Frehel Diaries: Feu d'Artifice
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In August, in small towns all over France, there are petite public fetes held in the squares. In these small rural towns, the public square, where the fete is set up, is next to a church. Outside of the church, under the stars, there is raised DJ stand complete with lights overlooking the "dance floor." The grassy space and even parking spots are now transformed into "dance space" while around the edges of square, vendors set up their stands. The vendors sell traditional food and drink, like galettes, crepes, and hard cider as well some less traditional fare like coronas and coco-cola. The Sauvage goes to buy us a galette filled with sausage.

The teenagers sit on the edge of the square, mainly gathered by the drink vendors trying to trick or wheedle their way into getting a beer. The dance space is filled with five and six year old children dancing in a large ring doing a version of ring around the rosie to the beat, seventy year old married couples, sun burnt backpackers, pre-pubescent adolescents not yet concerned about being "cool", young marrieds still old enough to be nostalgic and young enough to shake it like ravers. In short, the whole town, the locals, the tourists, the visiting family members are all out there dancing. I've read about the fires of Beltane, but never witnessed such a disparate group of people united in celebration until that night.

The music was late 80s and early 90s. The music I used to dance to at middle school dances, but they were never as joyful as this. A sad gym with a few balloons filled with fear about who was going to dance with who had absolutely nothing in common with this celebration. I go out into the dancing throng. I can feel the sun radiating off my skin. A few girls dance near me and without talking or even really looking at each other we dance with each other. I become a part of the crowd, my arms tanned, my skin burning in the cool night. And nothing else matters. The rest of the trip, the fear and rage and hurt, falls away,and I'm dancing under the night sky, head thrown back, my body on fire, sweating with these ecstatic strangers. A 20 year old girl gets up on one of the picnic tables, barefooted, and begins to dance there. No doubt the ghosts of Romans and the spirit of Bacchus himself would be pleased.

Near midnight, after the crowd was properly lathered, they set off fireworks, or feu d'artifice. The French love fireworks, not surprising considering their love of artifice in general. The dance floor is now transformed into a viewing deck. The Sauvage and Nana come and stand next to me while the Sauvage warns me that because this is such a small town, the fireworks will not be that impressive.

I'm no stranger to fireworks. I live in NYC after all and witnessed what some would most likely be considered the most impressive fireworks displays in the US. We got nothin' on the French. The sky exploded into colors, shooting stars, umbrellas of brilliantly transforming ash-the night filled with the smell of sulfur and gunpowder. We all stood there, necks craned, united in simple delight. The show seemed to never end. A few times I was sure I was witnessing the finale, only to hear the launch of another explosion.

But eventually the fireworks ended and the fete broke up. I watched couples, teenaged and elderly, walking towards their homes hand in hand. I felt a twinge, but I couldn't be angry. After being accepted as part of that crowd, whatever the cost of this trip-it was worth it.

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Frehel Diaries: What a Difference a Crepe Makes
He drops me off across the street from the hotel with barely a word between us. He brusquely throws an "A bientot" out the window and walk across to the pay phone. I see him watch me to go the pay phone so I wave him off in the "Fucking go already. Haven't you done enough, jackass?" (Because yes, even my hand waving is complex and angry.) I don't know when he's come back, and I don't care. I'm happy to finally have some time alone to figure out how to navigate myself out of this rapidly deep of toxic emotions.

I stand in the phone booth and dig through my bag for my wallet which has, not only credit cards, but an International calling card stashed for just such an occasion. Apparently, in typical French manner, it would only honor French credit cards and calling cards, of which I had none. I went into the hotel room and tried to make a credit card call from my hotel phone. No such luck. I pulled out my Eyewitness Guide and tried to call AirFrance, American Express, and International Assistance. Nope, no such luck.

On pages 269 of The Eyewitness Guide of Brittany, it claims "As elsewhere in France, the internet is widely accessible in Brittany, in internet cafes and in many hotels." Don’t, for a minute, believe it. And that’s when I finally realized where I was. Like Persephone picking flowers, this French fucker had plucked me all unsuspecting and dragged me to a sunny isolated Hell. My mother, who can’t even handle correctly answering questions about what language she speaks, she could have gotten someone on the phone, but I couldn’t.

And it was this overwhelming sense of futility and vulnerability, this is what finally drove me out of my hotel room. If I couldn't control this vacation, or this jackass's fickle affection, then I could, at least, control what I was having for dinner. No more starving in the hotel room waiting. No more following behind. No rushing to catch up. Even if I couldn’t get back to Paris, I was just going to embrace that this was my vacation, MY vacation. From here on out, I wasn't going to do without luxuries . I would see if there were any vacancies at the other hotels, the ones closer to the nicer beaches. One without shared toilets or a spiral staircase. Because while I might have liked him, I didn't need him. And this vacation wasn't about him or about Love, it was about enjoying myself.

Starting now.

And I began by ordering some cider and having myself a decadent crepe at the creperie next door. Fuck dinner. I order an appropriately luscious crepe with vanilla ice cream, pralines, nougat, and cup of hard cider. The table next to me is full of British tourists. I don't even speak to them; it's enough to simply bask in a language I can easily understand. I finish the crepe and the hard cider, and order another.

It’s amazing what some liquor, a whole bunch of butter, and some sugar can do to my attitude. Somewhere in all of this my entire mood shifted. Maybe it was his absence. Maybe it was that I felt in control again. Maybe it was the air from the ocean mixed with feeling of satisfaction, but suddenly I fell in love with the world again.

He shows up half way through my second cup of hard cider with a bouquet of hand picked flowers, Nana in tow. He sits with me and is all silent strangeness. I have no idea what this means. A make up token? A guilty offering? I'm not sure where I stand with him now, but I don't care. It's MY trip now, and if he even wants an honorable mention at this point he's going to have to shape up.

In the car he kisses me, his hands roam a bit. I pull back. While my mood has changed, my attitude towards him hasn't. It can be accurately summed up as :fuck him and fuck Frehel.

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Frehel Diaries: A Brief History of My Calamities
The following is transcribed from my journal. I wrote this while I was sitting up on the bluff with some details added on to the end of the entry.

Writing and suffering are inextricably linked. Although some consider Marcus Aurelius to be the first author of an autobiography, as Thomas Cahill correctly pointed out’s so devoid of personal details, so general, that it is barely in the realm of autobiography. St. Augustine included more personal details not only about himself, but about at least some of the people around him (while he neglected to even name his mistress, the mother of his child, he provided ample details about the character of his mother, Monica, as well as some others he encountered on his path like Bishop Ambrose and the Manichean Faustus).

Still the form vanished until a young teacher appeared in Paris. He was assigned a lovely young charge and soon his love songs to her were being repeated in the streets of Paris. He got her pregnant and although he secretly married her, her father didn’t approve and had him forcibly castrated. He became a monk and she became nun although she never stopped loving him. Later, this Frenchman, Abelard, penned what could really be considered one of the first true autobiographies “A History Of My Calamities.” Unlike previous "autobiographies", which were intended to examples for the average reader to connect with, even the title of this work asserts the unique nature of Abelard’s experience. Furthermore, Abelard, unlike Augustine and Aurelius whose goals were more lofty in terms of saving their audience, wanted to create his experience in the heart’s of the readers. Simply it was the first tell all autobiography.

My entire library is filled with the works of authors whose suffering is almost as famous as their work: Sylvia Plath, Elie Wiesel, Virginia Woolf, Franz Kafka, and Friedrich Nietzsche.

I often joke that if you come with me on a trip you will return with a great story. That doesn't mean you had a good time. In fact, often it is the reverse. In order to have a good story you need drama, tension, conflict. None of these elements usually lead to a "good time." And yet I seem to have a knack for finding drama and not happiness. I can't entirely blame the Sauvage for what has come to pass, after all I knew this was a risk at the beginning. And so I try to comfort myself with the idea that when I return to the States I will have, at the very least, one of the worst break up stories of all time.

I sit and look out at the ocean and feel better, despite everything. Finally the Sauvage sends Nana to come get me. It's time to go home. I climb down, but he doesn't want to leave right away. Apparently he either wants me to know "who is boss" or he is continuing his utter disregard for my comfort. Instead of waiting for him, I start to walk towards the car. I've had it with trailing behind these two. He and Nana pack up their stuff and eventually follow me. For the first time, I beat them to the car.

It's a small victory, but I'll take it.

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