from August 1, 2004
Several mornings after the tête-à-tête with mon nouvel ami Jack Chirac, someone called and put me on hold. Soon a voice boomed out in a familiar faux West Texas drawl, “Howdy, mon podnah. How’d y’all like to head on out to Versailles this mownin’, have un good look-see, an’ plan le what you call it rénovation, do I have l’accent right?”
“Yes,” I lied tactfully, responding to the question of l’accent. “When would ya like ta pick me an’ mah entourage up?”
“Pardon, podnah, but isn’t that un split infinitive? And isn’t there a decent, cultured West Texas equivalent to the word “entourage,” from the Middle French? Hows about “associates”?”
“Jay-zus,” I muttered to myself. “I don’t know how long I can keep this up. Maybe I better stick to recorded speech.”
Jack picked up me and a healthy percentage of my MJTT (Myles Junior Think Tank) associates in a late-model Cherokee, and we were soon whizzing out to the suburb of Versailles to give the old place a look-see and suggest how it could be redone along American lines.
Price was no object, Jack cackled, waving a miniscule stack of euros under my nose.
Le Grand Appartement du Roi, where the king used to hang out when he wanted to be alone, was some kind of digs. After a bit o’ consultation with my entourage cum associates, we decided that it would make some kind of bunkhouse for the cowboys and should be renovated accordingly, with enough bunks to handle the entire French army and a corresponding number of pegs to sling their bullet-bedecked holsters over. I made a mental note, as is my wont, to furnish the place with enough gold-plated spittoons. Etc.
Le Grand Appartement de la Reine, the queen’s digs, is also worth commenting on. Me an’ my entourage were quick to the opinion that we could leave some of the frilly lace and such stuff alone; it would add class to the whorehouse (French: brothel) that would go nicely with the corresponding bunkhouse. We were pleased by the fact that the madam could have her own bedchamber. It was clear that the original architects had already given this place a helluva lot of good ol’ American pragmatic thought.
And oh, yes. The famous Hall of Mirrors (La Galerie des Glaces). After consulting with my posse, I decided to recommend to Jack and his gang that, since this was the site of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, it could be ripped up and replaced with a replica of the Courthouse of Appomattox. This would satisfy the criterion that our mid-sized theme park would boast a mighty fine reference to the Civil War.
As churches go, le or la Chapel Royal wasn’t that hot of an item. Small, is what I’m saying, compared to something as up-to-date as the Crystal Cathedral. My podnahs noticed this pronto and commented. Jack apologized. No problem, I said, as quick on my feet as I am on my duff. We could turn this baby into the Little Brown Church in the Wildwood. Would this draw a crowd? asked Jack anxiously. One of my associates frowned, but I had caught Jack’s drift. I calmed him down by predicting that this was a real capitalist moneymaker.
L’Opera. An easy one. Out with Offenbach, in with the likes of Rogers and Hammerstein and Irving Berlin. Oklahoma! would pull in a crowd; Annie, Get Your Gun would break all box-office records.
Jack was beginning to relax.
He then took us to Le Parc. Nice little garden, I thought, but where the hell are the mountains? I was, however, as graceful as an Irish-American writer can be. I instantly suggested that the place be redone as a battleground between the cowboys and the Indians, who could camp out in their teepees at the fringes. A real cash cow, I told the President.
Back at de Gaulle, we shook hands before departing on Air France. Merci, merci, Jack kept saying, Merci merci merci! Y’all have figgered out un parfait makeover.
“This time Versailles,” I said to him as me and my American podnahs boarded the plane. “Next time, le Notre Dame.”