I have traveled to many places in my lifetime. I’ve visited a good chunk of Europe and enjoyed most of it. I adored the U.K., Spain, Portugal and Switzerland. I had a a very moving experience visiting Israel and even found the new Nazi-less Germany to be quite pleasant. Still, there is one country that has forever earned my spite. Hell I hated the country BEFORE I even went there! I hated my experience with some of their native people so much that I determined that it was filled with arrogant, condescending fuckwads. See for as much as Germany has done to clean up its act since 1945, both figuratively and literally, France has done nothing but convince me that they breed nothing but Vichy sympathizers.
Is this an unfair assessment of modern France?
Damn right it is but I refuse to change my rather xenophobic attitude towards these Gallic dickweeds. I mean, it really isn’t France’s fault but rather a small number of French expatriates and one magnificent Gendarme that reeked of foul cheese and wine that helped me form this view. Let me start with the former and then work my way to the latter. You see my parents were very much focused on my sister and I receiving solid educations. Thus we were sent to private school in Manhattan. We both attended The Fleming School, a bi-lingual school that taught French and English from grades Nursery through 8. Now I was a spazz of a child with a non-existent attention span. Getting me to focus in English class was next to impossible so can you imagine what trying to teach me French was like?
Even worse were the teachers that taught French themselves, these horrific women who didn’t believe in the ‘liberal’ application of make-up. On more than one occasion I was berated for not comprehending my French lessons. Now when I say berated I mean straight up yelled at and belittled in front of my classmates. Apparently the French method of ‘teaching’ involves publically emasculating a student in front of his peers in order to get him to learn. It would’ve been one thing if this had been just one French Teacher, but year after year I’d gt a new one and it was the same thing. They were always women, they were all in their 40 to mid-50s and they all hated James because he didn’t speak their little frog language. You have no idea how many times I faked being sick just to get out of French class!
To make matters that much more terrible, our gym class was taught by this evil French guy called Monsieur Valerie. Yes, we were had to refer to him as Monsieur, for that matter we had to refer to our evil French teachers as Madame. As far as Monsieur Valerie goes, imagine having Arnold Schwarzenegger explain how to play baseball to Jean Claude Van Damme. Now imagine Van Damme then going to the Kalahari and having him explain Baseball to the Bushmen. That was what our Gym Class was like. There was one game of Dodge Ball we played where I had managed to survive to be one of the final 5 players. I had just entirely dodged a ball and was sweating in that way only children playing Dodge Ball can sweat. Then the game was stopped for a moment when Monsieur Valerie blew his whistle. I hated that fucking whistle so much. It always meant that whatever game we were playing had to come to a screeching halt because of our Gym Instructor’s inability to let us have fun. Anyway, the whistle blew and Monsieur Valerie told me to step off the field because I was out. Why was out? I clearly dodged the ball. No I hadn’t according to Monsieur Valerie, he heard the ball graze me. Allow me to state this again… He Heard The Ball Graze Me!
I went ballistic and called him liar right to his face. He then threw me out of the gym for the rest of class. I had to be walked out of the gym by the assistant gym teacher (and full-time music teacher) Mister Garvey. I did this while hurling every swear and insult I could at him. I then sat on the bench outside of the gym until class was over. Then Monsieur Valerie came out and told me he forgave me for the insults I hurled at him and wanted to know if I had anything to say to him. “Yes Monsieur Valerie” I said flatly and with all seriousness, “You are a dirty fucking cheater!”. A strict talking to from the Principal came next… well not really, the head of the school was Madame Correa and she was actually the one nice French person there. She wanted to know why I swore at Monsieur Valerie. I explained what happened and told her he was a dirty cheater. She asked me very nicely to apologize to which I said “I shouldn’t have to apologize for stating the truth. Ask anyone who has Gym with him. He is a dirty cheater and if you upstage him or one of his star athlete’s he screws you”.
This was not normal language for an 11 year old. My Mother was called and I was sent home for the rest of the day. I got a very stern talking to from my mother and was made to to sit in my room to wait, as always when I was in trouble, for my father to get home from work. Now, my Father is a man of reason and will at least hear both sides to a story. Above all else I know he believes that in order for there to be Justice there must be Fairness. I wasn’t going to get it this time, because BOTH my mother and father came into my room. Now understand, I deeply respect and love my mother. She was a saint and let no man or woman slander her name in my presence BUT when she demanded I be reprimanded, you could be sure I would be.
I was told flatly that my side of the incident didn’t matter. Monsieur Valerie was the teacher, therefore he was right and I was a child and therefore I was wrong. There was no argument about this. It was simply the way it was. This came from both of my parents. I was confined to my room for the rest of the night and I was to think about my actions of the day and why I was being punished. Well sat in my room and think about my actions I did. I determined right then and there the only answer that made sense in all this was simple… this insane school that my parents sent their ADD riddled 8 year old to had to be run by former followers of the fallen Vichy Regime. The ages of the evil French Teachers matched up. I always got dirty looks from those teachers when I would leave school early on Wednesdays so could go to Hebrew School… it all fit! Monsieur Valerie and all the Madames (save for Madame Correa) were all old Vichy’s, loyal to Hitler! I would continue my little rebellion against them in my own way. I also determined that if France produced these assholes, then whole country must be full of these assholes!
Which brings us to the tale of “James & The Magnificent Bastard Gendarme”
I was about 9 or 10 when my parents decided to take the family on vacation. Now in the past vacation in the summer meant taking 3 weeks between July and August and hopping on a plane to sunny Florida so we could visit my Grandparents. I look forward to these yearly visits with Grandma and Grandpa because Grandma adored yours truly. Oh the sheer joy she had of my visits! Plus, it was Florida so I was scoping out where I was going to retire 50 years in the future.
FACT: It is both Hebraic AND New York State Law that all New York Jews either die in New York, become Israeli Citizens or retire to Florida. It is in the Bible! I Swear! Right there in Deuteronomy, that one book of the Torah even Jesus skipped because he thought it was “Kinda Dull!”
Anyway, in 1983 our usual month long sabbatical from school and summer camp was cut short. You see mother and father thought that taking the family to France for 3 weeks would be the PERFECT family vacation. I, already deep in my loathing of the French, was completely against this idea. No sir, Florida and quality time with Grandma was fine with me. It was tool ate though, tickets were purchased and hotel arrangements made. Now do understand, being Jewish isn’t about being cheap, it is about doing what is cost effective. With this in mind, my Father saved the family $500 by not flying directly to France via Charles De Gaulle Airport. No sir, we flew into Luxembourg-Findel International Airport. We spent a night in Luxembourg and then spent the next day driving to France.
Now as much as I would love to regale you with my adventures that led to my unfortunate encounter, sadly there are none. Only 2 things stick out in my mind. First, My family and I ran into, of all people, Monsieur Valerie and his wife in Paris! My parents greeted him warmly as my sister and I stood there wondering why our vacation was being ruined by this sighting of a remembrance of what was to come in the not too distant future. “Lisa”, I asked my sister in a manner that was just shy of me freaking out, “What is HE doing here?”. My sister was quick with the wit, even back then “Our parents hate us Jamie… well at least they hate you!”. Honestly, at that point in time, seeing my arch-nemesis (The Gym Teacher) right in front of me, it was impossible to argue the point with her. It was official, my parents hated me!
Ah but this is not the encounter I wish to regale you with. Non, non mes amis! My tale involves James, a Gendarme and that most heinous of crimes known as Jaywalking!
While in Paris during the first week of our trip, my parents decided to leave my sister and I alone so we could explore the city. Instructions were simple, stay together and meet my parents at the L’Arc De Triumph in 3 hours. Simple right?
So Lisa and I explored a bit. We saw a puppet show performed in front of the Eiffel Tower and so many mimes that I want to raise Marcel Marceau from the dead just so I can punch him in his mime face! We explored various shops to see what kind of toys the little French children played with. We were 1/4 of a block from the Seine and its version of the The Statue Of Liberty. We saw the traffic light starting to flash red and decided to make a break for it. Now do comprehend, my sister and I are New York raised. Jaywalking is a way of life to us. It is our duty as good New Yorkers to try and beat a red light… Nay it is our duty as AMERICANS! I dashed across the street to the other side. I beat my sister and that my friends almost never happened. Lisa was left on the curb on the other side of the street… smiling. Why was she smiling? She just lost, she shouldn’t be smiling!
Au contraire mes Petites Pamplemousses! The second I was fully on the curb across the street I was accosted by some French dude in a cape. Sadly this was not French Batman (actually I should be grateful there isn’t overly cultured French Batman… with a beret!). No this was a Gendarme and this Gendarme was yelling at me for crossing on a flashing red. At least I think that was what he was yelling at me for. See if you recall, I couldn’t pay attention in my French class at school so… I DIDN’T KNOW ANY FRENCH!
Here was this cop, writing out a ticket to an 11 year old kid. My sister stood there smiling. I couldn’t talk to the Gendarme at all, so I started calling her name. She responded as any big sister who hates her brother would, she turned her back and began walking the other way. Yes, my sister was an evil bitch. She had beaten me again by playing the ‘Sly & Cunning’ card… or had she?
As luck would have it, just as the Gendarme was writing me up a citation/ticket my parents came walking up. My Father immediately played his ‘I’m An American And You Will Speak English To Me Right Now!’ card. Amazingly this worked as suddenly the Gendarme was lie “Aye deed nut know your son spoke zee English Monsieur”. My mother was furious. I mean how dare he write a ticket to this little angel of a boy. Everything got smoothed over and the cop walked away. Obviously he didn’t know who he was dealing with. He learned that you don’t mess with Americans!
My parents were none to pleased with me though. I mean how could I be as dumb enough to get written up for Jaywalking… IN PARIS! Seriously, go to Paris sometime and you will see everyone there Jaywalks. Ah but I was given a small measure for revenge. “Now where is your sister?” my Mother asked, “She is supposed to be on you like glue so this doesn’t happen!”. Yes where was dear Lisa?
It was right after my mother asked that my father pointed and shouted “LISA! OVER HERE!”. My sister froze in her tracks and turned to see my mother glaring at her none to happily as my father checked to make sure the dirty French cop didn’t give me anything like wine or hand me a white flag. We marched back to the hotel in silence. Back at our hotel rooms my sister was pulled aside I was subjected to French TV. As Lisa was yelled at for abandoning her brother, I was fascinated by some cartoon featuring a pirate in space. I was enamored and determined that I had to see more of this show because it was just too cool. My sister got dressed down and I was actually forgiven for my encounter with Frenchy McCoppants The Paris Gendarme. 3 years later I learned that the show I had managed to watch twice, once in Paris and again in our Luxembourg Hotel the ngiht before we returned to New York, was called Albator and was a French dub of the Japanese series Captain Harlock. I was enamored even then of anime.
So what have we learned about James today? Well for one thing, I hate the French like you don’t know. If they aren’t busy getting their asses kicked by the Germans all the time, they are even busier tormenting American children with their silly language and caped policemen. They also seem to have some kind of fascination with the Village People because EVERY movie house in France was having all day screenings of The Village People movie Can’t Stop The Music. Seriously, it is surreal to ride the elevator on the Eiffel Tower as “YMCA” is playing… just really fucking surreal…
My final thought on all this is simple… FUCK THE FRENCH! If Germany gets uppity again I say we let them keep it, as long as the Germans aren’t going all Anti-Semitic like last time. Hell these days France is one of the most Anti-Semitic countries o the planet. Let the Germans invade with their army that isn’t supposed to be an army, fuck give them some brooms while their at it and let them clean up the cesspool that is Paris. I never want to hear anyone call New York City dirty ever again because next to Paris good old NYC is like an untouched nature preserve! So Fuck The French! It ain’t like we can’t make a baguette in Brooklyn!