Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Everybody feels French

Roadside sign entering the great state of Louisiana.
It's been a long time since Napoleon sold us off, along with the entire Mississippi Valley, for a mere $15 mil - the average price of a home in Los Angeles these days. For 207 years, this territory has belonged to the United States. Yet, when you cross the state line, the signs still say, Welcome to "Louisiane," the colony named for the French King Louis XIV.

Practically everybody who lives here has a fleur-de-lis necklace or ring, scarf, flag or all of the above. The Saints football team emblem is a fleur-de-lis, an enduring symbol of the mother country. During this season, you'll see golden fleur-de-lis decorating front doors across the city.

There are French people here, don't get me wrong. The name Boudreau or Boudreaux is more common than Smith, not to mention Bourgeois, Bourgoyne, Bourquard, etc. My own surname, Rickard, is frequently Frenchified, assuming I must surely be named Ricard. Real French people from France do live here, too. But not everybody living in the French Quarter is French - trust me on that.

There are, however, many who fancy themselves French. Or fantasize themselves French. Take, for example, college friends from our Junior Year Abroad. We all went to France for a year long, long ago, living and studying in Dijon and Paris. So, now we get together a couple of times annually to reminisce and converse. Some remember the language better than others and a couple actually practice speaking. I just see French films, trying not to read subtitles, and sing along with Paris Combo

That group is making plans to get together in November to read aloud a play we saw over 30 years ago, "La Cantatrice Chauve," The Bald Soprano written by Eugene Ionesco. Normal people frequently get together to play bridge or dominoes, watch football or "Mad Men," but to read a Theater of the Absurd play? I can only imagine good French wine will play an integral part in this fine, literary event.

Of course, there is Cajun, but if you learned French in school, you'd need an interpreter to understand it. When I've gone to Tipitina's with the Cajun-Zydeco crowd, I've mentioned to dance partners I could not understand a word of the lyrics. Though every once in a while, I could catch a "cher" or "bon temps." My partners couldn't either; they only understand the music. Maybe that's all you need to know.

1 comment:

  1. It doesn't sound like an evening where I would have much to contribut (or would get much out of), but I look forward to hearing about your evening reading La Cantatrice Chauve. I think. Anyway, I've always been charmed by the NO accent and vocabulary, words like lagniappe and phrases like "neutral ground." I'd like to hear more about such things sometime.