My dear old friend LovelyLinda told me the other day that she really enjoyed reading the blogs about my youth and the times with my dad. Her husband worked for my dad and most of Daddy's employees were not employees...they were family. So she's like family. And how can I turn down the request of the woman who HAND MADE me a quilt as a wedding gift? The quilt lasted longer than the marriage...and it is a treasure to me to this day...someday I will put grandbabies to sleep on it...
So LovelyLinda...and SuperSharon (who was my Daddy's overqualified assistant who was more mother to me than anyone at a crucial time in my life...she helped Daddy but more importantly to me she helped me survive)...this is for you...
So about 1980 we were sitting around the double-wide trailer we were living in (the house was not completed so we lived in a double wide trailer...complete with a Charles Russell painting hanging on the wall and some pricey antiques...that was my Daddy's style) when Daddy asked what we wanted to do for Spring Break.
Being me, I answered (fully knowing it wouldn't happen but wanting to sound smart): "I want to go to London and Paris".
I was 15.
My stepmonster agreed...wow that was a shock.
So Daddy said...yes.
We were going to go to London and Paris.
I immediately began to read up on both cities and somehow located a book in the library that taught me how to read a French menu...that was how I tricked Daddy into eating eggplant. (See Blog called "Red Red Wine").
So SuperSharon was given the task of planning our trip. She should have been a travel agent...it was the perfect trip.
We left from New York.
On the Concorde.
Now lest you think I am just bragging here or cavalier about it all...trust me, I know how very very privileged I was to lead the life I did. It was amazing...and it was all by accident of my birth.
I do not lead that life now.
Nor do I need to.
So we go to the lounge for the Concorde at JFK and as we are waiting the most beautiful woman I have ever seen (next to my Mommy of course) comes in wearing dark sunglasses and a gorgeous mink coat. She had beautiful blonde hair and carried herself like a queen. She was with a French man who was older than she was.
My dad says: "Now THERE is a chickipoo!" (that was his word for a gorgeous woman---chickipoo).
She was stunning...I couldn't stop staring. She had eyes for no one but the French man.
He was Louis Malle.
She was Candace Bergman.
God, but she truly was gorgeous. And to this day the memory of her in that coat sitting in that lounge is the most glamorous vision I have ever had.
I live and breathe to one day look that amazing...
She was at the height of her beauty. You could tell she was a movie star. She wasn't snotty...just so very very gorgeous and elegant.
So we get on the plane...and heavens that thing was like riding in a needle...and we take off and the crew proceeds to feed us a lot of amazing French food...even caviar...but I passed that forward to my Daddy cause I don't much care for caviar...or at least I didn't then...
We landed in Paris and it was daytime...no jet lag on the Concorde. Pretty amazing.
We went to the Plaza Athenee...quite a hotel. It's the one where Carrie runs away from Baryshnikov and goes to Big in Sex and the City. She was wearing a spectacular couture gown...there was no couture on me in Paris that time...or ever...
I guess it was the next day that my stepmonster decided we should go shopping. I wanted to go to the Louvre. But I wanted to shop too...so I didn't complain much.
We ended up in some store where my stepmother (ok, I'll stop calling her stepmonster) wanted something "but in blue...not red like this".
My Daddy could not speak a word of French.
And everywhere we went they would point at him and say "Le JR?" (from Dallas...cause he looked a tiny bit like Larry Hagman but really it was the hat and cowboy boots...I mean, who wears cowboy boots and a cowboy hat in Paris).
No, he was NOT "Le JR"...thank goodness.
And yes, that went on for the entire trip...even in London but there it was "is that JR?"
So Daddy tries to ask the saleswoman about whatever it was that my stepmother wanted and there is a communication barrier.
Until Daddy asked her if she spoke Spanish.
There...that fixed it...communication at last.
I was fuming because it meant that once again my father was right...I should have learned to speak Spanish at least to be able to converse in it.
Next thing he knows, Daddy has a line of Americans asking him to translate.
Later that night we were tired and Daddy told me, Noel, and Sarita to shower up before dinner so we could have an early one at the hotel and go to bed early. That was the night of my Daddy accidentally eating eggplant and liking it.
So before we headed to the hotel dining room, Sarita was first up to bat for the bathroom.
When we checked in she pointed to the bidet in our bathroom and said "why is that here?".
She was about 12.
To be mean and awful, I told her that it was "for washing your feet. The French are dirty people and sometimes they don't bathe...they just wash their feet...so its for washing feet".
Noel didn't correct me.
I'm not sure she knew what it was for herself. I did...and a year later there would be a bidet in my bathroom and the guest bathroom and my stepmonster's bathroom (there was also one in the house my mother lived in in Houston). My stepmother thought they were "classy" and informed me my bedroom was to become a guest bedroom the minute I graduated from high school.
Funny thing...it was never a guest room..just my brother's room...he liked it cause it had outside doors he could sneak out of. Don't know what he ever did with the bidet...don't want to know either...
So Sarita heads to the bathroom and I hear water running...a strange sound that did NOT sound like a shower.
Then there was screaming...
a lot of screaming.
I ran into the bathroom...there was water everywhere and that bidet was jetting up like a fountain.
She couldn't get it to turn off.
Seems she had decided to take a "French bath" and was just going to wash her face and...feet. You know how 12 year olds are...they don't always want to bathe.
So there was an inch of water all over the marble floor of the bathroom, water spraying everywhere and my sister screaming non stop.
Noel and I just stood there laughing and trying not to slip.
Daddy came running into the bathroom when he heard the screaming.
Yup...he slipped and fell down onto the floor and proceed to slide as if he was on a "slip-n-slide" across the bathroom floor until he crashed into the bathtub.
Lots of four letter words were said.
Lots of laughing from us..and my stepmother.
After a few "what the hell where you thinking?"s he managed to get the water to turn off.
As we stood in the watery mess of a bathroom (no dry towels...no dry toilet paper...no dry anything), he asked "why did you turn on the bidet?".
Sarita explained that she was trying to wash her feet.
He asked "why in the bidet?"
And she said "Anice said it was for washing feet. Isn't it for washing feet?".
At that point I had a near-death experience and pretty much knew that I had little to no chance of scoring any fun French fashion the next day for my little lie...
He looks at me and says "is that what you told her it was for?"
I slowly nodded yes...and I have to admit I was still laughing...so I had to nod...
Sarita says "well? isn't it for washing feet?"
At that point my father looks from her to me to her to the bidet to the floor to her to me...etc...it was like a movie...
And then he slowly said...
"yes, it is for washing feet"
Guess he didn't want to explain what a bidet was for to a 12 year old girl....
He left the bathroom...and informed me to "use your best French since you can't speak Spanish and barely can speak English and get the maid up here to help you clean up!"
I called down and asked for towels...a lot of them...and explained what happened. Thank goodness the woman in housekeeping spoke English. But I don't think she prepared the maid who came up for what had happened.
The maid walks in and cheerliy says "Bonsoir" as happily as a little bird...a little bird carrying towels.
She took one look at the bathroom and the little bird disappeared and she was not very happy.
Her "Bonsoir" as she left was not very happy either.
We did try to help her clean it up...it took a lot of towels....
We did all shower (even Sarita...although the fountain from the bidet could have qualified but ick!) and had a nice dinner.
My Daddy forgave us and actually laughed about it...and for years to come.
And THAT, my friends is my BEST French story...
Years later I would go with my mom to France...I did not turn on the bidet...all the bathrooms during our trip were safe.
I have some great shopping stories from that day but that is for another blog and another day...
Inspiration Song; "La Femme Parallel" by Thievery Corporation. J'taime Jamie (who is from Louisiana but is not French) plays it for us at the end of Body Pump...beautiful song...nice to stretch to...and it is about the only French song I have on my iPod.
Adieu Darlings...bidets are for feet washing...and making a bathroom into a fountain...my poor Daddy...what he did to deserve us is beyond me...