Monday, December 27, 2010

At the License Bureau

By all reckonings, the process of obtaining a dog's license should be an orderly and routine one; a situation that would still whatever fears of bureaucrats resides within me and others who are somewhat anarchistic deep inside.  So I appeared at the registration office, and was served by this lady who appeared to be as old as her records, mad as a hatter, and hard of hearing as well.  The events of the interview did not go as smooth as planned, alas.

"Madame, I would like a dog license, if you please."

"Of course.  Let me find the hog licenses.  I compliment you on your civic-mindedness.  Few people think to register their hogs.  Oh, here is one."

"But, Madame, I wish a dog license.  My dog does eat messily, but I fear that the hog license will not do."

"Oh, I see.  The name?" she said.

"Françoise"  was my reply.

"And the breed?"

"I do not know."

"Ahhh, a mongrel."  I was both confused and upset, and this increased with the next question:

"A dog, or a bitch?"

"My Lord!  the choices I am offered are offensive.  Since I use make-up artfully, hopefully I am certainly not a dog,  And, while I occasionally have my moments, I try to be even-tempered and inoffensive."

"Young lady, we need this information to register your dog Françoise."

"I am Françoise; I am the mistress."

She said, "Oh, I see..... then we need to fill out this form."  [She takes out the Mistress's License Form.]  Now, let's see, you are female, yes?"

"Yes, I wish it was more self-evident."

"And you wish to be a mistress of: a politician, a man of affairs, a sports figure, or a rock musician?"

"Huh?  Does one need a license for that?"

"But of course.  The government has an obligation to maintain the proper professional standards.  Lately mistresses had been poorly represented in the news, with unsophisticated, uncultured people coming into prominence in that profession, especially in the UK and the USA.  This is to maintain proper standards of industrial quality."

"Oh.....I think I see.  The choices are so dispiriting.  Rock musicians act so boorish, wrecking hotel rooms and using drugs.  Sports figures do not engage in witty speech.  Politicians are embarassments all around (especially recent ones), and men of affairs are always working.  Is it possible to be a mistress of an engineer or a police officer?"

"NO!  Those are not approved categories"  [Utter shock.]  
"Oh, pardon me, Madame."  One does not trifle with the bureaucracy with impunity.  "I do not have anyone in mind in particular, anyway."

"Oh, one will be assigned to you, pending your approval, of course."
"Of course.  I wouldn't have it any other way," I replied.

"Yes, and you must also get the approval of the wife of the man whose mistress you are to be.  That is the rule, and it is also to see that standards are maintained.  A woman's social standing is compromised if her husband has an unsuitable mistress, one who might be seen in grandstands of motor car races.  You must take some instruction to obtain and maintain your license.  Oh, yes, you seem to require some instruction in proper dress."  [She was appraising my attire, a tee shirt, blue denim mini, and loafers.]

I eventually got her to understand that my status was to be a mistress of a dog.  But, curiosity prevailed, so I asked:  "So, what other types of licenses do you have?"

She mentioned a few. 

So, now I finally got my license, and went back to my place while musing on this surreal encounter. 

I did get a nice rhinestone collar for myself on the way home, and am reading the employment magazines looking for a position as a Warlord.  Er, Warlady.

Monday, December 20, 2010

In an Auberge in Bretagne

I must confess that I am in a free relationship with my guy from Texas, despite being separated by an ocean and seven time zones.  As a result, we must schedule our visits on an infrequent basis: every three of four months.  Sad but true.
On the bright side, we both have our careers, such as they are: he can be the mathematics professeur in the USA and I can be the government functionary in France.  It's not modeling, but it brings in my Euros and his US Dollars.
On the flip side, we are separated.  And I live with Maman, and feel monitored my her, despite my being in early 30's.
On one occasion of these visits he came to Europe, as he often does.  I met him at CDG, and we were to spend a 'dirty weekend' at an auberge (like a U.S. B & B) near Vannes, in Bretagne.  It was a beautiful inn, and refreshed after a delicious sleep, we were set to enjoy a restorative break-fast in the dining-room with other diners.
Now the Bretons tend to be direct; a fact that puzzles the rest of the French.  This waitress at the café enjoyed a malicious pleasure in asking embarassing questions heard by all in the café.  It is a way of throwing them off-stride, but providing entertainment and amusement.  Thus it was.  The maid in the café sensed that my friend was not French by his accent (improving), and so asked me:
Ton ami, c'est un Americain?  [Your friend, he is an American?] 
Oui   Un Texan.  [Yes.  A Texan.]
Ah........combien de fois ............  [Ah, how many times  (were you intimate last night?)]   
Me, I was puzzled.  How to answer this embarassing question, without troubling my guy?  And I sensed that it was to make sport of him if I didn't answer, or the number was unimpressive.  One must follow the advice of the American singer Tammy Wynette: Stand By Your Man.   I was not going to be the monkey of surrender in this case.
So I blurted out, "Seulement cinq fois, il était fatigué."  ["Only five times, he was tired."]
And, after a pause, I said, "Excuse me, but I am getting the fatigue aussi.  We must lie down to be restored."

Monday, December 13, 2010

Frannie and the Geese

Looking back, this presented a funny tableau; but it was one of my ungood days at the time that it was happening.
It was one of those cold, grey mornings.  Since I had many things on my mind, I forgot to do one of the requirements for a comfortable long trip of motoring.  I soon regretted it, and looked for a toilette that might serve my purposes.  I found a public one near the highway,
I was lucky, or so I thought.  My wish was that it be merely reasonably clean; being heated and having flush toilets and paper would be considered bonuses.  I was blessed with all those features in this building.  Yes, I thought I was in W.C. heaven
But then things deteriorated.
It was already occupied by the spawn of the devil.  As soon as I entered, these furious large white creatures assaulted me with honks and hisses, knocking me down and causing me to lose my shoe and purse.  I received several pecks in my legs and derrière before I could retreat to safety to the water closet.
It was a group of geese that did it.  They were probably placed in there by a farmer to keep them out of the cold.  And they did not learn to share.  Being of the town and not the farm, I have always been timid around geese; they can be surly brutes and can injure you.
So, my situation was this: I was in the W.C., and these geese were honking and hissing at me from the other side of the stall door.  A happy thought: they will become accustomed to me, and leave me alone.
No such luck.  One old gander seemed bent on paying back old scores.  Now my race and that of the geese have been at odds.  It was they who honked when my ancestors tried a sneak attack on the Romans, and we countered with paté!  The drawings of the little Alsatian girl herding the geese have her correctly with a stick, so she can protect herself.  Nasty creatures.  Not found in polite society.
I tried to argue with reason:
"I will go away and nothing will be said of this."
"I'm a vegetarian.  I don't like to eat goose liver."
"I'm a good girl.  I go to church."
"I have contributed to the Orphan Goosling Fund."
"I never say the 'm' word.'"
"I voted for Jacques Chirac."  Okay, I lied.
Can you bribe geese?  I was willing, but had nothing to offer.  Besides, the W.C. room was so small that all were close at hand. 
My time in there neared a half-hour, and I was desperate.  My remaining shoe provided no intimidation to this evil gander, who was by now sticking his head under the stall door.  [Somehow, flailing him with my bra seemed rather lame and unproductive.]  Regretably, no one left a plunger or broom in the stall, so I was really defenseless.
Finally, I found that if you took the cover off the paper dispenser, the paper came on a very large, continuous roll (nonperforated) around a large, hollow, wooden tube.  So I took this roll off, it being as long as my arms, and tried to use it to fend off the goose.  It had most of the paper still on, and it was heavy.
It happened.  I was either lucky, or the gander was very unlucky: he put his head in the hollow core.  It thereupon got wedged in, so it was like he was wearing a big, heavy collar like the people in Rubens's paintings wore centuries ago.  The gander was furious, and would spit fire if he could.  Since he was distracted dragging his toilet paper collar around, he was distracted and I was able to slip past him and the agitated geese, retrieve my shoe and purse, and go to leave.
My temper was beyond me.  I turned around, and give the gander a sharp kick in the tail for the miseries that he gave me, and ran as fast as I could.
Later on, the others asked me how I came by the marks on my legs, perhaps thinking God know's what.  They found it hard to believe that they were due to geese! 

Monday, December 6, 2010

My Flu Fashion Statement

I am convinced that having the flu makes one function less intelligently; a dire circumstance, gaving the low kilowattage at which I normally operate.
While going trough the rigors I had the usual fever, aches, sneezing, coughing, and honking sounds associated with influenza.  I spent the time sleeping, watching tasteless television programs, and being cross.  My surroundings and myself could merit being described as a 'disaster area.'
When I felt a little better, and required a visit to the pharmacie, I thought I might get some pastries and some magazines.  So I kind of got dressed: no great effort, thinking that by going at that time no one other than the news-kiosk and pastry shop owners would see me.  I could live with that, after a fashion.  The people who see you before your coffee see you in your rawest, feral, most basic state.  (No, it is not your priest, or the person who fits you for lingerie.)   
I put on some tattered, don't-ever-wear-outside jeans, an exhausted old gray sweat shirt, an old coat of improper length, a scarf to hid my Medusa-like hair, and sunglasses to hide the bloodshot eyes,  No makeup.  After all, this was just a quick dash in and out. 

Much to my horror, many people were out, and they seemed to stare at me.  Why?  Was I somehow indecently dressed?  Did my clothes clash that much?  Did I drool on my clothes while asleep?  I could discover no clues.  What made it worse was that I encountered several people to whom I had to exchange greetings!   

It was good to get the Viennese pastries and espresso.  And I got several lowbrowed gossip magazines that I hid in a folded-up copy of the newspaper.

It was only after I returned that I discovered that I went out wearing bedroom slippers!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Frannie the Altar Server

It has always been my philosophy never to seek out trouble; unfortunately, trouble seems to have a particular affinity for me.  Here's a case in point:  I was in my early teens then, hanging around with two of my pals, both boys, when a strange priest called us from a balcony, discovered that we were Catholic, and told us that we were to serve the Holy Mass that was to start in ten minutes.  Now I was a compliant child, and was in the habit of following without argument whatever the priest de jour wanted; had he decreed that I wear my swimsuit with the little fishies  on it for the procession, I would have done so without argument.
Now the friends both had experience as altar boys, and they knew the lay of the land that I did not.  They had a streak of mischief that I envied, somehow, but rarely expected it when it showed itself.  It turned out that they knew that curé (assistant priest) was nearsighted but too vain to wear glasses, and that the bishop wanted only boys as altar servers.  But I did not.  (I had been wearing a wind-breaker and a billed cap that day, and this might have inadvertently contributed to the confusion.)  Anyway, I donned a surplice and we formed for the procession facing away from the priest, who was praying.
Since I didn't know what to do, my friends told me to carry the cross, while one carried the altar wine and water, while the other carried the insense gadget (I don't know the word).  So there I am, a girl of 13 years, tall for my age, leading the procession while carrying the cross, followed by my two male friends, and with the nearsighted priest bringing up the behind of the procession..   
Anyway, the four of us do our stately procession down the aisle, with me in front carrying the big cross, and I perceived a murmur from the few in attendance, a stir.  I did not know what to make of this....
Now we get to the front, and I try to put the cross in its proper holder.  It tips to the side, but I catch it.  Good move.  Titter from the audience and the other servers.  The priest cleared his throat.  Then things settled down.
Soon it's time for the Gospel.  My task, one of the friends told me, was to hold the Book in front of the priest while he proclaims the Good News.  Now, finally, I'm close enough for him to see me,  The priest reacts with a start when he sees his Crucifer altar 'boy' up close.  He looked first at my long hair and makeup (spread on thick, I was just learning then), then at my chest, and asked my name.
"Françoise, Father."
"Mon Dieu!  You're a girl!"
"Yes, Father."  I look down demurely.
It's too late.  The die is cast.  The Mass must continue! 
But it was too late.  He went ahead with the Holy Gospel, but with a slight tremor.  I spent the rest of the Mass quaking, knowing that the bishop would pass all kinds of anathemas on my head.  I really, really did not know that girls were not to do that! 
At the end of the Mass, he told me to say nothing about that to ANYONE.  The town being what it is, my indiscretion became common gossip because some old witch (or whatever the first letter was) spread the word around.
Things change.  Today girls serve routinely as altar servers.  I'm proud to say that my niece is one.  But I was the first. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sleepwalking in the Square

With all of the exotic, alluring, and just plain fun sleepwear available, why is it that I wear pajamas?  But I do.  Silk in summer; flannel in winter.  I set it in regard to the season, like a true follower of René Descartes, I employ logic in my choice.  But should not that be right?  Anyway, to be honest, I do not have a lover. 
The answer is very simple: I am one of those unfortunate persons who sleepwalks on occasion; and have been known to leave the house despite the locked door and the bell that I set when the door opens so that I can awaken.  Fortunately, the streets of the Upper City where I live are practically deserted and untravelled.  Unfortunately, it is on a mountain; but, fortunately, I have had no falling out.    (bad pun) 
One occasion taught me prudence.  I was sleeping one summer night trying to beat the heat with a minimum of clothing (it was too early for the a/c) when I had one of my sleepwalking episodes.  After a while I was awakened by the police in the middle of the Place de Parvis (The Square in front of the Cathédrale) and I was wearing nothing but my short nightie!  Since it was semi-transparent, I was mortifed then; but it seems funny in retrospect!    
[Funny thing: I have worn clothing something like that on a catwalk; but there's something psychologically distancing about being on the stage and the lighting during a clothing show that makes it depersonalized.  Or maybe it is simply what has been gotten used to.  Anyway, that was not the case in the middle of the parvis at 0200 A.M. or thereabouts.]
The police were very understanding and real gentlemen.  (Really, they are.)  They loaned me a windbreaker, made a brave show of averting their eyes, and returned me to my home.  And allowed me the graceful entry without hubbub and the certain scolding of my Maman, who warned me repeatedly! 
About two weeks later, one of my neighbors that I met in the coffee house observed that the police were patrolling the Upper City more consistently than usual, and speculated that there was some miscreant aloof.  I was not about to tell the true story!