Note: One day we were writing with Stewart and Jack came up with a structure for the Memoir Moment, developed for the memoir book that arose while we taught the Memoir course at UW-Extension. Jack knows music, theme and variation, we named it the Bee-Bop structure. It had six parts, it fit into the timed writing sequence at Louisa’s Café, a structure of minutes: 5-10-15-20-5-5. Here it is. Thank you, Jack.
Theme: I remember.
Variation one: It reminds me of.
Variation two: But nothing could be.
Variation three: Embedded memory.
Recap: I remember that first time.
Segue: But later, when I am older.
Theme: I remember Paris in April. Remember the Easter crowds. The lines at Notre Dame. A sign reads Beware of Pickpockets. Warnings at the Hotel Luxembourg. I remember tourists. American middle class riding high on the stock market. The French franc was down against the American dollar. No problem. Parisians jack up their prices. Ten bucks for an omelette. Ten bucks for a beer, une pression. Cops on the street. Cops in busses. Cops forming up like soldiers. Cops strapping on riot gear. Plastic protectors for knee and shin. A parade by socialists stops traffic at the Hotel Luxembourg. Cars line the one-way streets. Boul Mich closed. When the Paris Cops work, they control the space.
Var 1: It reminds me of Paris 20 years ago. Margot so young. Bob so young. No fatigue from PCa, the hovering near-death of surgery. We rode the bus across the river to the Right Bank. Lunch at Cafe Fricassee. Outdoors on the sidewalk with the poules passing. The waiter knew us. Flapped his arms. Said Fricassee with a grin. Pointed us to a table. We were regulars. When we left Paris that year we said goodbye to the waiter. He took us to the proprietor. They toasted our return with Calvados. Apple brandy that blew out your ears. Exploded behind your nose. Brightened your brain. After lunch at Cafe Fricassee we took the camera and shot some poles.
Var 2: But nothing could be like that time again. Paris had grown. Crowded buses. Packed metros. At Easter the Parisians exit the city, flee to the countryside. Our tour guide has a house in Normandy. Our friends here have a house in Provence. Parisians leave the city and here come the fucking foreigners. Catholics pop out of the woodwork in Europe. Catholics form snake-lines leading away from Notre Dame across the bridge on Boul Mich. Crowded cafes. Surly waiters. My 200 words of French make the lips curl. Tea for one at the Deux Magots on Sunday morning costs 66 francs. Eleven bucks.
Var 3: Embedded Memory.
And I remember that our friend, an artist in Paris, told us about her daughter’s purse getting stolen. The daughter is young, blonde, Paris pretty, a stylish dresser. Trendy baggy pants, trendy army jacket, chic little helmet hat, silk scarf like Isadora Duncan. A Retro Twenties jeune fille who left her purse under her chair at McDonalds, Paris of the Golden Arches. Reached down for money to pay the bill. No purse. On the street in Paris young people press cell phones to their ears. At the cafe on Boul Mich we order coffee. Deux express, please. Gone in three sips. The waiter eyes my empty cup. Wants us to go, head up the street, make way for a real customer. Twenty years ago we lingered in cafes. Like the guidebook says. You gotta rent the space.
Recap: I remember Paris that first time. My first French rabbit at Le Lapine Agile. The cafe, the rabbit stew, the fin de siècle poster on the wall. Rabbit washed down with vin ordinaire. In Paris that first time a table carafe of red wine made me happy. Lunch alone away from the tour bus, all those chirping children, made me happy. It rained. I didn’t care. I was high on red wine, twenty-three years old, soaking up the city of Hemingway and Fitzgerald. Now the small cafes are hidden away. Tucked out of sight. Cafe Fricassee is no more. I am three months out of cancer surgery. Fighting the Dragon of Fatigue. I get tired and I get pissy. Snappish. Turn back the clock. Crank back the hands of time. Give me the old Paris.
Segue: But later when I am older. Older means 65 instead of 64. I ache in the morning. My bones talking. A lecture from my alter-ego about yesterday’s exercise. Hey, Ray. It’s Mr. Bones here. Lay off the fucking weight machines. Mr. Bones is an inhabitant of my memoir. Good work on today’s writing. Jack’s bee-bop structure. Theme, variations 1-2-3, then Recap. Mr. Bones calls from my knee. How about some pain killer, bud? How about some Valium? Where’s the fucking ice pack? You want weight machines, try some red hot inflammation. Later, bud. Over and fucking out. How can it get later when it’s already too late?