Today is le quatorze juillet, France’s Fourth of July, the day when the French celebrate the turning point in the revolution that bloodily ousted their royals.
Now, there’s plenty of reason to poke fun at the French – the esteem in which they hold Jerry Lewis, that little fish mouth (bouche de poisson) way they speak – but,
man homme, is there a lot to thank them for.
Like Paris, of which there is really nothing to say. Other than thank God, and thank the nation of France, that it exists.
I’d also like to give France a big old American merci beaucoup for:
The baguette. Crème brûlée. Salade niçoise. And even though I mostly drink prosecco these days when I want bubbly, champagne.
The striped fisherman’s jersey. The scarf worn just-so. And, yes, the beret.
Matisse. Seurat. Manet. Monet. Renoir. Lautrec. Gaugin. Cezanne. And a whole bunch of other painters.
I’m sure there are writers to thank, but I really haven’t read any/many French writers of late, so I’d just be putting on a snob air (something I’m quite capable of doing) if I gave thanks for Camus and Proust. (At least I’ve read Camus; have never been able to get my oar in the water of Proust, I’m afraid.)
And I stopped doing French films decades ago. So no filmmakers, no actors. (That said, I was quite a Truffaut fan there for a while.)
So let’s move on to singers, and give thanks for Edith Piaf. (The soundtrack of my childhood would contain a whistling version of Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose,” as whistled by my mother, under her breath.) And thanks for Johnny Hallyday, the Elvis of France. I don’t really know much about Johnny, but as a young woman hitchhiking around France with my friend Joyce, I spent a fun day on the Johnny Hallyday tour bus. Sadly, Johnny did not ride the bus with his band; he flew. (Band members just laughed when we asked why Johnny wasn’t with them.)
Thank you, people of France, for your recent election in which you rejected nationalism, racism, and Trumpism by showing Marine Le Pen the door.
Thank you, Emmanuel Macron, for having a wife my age – a woman who’s old enough to be your mother. (Maybe this is a European thing. Many years ago, while in a fancy bar in Rome, I noted that there were several couples in their sixties, smooching it up in darkened booths. I mentioned to my husband that, when I turned sixty, I was coming back to Rome where, clearly, women of that age weren’t over the hill, romance-wise.)
And thank you, Emmanuel Macron, for that power handshake you gave our president. You showed him! (It would have been better form if you hadn’t gloated about it after, but I’m sure it was just way to hard to resist.)
Thanks for your stirring national anthem. Does anyone watch Casablanca and not find themselves moved when “La Marseillaise” drowns out the German soldaten singing “Die Wacht am Rhein”?
Anyway, wishing a Joyeux Quatorze Juillet to the French. And merci beaucoup for all the good stuff you’ve given the world. You’ve definitely made life more worth living.