An autumn encounter with Phileas Fogg, Miss Mimosa and Jean Passepartout in Paris on their way the help prepare the winter festivities on the Riviera: Mandelieu’s Mimosa Festival, Nice’s Carnaval, Menton’s Lemon Festival.
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I’d received a letter written in a strange hand inviting me to taste some baked pineapple at one of the tents of the Christmas market near the bottom of the Champs-Elysées. Odd! I went to see what it was all about.
While walking through Place de la Concorde, I came across Phileas Fogg, Miss Mimosa, and Jean Passepartout.
I asked if I could take their picture. Mr. Fogg said that he and Passepartout were in a hurry but they kindly allowed me to do so. Miss Mimosa gave me a little wink, I thought, before I realized that it was just the pleasant November sun in her eyes.
Miss Mimosa handed me a few sprigs of her namesake flower and off they went.
I turned to go up the Champs-Elysées where I saw coming towards me 16 Brazilian dancers. I could tell they were Brazilian because, well, you could just tell. They’d apparently come out of the tent where I’d been invited to taste the baked pineapple. There were eight female dancers in monokinis and feather headdress. The headdress rested on their shoulders and was covered at its base with a glittery fabric that draped down to partly cover their breasts. There were also eight male dancers in tight white bellbottoms and bronze naked torsos. I lifted my camera to their picture of the troop as they sambaed by but the hip of one of the Brazilians hit my elbow and my shot went up into the air, where it captured the copy of one of the Horses of Marly rearing by the entrance to the Champs-Elysées.
Following right behind the Brazilian dancer were six men playing kettle drums on wheels, three elephants, a tiger, a dozen dwarves carrying mimosas, the large head of a king, a dragon led on a chain by a mad, wiry trainer, three men and three women carrying baskets of lemons, and a cast of characters the likes of which I’d never seen on the streets of Paris.
A chimpanzee rode the lead elephant and waved at me to follow. He pointed to the big wheel on the opposite side of the Obelisk, by the entrance to the Tuileries Garden. That’s where they were headed.
Traffic stopped as the parade crossed over to the Obelisk. As I watched them cross I realized that I was witnessing a preview of winter festivities on the Riviera. The three festival towns had apparently coordinated their efforts and their schedules for their February Mardi Gras-time festivals.
Mandelieu-La Napoule, nestled near Europe’s largest mimosa forest, had brought along its flowers and its chosen beauty for its Mimosa Festival, Feb 15-24, 2013.
Nice had brought along some of its dancers and its King of the 5 Continents, sovereign of the next Carnaval, Feb. 15-March 6, 2013.
Menton had brought along Phileas Fogg and Jean Passepartout, who planned to make a detour for the “Around the World in 80 Days”-themed Lemon Festival, Feb. 16-March 6, 2013.
I lifted my camera to take a picture of the long train of this mixed parade, but just then the chimp took my elbow and my camera veered off toward one of the fountains on the square.
The chimp pulled me over to the Ferris wheel, threw me into a gondola along with one of the Brazilian dancers and jumped in beside me. Then up we went for some a remarkable view.
We all squealed in delight. Well, the monkey squealed in delight. The Brazilian dancer squealed with vertigo. And I squeal with surprise when the dancer, unable to look out and burying her face in her breasts, lowered her headdress into my face, where the feathers tickled my nose.
I asked the chimp if he would take a picture of me and the Brazilian dancer but he wouldn’t hold still.
I asked her if he would take a picture of me and the chimp but she wouldn’t look up.
I spread her feathers and looked down at the Tuileries Garden and the Louvre.
After we returned to earth, my Brazilian companion lifted her head and sambaed off the gondola. Phileas Fogg and Jean Passepartout rushed off to catch a train for Geneva. And the rest of us said teary good-byes promising to all get together on the coast in February. All but the chimp, who hung around with no place to go.
I was in such a fine mood that I invited him home to help me make a pumpkin pie, for American Thanksgiving was two days later.
When I got home I realized that I’d forgotten to buy the ground ginger called for in the recipe. The chimp didn’t want to go back out for it and I didn’t want to leave him alone in the apartment. I thought about what I could replace the ginger with and remembered the Viagra pill that a doctor friend had given me when I was feeling a bit down after my cat died a few years ago, so I ground that up.
The recipe also called for ground cardamon. I didn’t know what that was so the chimp looked it up on the google machine. Looking over his hairy shoulder I saw that cardamon resembled another pill that someone once gave me in a Latino nightclub when I’d suggested at 3 a.m. that it was getting late, so I crushed that up too.
The chimp licked the bowl. While the pie was yet in the oven he started bouncing off the walls and humping the couch, so I kicked him out and haven’t heard from him since.
On Thanksgiving I took my pumpkin pie to the apartment of the friend who was hosting the meal. I set on the table the sprigs that Miss Mimosa had given.
The pie was a hit The French guests wanted to know what spices I’d use.
“Mostly cinnamon and nutmeg,” I said. “A few cloves.”
“And where’d you get the mimosas? Where you just on the coast?”
“Sort of,” I said, momentarily missing the chimp.
© 2012, Gary Lee Kraut