Saturday, February 26, 2011

In which I get to speak French and show off

I had this boyfriend, Trace, whose brother and sister in law lived in the Florida Keys. Trace was great. He is not one of the Bad Boyfriends Who Done Me Wrong. I have no complaints about Trace. We are still friends, although there was a period after I broke up with him where we did not talk. I don't remember how we became friends again, but I'm glad we did because I still think he is one of the funniest, smartest, nicest people I know.

After I started dating Primo, I wanted him to hear Trace's band. I emailed Trace - it was two years after our breakup and we had resumed our friendship by then - to ask when they would be playing and if he would mind if I brought Primo along. He gave me a schedule of shows and said of course he wouldn't mind if Primo came with me.

Primo and I went to Beale Street and found the bar. The band was setting up. I hadn't seen Trace's bandmates in over a year. Stan came over, gave me a big hug, shook Primo's hand, and sat down for a beer. Cal came over, gave me a big hug, and shook Primo's hand. Trace came over, gave me a hug, shook Primo's hand. Terry, the guitar player who suffers from Guitar Player Syndrome and who, bless his midlife crisis divorcing heart, wore sleeveless t-shirts even though his bandmates begged him not to - he said that the chicks dug it even though they did not - did not come over.

At the break, Primo and I spoke some more with the band. Except with Terry.

When we left, the band was on another break. Primo and I said goodbye to everyone. Except Terry. He turned his back to me.

The next day, I got an email from Terry. I can't believe I still have it, but that's what happens when you don't have to delete your emails and when in the back of your mind is a little voice saying, This will be good material someday!

Seeing you again was almost surreal, you know?

You know have the immediate effect of discommoding my band every time you show up? Cal is, as always, over sniffing around you regardless of how Trace may feel about it (how could you not notice?), while Trace is blowing his heart out trying to impress you on account of after all this time he's still carrying the torch (and how could HE not notice Cal sniffing around you?).

And me, I watch the maneuvers from the sidelines, bemused and enthralled, because, of course, you look lovely as always, but my band just turned into Peyton Place. Stan, well, he's Stan, just glad to have another fan in the house, but, you know?

Trace's not a good existentialist, is my judgment, and I am not altogether sure he's strong enough to see you with your new guy. I mean everybody's modern and hip and with it and all that, but he's a pretty fragile dude since you dropped him, all the same.

Like I said, still torching.

He'd be supremely pissed if he even knew I'd commented on the matter, mind you. Please pardon my butting in. This is under the rose, strictly.



Wow. Just wow. My jaw dropped when I read this. Did Terry really think that I was such a bitch that I would show up unannounced with my new boyfriend to introduce him to my old one? And did he think it was his place to lecture me on the issue, no matter what had really happened?

I didn't bother to reply. I also didn't tell Trace because I didn't know if he should know his bandmate was such a jerk, even though Trace already had his opinions about that. What is the proper thing to do in a situation like that? Do you share such an ugly email?

Trace moved out of town a few months after that, after coming to my house two months after Primo and I went to his show to see my visiting sister, mother and aunt, all of whom thought Trace was wonderful and who wanted to see him while they were visiting me. That's how hurt Trace was by my showing up at the gig: he came to my house for dessert (he brought a case of diet Coke as his hostess gift, which was great as my houseguests were drinking me dry - note that my relatives drink all the diet soda vs Primo's parents, who drink all the booze) and spent two hours talking to my family.

Before he moved, I took him the vegetarian cookbook his sister in law had given us for Christmas a few years back. We spoke for a little while and I told him about Terry and the email. He was livid, telling me that had he known at the time, he would have had it out with Terry immediately and then quit the band, which had been the only thing keeping him in town. We agreed that Terry was a big jerk and we wanted nothing to do with him. We spit - pah! pah! - on him.

But that's not the story I started to tell. The story I want to tell is about a trip that Trace and I took to the Keys to spend Christmas with his brother and sister in law, Scott and Elise. Such nice people. Such a nice family. So many nice families out there and I end up with the in-laws who are not so nice.

Primo did an interview with the local paper about some political protests happening near us. Primo supports the protesters, I do not. The story was about the impact of the protests on friends and families where people do not share the same opinion. Primo noted that his parents disliked me even before they met me because of my political and religious beliefs and that they are rude and mean to me whereas my family, including aunts, uncles and cousins, have all been really nice and welcoming to him, even though they know he disagrees with them.

Back to Trace. We flew into Miami and went straight to the Cuban coffee stand by the car rental place - an aluminum trailer with a window in the side through which emerged shots of Cuban coffee and Cuban sandwiches. Trace got his colada, I got a medianoche. Oh how I miss Miami and the Cuban food. And the winters without snow.

Trace, a vegetarian, tried to buy a cheese sandwich, but had a hard time, as the concept of NO MEAT is not Cuban at all. There is no such thing as a Cuban sandwich or a Cuban meal without meat.

He asked for a cheese sandwich.

Clerk: Pero con ham, si?

Trace: No. No meat. Just cheese.

Clerk: Pero con pork, si?

Trace: No. No meat. Just cheese.

Clerk: Pero con beef, no?

Trace. No. No pork. No ham. No beef. Just bread and cheese.

Clerk: [crazy gringo]

Once we had Cuban fuel, we drove down to Scott and Elise's. Scott and I ate just-caught lobster for supper and didn't have to share because Trace is a vegetarian and Elise is allergic to seafood.

The next day, Trace and I drove back toward Miami so he could do some Christmas shopping. No, I did not want to go with him. I hate shopping. I hate shopping with someone else. I especially hate Christmas shopping two days before Christmas with someone else. But I loved Trace and he wanted company so I went with him.

We found ourselves in a Best Buy. I trailed Trace as he shopped. Then I was distracted in the cellphone section by a Haitian woman who was trying to ask technical questions about the phone to the Cuban salesman. Her English was not very good. Neither was his. She spoke no Spanish. He spoke no French.


Super French Speaker Chief Bossy Lady to the rescue!

I jumped right in. With my really bad French, but the key difference between Primo, who had 30 hours of French in college, and me, who had one year of high-school French, is that I am not afraid to look stupid. Primo wants to speak perfectly, so won't open his mouth until he is absolutely sure of what he is saying.

I just want to get my point across, so I will say things like, It must be that the thing that one makes with the telephone to be able go to Haiti for to make the call of the telephone, which is not exactly elegant but conveys the idea with the Haitian lady that yes, indeed, she wants a cellphone she can use in Haiti.

Then I tell the Cuban salesman that She wants a phone one can use in Haiti.

Oh! he answers. Then she will need to get a different SIM card once she is there.

I tell her that it must be that when one is in the Haiti, one must to go to the store of the phone for to find the little thing on the phone a new one or else the phone will not march.

She smiles. OK! Then this phone - the pink one - will do.

Trace watches, laughing. I don't need to get you a Christmas present, he said. You just got the best present possible - a chance to show off.

He was so right.