M. and I were in the middle of a driving tour of the Burgundy (les vins!) and the Loire (les chateaux!) one year when we found ourselves staying at the Chateau Beaulieu. Beau it was not, but regardless it was outside of Tours and we decided one evening to drive into town and have dinner. We ate at “_____ et ______” (or something like that) and it was the only time i have ever sent food back to the kitchen while dining in France. You can’t even imagine. (Remind me sometime to share with you the story about the “Cherries Jubilee” served one evening at the Chateau Beaulieu, but I digress.) So after dinner, I’m driving—a rare treat considering the anality — I realize it’s not a word, but he can be so insistent on his ‘rightness’ — of M. when he said a propos of rien, “Let’s go to a gay bar!” To which I responded, “but we don’t have a Guide Gay.” (En Francais, mais oui.) “Oh that won’t matter, I can always tell when a boite is gay.” I trusted him.
“There, that’s one,” he pointed to the gauche, waving his finger under my nose, pointing at a dingy little door with a blue light flickering over it. I swerved into a parking place, two wheels on the sidewalk a la Francaise, and we headed back down the street to the ‘gay’ bar.
“You’re sure, right?”
“Oh, most definitely,” he asserted. I opened the door ahead of him and stepped into the movie set of the early life of Edith Piaf (it was in black & white, I swear to dieu.) The bartender, Gauloise perched menacingly on his fat lower lip, a dingy wife-beater pulled loose from repeated wearings the same color as the towel he was using to wipe a glass—dingy—stared at us; there was a couple dancing, a la Apache — she in a slip, he in t-shirt and beret — stopped dancing and swiveled their heads toward us — did the music stop? It could have. the few patrons sitting at the bar — true, all men, equally true, not gay — rheumy eyes glowering, a cigarette on each lip — at which point M.has squeezed in behind me and is looking over my shoulder at the mise-en-scene avant nous.
I must pause here, to reflect on our appearance: we look like Americans, try as we might to look otherwise, a sweater thrown over shoulders, for instance, we think might make us fit in sartorially, but sadly it does not and tonight, ici, we are looking particularly foreign and particularly gay— if there is a universal ‘gay’ look, that was the ‘look’ we were sporting that evening.
The bartender, “Oui, messieurs?”
Us, “Oops! excusez-nous, pardon, pardon…” as we bowed and retreated I swear the music started up again, the dancers returned to their dance, the patrons to their drinks, the bartender continued to wipe the same glass, the door closed quietly behind us, just like Brigadoon when you’re not looking for it (the Scottish angle best saved for another day and the Cherries Jubilee story).
The moral of the story (if you can call it that): whenever M. gets all righteous with me and insists he’s right, I’ll remind him of that night in Tours, “just like you know a gay bar when you see one? mm-hmm.” And that’s the end of that.
all of the above prompted by this:
the Château de Tanlay, France via archimaps