Sunday, December 25, 2011

As Dorothy Parker once said, to her boyfriend, fare thee .. merrily

My, she was smart to do that; and Mr Porter no less so, to have commemorated it. Whit and I make no excuse. Up late last evening, reading Dorothy Parker stories (how Christmas Eve can you get?), we awakened this morning to a nudge from Mr Liebling in the same vein. When you have a name like Liebling, you're half-way there already, wouldn't you agree; and so we bounded out of doors to take the cure of the frost for our overnight distractions. 

But it was no good, you see; we still saw ourselves on his jaunt from the Noctambules in the Rue Champollion, immersed in too much merriment of phrase to resist his destination. Oh, and we had companions - we know we did - but were too discreet to more than jostle shoulders mutely in our haste. By the look of things, our authoress seemed to have made that remark more than once.

A little pitter-patter was not the substance of the chatter we o'erheard, in Liebling's reminis-cence how he squandered his remittance by a 3rd. But such a stroll, in the end, is simply one of those destined occasions for which the City of Light has made commensur-ately candid provision.

It was in the Rue Champollion, an alley two blocks long bearing the name of the man who deciphered the Rosetta Stone. Champollion covertly paralleled the Boulevard Saint-Michel, sneaking like an assassin behind the Boul's back from the Rue des Facultés as far as the Rue Cujas, named for an illustrious jurist of the 16th Century .. and midway in the alley there was the Hôtel Champollion, where the séjours, like an analyst's sessions, lasted fifty minutes, which permitted the couples to leave before they had to pay for another hour.

Plumbing extra, no doubt. But if you follow Mr Liebling through Paris, you begin to appreciate the almost Tokyo-like continuity of this page. Oh, no: we wouldn't miss a night out with Liebling, even if it were to mean (as when did it not) a hyper-exposure to public dining rooms. After Henry of Navarre, has anyone safeguarded principle in either spelling, with Paris at stake?

Truly, it is this aura of running with a pack of thieves, in the company of Liebling's prose, which allows such guylike suspension of scruple as we dilate over a service of moules frîtes with the obligatory bucket of older-vine Chablis. This is definitely the kind of guy Dorothy Parker would not have dumped (not to make them sound so few). You can lead a horticulture but you can't make her think, is a line of hers from the Round Table, which he was observing then in the Rue Champollion, even while gathering inestimable depth in the fine wines of France (a favour he voluminously returned) - The names of the streets of the Latin Quarter are designed to facilitate the acquisition of culture, like the noodles in alphabet soup.

Once we freshen ourselves, then, let's all have a cracking Christmas day. We haven't a great deal of choice in this household, but to match Whit line for line for hilarity's sake sometimes; so Liebling and Parker rarely ever get back to their shelves, and Mr Porter simply splatters us perpetually, abiding no pretense of shelter whatever. With a pack of thieves is our way of traversing Christmas, and not with any regret. It seems our sparring match (Whit's and mine) is triangulated in his drier, drawing room mode, and my more antic garçonnier pranks, by the beat beat beat of some tomtoms that never fade.

May it be true of yours. 

Cole Porter
Just One of Those Things
Warner Brothers, 1935©

Dorothy Parker
Complete Stories
Penguin Books
National Association for the
  Advancement of Colored
  People, 1995©

A.J. Liebling
Between Meals
  An Appetite for Paris
North Point Press, 1986©

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