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STORY: That's One Way to Meet a (French) Movie Star - Part I


Jon had come to meet me in Israel, where I'd been living for four months. After doing a rapid highlights tour of the country, Jon and I agreed we both wanted to spend a few days in the north of Egypt, for the sake of saying we'd been to Africa, of course, but also because Egypt's north, much to the unfamiliar's surprise, also has some very beautiful and very affordable beaches. We'd go for just a few nights then back to Tel Aviv and from there to Greece and the rest of Europe.

To drive through the south of Israel and the north of Egypt is to drive through nothing but desert. Through the Negev in Israel, through the Sinai in Egypt. These people, the Jews of Israel and the Arabs of Egypt, who share literally the same formations of rock and sand,who eat such similar diets, who even share the same passion for throaty consonants, why oh why must they have such strife? But I digress. Let us resolve the conflict in the Middle East in a future post, shall we? Besides, this is nowhere near where the source of the conflict lies as the Egyptians and Israelis signed a peace treaty decades ago.

Anyway, on the back of camels across the Sinai desert we rode. I'm kidding. We rode no camels. I've once ever ridden a camel, on another trip to Israel, my first as an "adult," when I was sixteen. A boy need only ride a camel once. That very hard, very bumpy ride. Sat astraddle the bouncing was and I'm positive still is rather unpleasant. Need I say more? No, for Jon and I it was in so-called taxis that we rode from the Eilat/Taba border crossing. I thought it could get no worse than the aggressive and rather terrifying nature of the average Israeli driver. Then I hopped into the Egyptian taxi - taxi being a station wagon circa 1973 that you waited to squeeze as many tourists in as humanly possible.

When not petrified that we'd die, careering on two-lane highways round sharp bends at impossible speeds that forced us into oncoming traffic that we couldn't see coming on account of the sharp bloody bends, I did my best to take in the beauty of the desert mountains surrounding us. The Jewish kid forced to go to the Jewish day school, he can't help but think of Moses at times like this. For one, because he's close to death, but two because if the bible has it right, we were almost exactly where God was when he/she/it handed Moses the Ten Commandments. Of course, being barely twenty year old boys, a list of moral imperatives telling us what we must and must not do was slightly less appealing to Jon and I than snorkeling in clear green waters and meeting girls with good tans.

They were French, the girls with good tans were. Actually only one had a good tan. The other had the kind of pale white skin that will only burn in the sun (takes one to know one). Jon, who tans quite nicely, is the better looking of the two of us. I, in my defence, was the one more likely to be bold, or stupid, depending on the circumstance, and its result. My excuse for approaching mes nouveau amis involved either the need of a cigarette or sun tan lotion. Does it really matter? The point is they were happy to meet us for dinner that night. And neither Jon nor I could not believe our luck.

Jon married his wife a week before I married mine three summers ago. Jon also now also has a beautiful baby to go along with his beautiful wife and I hope that Jon will not kill me when I say that some thirteen years ago, on the beach in Dahab or was it Terrabin, we were both after the same girl, the one with the tan. We both vied for her attention that night by the Red Sea and while I like to think I "won," nobody slept with anybody that night. Or any other night. They were leaving the next morning. They also both had boyfriends. Or at least, the one Jon and I wanted did.

Also, although I got to sit next to her and chat with her long into the desert night, there wasn't really much chemistry between us. It was nice but not exciting, which was actually really ... nice. Just talking to a pretty French girl, the sound of the waves behind you. Nothing wrong with that, and we did have a love of movies in common. In fact, though she was only two years older than me, she'd already graduated uni and was now working for Universal or Paramount or one of the big Hollywood movie distribution houses. Or, at least, a French division of. I thought this was the coolest thing I'd ever heard. The painfully mundane nature of her sure to be grossly underpaying job never crossed my romantic mind. Why would it? I was barely twenty. I was in Egypt. She had a great tan.

Before we said our goodbyes (kissing French cheeks) she told me that if we were coming through Paris and the timing worked she might be able to get us tickets to a movie premiere.

Oh tra la la.


A movie premiere.

In Paris!

I was over the moon and as sure of our going to see a French premiere as I had been of Jon and I romancing the French girls (the Frenchies we called them). Jon was more skeptical. He'd believe it when it happened.

Nevertheless, not the type to to be dissuaded, one Egyptian taxi, an Israeli bus, an airplane, three Greek ferry rides and countless European trains later we were somewhere in Western Europe (the south of Italy, or Spain, maybe) when I called our French friend up and told her we were planning to arrive in Paris in a few weeks. I don't think Jon could believe that:
a) I had remembered to call; and
b) that I was calling (and thinking I'd get anywhere with this).

She was really sweet, happy to hear from me and truly disappointed as she explained that if only we could arrive a week earlier. There was but one premiere her company was showing that middle part of June of 1997. Could we not come a week earlier? Freaking inwardly and likely showing it all over my never poker face, I asked her if she could hold on a second, covering phone mouthpiece to rapid-fire explain the situation to Jon and positing the possibility that if we just changed our plans slightly, doing Amsterdam after Paris instead of before we would make this work. Jon was pretty shrug-casual about it. He said why not. Or probably why the fuck not. He said it cooler than I could have. This was important. We were barely twenty. It was critical to act cool and smoke many cigarettes and say fuck a lot.

I'd never be as cool as Jon, always finding the need to say things like:
Holy shit! We're going to see a movie premiere! In Paris!

[To Continue click And If a French Movie Premiere Weren't Enough]

ParisJonathan Mendelsohn