Brasserie Lipp is a wonderful place.
Not only is it on what may be the premier street in the world – Boulevard Saint-Germain – but it also serves amazing food, and has an amazing ambience, harking to some other, distant, in the past time, when things just must have been better.
Several days after the incident on the beach I decided that it was time to go to Lipp for dinner.
The evening was warm for December. It had been one of those odd early winter sunny days that can occur in Paris, and the evening was apparently going to be warmer than the season would imply. Due to that I had not worn an outer coat. I had on grey wool slacks, a dress shirt open at the collar, no tie and a navy blue blazer.
Lipp can be deceptive.
It can look, from the standpoint of its most obvious clientele – the ones out front - to be a place frequented by large numbers of tourists, and that can appear to be the end of its story.
If one were to sit at a table in the area by the entrance, or on the sidewalk in the framed glass-enclosed ante-room at about 1900 or so, one would see hoards of be-jeaned, fanny or backpacked couples, triples and quartettes coming through the door, quacking loudly, topped out in sweatshirts, tee shirts or an occasional sweater, but in all cases looking as if they had come in from Disney. That demography at that time of evening I have always suspected to exist because that is the latest that most Americans, and I suspect also Britons, Australians and New Zealanders can endure to wait to eat while still attempting to be somewhat fashionable in their dining hour.
These are the people who would cause one to draw the conclusion that Lipp is a tourist place. These are the people who get to sit in the outer room, or the enclosed ante-room on the sidewalk, stacked like cord wood among their fellows, ordering a beer and making that outer place pretty much an English speaking encampment. But there is an entire cadre of other people. They are another whole part of the story.
That other part of the story is that Brasserie Lipp has long been on the Paris scene, and the popularity it has always had with old, local residents has been deep and enduring. The “old” designation may or may not have something to do with the chronological age of any given member of the community to which it refers. Rather, it primarily has to do with the long-term relationship that the people so-designated, or their families, have had over long years with Brasserie Lipp.
So, I realized once I had heard those facts, that the outer sanctum filled with quacking English speaking rubes was only one dimension of a multi-dimensional place.
That realization was further amplified by the subsequently acquired additional information that the second floor is reserved for diners of that old-and-local-residents group. And that that has been the case for longer than many of the quackers – or their parents, and in some cases their grandparents - have been on this earth.
From that point forward – the point of that realization - one of my most cherished and deeply held ambitions has been to be ushered to the second floor for dinner at Brasserie Lipp.
That ambition has never been realized. I am sure it never will be.
I had, early in my relationship with the place, surmised that one’s mode of dress probably had something to do with second floor access. I adopted the slacks and blazer mode (not overdone, but looking as if I had intended to spend an evening savoring good food, wine and service rather than intending to attend a mud wrestling event) and that got me out of the outer sanctum and into the first floor inner one.
And that was a charming improvement. But the second floor has nevertheless remained a distant dream.
The back room is large and filled with tables and all four walls are lined with banquettes. The banquettes, it was obvious from the first time I was put in one, are the choice location in that sanctum. The reason is that, Lipp being usually very well attended, one is forced to sit between people on either side whom one doesn’t know.
That almost always results, over the course of the mutual, side-by-side dinners, in some very interesting conversations with people whom one would otherwise have had no occasion to meet, let alone to talk to.
From those conversations I have learned, or strongly surmised another thing about the demographics of Brasserie Lipp.
All of these people, or at least all of the ones that over the years I have been privileged to talk to, are, like me, tourists.
They are not Parisians.
There have been Swedes and Danes and Germans, and there were a couple of times Italians. (The Italians, when they had discovered that I was an English speaker with some French skills asked me to help them with the menu since they spoke no French.)
Unlike me – isolated in being English-speaking only – my various banquette mates over the years have all been able to speak several languages. One of those languages having always been English, I have been able to experience those interesting conversations to which I have alluded.
There have even, on occasion, been Americans and Britons and Australians and New Zealanders in the inner room.
Unlike me these people – when I have sat next to them in the banquette - have always been able to speak French.
But they also, like me and the rest of those in the inner area of the first floor, and unlike the quackers in the outer sanctum, always wear clothes that demonstrate a respect for the place where they dine.
A small nugget of analysis should drive at least one question to be posed to me: “other than, perhaps, your dress code, what do you have in common with these accomplished and interesting people?”
The answer is “absolutely nothing”.
Maybe my desire to be cleft from the outer sanctum is a shared trait, but I suspect that those people whom I am describing assume that the inner sanctum and the banquette are their rightful dining places.
They may aspire to the second floor.
That has been, however, apparently denied to them.
But they probably assume residency in the inside room of the first floor.
That answer to that question, perhaps, should drive some further wondering – wondering centered on the question, “if I share no veneer of accomplishment with these other diners, although I do try to dress to look as if I might could, why have I been able to get in there?”
The answer of record that I have adopted as the right one to that question is that, because I am always alone, and therefore have no one to be quacking with, to and at, and since I am not dressed like any of the quackers, and since I can usually mumble enough French to make myself and my desires understood, the staff hasn’t figured me out yet.
If true, I hope they never do.
There never seem to be many native Parisian French speakers in that inner sanctum of floor one.
So, I guess, the demographic striations of the place can be easily described: quackers in the outer sanctum of floor one; hybrids of Euro-Britannic extraction in the inner sanctum of floor one; the “old” Parisians on floor two. And never do that triune demographic meet, except, perhaps, on entry and exit.
As I had entered from the atypical early mid evening warmth, and the babble and general aura of pleasantness outside the place, and had presented myself to the maître de restaurant, and had mumbled “une table pour monsieur Noel” I had already begun to feel something – different – to be happening to me. But it was only a feeling, and I am one of those people burdened with vast numbers of that type of feeling.
So I let it pass.
The maître immediately said “oui, monsieur Noel, allez” and led me into the inner room and to a banquette seat.
I was pleased to have again beaten the system.
Prior to departing, he looked at me as if assessing what he was seeing, and said, in English “after dinner, a café Deux Magots will be in order.”
As it happens, across Boulevard Saint-Germain from Brasserie Lipp is a place made famous by Ernest Hemingway, who frequented the place in his early and formative years when he was an unknown and starving fledgling in the writing business. In the years since, that place – Café Deux Magots has milked the Hemingway connection for everything it could be worth.
They may even have milked it for a little bit more than what it could be worth.
I personally think the place is over-priced and under-serviced, and that without Hemingway it would have gone belly up long ago.
But that’s just me.
And, in spite of those feelings, I do go there on occasion.
Evenings such as the one I am describing were the sort of occasion on which I was likely to go to Deux Magots.
I go there because the place has strengths, just not enough – for me – to offset what I see as its weak points. One of its key strengths always screams out as obvious on warm evenings like the one I have been describing. Deux Magots has a huge outside area in which to enjoy the sights, sounds, smells and general ambience of temperate Paris evenings.
I don’t know of any restaurants in Paris that don’t have outside seating. Even if it amounts to only two or three chairs with no tables they all have some kind of outside seating. I know a place on Rue Guissard where there are a few tables outside a restaurant that are actually on a fairly steeply-slanted little mini-hill. And people flock to those tilted tables; I have had a wonderful bottle of chilled rosé there on a not very warm August afternoon. But I don’t know of another cafe with anywhere near as much outside space as Deux Magots. Le Bonaparte, one of its near neighbors, probably has a similar total number of tables, chairs and total square footage as Deux, but Le Bonaparte pales in size of outside seating in comparison to Deux Magots.
The reason for Deux Magots’ outside seating size advantage is that a sizeable chunk of either Rue Bonaparte or Rue de Rennes - it’s one or the other, but I have never been sure which, because one stops and the other starts somewhere right there – which runs along the front of Café Deux Magots, has been blocked to traffic. This has given Deux Magots a very large area of a hundred or so feet by fifty or so feet where they can put outside tables and chairs for the good weather times of the year. It is, of course, covered to protect patrons from the occasional shower that occurs, even in the good weather times.
It is a classic and enjoyable outdoor venue for nursing a glass of wine, a cup of chocolate, or a coke lite, or a café, and watching Paris go by.
So the place is ringed immediately outside its windows by a large area of tables and chairs – covered against showers – with an open corridor of blocked off street between itself and a large other –outer - area of tables and chairs, occupying also the blocked off street. Those tables are also covered.
It’s a place that it makes sense - to me - to go after having had dinner at a really good place such as Lipp. That good sense stems from the enjoyment that the large area outside Deux Magots can imbue, on pleasant evenings, with a feeling of participation in all that is going on around.
It makes the place the perfect venue for contemplation and observation after a good dinner.
I always have a Café Deux Magots when I go there. Café Deux Magots is a little two or so cup pot of not very good coffee that I can nurse while prolonging my enjoyment of the setting.
Therefore I knew what the Maître d was talking about. I knew what “a” Café Deux Magots was, as opposed to “the” Café Deux Magots; I did, however, think it really odd that he would talk about it, in English, for no apparent reason, at the very outset of my dinner engagement in his establishment.
However I almost immediately forgot about it.
For an apéritif I ordered a glass of champagne. Lipp’s champagne is always good, very dry and with lots of little bubbles. I always order that. I asked the waiter to give me a minute to decide the rest, even though I knew what it was going to be. I wanted to savor what it was going to be before it had become what I knew it was going to be.
What it was going to be was a dozen number 2 oysters, choucroute Lipp (unbelievable Alsatian sour kraut laced with pepper corns served with a pig knuckle and an assortment of weird, unknown-to-me sausages) and a pitcher of some kind of white Alsatian wine that always is perfect for the oysters as well as perfect for the choucroute.
From a wine viewpoint, at least for me, the pig stood alone.
As did the sausages; they fell into the category of oddments.
When the champagne level had fallen to about half way down the coupe de champagne the waiter came back and my order, never really in doubt, turned out to be a dozen number 2 oysters, choucroute Lipp and a pitcher of white Alsatian wine.
I wasn’t surprised.
And the food as always, within the limits of the intrinsic nature of each choice, was exquisite.
I was in the final process of worrying the last ham colored morsels out of the boney recesses of the pig knuckle when my banquette mate on my immediate right spoke.
He was between forty and fifty, had all his hair, looked to be, as best as I could assess from his sitting position, to be above average height; I could definitely see that he didn’t have any fat. He was in athletic shape. He was with an extremely attractive woman who was the female reciprocal of himself. They had been having an animated and humor filled – lots of laughs and apparent ripostes – conversation all during our mutual residency of the banquette. I had no idea what language they were speaking except every now and then a word that sounded like unaccented English crept into the conversation. I had heard that phenomenon from people that I knew to be speaking Dutch and I thought that I had observed it in Danes, so without giving it much thought I had assigned a Dutch orNordic nationality to these two people.
“Do you speak English?”
I told him that I did.
“Have you been down Rue Saint-Jacques?”
“Not that I recall. Why do you ask?”
“I heard the maître de hôtel when he seated you.”
“I’m sorry. This is beginning to go totally beyond me. I don’t remember him saying anything, certainly not about Boulevard Saint-Jacques.”
“It is Rue Saint Jacques, not Boulevard Saint-Jacques.”
The woman spoke at that point. She said something in the lilting language that I had been hearing them speak for the last hour or so, so I had no idea what she had said. But it had a stern tone to it.
She turned to me.
“I told him to quit beating up on the cripple.”
And then she burst into uncontrolled laughter.
“It wasn’t cripple; it was a word there is no English for; there barely is any Human for it.”
I took a sip of my white Alsatian wine and looked at her.
She took a sip of whatever red wine it was that she and her table mate were sharing from a bottle with one of those – for me – undecipherable “mis en bouteille a la propriété” labels with the etching of a formidable-looking chateau prominently displayed in its upper third – and looked back.
They had had steaks, of all things, in an Alsatian restaurant.
“As close as the human tongue has come to the word it would be in English, hyphenated: ‘the-under-gunned-under-informed-possessor-of-the-ancient-secret-and-the future-solution’.”
“How nice” was the best that I could rejoin.
For the first time ever in my Brasserie Lipp banquette conversations I was beginning to wish that I were out with the quackers.
I mean, really, “the-under-gunned-under-informed-possessor-of-the-ancient-secret-and-the future-solution”? I enjoy the weird and macabre as much as the next person, but there are limits to my willingness to go places with people on their frolics of fantasy, and I felt as if I had just reached one of those limits.
Apparently my interlocutor realized that that could be happening, because she said, “seriously, I apologize for having so much fun at your expense. It’s just that you have reminded us of someone we once knew. When Nels took you to task for the mistake of Boulevard for Rue it reminded me so much of the exchanges that we used to have with that friend that I lapsed into the mode we used to take with each other – the three of us.”
“But the translation stands. I tell you it was meant in fun, jovial fun, not malicious fun.”
Nels decided to get back into the conversation.
“It was that resemblance that Lisa refers to that caused me to ask you about Rue Saint-Jacques. Our friend – the one you remind us of – loved to walk its length every day.”
“I haven’t ever done that. I don’t even know where it is.”
“It’s parallel more or less to Boulevard Saint-Michel. It starts out as Rue Petite Pont, across from Notre Dame, goes for a short distance as Rue Petite Pont, and then changes name and goes on for a long distance as Rue Saint-Jacques.”
Nels took, not a sip, I would call it a quaff, of his wine.
“But the reason I asked you if you spoke English, was because you look as if you do. Also, I heard Le Maître speak to you in English. On the assumption that I was correct, I wanted to ask you to assist me in a hobby that I enjoy.”
I thought to myself, “This encounter lurches from one odd event to yet another. He can’t mean wife swapping; I’m obviously alone. I don’t know what English would have to do with that anyway. I wonder what English does have to do with…”
I was apparently lost in thought longer than would be normal in a conversation, and my face must have somehow betrayed the nature of those thoughts because the he interrupted them with “no –nothing deviant; I am very interested in the fact that English – like any language – has regional variations. But English is so widely spoken that it creates a linguistic environment in which the number of variations is both amazingly broad and amazingly fascinating. I am especially interested in American English. And you are obviously American. If you would tell me something that might take three or four minutes to complete in the telling, I will tell you what area of America you are from.”
Since I am frequently thought to be Canadian in France, and since I generally let that impression stand during the George W. Bush era, I thought that this might be interesting, that I might be more of a challenge than he might expect.
“Sure; I’ll do that. By the way what does looking like one speaks English look like?”
Nels laughed, took another quaff and said, “I think that was touché?”
“Maybe that too; I am really curious if there is an ‘Anglais’ look.”
“Only to someone such as I who is interested in listening and categorizing the speaking patterns of English speakers. As a student of that phenomenon one becomes sensitive, perhaps, to nuanced clues. All I can say is that I frequently get that feeling, as I did in your case. Anyway, would you proceed?”
There was silence.
I realized that popping off for several minutes to someone I didn’t know about something I hadn’t thought of yet was going to more difficult than I would have thought it would be. I didn’t have anything to say. But I had said that I’d go along with the gag, and I was determined to do it.
I started talking with no forethought. As I listened to what I was saying I was amazed because I had no idea what I was saying had come from.
“Rue Saint-Jacques in ancient times was a major animal trail skirting the lower part of a gradual rise leading away from the river. It led into the hill country where a huge and ancient oak forest provided copious food and cover for all different sorts of birds and animals. The acorns provided food for many of the mammals and birds such as the squirrels and the deer and the turkeys and the grouse; and many of those mammals and birds themselves provided food for others such as the wolves and the birds of prey like the eagle or the various hawks. Some of the animals – the bears and the raccoons, principal among them - ate both their fellow mammals and also the fruit of the oaks.
“Although that trail had been created by the never ending traffic of seemingly endless ages by the animals, men had discovered, sometime after the ancient thing had been in existence already longer than the men had been there that they – the men - could use it also. They used it for access to the oak forests in the fall for acorns. They used it at all times of the year to hunt the animals for their meat, for like the bears and raccoons, men ate both the acorns and whatever of the animals and birds that they could capture or kill.
“The whole situation was in perfectly balanced symbiosis.
“That had been true for as long as any of the men could remember. And some of those men knew that it had been true much longer than that – maybe forever – whatever ‘forever’ might mean.”
I stopped, wondering how I had thought all of that up out of a clear blue sky (actually clear lamp-lit ceiling) but I had done it.
I wondered if it had been three or four minutes.
My banquette mates sat there saying nothing.
Then Lisa said, “Is there more? Don’t stop now. I want to know how it comes out.”
“So would I” I said. “So would I.”
“You are from Northern California, right?” said Nels.
“That’s pretty close” I said.
He looked at me for a moment, took a sip (instead of a quaff this time) of his red wine, uttered a little whistle and said, “Lisa is right. That is the beginning of a great little tale. What is the rest of it?”
“I really don’t know. It came to me out of nowhere when I realized that I didn’t know what I was going to say for three or four minutes for your language forensics.”
“Well it’s a great start. Do you ever write fiction?”
“I’m like everybody. I’m convinced that I have one good novel in me. Like everybody I don’t, or can’t do anything about it. Nothing ever gets written.”
“Well this thing has the feeling of an interesting historical novel’s beginning. Maybe you should walk Rue Saint-Jacques – like our old friend used to – and see if any more comes to you.”
Lisa chimed in at that point. “Yes, Jacques always said that sometimes when he walked it he could sense the spirits of the past. I never took that as anything but fanciful; but maybe – maybe if there are spirits of the men and the animals that you were talking about – you can get more for your story. You should try it.”
“Perhaps I will” I said, thinking that to be pretty unlikely, but I was beginning to feel the need to humor these people.
And then I looked at Lisa and said “Seriously? Jacques?”
“The same as the Rue.”
“We always kidded about that.”
“I could see that.”
Nels spoke. “Now that I have heard you some more, and in a very unguarded exchange, I can say that you are really from Portland.”
We chatted idly and pleasantly for another twenty minutes or so, got our checks, paid and went our separate ways.
As I was exiting the banquette our waiter was at my shoulder as I rose out of my seat. “Remember the Café Deux Magots.”
I had forgotten about the Maître d’ saying that, but I hadn’t forgotten that that was going to be my next stop. The evening was delightful and Deux Magots’ expanse of outside seating beckoned alluringly from across Boulevard Saint-Germain.
I backtracked to Rue de Rennes and crossed Boulevard Saint-Germain at that point with Deux Magots shining at me across the way.
It was almost 2300. There were still lots of people inside the place. There were not very many out in the cluster of chairs and tables close to the exterior windows of the inside of the cafe. No one at all was out in the large area of the closed-off street. In fact it was, obviously closed down for the night. A few pole lights kept it dimly illuminated, but all other aspects of wining, dining, conversing and just-being-there had ceased for the day.
I didn’t want to go inside. The whole reason I had come over from Lipp was not the coffee, which was average at best; the reason had been the being outside in the unseasonably pleasant Paris evening air – and it was still really pleasant – watching a living impressionist painting as it ebbed and flowed toward some ultimate, but heretofore un-realized state of stasis.
So I chose a little table and chair combination close to an imaginary, but very important corridor to the door (the door was where service came from) but at the outer edge of the concentric rings of chairs and tables clustered outside of Deux Magots.
I ordered my coffee and stretched my legs out – there was not the earlier-in-the evening crush of other table denizens that would have caused me to need to hunch over my table like some sort of gargoyle; instead, I was able to stretch my legs, sip occasionally from my cup, and watch Paris as she passed by in all her spectacular variety. I idly wondered to myself if sitting with legs stretched out made one look like an English speaker.
“Too late to ask now. Too bad. I would have liked to know about that.”
I was in the process of savoring to its fullest the passing scene on Boulevard Saint-Germain when something registered almost beyond the range of my peripheral vision. But whatever it might have been, it was not quite beyond my peripheral vision, beyond the corner of my eye, as we sometimes call it. And that particular place in my peripheral vision had been keeping watch, unknown to me, on that now-closed-for-the-night separate large outside area, until the whatever it was had been seen.
I looked directly into that area to see what I had caught out of the corner of my eye.
The line from Pink Floyd’s The Wall, “when I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse out of the corner of my eye” lurched hauntingly into the music that comes and goes in my head.
There was nothing there. I returned to sipping the coffee and savoring the looking-out-on-Boulevard-Saint-Germain, and losing any coverage, other than my eye’s corner, of the other outside seating area. I had almost immediately forgotten that I thought that I had seen anything.
And then it happened again. Again I looked at the area directly. And again, I saw nothing. And again, my attention turned to the much more interesting sights and sounds of Boulevard Saint-Germain.
And then it happened again.
“OK” I thought to myself, “this game has got to cease. I am going to look over there until whatever it is that’s happening, happens when I am looking there directly.
A couple of minutes passed with nothing.
Then it happened.
A mouse flashed out from under one of the inner tables and ran down the outer edge of the seating area and then flashed back inside out of sight. It had happened so fast that even with me looking directly at the area where it had occurred I had almost missed it. I could see why I was just “thinking” that I had caught something out of the corner of my eye, when that corner had been the only vantage point that I had had on the creature’s location.
I guessed that there must be lots of crumbs on the cobbles over there with the whole day and the better part of the evening every day being filled with a shower of crumbs from the many people who sit there during those hours eating crusty French bread and flaky croissants. It wasn’t any surprise that an enterprising mouse had figured out that the outside seating area was a great place for a late night snack. Or perhaps it was a full course dinner from a mouse’s point of view.
In the next moment the mouse made another circuit. I was in the process of turning back to Boulevard Saint-Germain when, from a slightly different place than I had just seen the mouse disappear, I saw him come back out again. “Damn, that guy is fast” went through my mind. “How could he get from where he ducked into the background to where he popped out again that fast?” That had barely registered as a thought when he did it again, and then again. I was about to draw the conclusion, that as fast as all mice are, this one must be the world champion. Then something happened that made the answer to the puzzle obvious. Two mice flew from points of access to points of egress in the outer area tables and chairs at the same time. “There are two of them.” Then five or six flashed by. And then, I don’t know how many were in motion. In a moment the place was alive with them.
When I had first gotten there, there must have been just one or two of them; now the whole crowd had assembled. And they were all ready for their fashionable late dinner party. It was fascinating to watch them as they streaked around, stopping occasionally to eat a morsel and then disappear only to pop out again elsewhere. I had never seen that many mice.
As interesting as all those mice might have been, I was in the process, nonetheless, of turning back to my coffee and the Boulevard scene when one of the hoard streaked out of the enclosure, crossed the space between me and the area where all those mice were dining, and, I swear, skidded, cartoon-character-like, to a stop at my side.
I was glad that there weren’t many other people out there, and that those that were there were not near me.
I wasn’t at all sure how Parisians took to mouse-magnet type people, and a mouse running over to me and skidding to a stop must have made me look like such a mouse attracter.
Once at my side on the cobbles below my table the creature slouched down on its haunches, looking like one of the mice in the old Disney movie Cinderella.
I had never seen a mouse do that – except once. I mean they are four-legged and that’s how they are supposed to meet the ground, not like a tiny version of Friar Tuck with hands folded over his paunch (because that is exactly what this mouse had just done with his hands – paws – but god they looked like hands.
“There is little time. You need to rescue her – right now” it said.
With a quick glance to see if anyone was watching us I said “Jacques”?
But he was gone in a flash.
I had a lot to think about when I finally got home that evening after my dinner at Brasserie Lipp and my coffee at Deux Magots.
There had been the non-sequitur suggestions, one from the Maître de hotel of Lipp, at the beginning of my time there, and the same one made by my waiter when I was departing, that I should have a café Deux Magots. Those dual, almost-commands, hung in a limbo-like niche of time and space. I couldn’t forget them, but I had no idea why they had been rendered, nor had I any idea what they might mean other than the literal interpretation of the words. In that case – if I took them at literal face value - I was back to not being able to give them any reasonable place in time, space or logic.
There had been the allusion by Lisa to a word that, even after disclaiming any malicious intent in using it, or in trying to translate it – a translation that sounded like either a bad line from a bad adventure novel or the ravings of a crazed linguist – she still insisted was a real word and that the translation was as close as English or any human tongue might get to it. I wished that I had had the presence of mind to ask her how she knew the word, and if not translatable in a human tongue, what tongue?
There had been the little test of Nels’ ability to identify the place of origin for English speakers. The fact that he had accurately identified my place of origin was mildly interesting, or mildly entertaining. But it was the words that I had blurted out from no place that I could identify in my experience, to fill three or four minutes with my speech for Nels to analyze, that had been the key point of that whole exercise.
Both the fact that those words had come from nowhere and that they had been really quite interesting were things that I couldn't set aside for forgetting. And Lisa’s and Nels’ reaction to them was equally thought provoking.
There was the fact that the interest that I had stirred up with my little tale had led to the revelation that the friend of whom I had reminded them, and who had walked Rue Saint-Jacques daily, had said that he sometimes heard things as he walked. That had led to the suggestion by Lisa, and seconded by Nels, that maybe if I too walked Rue Saint-Jacques I might also hear things, or see things, or think of things that would allow me to expand the story that I had apparently invented in their presence into something that might lead somewhere. It might lead, so Nels suggested, to a real attempt at writing a historical novel of some kind.
And that idea, and that suggestion was beguiling enough to make me seriously think that walking Rue Saint-Jacques, at least once, was a damn fine idea.
Finally, there was the mouse.
I preferred to forget about that altogether. But the incident seemed to be trying to hook itself in my frame of reference to be in some way related to the statement “Remember the Café Deux Magots”. But it was at best “a fleeting glimpse”. But it was a fleeting glimpse that had a predecessor. I had seen and talked to that mouse previously. Or I had dreamt that I had seen him previously. I knew that I had been awake at Deux Magots.
I sat in bed with my head propped up with three pillows and tried to forget the mouse, tried to divine the meaning of the staff at Lipp urging me to drink coffee across the street, and pondered the idea of walking Rue Saint-Jacques, and wondering what it would be that I should be looking for, to advance the larval state of my historical novel into its next, more advanced, form of existence.
It was almost too much.
I got up and got a glass of calvados and sipped and pondered and, ultimately, slept.