Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
It took me a while to get the hang of learning a foreign language. During my undergraduate study at Wayne State University I tried Spanish, German, Italian, and French, dropping out after half-heartedly sampling the sounds, nuances, and richness of each.
My failure was not because I was dense (after all, I learned my native tongue without much effort as a kid). I was just lazy and didn’t apply myself. But there was no getting around it. To get my B.A. degree I had to fulfill the 16-hour-credit requirement or remain a perennial student.
To take the pressure off myself I decided to take one course per semester, stretching my language studies out over the university year. (What the hell. It’s taken me eight years so far, I reasoned. Who’d even notice or care? Certainly not the Guinness Book of Records.)
French 101 was conveniently offered evenings. And the teacher, an attractive Mademoiselle Gatti, proved excellent. “The French say the fingers have a memory of their own,” she told us. And I took the saying to heart. I wrote each noun, verb, adjective, and colorful idiom 15 times each.
I received an A in Fr. 101, followed by an A in 102 (again with M. Gatti), a B in 103, and a C- in 104. The latter grade was due to my failure to grasp the intricacies of the imperfect indicative — coupled with too much boozing with Franco D., my last French teacher, a former Italian Army sergeant and a bisexual who played Don Juan in three languages.
After class he and I would hit the Del Rio, a nearby Third Avenue hangout crowded with students, grad assistants, bar flies, and retirees who mingled convivially and occasionally sponged off each other’s bar tab. The owners were Greek brothers-in-law: Alex, a UFO buff, and Giorgio, a former Metropolitan Opera lyric tenor. They argued center stage.
Occasionally Giorgio would lock the front door and, with a captive audience, gallantly treat us to arias – mostly threadbare, I’m afraid — of Verdi, Mozart, and Puccini. The Greeks dubbed Franco “Count Gamesee” (Count Fornication) for his boasted prowess with women. (Only I knew who really counted with the Count.)
From the Del Rio he and I would move on to the Towne Pump, located on Detroit’s once fashionable Park Avenue. At the time it catered to a gay clientele. Franco, who had a grand passion for female impersonators, but was curiously shy with lip-sync types, usually gamesee’d after I made the necessary “celeb” intros.
I’ve lost track of Franco. (Untenured, he was living chez mama for a while.) And by now the petite et charmante M. Gatti is — as the French delicately put it — “une dame d’une certain age.” Alex and George are permanently retired from the contentious business of living, and sadly the Del Rio rang down its tattered curtain many operatic moons ago. (A moment of silence, si vous plait.)
When I visited the Montreal Man and His World Expo in the 70s, I thought I’d gain international points by speaking French. It was a waste of time. The cab drivers gave me funny looks, and the waiters all ignored me. I did however meet a gorgeous “beau mec” named Luc. We parlez-vous’d and couchez’d remarkably well.
(Come to think of it: all my body parts these days have a memory of their own.)