Blog: Good to be Back Home in Malibu

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Burt Ross

Yes, my sophisticated reader, you have figured out from the title of this blog that I have been elsewhere, although to be perfectly honest, nobody seemed to notice my absence. My bride and I just returned from a two-week trip to New York and France, and other than being discombobulated and groggy from the time difference, I am still functioning at the same low level that is my norm. 

We visited lots of family in New York City—our two grown children, three nieces, two great nephews, a first cousin, and a first cousin once removed. That “once removed” is a strange expression since I assume that the cousin removed once is still removed.

We stayed at a small, funky hotel in Chelsea, where there were more dogs in the lobby than people. The canines were actively greeting one another with appropriate sniffing, and a sign on the lobby wall proclaimed “Pet Friendly.” Come to think of it, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a sign announcing, “People Friendly.”

I went all over town via my new friends at Uber. This “Ubering” thing is for real. My drivers came from all over the world including Senegal, Gambia, Pakistan and Bangladesh. One of my Pakistani drivers had worked for an accounting firm in Baltimore and was just waiting to start his new job at a financial firm in New York City. He was Ubering people around because, “I just can’t stand staying home doing nothing.” So much for lazy immigrants gaming the system.

Before we left for Europe I had an afternoon to kill and decided to see a matinee. I had narrowed my choice down to two musicals—the tried and true “My Fair Lady” at Lincoln Center or the Tony winning “The Book of Mormon” at the Eugene O’Neill Theater. After taking out a second mortgage on my home, I bought two tickets and went to see “The Book of Mormon.” As always, I chose badly.

I guess I am spoiled, having seen the original Broadway performances of “My Fair Lady,” “West Side Story,” “Damn Yankees,” “The Pajama Game,” and several other great plays, but I was expecting more from “The Book of Mormon.” I found it a collection of sophomoric stereotypes of gays, Mormons, fat people, African Americans and Africans all set to unhummable (my word) music.

I am apparently in the distinct minority when it comes to my view of this play, which almost everybody else loves, has made trillions of dollars for its investors and is drawing crowds wherever it plays. Perhaps this is why Arnold York has not asked me to write theater reviews for The Malibu Times.

After the play we were off to France. I studied French for four years in high school, and therein lies my dilemma. Whenever I travel to a French-speaking country, and France certainly falls into that category, do I risk embarrassing myself by trying to speak French in the hope that my father, were he alive, would be proud of the money he spent sending me to a private school, or do I stick with English and a heavy dose of sign language? 

When I graduated from high school, my French teacher, Brucya Dedinsky, told me that in her 40 years of teaching languages she never met anybody who pronounced French worse than I did, and then she added, “And that goes for your English also.” With that memory very much intact, I should have forsaken the French but, again, I chose badly.

So there I was in France, mumbling something that was supposed to be French, only to have the natives respond in machine gun fashion that was real French, not something supposed to be French. Of course, I couldn’t understand a word of it unless it was something like “restaurant” or “imagination” which happen to be the same in either tongue. Somehow I got by.

We drove from Paris to the Loire Valley, and I ate and drank my way through the lush vineyards and farmland as if I hadn’t had a meal in months. The French love their food, and I too love their food, especially their crunchy-crusted bread. When back in the day the French were denied their bread, Marie Antoinette said, “Let them eat cake.” Although I really love cake, I think Marie regrets her choice of words, which were among her last. 

Naturally, we toured some ancient chateaux for which the area is famous. I was especially struck by Chateau de Chenonceau because it was given by King Henri II in 1547 to his mistress Diane de Poitiers. This is no mere bungalow. I can’t tell you the square footage of the castle, but I can tell you my feet were crying out for a foot massage after I walked through the place. 

What strikes me is how lucky Trump is to get off with a mere $130,000 when old man Henry had to pay through the nose just to keep his mistress happy. The moment Henry kicked the bucket, his wife the queen evicted his mistress. Please don’t feel sorry for Diane. She was simply moved to another castle.

Before heading home, we spent a few days in Southern Corsica, an island off the Southern coast of France and the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte. Now a part of France, Corsica has been occupied by Italians, Germans and the French. Based on a few conversations I had with locals, the Corsicans don’t think very highly of Italians, Germans or the French. And they don’t particularly care for Napoleon either.

As always, it is great to be back home in Malibu, where we welcome Italians, Germans, and the French, and would probably welcome Bonaparte also if he were alive, which he most assuredly is not.