Trans-Atlantic Travelogue #13 – Olivet, France

Singin’ in the Rain, and a hopelessly Superficial Exploitation of Ulysses
Olivet, France
July 8, 2001
Scoreboard: 12,235 miles; 6 Countries, 20 states

The good thing, one of the good things, about blowing up your engine and getting stuck in the same place for six weeks is that you really get into the endodermis of the place. There’s probably no town on the face of the earth that can be fully experienced in three days, or three weeks…thinking on it I take part of that back…but the quantity and quality of empirical evidence varies accordingly.

Rain Dance

Theresa, Alexandra & Amelia perform their happy rain dance

Because we’ve been at the same camp site for so long we’ve been befriended by young Oliver, the 17 year-old son of the wonderful people that run the place. Because we play 500 Run Rummy nearly every night, and laugh and cackle and generally appear to be having a grand time (it isn’t considered wildly immoral to share a bier with minors here) we’ve been joined by a young man named Viking, from Brittany.

We usually play in the middle of the camp, we pull a picnic table underneath a street lamp next to the venerable concrete Ping-Pong table. When the site is getting full there are often five or six or seven caravans (trailers) within thirty feet of us in various directions. Europeans don’t get uptight about space, or laughter. Part of camping.

Night before last we set up as usual, but after two hands or so the rains came. Before Viking this would have necessitated a relocation to the laundry room, but Viking has a caravan so we moved over there. The rain kept going. Every hand or two Theresa would make a mad dash back to check on our tents and return with reports (“There’s a few inches of groundwater, but they haven’t washed into the Loiret and they’re mainly dry inside. The kids are all asleep, am I ahead by 300 points yet?”). She was unconscionably beautiful, albeit somewhat drenched like a rat, but I digress…

Playing with Oliver was great, but with Vinik we get another dimension: multiple Frenchmen interfacing with each other. They’re absolutely hysterical, singing half the time. It’s not at all unusual to be in the middle of a hand and for Oliver to break into Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina, or for Vinik to launch into I Can See Clearly Now. Then, of course, protocol demands that everyone join in.

So it’s about two in the morning and we’re sitting around playing 500 Run Rummy, singing Scorpions’ standards replete with power chords (“Bad boys running wild! bweeow-bwuh-bwumt!”) and the rain coming down at a few inches per second and the power blows out! It was sublime…we were all wandering around looking for a fuse box in an electrical storm singing Singin’ in the Rain.

Eventually we found it and play resumed. Oliver put together an unbelievable hand (168 points) to win around 3:30 a.m. I had been ahead by nearly 200 points, that’s what happens when I dabble in conservatism.

It is an honorable philosophy with applications in myriad disciplines though limited I think in politics, it just doesn’t work for me.

Our new timetable calls for the continuation of our journey to England around July 17. Alexandra is very happy as her birthday is July 14 (Bastille Day), and she’s looking forward to an entire nation celebrating her attainment of the wise old age of 8.

Click on the image for a better view

Click on the image for a better view

It’s also true that when you’re on a road trip, and events preclude being on the road for example, there’s plenty of time to read. I’ve taken up Ulysses, Theresa has opted for War and Peace.

Ulysses was, of course, voted the greatest novel of the 20th century by a conglomeration of Ivy League literary desperados and such.

I have to say this: I think James Joyce would have laughed his ass off.

I have nothing against drinking and writing, in fact I think that there’s a great deal of historical evidence that it works. But Joyce, Ulysses…there’s such thing as taking a good thing too far. I’ve personally thrown out stuff that was at least as incoherent and sensual on grounds of alcohol saturation and avant garde extremist characteristicism.

Whatever the case may be, Joyce’ approach is unquestionably brilliant. He changes gears frequently and often with a great grinding of clutch and gnashing of teeth, his eccentricities are genuine and not to be confused with the literary grandstanding of…you know, some of the guys that voted it the greatest and drink soup…

He must have been an incredible conversationalist. I would love to play 500 Run Rummy with him, and not entirely because I think he would get too loaded to restrict his thought patterns to the limitations of strategic options.

Anyway I’m enjoying it, but I’m not entirely convinced. Still, in honour of Mr. Joyce I would offer the following homage:

Woodenhinged staunchfigures affecting to shine. Vote on subjectivity for the digestion of millions. Haven’t had lunch today. Cheese sandwich would be good. Limburger. Mustn’t think of breastbits before the gibbous moon. Maybe provolone. Career boon could be what it is. Only if my subjectivity matches. Nice one at the checkout counter but tarts aren’t for lunch. Difficult to understand it must be great art. The Emperor’s New Clothes, put me in the crowd and a big damper on iconoclasts.



Tune in next week for revelations concerning Bastille Day, Alexandra’s birthday, re-energized VW engines and diverse but principally explorative consternations applicable to the shuffling of cards. Nothing wrong with stopandrest, but my mother-in-law says that Mercury has gone direct. The pedal/metal beckons.

stars sparkling like diamonds
fire bursting into rubies

soft grass as magnificent as emeralds
a gold mountain drips melting snow
and stones glitter in the sunlight
that burn into shapes
only the heart can touch
— Alexandra Trapp, 7 (lines written on the banks of the Loiret)

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