Friday, June 16, 2006

Not Kidnapped by Pirates

With all one hears about the legendary Corsican pirates, I imagined I might be carried off today by swarthy, rough brigand with large hands whose shirt kept opening to reveal a flash of nipple. But no. There was a sailor keeping an eye on things outside the Eglise des Marins, but he was about eighty-six, visibly soiled, and missing all his front teeth. One appreciates older gentlemen, to be sure, but one has one's limits.

Dolores, no surprise, stayed on board nursing her buttock. I hit the street early on and had breakfast at the public market. It struck me, wandering past the stands of spices and meats and cheeses and baked goods, that you can stand in the middle of my local supermarket all day and you never smell anything except disinfectant. Here, in Ajaccio, the scents were intoxicating and I was busy inhaling I almost forgot to take pictures.

I studied French for about four years in high school and college under the august tutelage of Mesdames Dufour, Plessix, Benard, and Croissy. But until today I'd never set foot in a Francophone city. I screwed up my courage and decided to lose my parlez-vous virginity at one of the baker's stalls. The lady running it looked sort of like my Sicilian grandmother, God rest her soul, which I found reassuring.

"Bonjour, madame," I said. "Tarte a l'oignon, s'il vous plait."* She smiled. Mercy me, I thought, it worked! I'm speaking French! Get me, Charles de Gaulle! Je suis cosmopolitain! Oh, la la! Allons-nous a la plage!

"Is okay. Hi. I spik de Inglish," she said. "What you want?"

Attention, Mesdames Dufour, Plessix, Benard, and Croissy: I expect a full refund.

*Lee Ann: Before you give me any shit, I'm typing on a PC and have no idea how to put the accents in. Just go ahead and use your Sharpie right on the screen. Bisoux!

21 comments:

pacalaga said...

I'd love to know what kind of Google hits "nursing her buttock" is going to get.

annalizah@msn.com said...

The pirate fantasy is pretty darn universal, isn't it? Probably just as well there weren't any around ... I've noticed the fantasy is usually better than the reality and would prefer my pirate fantasy to me unmolested by a factual pirate!

Nelly O said...

Hey - I got some swarthy nipple for ya!

ugh - too much coffee again.

Elisabeth said...

Mmmm...swarthy pirate nipples.

Everytime I tried to speak the language native to the foreign country I'm in, they speak English back to me. This was particularly irritating in Italy where I was really trying to practice my Italian (but they were so excited to get to practice their English, I couldn't stay annoyed). In France, I just took pity on the poor French people who were looking at me as though I had just ran my nails down a chalkboard.

kbsalazar said...

Accents in the Windows world - Hold down Alt key plus typing the number on the numeric keypayd if you're not set up for bilingual typing. A pain if you've got a laptop with no separate numeric set.

é = alt 130
Ç = alt 128
â = alt 131
à = alt 133
ç = alt 135
ê = alt 136
è = alt 138

There are lots of others, but these are the ones I remember off the top of my head. No excuses! :)

Jacquie said...

To find the accented characters:

From the Start menu, select Programs->Accessories->System Tools->Character Map.

Find the character you want choose 'select' and 'copy' then paste it into your post, comme ça!

Buzz said...

Tĥâts ĵǘşt àňnőying

Anonymous said...

Hey, is this a faux Franklin?
Or the real deal?
I can't tell anymore

Franklin's grandmother said...

I've fallen and I can't get up!

beadlizard said...

I have a copy of Pirate by Fabio around here somewhere. Wanna borrow it?

Elizabeth said...

It was one of the highlights of a six month trip to Germany when I flew back to Germany from a week in England and managed to arrange for a hotel room, get a taxi to said hotel, check in, have dinner and breakfast, check out and get back to the airport without one person insisting on switching to English for me. But I had to practice for six months and get a German haircut to make it happen.

FiberQat said...

Maybe you can make a deal with the watchman to find you the pirate of your dreams: swarthy, rough, knows the entire Verdi catalogue by heart...

String Bean said...

Mwah ha ha... so much for French.

We all have the pirate fantasy. Yepper.

Mel said...

I had a similar experience in Costa Rica. Shopkeepers invariably came up to me and asked, "May I help you?" I always answered them in Spanish, but regional differences in dialect don't cause too many raised eyebrows in Spanish-speaking countries (though they do like to make fun of standard castellano in the Americas). In Italy a few years ago, they were quite content to deal with my Italian, which was not impressive, but at least functional. I'm afraid Parisians might look askance at my French these days - not so much because it is poor (which it is), but because my proximity to La Belle Province has definitely imparted a Canuck flavor to it.

JoVE said...

Canuck flavour french does not go down well in Paris, in my experience. For which I may never return to Paris again. Pompous bastards.

But you should try more francophone cities. I recommend Québec City, possibly with a detour to Montréal.

Joe said...

I'm not even sure if this is really Franklin. The travelogue part sounds like him, the writing is almost definitely him, but swarthy pirate nipple?...sounds more like a Wolverina.

Lee Ann said...

Other options for accents in the Windows World: Change your keyboard settings and live dangerously. :-)

Lee Ann said...

Oh, and Paris is pompous no matter what flavour of French you're speaking. My husband has told me that if we ever go back to France to live, the one place he absolutely refuses to live is Paris, because "it's too full of French people, and French people suck."

He's from Provence. He can get away with saying this, apparently. I, on the other hand, would be sent straight to the guillotine.

Sean said...

Franklin this story reminds me when I went to Paris and tried and tried to learn enough French to communicate. (In high school I took Spanish.) Anyway, I took my niece along (another story) and was trying to impress the 13 year-old eplaining her away from the ugly-American way.

Anyway, I ordered some crepe in french, avec noix, I think. She asked if I wanted it "for here or to take with me." I wispered, "Was it THAT bad?" and she just laughed. My niece got the biggest kick out of that!

Love the stories. Hope you're having a wonderful time.

Jon said...

Oh the tragedy and disappointment of it all....you only took 4 years of French??? I had 10...ugh.

David said...

I used a little French myself this past weekend. You will have to email me to find out why.