. Of course, he also wanted Roget’s happiness, but then again, if Desiree loved him, she would hope for that even more. Making Roget happy wasn’t Trixeme’s job.
     Roget blathered on. “She want a ring, she wants a ring, how in hell can I afford such a thing?”
     “Your job?” queried Trixeme.
     “My job? Bah! I am barely affording the payments on my little hole, I have money I owe on les auto, I have money I am investing in our company’s new project- I am strung by my hams and I am tied by my hands! Non, in order I may make the room to afford such a thing, I must play a game of shells with my investments and my portfolio. A month! That is only a doable thing if I might have a month off from responsibility!”
     “Then may I suggest perhaps you think on a smaller scale?”
     “How so?”
     “Well,  you need not spend the entire month salary, nor should you necessarily tell her how much you spend. You go get a ring, such a thing is easily enough found, and you bring it to her.”
     “She wants the fun of shopping! You know how they are.”
       Trixeme frowned again. Indeed, this was sounding more difficult than he first suspected.
     And when he took her out for a stroll along the boulevards, to locate a suitable bauble for her finger, Desiree did not make it any easier for him. They stopped in one jeweler, and then another, and went through about six of the poor men before they located something that agreed with her. And by that time, of course, there was no secret remaining in Roget’s intention- no way that he could hold off, put off making his proposition to her in a situation of his choice. Once he had put the bauble on his credit card and the device was attached to her hand, he grabbed her close in the autumn air outside the jeweler shop and put it to her.
     “Marry me, Desiree. Marry me, and the future will be yours, it will be ours. It will be our turn, under the sun. Our day, our time, has come. We must seize the time”- he pointed to the rising harvest moon that hung above the city like the fat face of a clown- “and make it happen! Success does not come to those who will not seize the time!”
     Desiree had seen him this animated, at times, but usually only when he was speaking to their coaler over the phone, or to some misfortunate younger partner at the architecture firm, who might have misplaced some important blueprints.
     But she shook her head, yes, yes she would. And that made both of them particularly happy. They skipped the streets together, singing lines from movies they remembered fondly. It might well have been their happiest moment.
     After the proposal, Claudine was given to frowning whenever Desiree paid her social calls. Frowning, and pouting. Apparently, Desiree had given in much too easily. Where were the real tests, that showed he was a man amongst men, a tiger in her tank?
     “Oh he’s good enough that way” smiled Desiree.
    “Non, Desiree, you silly thing – that is not how I mean it even if that’s the sound of it. No, how I mean, you must put him up against some fellow he’s intimidated by, and watch him defend you! He must… he must how you say, grovel to your whim, before you can relent. You have already said he pleases you enough that you will give in to him. But before you get there, you must make things difficile! Difficile, do you hear me?”
     “But I love him, Claudine. If I push too hard I will push him away!”
     “Nonsense. You must be like l’marlin! La marlin that tugs and fights and gives all le’resistance before he flops exhausted on the deck! Or maybe, he grabs the line, and runs all the way off even with the fisherman’s pole! Aiyee. You silly, Desiree. I’m telling you. The man needs this because if not, then, all his fellows will think that he got what he wanted without any trouble at all. And when the fellows think their fellow is so easy, then they will play him for doormat! And that will be the end of your marriage, because- then, the fellows will be all over you! You watch, you’ll see!”
     Claudine was certainly not making things easy for her. In fact, at this point, Desiree wanted only to make things pleasant now. Surely things had never looked so good. Who was Claudine, to suggest, she must now riven their love just as it’s been pledged to troth?
     I am not to be listening to her, this is so silly, she thought. And then it happened.
     That night when he arrived back at the flat, Roget was quiet, obviously preoccupied.
     He shrugged off watching the news on television, and even sitting at his computer, to fix himself a hot chocolate and curl up in the bed with the latest book he was reading- Treehouse Architecture, by some denair over in the States. Claudine sat alone at the table, picking at the meal she had cooked for them both, rather embarrassed. When she was done she washed her plate and came to the bedroom. She cuddled beside him.
     He barely turned an eye to her, when she asked “Roget, whatever is the matter with you tonight?”
     “Do you really want to know?” he shrugged.
     “Yes, of course.”
     “The firm want to transfer me. Up to Normandy. In a month.”
     “Oui. How am I to transfer there, just all of a sudden, pick up my life and go- pouf!”
     “Not just your life, but ours.”
     “Mais oui. That is what is on my mind. How will we ever do it? I cannot refuse Garconteaux, he’s something of a monster when he gets it in his head to be shuffling desks. I like it here. Paris has been my home all my life! What would I do up in Honfleur, paint lilies and design dock lifts? Bah. It is given me a headache, cheri. And that is why you find me here, such like this. Curled up in my mother’s safe womb, blankets askance, entombing myself with silly notions of becoming Tarzan, again.”
     She giggled. “Well, Roget, I know some people up that way. We could make it work. They would refer us to places we might stay, until we locate what we want. And I always wanted to live by the sea.”
     “You did? I never knew that.”
     “Oh, yes, I wished long ago I could live in a little stone tower on some foggy, forgotten shore, and like some ancient nun, draw water from an old stone well and grow onions and beets and carrots and potatoes. And perhaps my prince would come to see me in my tower by the sea, and he would rescue me.”
    “Mon Dieu, who am I, the White Knight?”
    “Non, mon Cherie, you are the King. And only to my being Queen. But I know you, Roget! You could carve out your own stakes there! Here you live under the shadow of Crouvet and the whim of Garconteaux! You could be your own fish in the pond petit! Why, I think it would be awesome.”
    Roget shrugged. He had grown weary of the term, awesome, it was so awesomely over-used.
     “More like, I shall be awesomely miserable, but for you. Everything will need to be packed up, boxed, and sent on ahead, and the money I was saving for our wedding, we will need to spend on the movers and the new lease. How will this sit, too, with your father? He is the rock of stability. He won’t like me taking you even farther north, where he will need to take such longer trips to see you.”
    “Oh, Papa – Papa really likes you, you know.”
     “He does? I never knew that, either. Most of the time, he is like the old crab in the mussel shell, waiting for me to make one little slip so he can grab me with his pincers”- Here, Roget gestured and deliberately turned his face lobster red, in imitation of an angry Fauchon- “and once he gets me in his claws, then, he will – patoui!- spit me out again into the big wide sea, saying “Nevair again you shall besmirch mon faire daughtair!”
     “If you really mean that, Roget, of course, I will refuse him that. I only wish to be with you. You know? We have happiness. That is good enough, and to hell with the world and what it might think. Even Papa.”
     And so, Roget set about making the plans for the move he dreaded. It wasn’t much of a fight he could put up against the formidable Garconteaux, of course, who was Junior Partner to the –almost ever-invisible Crouvet- and as one of the new blood in the firm, after thinking about it for a couple of days, decided he’d better just go with the program.

     Then it was Claudine’s turn, again, to get to Desiree.
     She called her just as she was managing to get a stack of moving boxes organized. So much of their time in the little apartment had been spent enjoying each others company, actually, there was little between them that wouldn’t have been capably managed in one or two van loads- and that included all the furniture.
    Claudine was breathless and Desiree could hear the exasperation she was intent on inflicting as soon as she picked up the phone.
     “Desiree, what are you doing! You have not even been engaged for three months, and now, you are pulling up the roots and taking yourself away from –everything that is good.”
     Desiree didn’t share Roget's, nor Claudine’s, perceptions of their native city. Coming as she did from Limousin she was not impressed, necessarily, with the self-centricity of the Paris-born. For her, her childhood memories had been of apple orchards, lavender fields, and grapevines, and shady oaks and lazy rivers. That had been all good and well, yet when she moved to Paris, she had been heartened to meet Claudine as soon as she had. In fact, if Claudine was her longest held good friend in Paris, there were few others back at home whose sincerity she could trust in. For all of the friends back home had matriculated, themselves, to Paris while young. Desiree had held out, but the call was eventually too much to deny. And when she hit town, it was not with a splash, but the little ripples a pebble makes when it’s dropped by a languid hand.
     “You just listen to me, Desiree! I told you you are giving in much too quickly! A diamond- what is that, a rock! You must engage him on the field of blood. Give him some decent gentleman to compete with! Surely you have some- some creature out of the past you can use to confuse him?”
    “No.” She petulantly waited for Claudine to continue.
    “Oh, nonsense. We all have some ghost from the past we can dredge up if we need to, who can-"
     “Who says I “need to”? You? Surely you must not understand me well, Claudine, when I said, I have never been so happy. He is the one. What you are suggesting is just little girl games.”  And then she hung up.
    Of course, that was a rather brave move of itself, to hang up on her one solid city friend. But she knew her own heart. Roget was a good and decent man. Games like Claudine was suggesting would – confuse him. And she loved him more than enough to wish for that. Now she was walking on shakier ground. But it would have to do, for now.
 To Be Continued…

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Fine Day At the Beach

     A fine day at the beach. Jim Collins watched his daughters frolic in the sand. They were well and cheerful. The beach was spotted with vacationers- here and there they sat in clumps, beneath beach umbrellas, sprawled about on towels, delving into picnic baskets.

     The air suddenly changed. Jim couldn’t tell just what it was, at first. But suddenly the beach was hushed, and a low flying jet could be seen approaching from the south.
Mouths agape, the beach-goers gasped in horror as they noticed that the jet was delivering a package.

     A three-hundred pound bomb, painted white, just like the jet, bounced on the sand not four meters from Jim, over his head, and those of his girls, and down the shore toward the waves.

     “Get down Terry, Kelly!” he screamed, and to emphasize the point, he gathered them in his arms and slammed to the ground. The bomb went off in the surf, spraying the beach with heaps of wet sand. Here came another, not but thirty meters to his north, bouncing down the sand and exploding.

     By now, people were screaming, gathering up their beach gear, and running for the coastal road. Jim did as well. Further away in the sky he could see them- more jets were coming.

     “Run, kids, run!” And they did.

     Jim, Kelly, and Terry reached the apartment house where he had parked his car in the underground garage. “Get it, get in, we don’t have much time!” By now the girls were screaming, too. Terry’s face was the perfect picture of sadness, drawn into a sullen and tearful pout. Kelly looked nothing if not confused, too confused to express the emotions she shared with her sister.

     Jim started the car, and backed out of the garage, tires squealing. He no more had cleared the exit than a bomb crashed into the apartment house above him, and more screaming could be heard, as smoke and car alarms began going off.

     He tore away up the coastal road. He would need to take the east-west streets if he was to avoid any strafing- and the latest group of jets were indeed, scouring up the landscape with scores of machine gun hits.

     Jim could not quite care how it had begun. All he knew at this time, was that the war had come home. And as for home, that was twenty miles uphill, in the highlands above Santa Barbara. That was where he would be headed, just as soon as he got batteries, fresh water, and some groceries.

     But the grocery stores were shutting down, as the grocers got calls from their concerned relatives, and packed it in for the day themselves.  One last chance- he stopped at a convenience store just before his freeway exit, and managed to fulfill most of the requirements. Enough fresh water for a week or so. Enough pet food for the dog and cat for the same time, and cereal, cookies, and frozen dinners for the rest of the family.
Maybe it would work. It was a gamble.

     When he arrived at the house, he sent the girls inside. Soon he could hear them chattering with their mother as to the nasty adventure they had but barely escaped. His wife beamed with admiration. That Jim had delivered them safe and sound back to her apron strings. From here they could plan what they might do– just in case the invasion happened to get a little more serious.

Read more about Mexico's invasion of the USA in Bus of Fools at

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Book Review: The Thoreau You Don't Know

"The Thoreau You Don't Know: What the Prophet of Environmentalism Really Meant"  by Robert Sullivan" 4 of 5 stars
     H.D. Thoreau is undoubtedly an oft-misunderstood figure in American letters. As he is in some sense a creature both of and out of his times, he stands alone (far surpassing his mentor Emerson) as a figure of initiative, simplicity, and uncommon sense. This little book helps to elucidate those facets of his personality which were mis-characteried as misanthropic, vainly rebellious, and antisocial.
     Thoreau sought to bring an alchemistic balance to modern life such as it was- to find the Eratosthenian prism through which one might live a full and fully realized existence, apart from the mediocrity of consumerism, and apart from the everyday bigotry that could typify frontier culture in his time. Noted as an Abolitionist, Pacifist, and iconoclast, yet Thoreau could conceive "circumstances in which to kill or be killed might be the only recourse." The man was no spring tansy, gathering nuts in May.
    Indeed, neither was he the solitary Luddite  which today's modern "Green" movement as would like to lionize him... He and his family made their "fortune" manufacturing pencils. How's that, Treehugger? He sought to exemplify a form of individualism which has been miscast in today's world as "loner" and "asocial" when in fact, he thrived on human discourse, was held in the greatest of esteem (and sometimes, less) by his colleagues and his mentor, Emerson, as a lucid and erudite social critic, and yet, by pushing the boundaries even of their compliments and praise, by his very extreme reduction of his own needs, he was tarred with all those negative labels by a country that could but barely grasp the branch upon which he sat for decades.
    It is signal that his work became better known only after his death, and that his influence only waxed then, as well. In a world that barely understands the meaning of individual greatness any longer, and indeed seeks to discount each individual's attempt for such as "delusions of grandeur", Thoreau still yet points out the way, and perhaps, the only way and method, by which a man might rise above the herd by sheer virtue and integrity.

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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Baseball, The American Way, & Etc.

"Give them games, bread, and wine, keep them from war, and they will be happy"

     The very first baseball game I went to was a minor league ballgame in Honolulu. The Hawaii Islanders (then, a Los Angeles Angels subsidiary) played--who knows. I remember neither the score, nor the opposing team. Mostly what I recall about the Islanders was their announcer, Harry Kalas. Who went on to much bigger and better things, like announcing tennis matches, and Philadelphia Phillies games.

     So my most memorable early baseball experience had to have been at Candlestick Park on June 27 (?) 1965, when my father and uncle took my cousin and myself to watch the San Francisco Giants play the Los Angeles Dodgers. Uncle and cousin were Dodger fans, needless to say, my father and I were not. Juan Marichal faced Don Drysdale in a matchup which the Giants took at a shutout- 5-0. Jim Ray Hart (the man whose fate nobody seems to know) hit a grand slam homerun, with another run driven in by Jim Davenport. We sat in the bleachers of right field, it was a night game (and long before they began awarding Croix's de Candlestick for the effort) and the biggest memory I took home from any of it was the large black woman in front of us who would jump up and cheer each time Willie Mays took the plate- "Hit that bawl, Willeh, hit that bawl!" The fact the Giants won was also a major plus, of course, allowing us bragging rights on the drive back home.

     I could never understand why the '65 Giants never got to the World Series. With Mays, McCovey, Cepeda, Marichal, (and Mr. Hart) one would have thought they had the best shot at it. But they traded Orlando Cepeda in the middle of it. It was my 'there is no Santa Claus" moment of early life. They traded him to the St. Louis Cardinals for Ray Sadecki, but a middling starting pitcher at the time, and the Dodgers won the Series. It was not the best of seasons.

    I was a diehard Giants fan however for many years beyond that, even after my Dad started getting free tickets to games from a contractor friend who felt the need to stay on his good side and offered him selected tickets to various games throughout the year in his box on the first base side of the Candlestick playing field, and during seasons when the Giants- even with Willie McCovey- were still not living up to expectations. 1969, 70, 71, 72, 73... throughout these dry years my Dad and I made the Candlestick trip six or seven times a season, and every season turned up a blank. Yet we kept going.

    Sometimes those weekend games would be doubleheaders- a fan could pay for one and stay to watch two ballgames. On those occasions something might happen memorable- but usually not for the Giants. I am sure I did not see Dock Ellis's LSD inspired no-hitter vs. the Giants, though I did see him pitch many times. I did, however, watch Henry Aaron break Giant Mel Ott's National League home run record with his 512th of his career. The scoreboard lit up a big "512." Poor Mel Ott. I had got his number on my Little League uniform (11). A Giant would not hold the record again for another forty years, until Barry Bonds reclaimed it.

     And so about that time the Oakland A's began a stellar run of World Championships across the bay, and Dad's erstwhile friend began giving him tickets to these affairs. Those 1970's A's were something else. Mustachioed, duded up like the old-timey ballplayers, wearing kangaroo leather grey shoes that gave them the appearance of mice in comparison the the regulation Rawlings black of the rest of the League, the A's won championship after championship with pitchers like Vida Blue, Rollie Fingers, and characters like Sal Bando, Campy Campaneris, and many more. I've forgotten the names. Not as if I cared. I was a Giants fan, after all.

     And therefore, as a Giants fan, I admit, at that age I was losing heart. I stayed away from active interest for a number of years. In the mid eighties I began to get a little annoyed that the losing years continued. My interest waned. I cared little for the team that could seem to do no better than hold a corner on last place. Something happened, or must have happened, however, because by 1989 when they made it back to the World Series, I was once more tuning in to games, and rooting for the home team.

     The great Earthquake of 1989 however put a damper on everyone's enthusiasms, and the Giants being swept was a large part of that. So they muddled on, and again, my interest waned. They threatened to leave town, again and again. Finally they stuck a spankin' new ballpark right down in the Embarcadero (where there's a lot less wind and a lot more sun) and Candlestick Park became but a bad memory. The new stadium (This-Year's-Corporate-Sponsor-Name Park) was a beauty. A wonderful and perfect place to see a ballgame, even if you did have the distraction of  a stupid giant Coke bottle out in left field and a giant mitt stuck in the air. (Do players get extra points if they homer off it?) One wished for a Paul Bunyan-esque statue to groutesquify the grounds as well. Couldn;t hurt. Instead they had Rusty the Robot, an idiotic Meal-on-Wheels that rolled itself around the right field stands. I was happy when he was retired. But at least he wasn't quite so retarded as Crazy Crab. And their new mascot, "Lou Seal" had a lot of character. Rude, lewd and crude, he would get atop the dugout and thrust his defiance at the Dodger-ese and whoever else was in the alien camp across the diamond. Things were getting better.

     But things were going to get a lot worse, at least, for the country. Baseball had gone from being National Pastime to a poor cousin to Football, with its trumpetry, galabalooza half-time spectacles, and the yearly annual chips-and-beer ritual of the Stupor Bowl. Baseball was boring, people said. Nothing happens. Or takes too long to happen. I never understood those people. baseball for me was high drama. It is never over until the final out and the fat lady is up there wailing. Baseball relied on skill, on strategy (perhaps more than football!). Football was gamesmanship, and as George Carlin put it, in the best of his comedic sketches, "more closely likened to war." Brute force is what football is about. Baseball takes wit, brains as well as athleticism.

     September 11th hit America and the shit hit the fan. All of a sudden, there was something real outthere, something wicked, and bad, which hated us. Americans came back to the poor cousin and said, we wish to make amends. The 2001 World Series had an electric and unifying effect on the nation. That a National League team, the Diamondbacks, could take on the Evil Empire of the Plutocracy (the NY Yankees) and win, gave hope back to the little guy, in 10-wheelers and barbershops across the nation. And by then I was actually earning a little money to afford to return to ballgames, so I started coming to the stadium.

    I found it absolutely wonderful to be able to forgo thinking about politics and the problems presented by "reality" and sit back and enjoy the sport in such a great setting. At baseball games, there are no Republicans vs. Democrats - & no false, silly intellectual posturing and sophistry... only Us vs Them. Our Team vs. "Those Guys". Things are black and white. I am no moral relativist. I care not for shading the world in slates of gray. I can understand duality. And in the duality of yin & yang there's a drop of the yin inside the yang and vice versa. But it's still as oil to water. You can see and define the parameters. "You can't tell the players without a program!" And there's only fellow Americans there to egg you on, pretty much, although there's an occasional Aussie,  a Brit raised on cricket, New Zealander, or Japanese in attendance- but all that matters is, they're rooting for the team you are.

    Baseball is such a great antidote to politics and beating your head against a wall about things you cannot control. and I think that's one of the biggest reasons I love it. More Bread! More Circuses! Go Giants!