Frehel Diaries: From Abba to Othello- Professor Speigelman Explains It All For You
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After Pig Pee Bay, we load back into the car. The Sauvage is going to take me to a moulerie for dinner. Moules are mussels, and this area of France is known for them. Despite this fact, I am terrified because I've never had mussels. They look very slimey and unpleasant, and I'm worried I won't be able to choke down more than one or two. The Sauvage goes ahead and orders a bucket of 30 moules each. Mine are to be served a la bretagne, which means with cidre (cider) and onions. The Sauvage also orders a bottle of cidre for the table.

Cider, in Brittany, is alcoholic. When I tried to explain to the Sauvage that in the US there is both non-alcoholic and alcoholic cider, he couldn't understand why. Yet another crazy American idea, like non-alcoholic beer. The cider in Brittany can be like the alcoholic cider served in pubs all over the UK, but there is a range. The more expensive ciders are closer to a sparkling wine than an ale. The Sauvage orders a wine-like cider. He pours us both a glass. Nana demands some. After some negotiation, or more accurately a battle of yes and no, Nana simply takes the bottle and pours herself some. While the Sauvage makes a huff about being angry, he doesn't do anything about it. As if there is nothing he can do about the poured cider. She gulps it down and pours more. I wouldn't care so much, but I know this is the bottle for the meal. I see where this is going. He'll get angry, she'll cry, he'll reconcile, and I'll watch at a distance scribbling in my notebook about the whole dynamic.

What makes this dinner different is she will not be mollified. Throughout dinner she keeps doing her interpretation our Mourning Becomes Electra, and even the Sauvage is embarassed and clearly baffled by her performance. He gives her everything she wants, even ordering her two Cokes** and yet still tears intermittently trickle. I write, "I seek solace in the written word, when I feel alone. She doesn't know, I've already lost. This whole performance is unnecessary. She's won, and I'm just recreation."

In between bouts of Nana's tears, the steaming bowls of moules arrive. I take the bowl off the top, and I am hit by a fragrant cloud of cider, onions, and steam. And while I feared not being able to eat even one, I quickly devoured the bucket even dipping my bread into the sauce afterwards, leaving nothing but a bowl of emptied shells. Filled with moules and cider, I am now in a better mood. While Nana dallies over her moules and frites, the Sauvage and I start by comparing words in French and English like the check or the bill is "l'addition" and quickly it transforms into a discussion about the difference between book titles in French and English. For example Aldous Huxley's Brave New World is Le Meilleur des Mondes-the Best of Worlds. I tried to explain that this would be wrong as the line is supposed to be from the Tempest or La Tempete. I managed to impress the Sauvage with my ability to recite Shakespeare, even though he couldn't understand it. He concluded that I must love Shakespeare.

Again, it's clear he doesn't quite understand how I work.

I do enjoy Shakespeare, but my ability to recite it owes more to the fact that I had to memorize it as part of my acting training, and now I find that these passages can not be dislodged with a crowbar and a blowtorch.

We loaded back into the car, and drove down to the casino to see an outside performance of "Bootleg Abba."

In August, the little towns all over France stage large events regularly to entertain tourists, locals, summer home owners, and individuals like the Sauvage, Parisians who use their vacation to return their hometowns. The entertainments are usually outdoors, free of charge, and result in the most bizarre crowds you are likely to witness.

Bootleg Abba was a British tribute band. As we arrived only shortly before the concert, the square was already packed with people or more accurately everyone in a 20 miles radius from backpacking teens to heavy set senior citizens.

I don't like crowds. They are very difficult for me to navigate, often people don't see me and walk into me full force. Because of my height, I am often elbowed in the face or head. I get jostled, and because of my disability, this makes it difficult for me to keep my balance. Because we were in the thick of the concert crowd, I would have to tolerate all of this and not be able to see a damn thing. Finally, I was going to have to stand for the duration of the concert, which would put quite a strain on my legs.

But I follow the Sauvage through the crowd and took my post. He was, of course, more concerned with Nana, her enjoyment, her ability to see. But the night sky and the mood of the crowd worked their magic on me despite my inability to see the "band." They played Fernando and Mamma Mia, and the crowd swayed and sang along with them. Their spirit is catching, and I find myself singing along with them.

I once wrote that you can tell how depressed you are by how profound karoake seems. If you start finding yourself analyzing the deeper symbolic content of songs like "Creep" and "You are My Lucky Star", you might want check-in with your mental health professional. But I never realized you don't know how in love you are till you start finding the Truth in Abba songs. I had never actually listened to the lyrics to "Take a Chance on Me", but now I realized that it fit the circumstances perfectly. Bootleg Abba sang:
We can go dancing, we can go walking, as long as we're together
Listen to some music, maybe just talking, get to know you better

'Cos you know I've got
So much that I wanna do, when I dream I'm alone with you
It's magic.

And I thought if my friends could see me now, the cynical, the bitter, singing with this sad erstatz Abba group under the starry skies by the beach. I look up and see a star. "Listen here star" I think, "I wish for the rest of this vacation to be good. I'm not asking for a marriage proposal. I just want seven more good days. It's not so much to ask. And if you do, I promise to play down how much the French hates Americans when I write this up....well as much as I can."

The Sauvage wants to beat the crowd to the car and so we leave before hearing my favorite Abba song "Dancing Queen." The begin to play it as we are half way to the car during their first encore. I ask him if he knows what the song is about, and he has no clue. I try to explain the lyrics, but I can't get him to understand the word "Queen." I try to listen as much as I can before we reach the car. As we pull away, I am only certain of one thing: when this is all over, I am never, ever dating another man with a child.

** Because Coke is imported it is usually as expensive as the cheapest glass of wine or beer on the menu. So a glass of Coke generally costs over 2.50 Euro.

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