Thursday, October 6, 2016

Summer 2016 was the Summer of the French Girl, with Her French Garden, Her French Holidays and Very French Love of Art

Aug 16, 2016 12:33 PM

I drove over to the Farmer's Market, and near the splash pad and the post office, I saw a man sitting on an advertising bench. Muskegon has scores of these advertising benches. A few promote local lawyers. A few publicize local real estate agents. A few pump up business for restaurants that no longer exist. Funny thing about these benches. I have yet to see one positioned at a bus stop. Many are left in hot sun without hope of daytime shade. The City Council approves the benches and their locations every few years, pocketing a small bit of rent. Maybe a commissioner might ask for the benches to be moved to shady stops where people wait for rides, appointments? So, it caught my eye when I noticed one of our town's developers sitting in full sun on this hot day, working on his iPhone with an absorbed yet bemused expression on his face. Maybe he had been offered another valuable raw space tower in Muskegon for a dollar? I didn't yell the obvious, "Hey, Gary! There's a cool, air-conditioned coffee house near the Century Club. Called Drip Drop Drink. Ever heard of it"? And why would I break his laser sharp attention? Good stuff was being imagined.

I bought a slice of apple pie from the baker from Hart, Michigan, a regular at the Tuesday Market. And I went to Drip Drop Drink to enjoy the pie with a cup of black currant tea. And I thought I was close to making good on a promise to Gary. He asked if I could find him the statue of a horse to place on a traffic island west of his building, the Century Club. He might settle for a mastodon or closer, a woolly mammoth. I might have either one or the other soon. A woman moved into a brick mansion near my home, a mansion that could have been shipped brick by brick from a French village. Stands right on the historical street near downtown Muskegon, overlooked until she bought it and began its restoration. 

Near the Fourth of July, she threw a Bastille Day Party. It was pretty authentic. She played French music. She served French wine. She had French bread and French cheese from the Cheese Lady awaiting attention in the kitchen. Four ingénues in summer dresses set about slicing up the French bread and setting the cheese wheels out on appealing plates. The ingénues made it look effortless. And then I discovered that my Francophile friend had not hired them. Two young ingénues from Oceana County had assisted in the kitchen to please their mother. Two ingénues from Ottawa County had intervened in the kitchen because their mother had merely winked at them. I got off my Adirondack chair to slice a loaf of French bread, just to avoid looking like a slacker. 

I thought of giving the ingénues paint, brushes and canvases after all the cheese trays had been set out on garden tables, but the four had found the croquette sets. Any way, it's been like that all summer in the Francophile's garden. 

After a few weeks, the Francophile ceased speaking English to me. One morning, I strolled over. She opened the door and declared, "J'ai faim". I am hungry. So we drove to Steak and Egger for omelettes. We paused for a few moments to look at antiques at the Front Porch, and the owner and she fell into a long conversation in French. I walked over to the Cheese Lady for an Orangina, knowing that the two had much to cover. The Francophile was quite a successful picker, finding antiques where I would only find trash. The owner had a few great ideas to sound out, and as a Native American woman, she sounded out all her plans.

I took my time drinking my Orangina and sampling bits of cheese. The Cheese Lady assistants never tire of talking cheese, sharing samples. When I returned, the Francophile was kissing the Front Porch lady on both cheeks, the way Simone De Beauvoir might say goodbye to Jean Paul Satre after an all night symposium. 

So I suggested we go next to the nearby Indian Cemetery, a site recognized by the Ottawa Nation. Under a scaffolding made from graying saplings lashed together, we found the remains of a ceremony, bits of cloth, lengths of birch limb and charcoal embers scattered on a square of the turf that didn't match the lawn. All but the turf square looked fresh. And then it hit me. Native American bones that had been retained in the Lakeshore Museum Center had been interred in Indian Cemetery in the summer of 2008. A member of the tribe had returned on the anniversary to perform rituals on the day. We left the cemetery in respectful quiet. Outside the wrought iron gate, built almost a hundred years ago, she exclaimed in English for a change, "I want to sculpt a mastodon for the grave yard"! A mastodon could symbolize a time before man's arrival, but it might be too massive for the postage stamp sized Indian Cemetery. So we drove over to Gary's nearby traffic island. Behind the Century Club is a good place to commemorate millenniums. "Ici", I said. "Oui", she answered. Then, "Je suis fatigue", she added. I drove her home.
 — at Drip Drop Drink.

Restoration of the Adams mammoth by Roman Boltunov

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