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Postcards from Paris

Contact Loulou de la Paumardiere

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Furthermore, Nicolas has just created a National Commission on Immigration, Citizenship and National Identity to which I feel very honoured to have been appointed. (Our three external members are Elie Wiesel, the Dalai Lama and Ms. Fatimata M’Baye of the Mauritanian Human Rights Federation). Nicolas presided over the first meeting, held just last week at the Elysee, and said he wanted to remind us of what exactly it was that we were there to define and defend, so he started off talking about our universally-recognized contributions to civilization: fairy tales (Perrault), cooking, wine, fashion, perfume, the Eiffel Tower, the cogito or supposed clear thinking and of course me, or more broadly, said one famous member, Maurice Druon, the Frenchwoman I embody, to perfection—all French icons that make foreigners giddy with gratitude. What makes us French? asked Nicolas.

And someone suggested that surely one of the things that makes us French is how we look. “Frenchwoman” and “elegant”, i.e., thin, go together like “physician-who-pilots-his-own-plane” and “2 Killed in Cesna Crash.”

And I pointed out that one out of two French adults and one in five French children is overweight. Of course that’s using the French medical association’s standard, which places anyone who can be easily hit with a slingshot from twenty paces while standing sideways in the morbidly obese category. I myself am of course a Modigliani but do have some girlfriends who are rather rondes and whom I describe as Giorgione madonnas, Rubensesque divinities, Titianesque odalisks, Renoir bathers or Courbet earth mothers and one of them is on the verge of becoming a major Botero.  If they grow bitchy, I choose, of course, from my long list of spirit-sapping adjectives. A lot of distinguished Frenchwomen such as Simone Veil, Simone Signoret, Marguerite Yourcenar, and our Health Minister, Roselyne Bachelot, have been unthin. Roselyne is the author of some of  the French state’s  most egregious fashion mistakes http://blogs.rtl.fr/aphatie/public/ancien_blog (after one of which Nicolas told her to “make an appointment with Madame de la Paumardiere today,”and I explained to her that the purpose of haute couture is to attract gay men who will see in you the mother they never left and I kissed her on the lips and she started crying and I said don’t ever let people see you cry you’re a cabinet member and she said how beautiful I was and I said I know.)

Even my darling friend Mireille Guiliano, author of Frenchwomen Don’t Get Fat has put on twenty pounds and when I saw her down on the corner at the Café de Varenne  last Thursday or Friday enjoying a lard lover’s special with pig’s snouts, pig’s feet, pig’s intestines, garlic sausage, pistachio-stuffed saucisson de Lyon en brioche and a side order of bacon so much that she was actually starting to snort, I said “Mireille, ma petite cherie, only 11% of us are obese for now, half the American rate, but we’re definitely on track to match American levels by 2020 ( http://www.slate.com/id/2113911/),so shouldn’t you think about writing a sequel and you could call it Frenchwomen Don’t Get Fat, My Ass?” And Mireille smiled at me with her mouth very full and started to answer and I said “Please don’t try to speak or smile that is just so gross,” and hurried off to not have lunch.

Being effortlessly fit or fit-looking comes quite naturally from one of the foremost characteristics of the French mindset, and that is la mesure, or moderation in everything, but don’t miss anything. I always have an entrée or first course, a main course, cheese and never skip dessert; have wine at lunch and at dinner; never skip breakfast; never eat between meals, except mid- morning coffee and pastry and tea-time pastry and champagne; never accept food outside of those meals and never refuse alcohol or drugs from friends. One of the reasons that we are the most enthusiastic consumers of wine in Europe and of amphetamines in the world is probably because we are all so desperately unhappy ( http://timescorrespondents.typepad.com) The Frenchwoman's secret is to stay slightly drunk 24/7, but do speed so she doesn't fall asleep.

The country that has understood the principle of la mesure the least is also the only country by whom we feel truly threatened, Italy, who taught us everything we know and makes us feel ugly and unimaginative and greyly symmetrical (Bernini proposed sculpting spectacular gigantic seashells into the façade of the Louvre so that they would reflect in the Seine and the city fathers handed him back his drawings and said “This is so not Parisian,”) so we are thankful that they are vulgar and flashy and emotive and allow their children to get fat. What Bernini and his race do not seem to understand is that the principle of moderation applies not merely to food, but to everything. As I remember telling one of my children who’d stuck her tongue out at another child, “You want to be sparing with that sort of thing. There are so many people in need.”

All I know is that I want to be really sick when I die—so sick  that the doctors will be unable to determine whether it was the butter and alcohol poisoning or the exertions of the sexual fun  they had repeatedly warned me, a 150-year-old woman, against, that finally did me in and will simply stand there and shake their heads and say “Coulda been anything.”

And then Elie Wiesel said surely another characteristic of what it means to be French might be what primitive cultures refer to in their unlettered idioms as “lying”. Only France, said he, has anything like the Court of Justice of the Republic whose sole purpose is to whitewash all officials from cabinet ministers to government contract killers. Only the French president, who is also the Chief Magistrate of France, spends such an amazing amount of time rigging judicial cases concerning everything from homicide to kidnapping, child custody, noisy neighbors, stolen bicycles and parking tickets (http://www.reds.msh-paris.fr/). Only France routinely falsifies scientific data the way, say, our state-contract physicists, who are the best in the world, have: no Iranian or North Korean physicist has ever, so far as we know, falsified data. Nicolas helped oversee the whopper of a state-propagated lie about the Tchernobyl fallout having missed blessed France as he was at the time a lowly charge de mission for nuclear fallout and radioactivity, i.e., at the heart of the state lie. (http://forums.france2.fr/france2) Strangely, that part of Nicolas’ c.v. has since been deleted from official records,” said Elie with a chuckle. “In May 2006, an independent Dutch investigative commission concluded that it wasn’t Lance Armstrong who cheated to win seven Tours de France, but the official French state laboratory that falsified data to make it look as if he had. In February of last year a state-subsidized rag called Courrier international du Monde claimed that New Jersey was about to become the first American state ever to follow France’s moral lead and abolish the death penalty the way France had in 1981, “forgetting” to mention that, e.g., Michigan abolished it 117 years before France. “Even when France is found guilty of human rights crimes that resulted from the falsification of objective scientific data,” admonished Elie, “you refuse to change your position (http://noelmamere.fr/article.php3?id_article=736) just to make it fit with what non-France calls ‘objective reality.’” 

And Nicolas started whistling as if he hadn’t heard anything. (Quite frankly, I was ashamed.) And Elie Wiesel told Nicolas he was being childish and Nicolas said “I know Elie Wiesel is, but what am I?” and stuck his tongue out at him and stomped out of the room.

And then Fatimata M’Baye said: “I hope you won’t take this the wrong way, but surely sadism, the taste for torture, is as French a characteristic as Selmouni vs. France July 28 1999Rivas vs. France, 1 April 2004 and R.L. et M.-J.D. vs. France, 19 May 2004, for starters. And since 2000 there has been a 70% increase  in the number of people being thrown in jail over minor or even purely invented incidents http://www.ldh-toulon.net/spip.php?article2660 and now you’re even jailing women you know in advance shouldn’t be jailed. http://www.raidh.org/Temoignage-d-un-ex-officier-de.html. Why?  Because any jail time even for a few hours means the prisoner must by law be stripped naked and given a body cavity search, so let’s all order pizza and get drunk and take photos and who’s to know? If you weren’t seriously into torture why else would it actually be illegal to read a suspect her rights, to have a lawyer present during questioning by the police (other than, bizarrely, for five to fifteen minutes during the first and twentieth hours (why then?); or  to release her even if you cannot specify what crime she committed?

“You can’t complain about police brutality unless one of your parliamentarians does it on your behalf (fat chance), and then of course the only commission authorized to hear such complaints is run by an elderly crank former judge named Pierre Truche, someone so corrupt that even other French judges have written books denouncing his activities as liable to give French judicial corruption a bad name, so once the torture statistics for 2005-2010 start rolling in, it’s a pretty good bet that France will hold on to the much-coveted victor’s cup for, like, the fifitieth year in a row.

“Still, as much as you love torture, your love of bullies  is blatantly expressed in your nostalgia for a King, for a Master or, as you used to say, a Fuhrer, aka masochism, which is why when you go into a hotel or a shop and hand out free slaps to everyone there, starting with the big cheese and working your way down, you’ll be treated like a living god, but the slightest whiff of French provincial excuse-me-for-bothering-you and you’ll be treated, if you’re gifted, like a dog.”

And Nicolas said “Perhaps we could not hear from Madame Hakuna Matata.”

And Madame M’Baye said “Thank you, Mr President. I wonder if there isn’t a contradiction between making Louis Vuitton a national symbol and the fact that the Louis Vuitton family built their empire by actively aiding the Nazis and Marshal Philippe Petain’s puppet government, which was responsible for the deportation of French Jews to German concentration camps, and they even built  a special factory just to mass produce 2,500 busts of Petain himself!”

And Nicolas said: “Well, that’s all in the past, isn’t it?” 


“Well,” said Fatimata, “I note that in June of this year a 17 year-old Jewish boy was beaten into a coma and on Sunday, September 7, 2008, three Jewish kids were severely beaten in Paris, and isn’t Google just swarming with other examples of recent Jewish victims such as Mathieu Roumi and Ilan Halimi?”

And Nicolas said, “But those things happened decades ago. Today’s France has changed. I mean, look, it’s late October 2008!”

Then Fatimata said: “I don’t want anyone to take this the wrong way, and I absolutely believe, with you all, that Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel was one of France’s greatest women, but during the Nazi occupation of Paris, didn’t Coco  live at the Ritz, which had a Nazi flag flying over it, with Nazi officer Hans von Dincklage (http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Gunther_von_Dincklage), a military attaché with the German Embassy and a spy, 13 years her junior? Hans was in charge of uncovering Jews who were hiding in Paris and he and Coco used to laugh and play and look over the lists together and sometimes go in their chauffeur-driven limousine over to a raid and join with other German officers, whose boots were always polished and most of them could quote Latin writers and so were real gentlemen, and watch as families were dragged out of their apartments by their hair and Chanel was asked why she was living with a Nazi officer and She answered “Hans is a Nazi? I thought his uniform, Nazi salute to other Nazis and those Nazi flags mounted on the fenders just meant that he liked to play dress-up!” And indeed Chanel had once dressed Hans for a meeting of senior Nazi officers and he showed up wearing only her pincushion bracelet and a tape measure. And one time in their suite at the Ritz Coco answered the phone and it was Hitler himself and he asked “Is Paris burning?” And Coco put her hand over the receiver and turned to Hans and said “Watch this,” and Hans was making these frantic throat slitting gestures for her not to do it and she says “I’ve got a little joke for you, Mein Fuhrer,” and he goes “Shoot.” And Coco says “Why did the chicken cross the Mobius strip?” And Hitler said “I don’t know, why?”And Coco goes: “To get to the same side!” And Hitler laughed and to tell the truth he needed a laugh because he was still recovering from the nasty accident that had occurred when he’d accepted another one of those famous master race dares from Goebbels, who bet him an entire hamhock that he couldn’t go down the University of Berlin library steps backwards on roller skates without falling. So then Hitler said to Coco: “I’ve got one for you: Knock knock,” and Coco said “Who’s there?” and he goes “Aufmachen!”(“Open up!”) and she just fell all over herself and Hitler sort of chuckled at her laughing so hard and then Coco told him that she often went to German restaurants in Paris and that she even preferred them to French ones and Hitler was so flattered and he said “Really?” and she goes “Yes, the food’s great; the only thing is—stop me if you’ve heard this one, mein Fuhrer— an hour later you’re hungry for power!” And Hitler laughed so hard that the stuffed squab he had in his mouth came out his nose and seeing the pigeons’ faces protruding from the Fuhrer’s nostrils made his aide de camp just crack up and Hitler said “I’b glad you fide it so fuddy!” and gave the aide de camp one of his famous Russian front stares and still laughing the aide de camp took out his Luger and shot himself.  And Coco managed to negotiate the capitulation of the Allies but the deal fell through when the Allies tricked her and won the war instead and when V-Day came Hans was forced to walk down the Champs Elysees in that humiliating pincushion tenue but my countrymen were thankful that France had won the war (with parenthetical help from the Allies) principally because if we’d lost we’d have had to watch Churchill wear the pincushion. Chanel is, at any rate, the finest embodiment of True France and is perhaps remembered most fondly for her final negotiations with Hitler, during which she made her now famous suggestion. “You know,” said Coco, “The National Socialist Party’s swastika logo is absolutely stunning, but so terribly angular. If we were to soften it just a trifle, we could make it into, say, two interlocking Cs.”

When he was Interior Minister, Nicolas gained a reputation for his brilliant covert operations against threats to national security (Nicolas says that “national security” is one of the three modern synonyms—the other two are “the child’s best interest” and non compos mentis (when applied to elderly parents living in pointlessly splendid beachfront properties)—for “witch,” and they all allow civil and human rights to be “momentarily” suspended for an “emergencies”), although the famous Invalides incident of 2003 has unfortunately tended to overshadow his considerable achievements as France’s de facto chief of police. At the time, the threat was embodied by an Australian human rights lawyer named Henry Lawson who lived at 1, avenue de Tourville in a second-floor corner flat overlooking the Invalides on one side and the boulevard des Invalides on the other, and who had been deported more than once for having taught a choir of alley cats to sing  “Paris Is the Reason They Make Exit Signs.”

Nicolas placed detectives Heilbronn and Leclerc in charge of eliminating Lawson. Heilbron, the brains of the operation, was called upon whenever Nicolas needed to fabricate evidence or force a confession and although he was known as a two-faced swindler with a weakness for murder,  Heilbron possessed MacGyver-like skills which a thousand Mentos geysers had turned into legend. He was joined by his partner, detective Leclerc, a good-natured colossus and papa-gateau.

Heilbronn was a specialist in Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) and notably time bombs disguised as innocuous everyday objects, and in this case used a large padded envelope bearing the return address of the God Is Human Rights. Org group by whom the victim was employed, only containing what Nicolas had called “a nice little surprise” in the form of two sticks of dynamite and an alarm clock, set to go off in thirty minutes, at which time the victim would have arrived and been home for about ten minutes. But when Heilbron looked at the blueprints and saw the size of the flat, he enclosed the dynamite in a deadly plastic explosive called Primasheet, then he added a short section of steel water pipe containing black powder, nails and ball bearings,  and an electric fuse running out to the alarm clock to insure success.

Heilbronn decided that he would disguise himself as a gentle blind man with his seeing eye dog. He was given Moumoute, a 3-year-old golden retriever who’d become a bomb sniffer with the gendarmerie after being kicked out of the seeing eye dog school on the avenue de Saint Maurice due to an almost dolphin-like penchant for the ludic and Leclerc would work him into a euphoric frenzy with his who’s the pwettiest widdle boy that ever lived, who’s the best puppy, who’s the best yes he is oh yes he is until Heilbronn slapped him and said “Ever think about trying to act like a grown man?”

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© 2008 Louise de la Paumardiere

 

About LOUISE DE LA PAUMARDIERE It would be difficult to imagine anyone more purely French or a better embodiment of France and French values than polyglamorous Louise de la Paumardiere. Loulou's paternal great grandfather Andre Le Troquer, unfairly removed from office as President of the French Senate in 1958 for having run a pedophile network, and her maternal grandfather General Paul Ausseresses, unfairly stripped of his rank and thrown out of the Legion d'Honneur because of his role as a torturer in the Franco-Algerian war, are but two of her many famous ancestors. Author of From Foreign to French: 100 Makeovers in Stories and Pictures (New York and London: PLB Books, 2006), multi-talented and multilingual Loulou de la Paumardiere first came to public attention when several of the high-profile Paris-based foreign women on whom she performed makeovers committed suicide. Her family operates the majority of the uniquely French institutions known as Centres d'aide par le travail, or CATS, factories in which handicapped French citizens are employed at less than minimum wage because, as Loulou puts it with her typical Cartesian clarity, "they are handicapped." Her ancestral home, Château de la Paumardiere in Boilly-sur-Gui, an hour from Paris in Normandy, has hosted every head of state since Louis XIV and was a favorite haunt of Lully the Sodomite. She continues that great tradition of French hospitality on weekends in Boilly and during the week at her luxurious mansion at 60, rue de Varenne in Paris.