Allons enfant, terribles!

( NOTE: Mercury in retrograde in full throttle. I wrote this article for 3 hours and the work is gone. I’m re-writing this, but to put it mildly, not in the best mood.)

Happy Bastille Day! I love the French. I’m a Francophile, c’est moi! In French class, my name was Lizette, which of course quickly the class turned into Sleezette. (Foreshadowing?)

My parents met on Bastille Day, July 14, 1958. He fell in love with her feet. If it wasn’t for the French, I wouldn’t be here, I spose. It was at University of Illinois, Champagne Urbana, or Urbana Champagne. Hot. Middle America, far from the arrindosemens and Jardin de Luxembourg. My mom was downstate from Chicago taking art classes in painting and drawing. Her major was advertising at the time, but later, weary of being the only woman in the department of mad men, switched to art. She would later get her MFA at San Jose State in costume design. My dad at the time was studying business, though later he would switch to electrical engineering and get his PhD at Stanford while working in the fresh and new Silicon Valley at IBM.

So, on this day, 54 years ago, the day was hot and my dad was feeling French. My fashionable mother was wearing sandals that showed off her beautiful arched foot. She could have been a dancer with those feet and my structural engineer father couldn’t get over them. Long and short, the years unfolded: correspondence long-distance after she went back to Chicago to Navy Pier, my dad breaking up with her after he got in his head that he needed to be a bachelor business man, she was blase, started dating West Point guys, my dad got jealous, they got back together, she crashed his car, his father died suddenly, they got married in Chicago, she in a wedding dress she made in two days, they came to San Jose for a job at IBM, my mom cried for a year missing Chicago, she went to visit in winter and she cried again for California, she got her MFA and did costumes, then set design, he got his PhD and worked, they went to Grateful Dead concerts and Monterey Pop, they had me, we went to Stanford Sierra Camp, they had my brother, we lived. She well…passed suddenly on the eve of their 49th wedding anniversary.

That. In a nutshell. So now, Bastille Day has a different resonance of independence. My father. He’s amazing. Grieving in grace, and living even more gracefully. He is the Arc de Triomphe.

Two years ago, only weeks after my mother’s death, Bastille Day rolled around. I’d been with my father, but had to come back to Los Angeles for my son. I couldn’t attend my friend’s wedding in Slovenia, but threw her a French bachelorette party. I’ll always think of Natasa, too, on Bastille Day. It was a wonderful way to take my mind off deathly things and think more about feathers and Moulin Rouge. Then, met up with Big A at a DJed French party. Soirees, remember, are the joie de vivre.

Here’s an article of why I love France.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/13/world/europe/austerity-reaches-the-hollande-government-in-france.html?pagewanted=all

Francois Hollande’s government taxing 75% of incomes of those over a million euros, gaining $399 billion in tax revenue. And the rich are settled with paying it if it means tuition paid, health car paid. They’ll still be rich and the poor will be richer and the esprit de corps spread to the whole society. Can we imagine that kind of expansive thinking? My friend Carla had her baby Chloe in Paris. She was in the hospital for a week. Are you ok?? I asked, worried. Oh, yeah, she said. That’s what the French do. It’s like a spa for mothers and fathers to relax and bond with the child. The French love the French.

The first time I went to Paris was with my first boyfriend. Never do that. It’s like taking sand to la plage, n’est-ce pas? You’re supposed to meet and find love and romance, not Many beurre et sucre crepes later — caissez! — we broke up.

More happened. More happened. Went to a crazy nightclub where everyone was dressed like Marie Antoinette. More happened. I went to Avignon in full spring, found a bridge and skipped around singing Sur le Pont D’Avignon.

The second time I went to France was with my parents. We landed at about 11 pm and got a posh hotel. My practical night-owl dad then said, “Why don’t we take in the sites at night? Less traffic!” So, we piled back in the car for 45 minutes and drove around to the Champs d’Elesses, the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe. Paris is gorgeous at night, so, we got it and here’s where it got very Chevy Chase. Round and around the Eiffel Tower, hours and hours later we were on our on tour de France. My Dad couldn’t remember the name of the hotel or the name of the street. All the cobblestones, with stains of the bloody revolution growing more vivid by the hour, looked the same. He kept trying to retrace his steps, get caught on the Eiffel Tower loop. Jet lagged, worn out and whacked, he somehow miraculously found it by dawn. We had to stay in the room all day while my dad slept and we were so ready to get on to Holland at that point, we never even saw Paris on that trip.

I’ve been to France many more times over the years. So many adventures. More French highlights:

Arrete Arreste!:

My friend Carla was living in Paris, with the Eiffel Tower as a backyard. We went shopping at Zara, I believe. I tried on a black maxi dress and decided to buy it, but the security tag had ripped a hole in it. Naturally, I swapped it for another one. When I got to the cashier, flames of frothing fireworks and “va tu faire fou-tous” came at me. As the security guard was escorting me away, my friend Carla jumped in to learn that they were arresting me for trying to steal the dress. What? I was at the counter BUYING the dress. Carla literally had to pry the security guard off me and hang up the phone to prevent the cursing cashier from calling the police. Mystifying.

Oeuvre le Louvre:

I was 18 and had been studying in London. I told my parents if they didn’t cash the bonds my grandmother had given me and buy a Eurail pass, I’d hitchhike alone and probably end up mangled by a French tickler and end up in a French ditch outside of Toulouse. They wired it to me. On a night train from Calais to Paris, I shared a compartment with a hot Irish bloke. He made it clear he would tolerate me for the afternoon before his next train to Barcelona, so we went to the Louvre. Three hours of running around, a few Caravaggios here, a night of the Balthazar there, a few more odalisques, many Venus’ with arms and without later, he decided he was in love with me. I remember the moment. We walked into a room and I blithely said, “oh, caryatids.” He looked at me, shocked, impressed and amazed that I knew what those were. He’d assumed I was a typical American and I explained, well, I’d almost had enough credits for an art history minor. Suddenly, he was all over me, asking me to come to Barcelona to stay with him for the month. Merd! F! Young and dumb, I said no. I wanted to have a trip of my own and really get to know France and practice my French before skipping off to Spain. (At the time, the trains weren’t exactly connected time-wise and I pictured myself waiting and waiting while I could have been sipping wine in a cafe.) Quel stupide! I’ve regretted it ever since, romance was in my palms. Little did I know I’d have way too much time, 4 months of time on my own until a budget of 10 bucks a day, sleeping on night trains from one country, waking up in another, a diet of wine, bread and cheese, made me skittish of horned cows in Switzerland. Oh….where are you now, my louvre lover?

Jack Off All Trades:

From the Louvre, my louvre lover man and I parted at the train station. I looked at the schedule. Oh! Marseille! I’d always wanted to go there and I love the anthem La Marseillaise. Oh, and my dad lived in Nice for a bit while training for IBM, I’ll go there. Hopped on a train. This pass was beautiful I thought, as it snaked around the French Riviera. All the wealth. Oh, a tunnel. A very, long, dark tunnel. Oh the light….agh! I look over and a long-haired French man has his grande bouche de noel out and is making some beurre blanc. Agh! I ran out to alert the garde. He shrugged.  Didn’t care. All he said was “Passport?” So French.

Cannes:

I made a short film with my friend, Rob Steiner. He entered it into the Cannes Film Festival and Market, and while I thought he’d join, he couldn’t afford it, he said, and left it up to me to get distribution. Great! I’d been bumped from my trip back from Manila that year so I had the credit. And there was ONE space left in the cheap ass hostel right down from the fest.To Cannes with love!

I waited at the hostel, but my bus had come in late. The concierge had locked and gone. I wandered around, jet lagging and the caught the nightly fireworks display. All would have been romantic, but my pounding on the door meant that I was going to have to sleep outside on my suitcase. Everybody must have still been out, so exhausted, I curled up in front of the doorstep on my large suitcase full of party gowns, heels, bling, hot ass bathing suits. Got to dress up, right? You’ve seen pictures! It’s Cannes. (Ok, that’s if you have a limo, handlers, and a g-dang hotel room. NOT when you are lugging your crap around to a youth hostel for 5 euros a night. (A co-ed dorm with bunk beds, I was soon to learn…I’ll get to that.)

So I curled up and the neighbor must have heard my knocking. A grizzly long-haired man who reeked of smoke and stood there in cerulean tight underwear, ushered me in. Groggily, he pointed to a loft bed. I was so confused and so tired, I climbed up the ladder. Was this the hostel, I wondered? I fell asleep eventually, freaking out, thinking after I fell as asleep, he would come molest me. But actually, I slept very well.

Until I popped up at 6 am. I wanted out of this strange guy’s place. Six am people were rolling back in to the hostel, so I knocked again. This time, the door opened to two bunks beds, with six beds total. Co-ed. The guy who opened the door was still tipsy, taking off his party tie, and asked if I wanted to crawl in with him. I said uh, huh?, pretending not to understand. He shrugged and crawled into the bed directly above me, falling fast asleep. Sleezette forever, I guess.

The next morning, I yelled at the woman who owned the hostel for not showing up, but to no avail. She was a nightmare. I forgot to mention that along with the party gear, at the request, I brought 5 cartons of duty-free cigarettes. I learned later that she requests this of all her boarders. She pays you when you get there. This was not a host and you were bringing the courtesy gift. This is an actual hotelier. I apparently was the only one who actually followed through. Obviously, she loved me for it, but I still had to haggle about getting one night free. It didn’t matter….I was (roughing it!) at the richest soiree in the world!

The fest….I was a busy bee there! By the end of the week, I made tons of contacts, held screenings, and got a distributor. As far as film fests go, Sundance is great, but you really can die in the cold if you don’t get into a party. At Cannes, say the yacht is full? The beach has movies playing, bands string around, hotels have parties going on — The Croissette is always hopping. I stopped to rest on the beach one night and out of nowhere the most adorable children surrounded me with loving hands and hugs. Oh, so joyous, I thought. Until just as quickly they were gone: with my sunglasses and my sweater! Gypsy bitches! I was crestfallen, until 10 minutes later a bunch of Swedes came up and invited me to the Swedish party. What luck! What better luck? The swag bag was a brand new pair of sunglasses! Better than what I’d had. Now that’s providence.

But I still missed the sweater. So the next day, just for kicks, I went to the police station to file a report. I really just wanted to see if efficiency had any bearing. On my way, I met the guy who was sleeping on the bunk above me. He was cute! From Mexico and there to do research for his own festival that he was starting, we hit it off and palled around the rest of the festival. Oh, and every day at 2 pm, we’d have an “afternoon delight” back in the hostel kitchen, by the window, on the sink counter, by the fridge….

Except the last day of the fest. I still feel badly about this. My Cannes pal and I had made a plan to spend the next week in Cinqueterra. He had a place set up and it was to be romance bliss. Yes, it would have been nice…but the night before I was swept off my feet by another dashing Irishman (what is it with Irish men in France?). Gabriel. Gabs. Oh, yes. (Oh, that reminds me. He called yesterday. I missed the call and my messages were full. Must call him tomorrow.)

Anyway, Gabs and I met at some hotel, he’s a Cannes regular, so he’ll remember. A walking Gregory Peck. I was sitting on the couch and he asked me to “watch” this hot blond Russian woman for him, while he had a meeting about his script over in another part of the lobby. “Like babysit a Russian for you?” Yeah, something like that, he smiled wryly. I thought it was hilarious and was whipped! I watched him have his meeting as he looked over occasionally. I wasn’t a good minder; the Muscovite wandered off. Gabs came back and didn’t care. He said, good. Now I can take you to the Chopard party. What a night! What swag! By the end of the night, he with his friends demanded I get in their cab back to the villa. How could I argue? We went back to gather my large bag and my Cannes pal was there, crying after me: “Where were you this afternoon? I waited! What about Cinqueterra?” I was torn, but what could I do? The cab was honking. I ran.

Ahhhh, the villa. I’d already done all the work I needed at the fest, so now it was swimming and relaxing and falling sweetly in love. We talked books and scripts. He’d written several of both and was always getting investors and financiers with his gift for the “gab” and the way he wore his suit. He had one in particular, about John Dillinger, he wanted me to read. This was years ago, mind you, years before Public Enemies. At the end of the day, Gabs’ script was better. More about all the public enemies…anyway, back to Cannes.

Gabs then made plans for us. He was taking me back to his flat in London before I had to head off to meet up with my friends in Breda, Netherlands. We went into town a few days later, closing up the villa. The trains were full until later, everyone leaving, the town lonely and emptying out. I shiver at that after-fest vibe, with the streets empty that were once full of revelers. I wandered around and bought a dress. (Always a dress in French towns…) In fact, I might wear the dress tonight to a Bastille Day party where hmmmm, will I run into the Big A? More on that later.

We got the last train out of Cannes. So tired were we, we made ourselves comfortable underneath the seats so we could spread out and cuddle. French trains are so clean and it was oh, so romantic, even on the ground. He put his suit jacket over me as we spooned. When the conductor asked for our tickets, he was surprised but smiled at the hands showing our ticket from the floor.

That might be a great way to end for now since I have to figure out what to wear to my Bastille Day party.

I have to include two last trips in their glories, in already written essays. One, was a month-long trip I took my son Momo on for his 11th birthday. French museums are free until age 10, so with his birthday in January and me dating an Israeli pilot at the time, I thought a perfect trip would be Paris for New Years, all through France, 11th birthday in Toledo, Spain, all through Spain, then Gibralter, short-stint in bordertown Ventimiglia Italy, and on to Morocco.

The second blog is with a boyfriend to Belle Isle, ah the lovely Brittany!

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