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Excerpt from Sex, Cheese and French Fries

Chapter Eight

Politics with Pierre

Illustration by Jeannie Winston

Pierre is extremely strong in his opinions ("You are wrong, and let me tell you why!"). I know "Frenchman" and "opinionated" are practically synonymous, but Pierre is a textbook example of the phenomenon. In his rants a frequent target is the United States. To be fair, he picks on other countries too, including his own. No one and nothing gets a break from the cutting, slicing, chopping Cuisinart tongue of the French. But since he lives here and reads two newspapers daily, he's well informed and has an endless supply of documented foibles on which to pass judgment. Nothing brings out the French in him more than Americans being disengaged from the goings-on in the world around them.

"Never mind the world! Try their own neighborhoods! I know more about this country than most Americans any day of the week," Pierre says. "One of my finals for high school graduation was on the U.S. economy."

This really annoys our friend, Andy, a big, blond hunter type who grew up in farm country, Ohio. Andy is a natural devil's advocate, who talks a lot, often over-explains things, and hates to be interrupted. You can imagine the frustration of a professional interrupter like Pierre.

Sample conversation between Pierre and Andy:

"It is crazy how nobody in this country votes!" says Pierre. Andy agrees with this statement, but he feels it is his duty as an American to come to his country's defense.

"Well, I wouldn't say nobody votes."

"Only 20 percent of the public turned out in this last city election!"

"Yeah, well that's more than nothing."

"Oh for God's sake! You know what it means, don't you? "It means that every one of those votes has the weight of five votes, and when it's all a bunch of fascists out there at the polls, you figure it out. In France's last election, 85 percent of the public turned out!"

"There you go again, Pierre, with that 'in Europe' song and dance...."

"Well, it's true!"

"You know, you always get on this soapbox, comparing everything here to the way they do it in France; well we do things differently here. We're a different country. We have different ways. And I'm not saying that people shouldn't go out and vote more, but if you're so freaked out about it, why don't you start a 'get-out-the-vote movement' of your own?"

And off Andy goes on a long-winded binge about exactly what Pierre needs to do to get this movement started.

"But, that's not the point...."

"Wait a minute, I'm not finished...."

By the time he's finished, voices have been raised and quashed and raised and quashed, and nothing has been accomplished except that they both got to talk a lot, which they both love. At the end of the day and a couple of bottles, they're laughing and hugging, although secretly they'd both like to punch each other out too, and Andy usually says something like:

"So, Pierre, what are you doing here, if America is so screwed up?"

"America is not screwed up. I never said that. The government is screwed up, but I love it here. Hey, I am a citizen! I left France because I was so sick of all those French people."

And just like a man on a mission to convince the Pope that Satan might have a point, Pierre, the Frenchman, has no problem crossing over to the other side to explain to one and all, especially his cynical brethren, that America is open, easier to navigate, unstuffy, mostly free of class snobbism, and beautiful! It can almost make you cry.

• • • • •

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