It is the beginning of another month and thus time for another installment of the Ohmygod saga (to catch up on the previous installments click on the Ohmygod menu up top). As you will recall, I used to be a cycling tour guide in Europe for several years. Through that job (yes, it is a bit difficult to call it a ‘job’) I met countless interesting people and have a few compelling stories to tell, but most of them pale to the story of Ohmygod, one of the clients that I had for three weeks. Some may wonder about the moniker, but the name chose itself really; it is what I uttered repeatedly during just about every interaction with him.
In the previous installment (Part Twenty-Five), I discovered the reason that Ohmygod’s room was dripping into the bar as well as the fact that he had adopted the habit of only eating with his hands.
For the rest of the dinner, I tried to avoid glancing down to the other end of the table for fear of what I might see. I think those at my end of the table (Maggie, CC, and Paul) were of the same mindset, and thus this resulted in some great conversation. We ordered a few more bottles of champagne, which served to increase the volume and ignite more laughter.
With each successive flute, Maggie was more forth coming with details of her life. Flute 1: She had just completed her Ph.D. in molecular biology, and was about to start a post-doc at the University of Michigan, but was not quite sure if she wanted to be a biologist. Flute 2: She was engaged to her high school sweetheart whom she had dated all through their respective undergrad years and the seven years it took her to get her Ph.D., but she was not sure if this was a lifelong relationship. Flute 3: Which is why, she felt, she slept with one of her professors, but had yet to tell her fiancé. Flute 4: She was using this trip as a bit of an escape so that she could clear her head and decide on her next move. She then added “Who knows? I might meet the man of my dreams and leave it all behind.” Then, turning to me: “Or, I could just find a willing partner and have a few days of fun.”
At this last statement, CC, who was sitting directly on my left between Maggie and me, openly glared at her, followed by an extended and dramatic eye roll. There might have also been an audible teeth sucking sound, but I was far too worried about the developing dynamic to notice. I made a quick assessment of my situation: On the trip were a lesbian couple that had few (if any) social graces, a gay man who would rarely shut up (and had recently adopted the practice of interrupting me when someone asked a question in order to answer it himself), two women (neither of whom I found particularly attractive) who appeared to be openly vying for my affection, and a psychopathic, perpetually lycra-clad, Emily Post nightmare with horrible breath, who was now sucking the sauce off his fingers, one at a time, punctuating each effort with a loud “Pop” as he extracted the digit from his cavernous mouth.
And the trip was just getting started.
The following day was a loop-day–there were rides out from the hotel, but we were staying (and eating) at the same hotel again that night. I went down to breakfast a bit late, hoping to miss all the clients as I had yet to assess what had happened the night before and had not developed any sort of “game plan” of how to deal with the multiple issues that I faced.
On the way into the dining room, I ran into Paul, who indicated that he and Maggie had continued their discussion after dinner. As I had gone up to bed, the two of them transferred to the bar, where she continued to open up to her new confidant. He alerted me that the three of them (CC had apparently set aside her differences with Maggie, at least for the time being) were going to drop back down into the Ourcq Valley for a ride, and that Anne, Ellen, and Ohmygod (whom they saw at breakfast) had just left to do the same.
Hearing the update, I was able to relax a bit. Generally speaking, at hotels in France, you have a choice of beverage for breakfast: Coffee, Tea, or Hot Chocolate, with some bread (including a croissant) and jam and butter. Since I have never had a cup of coffee in my life (am I the only one?), I usually opt for a hot chocolate if I can not finagle a fruit juice instead. The bread (usually baguette) and the croissant are always fresh, no matter how remote the hotel.
During my delightfully quiet breakfast, I decided that I would visit the Abbey in Jouarre–despite having visited the town countless times, I had never visited the Abbey, one of the first in France, founded in 630. The current buildings for the abbey date from the 18th Century, but the chapel tower dates from the 12th Century. It is still a working abbey, but does allow visitors.
After breakfast, I made the short walk over to the abbey from the hotel, and quickly remembered why I had never been: it is closed on Tuesdays to visitors.
Even though I had it in my head that I would not be riding, I really had no other choice: it was barely past 10:00 and honestly, there is not a lot to do in Jouarre. I went back up to my room and got kitted up (a cycling geek term that simply means “put on my cycling clothes”).
After getting dressed to ride, I made my way to the garage to fetch my bike, and headed out. I had decided to make the trek up to Château Thierry, an important (and bloody) city during WWI that was about a 65k (40 miles) roundtrip. I would take the scenic route and hug the local roads close to the Marne River since starting just a few kilometers from Jouarre, the hillsides were adorned with grapevines–vines that produced champagne–and riding through the vines has to be one of the great pleasures in life.
The ride went swimmingly, although the road was dotted with WWI memorials–there was a well-maintained memorial in every town and practically every intersection along the route. It was a sobering reminder of what the region went through, and is why, for the most part, Americans are always well-received in the area. The experience was so sobering, in fact, when I stopped in Charly-sur-Marne for lunch, I ordered a flute of champagne from a producer just up the road (cost: 3€–less than $5). Then I ordered another.
After the third coupe, my “problems” seemed to ease a bit and after the fourth? Well, my ride up to Château Thierry was no longer a possibility. Instead, I stumbled upon my iron horse and made my way back from whence I came. All told, I was gone for a little over three hours (with at least half of that being lunch), which made it easy to rationalize that I had been out “riding”.
I was the first one back to the hotel and I quickly made my way up to my room to catch the end of that day’s Tour de France stage. While I do love watching bike racing on T.V., and watching it in French allows me to hone my language skills a bit, in all honesty, I watch the Tour for one reason: it’s soporific effect. As usual, within minutes I was asleep, drool in all.
Per normal, the voice of the announcer awakened me–the race was nearing its conclusion and the announcer could not contain his enthusiasm as the finish line approached. As I rubbed out the sleep from my eyes in time to see that day’s winner, I could not help but think that I was far from the only one across France that naps a bit during the meat of the stage, waking just in time for the final kilometer–thanks to the dramatic change in pitch of the French broadcasting crew.
At the conclusion of the race, I hopped up, showered, and made my way back downstairs. I headed right out to the garage to both check to see who was still out on the road and in the hope that the still high July sun would help to eradicate my grogginess.
Surprisingly, all the bikes were dutifully arranged off to the side of the garage (except one–it was strewn in the middle of the garage floor), which made me both relieved (that I would not have to go out and track anyone down) and slightly stressed by the fact that there were another two hours until dinner and I either had to go back to my room and play the hermit or run the risk of socializing with one or more of the clients.
I decided that I had had enough of the self-pity routine–I was, after all, riding my bike around France and (essentially) getting paid for it. So instead, I headed to the bar, ready to get my champagne-ing on again. Much to my delight, the owner/bartender was there, and welcomed me heartily. Before I could even sit down, he pulled a bottle of champagne from the cooler and started opening it. He commented that he knew how much I had enjoyed the champagne from the night before, so he took the liberty of picking out a bottle of the prestige cuvée from the same producer. [Every champagne producer makes a standard “Brut” which compromises 80-90% of their production. Many also produce a few other blends or “cuvées”: a Rosé, a Vintage, a Blanc de Blancs–made only from white grapes (or the more rare Blanc de Noirs–made only from red grapes), and perhaps a “Prestige Cuvée”–almost always a vintage (vintages are made only in the best years) and always the from only the best grapes of the given year.]
I started to ask how much, but he raised his palm in defiance, indicating that this was on the house.
As he poured the first flute, he intimated that he could not help but feel a bit sorry for me–he focused his pity for me on my most objectionable client, shaking his head and muttering “mon Dieu” on several occasions. He also recited the oft repeated Napoleon quote regarding champagne:
Le champagne, dans la victoire, on le mérite, dans la défaite, on en a besoin!
Champagne: in victory you deserve it, in defeat, you need it.
As he poured the last of the bottle, the rest of the troupe had started to assemble. We retreated to the dining room, where the de facto seating arrangement occurred: at one end of the table, we had Paul, CC, Maggie, and me. At the other end were Anne, Ellen, and Ohmygod.
Nothing really of note transpired during dinner other than Ohmygod intimating that he had spent a fabulous day with his two female guardians and could not have been happier. Ellen also admitted that they had enjoyed riding with him and that he was quite the help at lunch–he gladly devoured any leftover food on both of their plates–saving them from either over-eating or wasting food. I instantly thought that this was destined for disaster, but decided to keep that opinion hidden. Besides, I was distracted by what seemed to be a new Ohmygod “talent”: Since the night before, he seems to have adopted a new style of eating–instead of taking a bite or two and methodically consuming his meal, tonight he was packing his cheeks full of food, keeping a steady supply stuffed in his pie hole. The look is not dissimilar to Dizzie Gillespie’s inflated cheeks when he played the trumpet. Ohmygod appears to do it for one main reason: so that he can talk. His new-found “besties” have ignited a bit of confidence deep within and he does not hesitate to share. Eating, however, seems to interfere with the spewing of his world view, so rather than give either up, if only momentarily, he has decided to pack his mouth as full as possible. He is still able to talk, although it is tough to say if he is coherent since every utterance up to that point was puzzling at best.
It is also possible that there is a much more fundamental reason for his odd form of hoarding: he is able to repeatedly taste his meal, which he particularly enjoys and given his audible sounds of pleasure (loud grunts), I choose to think it is a continual reassessment of the dish–the alternative explanations are far too troublesome.