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    "Oh, Momma, Where Art Thou" by Armchair Queen

    Armchair Queen

    Posts : 34
    Join date : 2010-10-17

    default "Oh, Momma, Where Art Thou" by Armchair Queen

    Post by Armchair Queen on Sun Jan 02, 2011 10:27 pm

    Two travelers boarded a yellow school bus in Bonafacio. I had recently turned twenty-one and was traveling with my resident advisor from the southern tip of Corsica to Ajaccio, its capital.

    The bus harbored a mob of raucous teens on a field trip; but the driver was oblivious, he focused on channeling Mario Andretti.

    Buses in Corsica, don't have brakes, they have magic horns. These ear deafening devices make all obstacles that are in the way of race drivers in training disappear: slow vehicles, animals, oncoming traffic, or whatever else the road can conjure up. One long blast of the horn and poof! the offending object just disappears.

    This marvelous klaxon is also used for picking up passengers. In addition to honking at anything that might slow the bus down, the driver honks at all pedestrians. If one waves, he stops. Don't ask me how he stops--I think he just down shifts, slowing just enough to let the passengers on.

    After four hours of road rally race training, Mario arrived in Ajaccio at noon, the closing hour.

    I boarded the doodle-bug, a two car, red and white diesel powered train with large picture windows. Pulling down one of the windows I yelled good-bye to my friend, and sat down as we shook rattled and rolled out of Ajaccio.

    The train route is narrow and winding. Traversing the mountainous heart of Haute Corse, it snakes over and through arched, stone bridges, viaducts and tunnels. The steep ranged wilderness is interrupted with occasional small towns that dangle like charms on a bracelet. Depots are lined with chestnut trees. Stone-plastered, tile-roofed buildings perch in terraced gardens that climb the mountains on switchback roads. Glittering waterfalls plunge white and blue through steep and narrow forested green gorges. The fortress walls of Cortes’s Citadel soar above a cliff. I sat gape-jawed, staring out the train window for the entire ride.

    We pulled into Ile Rousse, a sleepy port on the north coast of Corsica about 6:00 p.m. The little town has a beautiful crescent-shaped beach.

    I checked into a two star hotel, found a grocery store and bought a baguette, some ham and a tomato--the makings of the quintessential French back packers sandwich.

    While exploring the town, I met a curly headed boy who showed me around. After awhile I retreated into my hotel room. Later that evening he came knocking, and all I wanted was to be left alone.

    “Open the door” he called.
    “No, I'm tired”
    “But I have something very important to tell you”
    “I'm tired! Please, just leave me in peace!”
    Finally, he did just that.

    After checking out of the hotel the next morning, I went to the ferry dock, only to discover that the ferry was leaving from Bastia not Ile Rousse, and that I was forty centimes shy of the fare to mainland France--about seven cents. The ticket lady suggested that I hitch hike to Bastia, and assured me that they would sell me a ticket, even though I didn't quite have enough money.

    My first ride was with a very kind trucker who took me all the way from Ile Rousse to Bastia. He pointed out the ferry dock which wasn't far from where he dropped me off. I thanked him, then made my way to the ticket office.

    When I reached the head of the line I explained that I was forty centimes short, poured wadded franc notes and coins onto the counter, and asked to purchase a coach class ticket from Bastia to Marseille. The ticket lady counted swiftly through the pile. Her talons grasped one coin in particular. At this point the ticket lady and I engaged in animated conversation:

    “What's this? I have never seen this before. I don't know what it's worth, or if it's real?!”
    “It's a ten franc coin, it's worth ten francs.”
    “Well, I've never seen one before!”

    The lady behind me came to my aid, by affirming the validity and value of the ten franc coin, and added the missing change.

    “Here”, she said; now she's no longer short. Sell her the ticket!”

    I thanked her profusely then wandered off to see the rest of Bastia.

    It was an overnight ferry to Marseille, so I had the whole day to kill, and I was totally broke. Once I landed in Marseille, I would also have to hitch hike to Nice, before I could access any money at all.

    I roamed the streets of Bastia, hungrily eyeing the bakeries, delicatessens, grocery and candy stores, and seriously considered shop lifting.

    Finally, I sat down on a park bench with a view of the port and waited. A skeletal old man dressed in a blue suit and beret, with gnarled hands gripping a cane, sat down next to me and asked if he could kiss my hand. Like a naive young American I said yes.

    But, after kissing my hand a couple of times, he proceeded to lick it.

    An internal conversation took place inside my brain: “This old man is licking my hand! I just can't believe it! Yuck!!” I jerked my hand away and cried indignantly “MONSIEUR!” He hobbled off quickly saying “I'm sorry, I'm sorry”

    When I finally boarded the ferry at about 6:00 pm that evening, I was absolutely starving, so, when a squat toad-like man offered to buy me dinner, I accepted.
    I had to make small talk for awhile, and follow him around the boat, as he explained to me that it was okay to pee off the ship's bow.

    In the ship’s cafeteria I chose a plate piled with goulash and we sat together at a table for two. I remember inhaling the goulash as he suggested that I eat more slowly. Afterwards, we conversed on various subjects, and he occasionally mentioned that his accommodations included a nice warm bunk. I ignored these remarks, and continued to steer the conversation to other topics. I thought I would probably have to circle the boat all night long, talking to him, or at least until he gave up.

    Four cops noticed. They couldn't understand why I had such low standards, but they did understand that I wanted to get rid of Mr. Toad. Three of them cornered Mr. Toad, while the fourth escorted me away. I was so relieved that I walked around the ferry pouring out my story.

    As we passed through a dark portal, my rescuer turned towards me and said:

    “Kiss me!”
    “I don't want to kiss you!”
    “You don't!?”
    “No, I just need to find the coach class cabin”

    He led me to the coach class cabin and left. I found a vacant armchair and settled in for the rest of the voyage.

    Never ask someone from Marseille for directions. It took me hours to find the East Auto Route. Finally just before discovery, I found myself in the fish market where I received my final instructions from a lady fishmonger:

    “How do I get to the East Auto Route?”
    She tried to give directions, but gave up:
    “Why don't you just take a taxi!”
    “I'm broke, I can't take a taxi!”
    “You're an American woman, you're broke, you're traveling alone, and you're not scared!” She was incredulous!

    I walked away, totally exasperated, followed by a short, dark-haired suavely dressed man. He approached me and asked in a low tone:

    “Do you need money?”
    “Yeah, it's that way” he replied.

    Four hours after debarking in Marseille I walked onto the East Auto Route, and stuck out my thumb.

    I was picked up by a man in a white Peugeot. I told him I was going to Nice. He nodded and then proceeded to choose a most circuitous and confusing route. About a half hour later he stopped on a secondary road parallel to the highway.

    “How about giving me a kiss”
    “No” I replied.
    “C'mon I've been nice to you, I could have .....”
    “A short one” I bargained.
    “But of course” he answered.

    Against my better judgment, I kissed him. Three things became immediately clear: he was stronger than I was, he wasn't going to stop at a kiss, and the car door was stuck.

    I bit his tongue, and at the same instant managed to get the door open.

    “Bitch” he growled, as I escaped. I walked back up to the highway cursing a blue streak, and stuck my thumb out once more.

    My last ride, like my first, was with a trucker. He gave me food and drink and let me nap in the cab bunk. He regaled me with tales of his youth and anecdotes of French history. He considered General Degaulle to be a traitor to France, because he had forsaken the French in Algeria. He told me that he was married, and how the nuns had made him promise to remain faithful to his wife. When we finally got to Nice, and the dorms where I lived, I invited him up for tea, as a thank you. This was not one of my best ideas.

    My room was rather spartan--a narrow rectangular space furnished with a bed, a sink, a desk and a chair. The trucker knelt on the floor, and put his head on my lap. His hands started to slide up my leg.

    “Remember that promise you made to the nuns to be faithful to your wife?” I chirped.

    That did the trick!

    Last edited by Armchair Queen on Sat Jan 08, 2011 5:08 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : minor grammatical corrections)

    Posts : 74
    Join date : 2010-10-12

    default Re: "Oh, Momma, Where Art Thou" by Armchair Queen

    Post by Jamie on Tue Jan 04, 2011 8:13 pm

    You know, I really enjoyed this story in the way you told it, but I didn't enjoy what you had to go through! It certainly paints a sad picture of frenchmen, if not men in general! I clicked your little plus thingy for a reputation point, as you made me laugh out loud a couple of times. Your voice is very clear here--I can hear the tension in the pauses.

    Couple things stand out:
    --"Its capital" not "it's"
    --poof! The
    --the Ten Francs part, I was unsure which was you talking. . . the ticket seller had never seen a ten franc coin before?
    --I think you use "women" when you mean "woman" but it could be the way the frenchwoman says it . . .
    There are a few places where I might edit a bit but it's an interesting, funny story full of wry commentary on mankind. I liked it.
    Armchair Queen

    Posts : 34
    Join date : 2010-10-17

    default Re: "Oh, Momma, Where Art Thou" by Armchair Queen

    Post by Armchair Queen on Wed Jan 05, 2011 6:11 pm

    Thanks. I missed the its versus it's. I did mean to say woman, the whole adventure happened in French not English. The only thing I'm not sure of is, Poof! The. I know that technically, an exclamation mark signals the end of a sentence, but the exclamation comes in the middle of the sentence. I probably should add I said, she said to the ticket lady conversation.
    Armchair Queen

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    default Re: "Oh, Momma, Where Art Thou" by Armchair Queen

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