WE WERE THE BEST OF BUDS
My French-speaking G.I. Joe.
Jacques – his adopted name – talked a lot of trash for a guy barely one foot tall.
He spoke in cryptic, fractional sentences, in a beautiful language I couldn’t understand.
Possessing a limited vocabulary with a forgivable penchant for repeating himself, he was instinctively poetic and disarmingly chivalrous.
I didn’t care.
I was eight.
PERHAPS, I DIDN’T WANT TO KNOW
Repressing the truth Jacques was just another honorably discharged toy relic.
An ex-French Foreign Légionnaire action figure, soldiering on after The French Indochina War – battle-weary against Viet Minh insurgents fighting to topple their Colonial Masters.
I miss him.
And, my Hot Wheels.
Curious George book.
I’m exactly 2.0% French (*).
If you didn’t know.
Evidently, I was also more Italian a few months ago.
Then the creative geniuses at Ancestry (*) changed how they
screw around with validate Genealogy origins during playtime in the lab.
Presumably, by swirling saliva (spit) in a vile – switching from clockwise to counter clockwise.
Or, I suppose they’re shaking things in a beaker now?
Dubious DNA guestimating aside, eight years of once-a-week, 30-minute snooze sessions in elementary school French classes count for little beyond poorly enunciated, “Merci beaucoup” and “Bon week-end.”
THIS IS WHY I CAN’T SPEAK FRENCH
Sexual hypertension permeated in the classroom.
My 6th Grade French teacher …
“An effeminate male specimen afflicted with deeply etched acne facial scars, sparkling ‘Tangelo’ complexion of an unworldly origin (pre-Donald), and an uncomfortable social disposition tilting from awkward-to-creepy in the company of pubescent male students.”
… sported an ominous Jet Black Toupee.
The beavertail-inspired scalp pelt – melon rug – was ill-fitted in a gravity defying configuration of enviable height and triangulated position no GPS could possibly align.
Magnificent and supersized in a grandiose Bouffant style, it provided an endless glut of fodder and constant ridicule for a band of snarling 12 year-old cynics growing ever protective of their budding manhood.
To significant delight and no astonishment, Monsieur vanished one day.
Reportedly, without his furry pelt taped to his orange-shrouded noggin. The ensuing investigation by the school principal acquitted all 13 male classmates of any wrong doing.
I am in the early development stages of scripting a documentary with the working title:
‘The Unfortunate Circumstances of the Fabulous Monsieur Tangelo: Mes Cheveux, Mes Beaux Cheveux, Mon Dieu’.
“My Hair, My Beautiful Hair, My God.”
MADEMOISELLE: C’EST BON
Tangelo’s replacement, Mademoiselle, I remember too fondly, courtesy of an incurable adolescent hormonal developmental exercise mutating into ever happy daily chub’s.
Gulp … semi-flaccid boners tugging the bounds of my inelastic, off-brand denim jeans.
I remain appreciative of impenetrable hardwood desk tops sparring me further embarrassment from ever being called to stand at the blackboard during one of these many spontaneous surges of mistimed testosterone.
Mademoiselle was pretty, thin, and bitchy in an imaginary, flirtatious way.
A statuesque – taller than me anyway – strawberry blonde in her early 30’s.
Her most revealing attribute was an omnipresent ‘Pride of Hickeys’ tattooed like purplish welts parading down her neck, fading deep south in a Goodie Trail – I suspect – sufficiently below her cleavage, to warrant never-ending, conflicting arguments amongst my classmates of where the suckling stopped …
Made all the more arousing by the translucent porosity of an off-shade concealer that failed in its one responsibility.
You may begin to appreciate the levity of my French language dilemma:
My inability to concentrate as such polarized distractions illuminate.
A NECESSARY DIGRESSION ABOUT MERDE
And unoriginal, ignorant stereotypes of the French.
I adore British author Stephen Clarke’s Merde series.
Witty, reverent, transcendent to the embedded, appreciative reader.
I may become a Francophone, merci, Monsieur Clarke.
OUI, I WILL VISIT PROVENCE
To eat croissants – perhaps, deux, but no more that would be inconceivably boorish gluttony – and dip every buttery crumb into a warm bowl of Café au Lait.
Then travel by train to picnic in the Mâcon countryside by a clear stream with river trout and Fleur-de-lis growing bountiful along the banks.
My vintage Peugeot with its hand-strewn wicker basket, will overflow with crunchy baguettes, a fine Bleu de Chèvre, and chilled Sauvignon blanc.
The bosomy innkeeper’s maiden, whom I will call Natalie, and when I forget occasionally, Yvette, although her name is Eloise.
She will whisper Mischa to me.
Smile and laugh too loudly.
Kiss me with her eyes open and bite my lower lip …
I will reflect silently as I wipe the trickle of blood with a plain white handkerchief I swiped from the inn, in a way I imagine beckons the brooding debonair aloofness of Louis Jordan.
Because this is my privileged heritage – and Ancestral Normand Right – if not, my blasphemous opinion of how best to engage in the culture of my beautiful people.
OR, I CAN SKEDADDLE IT TO LA BELLE PROVENCE
To imbibe in another unforgettable weekend in Montreal.
Catch the Leafs beat down on the resurgent Habs.
Nosh on defibrillator-inducing poutine, peppery smoked meat on marbled rye, and quaff on quarts of Noire de Chambly black ale before night-capping it off at the cultural Ballet Danseuse.
Thank you, Ancestry, for the 2% entitlement.
BACK TO JACQUES: JE NAIS C’EST QUOI
He came out-of-the-box cloaked in military-issue camo sporting the highly prized Kung Fu grip.
A natty 70’s Eurofro – with a wide part that hinted at comb-over / hair-weave / plugs potential in later years – kick-ass Chuck Norris beard (I want one), and a fine pull-cord thingy to espouse his half-dozen pseudo militant, propaganda mantras.
And, rockin’ a groovy Unisex medallion the size of a dime.
Yeah, Baby Doll.
MY MOTHER – A SKILLED AND RESOURCEFUL SEAMSTRESS
Crafted Jacques a snazzy white linen jumpsuit salvaged from material remnants.
Not quite vintage leather-clad Evil Knievel or sequined Vegas Elvis.
Somewhere between Juan Valdez and Cartagena Narcos Player (pre-Disco era).
JACQUES: INSPIRING MAESTRO MUSE
To, yes … the Village People.
I’m over it.
Dos Equis’ The World’s Most Interesting Man.
And, apologetically, the falsely maligned Godfather of Hipsterdom.
Don’t think so?
Squint a bit – not much – and there you go.
All is forgiven.
JACQUES COULD DANCE
The Bad Ass Man Had Big Swagger.
Urban Folklore suggests he fronted the movement that gave birth to Disco, the Mirrored Ball and Whistles as a venerable musical instrument on the dance floor.
His moves inspired Jagger.
Popularized Country Line Dancing.
A Legend in Jamaican Dance Halls.
Polkas, no one can say for sure.
HOW JACQUES AND I MET
Christmas Morning 1970.
best only gifts usually came delivered courtesy of the wonderful Holiday packages we received from the Toronto Star, or another benevolent media charity to help provide for needy families, single moms …
How my GI Joe action figure was not English-speaking, I suspect arrived as an errant castaway of wrongly shipped models intended for Quebec or Northern Ontario.
JACQUES WAS A GOOD FRIEND
In Toy Story vernacular, Jacques was Woody to my Andy.
He had my back when I slept.
Protected the house when the room darkened for the night.
Opened my mind to possibilities of life – and dreams – beyond the futility of an uncertain future.
He was a displaced toy, meant for a destiny he’d never find.
Perhaps, it was with me.
I believe so.
C’EST LA VIE
Nearly every word of French I
pretend to know, I’ve written here.
I should’ve honored Jacques by learning French.
He might’ve hung in there longer.
The start of many.
Merci, mon ami, Jacques.
Mademoiselle spent a single year as my French Teacher.
My final year of elementary school – 8th Grade – she was promoted to full-time status and began teaching general curriculum with a class of her own.
That year I spent the most of it with my desk pushed next to hers.
… Failing to negotiate flaccidity into my happy little friend …
A reward for my disobedience as I couldn’t shut up in class:
A constant annoying squawk box whom has never shut up.
I still wonder where those hickeys ended …