19 November 2006

Beaujolais Day 2005

Filed under: Reflections — ktismatics @ 6:42 pm

[This post will make more sense if you read the preceding one first.]

The guy with the mike was still pitching the new Beaujolais when, two days later, I stopped back in at the InterMarché to pick up two more bottles and some plastic cups. Anne had the backpack with her at the bus stop; I stuffed the wine and the cups down in there with the sliced sausage and the cheese cubes. Where’s the napkins? Crap. Anne ran down the street. Three minutes later she was back, a package of blue paper napkins under her arm. The bus was on time: we paid our 2 euros 60 and took our seats, heading for Nice.

When the movie started I opened up the pack, uncorked the bottle, poured out eight glasses. “You can go to jail for this,” Sonya whispered to Anne – but she took a glass just the same. The movie was ridiculous, hilarious, but we never quite found that party spirit I’d hoped to achieve. The second bottle remained unopened; most of the snacks, uneaten. Maybe it’s the French respect for film, especially art films, that preserves the sense of reserved decorum. We were at the Rialto, the foreign film house, all films presented in their original language with French subtitles. But this is Borat we’re watching. This is not an art film. This is a movie.

Walking to the restaurant a general agreement was expressed that this had indeed been a funny film, a very good film. I told them it was number one in America the past two weeks. Really? French muttering to one another. The Romanian gypsies and the frat boys and the etiquette teacher are suing the filmmakers. More muttering. We take our usual table at our usual restaurant, look over the usual menu, hear about the two specials, place our orders.

Soon Jöel arrives. He didn’t make it to the movie because he’d taken his and Rosenn’s daughter Laetitia to mass. Mass? Joel shrugs. The deaths have upset Laetitia a great deal. She has become friends with the catechism teacher. Now she wants to go to mass all the time. This time she took two friends with her. Though they send Laetitia to the Catholic school, neither Rosenn nor Jöel is religious. They’re not sure what to make of Laetitia, who has always been such a playful child.

The food seems to get worse every time we eat at this restaurant. Mine is too salty; so is Anne’s, so is Jöel’s . Why don’t we go somewhere else for a change? We’re drinking new wine, Italian, sweeter and less tannic than the Beaujolais. I’m seated at one end of the long table, next to Rosenn’s sister Sylvie, who’s still in town from Paris finishing up arrangements after their mother’s recent death. Sylvie is talking to Dina, back from Saudi Arabia for two weeks visiting her mother. They’re discussing religion: Dina’s Coptic Christianity and the Lebanese Orthodox church where Sylvie’s infant grandchild was baptized all the way under the water. Jöel sits next to Dina. He and I talk about jazz. I tell him about seeing Wayne Shorter this summer at the Juan les Pins Festival. Jöel remembers how Miles was already very sick the last time he played Nice and had to be taken away from the performance in an ambulance. Anne is at the other end of the table hearing about Löic’s recent trip to Las Vegas and Malibu, purportedly to attend ophthalmologic meetings. Rosenn is seated near the middle of the table. The room is loud; we don’t talk with her.

After awhile I start zoning out. Maybe I’m still feeling the effects of yesterday’s wisdom tooth extraction. Maybe it’s the wine. I can’t seem to pay attention any more to the multiple French-speaking conversations going on around me in this noisy restaurant. I find myself watching the steam rising from the big kettles in the kitchen, the waiters moving through the crowded room. Why do I live in a country where I barely know what’s going on half the time?

Anne comes back and sits next to me. We can catch a bus in twenty minutes. Jöel calls for the check, we split it up, everybody starts putting on jackets. “Next week we see Babel,” Jöel announces.

“No, sorry,” Anne says, “we can’t come next Saturday. Kenzie’s friend is moving back to America in December, and we’re having them for dinner. Thanksgiving.”

Suddenly Rosenn turns toward us, looking almost startled. “Yes, I saw something of Thanksgiving this week.”

“You remember Thanksgiving?” I ask. “Tarte de potiron?” We had had them over for Thanksgiving dinner once. They knew about Halloween but not Thanksgiving. They thought perhaps Americans celebrated Christmas at the end of November. We explained to them about the Pilgrims and the Indians. The pumpkin pie they had found particularly strange, pumpkin being a vegetable after all, more appropriate for soup than for dessert.

“Yes, very good,” Rosenn said, smiling. “Juliette…” I couldn’t see her expression as she looked at Anne.

“Yes,” Anne confirmed. “Juliette came too.” Anne and I had talked about it on the bus: that Thanksgiving was the only time Juliette had ever been to our house.

“Three years ago…”

“The week after your Beaujolais party,” I reminded Rosenn.

“Yes.” She paused. “We have no Beaujolais party this year. Too many…”

“No, of course.”

“But 2007!” We nodded in encouragement.

We all walked together into the soft coolness. “You are not cold?” Sylvie asked me. “He’s never cold,” Anne said. Sylvie shivered in her coat as we walked on. When Anne and I reached our bus stop we kissed everyone good-night and parted ways. We wondered whether we’d ever see Dina again, or Sylvie, but we had wondered this same thing before. When we got on the bus Anne called Kenzie to tell her we were on our way home.




  1. It’s interesting to see life and death through the rimmed glasses of culture and celebration. I think the piece is great, but maybe a little esoteric for people (like me) who are a little illiterate of French culture. More of an introduction (somewhere near the beginning) to the holiday and its meaning would be helpful. And maybe some more details about the characters involved, to bring them to life for those of us who don’t yet know them well enough to love them.


    Comment by Jemila Monroe — 19 November 2006 @ 9:50 pm

  2. Thanks, QuirkyGrace. Beaujolais is a wine-growing district in France. There’s a specified date when the new wine — the freshly-bottled, unaged vintage — is released for public consumption. Le Beaujolais nouveau has become the excuse for having a party, here and among Francophiles elsewhere. My wife Anne runs a blog called blueVicar, where she compiled links to Beaujolais stories written by American expatriates. I thought I’d contribute to the collection. I tend to write long posts, so I tried to keep this as short as I could. That meant omitting some background and splitting the story into two posts. I’m glad you were interested in knowing more about the people.


    Comment by ktismatics — 20 November 2006 @ 7:53 am

  3. So you live in France? Are you an expat?

    Just put up a few chapter of Memoirs of A Book Flirt on quirkygrace.blogspot.com Check it out; need feedback!

    Also started a new blog exploring women’s sexuality from a positive spiritual perspective, men welcome to visit as respectful guests and students :)



    Comment by Jemila Monroe — 21 November 2006 @ 6:45 pm

  4. The story is poignant…sad in its reflections. But there is next year…2007 is bound to be better for our friends.

    And the Beaujolais Nouveau in the movie theatre? Risk is thrilling, isn’t it?

    Meilleurs voeux!


    Comment by blueVicar — 23 November 2006 @ 5:41 pm

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