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It’s been a great week for George Bush!  You’ll recall that in early 2005, the “Cedar Revolution” in Lebanon proved that Bush was right.  Well, this week the Israeli bombing of Lebanon also proved that Bush was right!  Though I worry that he may have gone too far in appeasing Iran.  Still, no matter—whatever happens with Israel and Iran and Syria and Gingrich/Kristol’s World War Nine, Bush will have been right.  And let’s not forget how deftly he’s been easing international tensions at the G8 summit!  The man has a spine of steel . . . but very soft hands.  And that’s why we love him.

But we’re not here to talk about world affairs.  Screw world affairs!  This is, as you’ll find in yesterday’s comments, the blog of a “anrcissistic, banal, logorreac, self-obsessed, ill-informed and narrow-minded professor,” so today we’re gonna welcome our four millionth visitor (woo hoo!) by writing about Driving in Europe.

Now, when last we left this self-obsessed etc. blog, I was dealing with gum in my shoe in the Nice airport.  Once I had de-gummed my footwear to my satisfaction, I joined Janet on the line in front of the National/ Alamo counter.  We might have chosen National/ Alamo to indicate our support of the history of American jingoism and imperialism, but in fact, we did so because our previous adventure with Europcar in 2004 was such a complete disaster.  Back then, we’d chosen Europcar for the same reason we’d chosen Air India and EasyJet: it was discount.  And when we arrived in Nice, we learned that thousands of other tourists, most of them British, had chosen Europcar for the same reason!  And after we’d waited an hour at the counter, we boarded a jam-packed shuttle bus, along with thousands of other tourists, that took us to the Europcar lot, where we joined thousands of other tourists who were being served by not one but two Europcar representatives.  Total time from luggage pickup to key-in-ignition, two and a half hours.

This time, we fared much better, being second-timers—and being willing to plunk down another $50 for the week.  The counter line at National/ Alamo was only one hour long, because only five people were in front of us, and the National/ Alamo representative did a fine job scratching the critical clauses of the rental documents onto vellum parchment and then turning them over to scribes for copying.  Jamie waited patiently on a bench, twirling his hair and listening to his iPod.  But most important, we fared much better because this time, we’d rented a car with an automatic transmission.

For some reason, two years ago Janet insisted that you can’t get automatics in Europe, so when she contacted Europcar she asked for a standard that seats four people (with luggage).  This meant, of course, that she would be doing all the driving, since her New York City-born husband never learned to drive a stick.  We got something that looked like a large dustbuster, which would have been fine except that the narrow mountain road that accounts for the 3km between Seillans and our rental house involves a number of hairpin turns on steep grades.  The last of these so flummoxed the dustbuster that Janet, one of the world’s finest drivers of automotive vehicles, was reduced to cursing and flailing as she tried desperately to downshift around the hairpin without losing too much speed for the hill.  After only eighteen or twenty tries, she was successful.  But she had determined that we now had very few options for our little French vacation: (a) stay in the house for the remainder of the week rather than attempt the hill again; (b) keep a large supply of bourbon on hand for her nerves; or (c) return to the airport in Nice, to the mass of humanity at Europcar, and try to negotiate for an automatic.  We chose (c), thereby shooting another half-day of vacation as we struggled with Europcar and its mass of humanity, all of whom seemed to want the same car we wanted.  Europcar informed us that we would pay a steep price for the switch, and demanded to know why we were returning a perfectly fine car.  “Cette voiture,” I ventured, “ne marche pas dans les montagnes.” My French is such that I sometimes wind up saying that I have to dry my horses after I shower, but this time I made myself perfectly clear.  “You mean,” said the Europcar representative in perfect English, fixing me with an icy stare, “that you can’t drive it in the mountains.” And I would have said no, actually I mean that my wife can’t drive it in the mountains, but that would have been unfair, coming from someone who couldn’t drive it out of the parking lot.

So at an exorbitant rate that defeated our entire pro-Europcar rationale, we got ourselves an automatic in 2004.  And as the Driver of Automatics, I was promptly rewarded with the assignment of driving the “scenic route,” first to Monaco in the east and then to Le Lavandou in the south, because Nick thought it would be cool to go to l’Isles d’Hyères.  Monaco via N7 took about three hours, Le Lavandou more than four, though we stopped on the latter journey to let Jamie swim in the Mediterranean (I went in up to my knees.  The water was azure and beautiful and about ten degrees Celsius).

By that point we had reached a Family Crisis.  It was clear that two different travel ideologies were at work: mine, according to which we’d just landed in a beautiful region in southern France and should relax and enjoy the surroundings, and Janet’s/Nick’s, according to which we should attempt to cover as much square kilometerage in one week as our little Dustbuster would allow.  When Janet suggested we go to the cathedral in St-Maximin-la-Ste-Baume so that we could see the skull of Mary Magdalene (and Janet assures me that this had everything to do with her fascination with the Magdalene Cult of weird-ass modernist/ avant-gardists and nothing to do with certain Dan Brown novels), I finally protested.  We saw the damn skull anyway, whosever it was, but not before I’d driven the wrong way down a tiny street in St-Maximin-la-Ste-Baume and gotten the emphatic and deeply shaming finger-wagging tsk-tsk from local pedestrians.  (I made a crafty seventeen-point U-turn in response, all in less than half an hour!) And I was allowed to rest the next day.

This time around, sans Nick, we did more Jamie-friendly things, like renting paddleboats with waterslides in the Lac de St. Cassien and dropping a bunch of Euros at the “Marinepark” in Antibes.  Jamie and I, we are men of simple pleasures.  But we also drove, mostly via mountain roads, to Aix-en-Provence, where we stopped in at Cézanne’s atélier:

image

Hey, who knew it was forbidden to take pictures in Cézanne’s atélier?  Not us!

But our most vivid Driving in Europe experiences were probably our first, when, in June 1999, Janet won a teaching award and decided to spend the cash by getting us a week in a Tuscan villa near Siena.  Janet did all the driving (standard, natch), and I did all the readings of road signs.  Janet is largely deaf in one ear and has no sense of direction whatsoever; I mumble and speak quickly and cannot read Italian.  And yet, after a week of driving under those conditions (along with a 13-year-old Nick, newly prone to motion sickness, for whom we had to stop the car repeatedly on mountain roads to allow him to get out and throw up), we were still married! Amazing but true.

On our last evening in the Tuscan villa, we were greeted by the couple upstairs, who, we believed, owned the place.  “Buona sera,” I said to them on their balcony, only to hear a strange voice reply, “And good evening to you too.” It turned out that the real owner of the villa was an Italian businessman who’d since moved to Canada and was visiting his relatives (our upstairs neighbors) briefly before he returned home in his private jet to . . . wait for it . . . attend game six of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Dallas Stars and the Buffalo Sabres!  Yes, that game, the famous five-hour, triple-overtime “No Goal” game that Sabres diehards (and they do die hard) remember to this day.

“You know Darryl Sittler?” he asked me, two minutes into a conversation that, for me, was getting weirder and better by the second.

“Do I know Hall of Famer and career Maple Leaf scoring leader Darryl Sittler?” I replied.  “Uh, yeah, I’ve heard of him.”

“He’s my business partner,” the man said.  Something having to do with car dashboards, if I remember correctly.  Well, we talked hockey for a while, and he filled me in on the Finals, about which I had heard no news since arriving in Italy.  The next morning, our upstairs neighbors, no doubt impressed by our connection to their relative, invited us upstairs as we packed the car for Rome.  We sat down in their kitchen, graciously but fumblingly trying to explain that we had to leave by eight to return the car by noon.  “Ah, sì,” the husband replied, pouring us two glasses of heavy, retsina-like wine.  “Ma se avete amici. . . .” and he began to explain that he and his wife would be willing to rent to us (and our friends) without an intermediary, at about two-thirds the cost of the $1000/week we’d paid.  (Why didn’t we ever follow up on this, I wonder?) Sotto voce, Janet said to me, “I can’t drink this and drive—you’ll have to do it,” and I replied, “I don’t suppose throwing it in the potted plant is an option,” so, while our host was looking elsewhere, I dashed off Janet’s glass while politely continuing to sip my own.

At that point the man’s wife entered the room, asking her husband heatedly what he thought he was doing (that’s as much as I understood) and gesturing at the wine. Whew, I thought, already looped, I’m not going to have to finish this stuff. But it turned out, instead, that she was chastising her husband for serving us wine without biscotti, and so we were treated to two more glasses, thank you very much, and some delicious baked goods before we hit the road.

And that, dear friends and assorted detractors, is the story of how I met a hockey fan and friend of Darryl Sittler in the rolling hills of Siena and was compelled to drink four glasses of wine before 8 AM the next morning.

Tomorrow, Yeats.

Posted by on 07/18 at 09:58 AM
  1. The fracture across the linearity of the time/space continuum between 1999 in Siena and 2006 in Nice, leaves me wondering, among many things, what sort of vehicle you were able to acquire from National/Alamo in 2006.  One can only hope it was not a dustbuster, and was reasonably fuel-efficient (a problem with automatic transmissions) given the Euro per litre prices.

    Also, Jamie appears, in both pictures, to have acquired some rather well-muscled biceps and forearms; he is looking stronger than ever.

    Posted by  on  07/18  at  11:59 AM
  2. Welcome back Michael, Janet, and Jamie. I’m rushing, but I need to thank you for your confessed inability to drive a standard. When we were first dating, I was perfect in my future spouse’s eyes until she learned I could not drive a standard. This was, I believe, the day after we met. “I can’t believe you don’t know how to drive a stick!” she exclaimed. “How is it you never learned?” I told her I grew up in the city. There was no need to learn to drive at all. My driver’s license was a byproduct of the OPEC oil embargo. My father wanted me to have a license so I could wait on gas lines for him. SO never really bought this explanation. Now I have corroborated testimony. I carefully printed your blog entry today, photocopied it too. I’ll be purchasing one of those frames with illumination later this afternoon. Bless you my non-shifting friend.

    Posted by  on  07/18  at  12:55 PM
  3. Could we please have more photos of you and more about how you feel each day, preferably hour-by-hour, and perhaps a couple of photos of you gazing at your bellybutton?

    And it would also be nice to have a timeline, year-by-year discussion of what’s happened family-wise, Berube-wise, since the 17th century.

    We can’t get enough!

    Posted by  on  07/18  at  12:57 PM
  4. Yeah, what Chris said!  Save your personal thoughts and feelings and assorted family stories for some other time and place.  This is a blog, you know.  Start treating it like one, and stop talking so much about things that happened to you!

    Posted by  on  07/18  at  01:02 PM
  5. Somewhere, Thurber is smiling.  Nice post!

    Posted by  on  07/18  at  01:05 PM
  6. Obviously, someone has been forcing Chris to read this blog against his will.  That’s a crime in several states, I am sure.  Chris, you’d better check with your local authorities.

    Posted by  on  07/18  at  01:11 PM
  7. Did you do any driving (on the left hand side of the road) in Ireland?  That takes a little getting used to.  That and the roundabouts in place of stoplights at the intersections.

    Posted by  on  07/18  at  01:18 PM
  8. Jamie appears, in both pictures, to have acquired some rather well-muscled biceps and forearms; he is looking stronger than ever.

    Why, thanks for noticing, spyder.  Jamie’s upper body has indeed become quite formidable, and he is very strong.  Down syndrome is apparently associated with low muscle tone, except when it’s not.

    My driver’s license was a byproduct of the OPEC oil embargo. My father wanted me to have a license so I could wait on gas lines for him.

    Ah, when will the OPEC nations learn about the law of unintended consequences?  Thanks to their little embargo, now we all have to deal with Chris Robinson on the road!

    Seriously, we stickless drivers need to . . . uh . . . . stick together.

    Obviously, someone has been forcing Chris to read this blog against his will.  That’s a crime in several states, I am sure.  Chris, you’d better check with your local authorities.

    Don’t chase him away now, Charles!  I was just about to recount the hour-by-hour history of the feelings of the Bérubé family in North America since 1671, and for that I’ll need all the readers I can get.

    But thanks for the kind word.

    Did you do any driving (on the left hand side of the road) in Ireland?

    Thankfully, no, Justin.  The roundabouts in Europe are OK by me, but I skeeve those scary clockwise roundabouts.  I’m so glad I didn’t try to drive in England this past April.  I wouldn’t have gotten safely out of the airport.  But I now think the left/right side of the road distinction is more important than a nation’s language or culture or political history.  Almost as important, in fact, as the distinction between golfing and nongolfing nations, or the distinction between nations whose music rocks and nations whose music sucks.

    Posted by  on  07/18  at  01:34 PM
  9. And that, dear friends and assorted detractors, is the story of how I met a hockey fan and friend of Darryl Sittler in the rolling hills of Siena and was compelled to drink four glasses of wine before 8 AM the next morning.

    This didn’t by chance bring about the onset of anrcissim, did it? If not, it sounds like it might be worth trying to replicate.

    Posted by  on  07/18  at  01:58 PM
  10. Michael, I hereby volunteer to help read that history, once it’s written.  I’ll take the part from 1671 to 1672.

    Posted by  on  07/18  at  02:04 PM
  11. Hilarious post.  As it happens, my wife and I took a trip to Ireland in June.  We opted for an automatic, figuring that driving on the left side of the road would be hard enough without having to shift gears in order to avoid the Irish drivers who like to careen around blind turns at 130 km/hr.  We were there on a Bank Holiday weekend; RTE helpfully provided us with a running tally of the number of motorists killed in each county we visited.  That was a big pick-me-up.

    At one point, as we drove along the small country roads near Doolin, we saw a road sign that read “Expect the Unexpected.” Not five minutes later, we were forced to come to a dead stop as we came upon two farmers leading a herd of cattle right down the middle of the roadway.  It seemed so cliche, but there it was, right in front of us (or, more accurately, around us)—the cows walking right next to the car, and the farmers leading them giving us looks that seemed to say, “Oh, feck off.  We’re obeying the speed limit.”

    Posted by Matt  on  07/18  at  02:05 PM
  12. Good to have you back, Michael. And perhaps it’s something about your blog that attracts “shift-less” people, for I, too, can’t drive a stick. I never learned, and now that I’m sort of calcified, can’t get convinced I need to since there are cars out there perfectly happy to change gears for me. Technology replaces knowledge, sure, but I’m lazy.

    Can’t imagine trying to shift and drive in France, that’s for sure. Besides, not renting a standard transmission means you get to rent a car like the one we did when we were in France last October. It’s good looking and it has a nice personality.

    Posted by George (not yesterday's)  on  07/18  at  02:15 PM
  13. I’ll take the part from 1671 to 1672.

    Oh, sure, claim the really naughty passages for yourself.  At least until we reach 1994 and that incident at the Esquire Lounge.

    I am also vaguely reminded (I am most things vaguely) of an exchange from Mystery Science Theater 3000, in which one of the ‘bots is riffing on a scene from the film by declaiming “Kill the human!” and the other robot is vainly attempting to talk him out of it by pointing out that the human is their creator, etc.  The pro-human ‘bot eventually comes up with, “But he drives a stick!” and that is sufficient.

    And no, I can’t drive a manual transmission automobile, either, but the reminder of possible death by robot as a result always leaves me regretful.

    Posted by  on  07/18  at  02:38 PM
  14. Welcome back, Michael! It appears that you and Janet and Jamie had a fun holiday :=) As for the dustbuster-driving experience, I can empathize: I once rented what appeared to be a shoebox (for sandals, not even sneakers, never mind boots) in the Cayman Islands. Which I then had to drive on the WRONG SIDE of the roads, of course. The only time I was ever frightened was when drunken American teens driving large jeeps came at me on what they thought was the right side of the road. And whenever my brother drove, but that’s another story.

    Posted by  on  07/18  at  03:05 PM
  15. One more comment:  perhaps not surprisingly, asking for an automatic meant that we would get an American car.  Ours turned out to be a large Ford sedan.  As my wife began to shout “CLOSE!” when the side-mirror came within inches of hitting the stone walls that lined the roadways, I began to wish for a “dustbuster.”

    Posted by Matt  on  07/18  at  03:12 PM
  16. I was just about to recount the hour-by-hour history of the feelings of the Bérubé family in North America since 1671, and for that I’ll need all the readers I can get.

    I’m pretty sure it’s been a year I’ve been waiting for you to keep your promise to relate your family’s history vis a vis the Corn Laws.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  07/18  at  04:11 PM
  17. My question is: Just where was the Berube anscestor when Montcalm and Wolfe had their mortal battle on the Plains of Abraham, circa 1758 (or 1759, can’t remember which)?

    Nice post.

    Posted by  on  07/18  at  04:27 PM
  18. One interesting and unexpected thing about renting a car in Ireland, we were instructed to return it with an empty gas tank, or as close to empty as we could get it.  Fortunately, the last few kilometers into Shannon Airport are downhill.

    Posted by  on  07/18  at  05:19 PM
  19. Driving stick is a fading skill, so consider yourselves on the thick edge of the future.  I have never owned an automatic transmission, personally.  But as cars get more computerized, manual shifting is becoming significantly less efficient than automatic.  Which means less gas usage, less cost, and probably smoother treatment of the clutch over tens of thousands of miles.

    I suspect I will feel too guilty about over-using gas to buy anything other than an automatic next time.  Damn it.

    Posted by MoXmas  on  07/18  at  05:32 PM
  20. Always heard that a stick shift was inherently easier on the gas than an automatic… something to do with the torque converter always slipping a little. There’s no clutch in an automatic, just bands and hydrostatics, or at least there wasn’t in those days.

    The better place to pick up a rental car in Nice is at the TVG station, in town.  Might be a hassle to get there from the airport, but you could spend the night and see the pied noir monument to lost Algeria and have some of that pissaladière, which tastes better than it looks.

    Posted by  on  07/19  at  12:07 AM
  21. Well told. You are a credit to self-deprecating anrcissistics everywhere.

    Reminded me of several of my favorites from your cohort. First, Thurber (as mentioned upthread), with a very relevant passage from A Ride with Olympy.

    He put his foot on the clutch, tentatively, and said, “Embrayage?” He had me there. My knowledge of French automotive terms is inadequate and volatile. ... Somehow “embrayage” didn’t sound right for a clutch (it is, though). I knew it wouldn’t do any good for an American writer to explain in French to a Russian boat specialist the purpose that particular pedal served; furthermore, I didn’t really know. I compromised by putting my left foot on the brake. “Frein,” I said. “Ah,” said Olympy, unhappily. This method of demonstrating what something might be by demonstrating what it wasn’t had a distburing effect.

    Do read the rest of the piece - one of his best. Also “Memoirs of a Drudge” for more South of France narcoleptic depreciation.

    And the car rental lines brought to mind my favorite line-waiting piece, “Complicated Banking Problems”, from Richard Brautigan’s estimable collection of blog posts short pieces: Revenge of the Lawn.

    The person just being waited on now is a woman fifty years. She is wearing a long, black coat, though it is a hot day. She seems very comfortable in the coat and there is a strange smell coming from her. I think about it for a few seconds and realize that this is the first warning sign of a complicated banking problem.

    Then she reaches into folds of her coat and removes the shadow of a refrigerator filled with sour milk and year-old carrots. She wants to put the shadow in her savings account. She’s already made out the slip.

    Oh, and my rule is that all potential acts of International Automobiling need to be rigorously screened through the “What would Clark Griswold do?” test.

    Posted by  on  07/19  at  12:30 AM
  22. The photo of you and Jamie, chez Cézanne, is positively Caravaggist. Excellent.

    Oh, and “logorrheic English professor” is certainly redundant.

    Although I can actually drive cars with automatic transmissions without punching my left foot through the firewall, it tends to be an exercise in frustration worth going to great lengths to avoid.

    Posted by  on  07/19  at  02:04 AM
  23. I never understood why us Europeans insist on having an actual real gearbox. I think it’s because we are naturally more stylish, cool and intelligent. Plus the fact that our cars are reasonably sized and actually better designed and engineered. They need driving properly on our beautiful artistically placed winding roads.

    The difference between ‘stick’ and ‘auto’ is like the difference between pinball and video games, in that for pinball you use your whole body and become part of the machine. Or the difference between cooking and microwaving. There is no more sensuous and exciting experience than driving at speed (preferably at night, or if during the day accompanied by a Catherine Deneuve lookalike in sunglasses - or, if available, Catherine herself, or, if you like Jean Paul Belmondo) through some hilly part of The U.S.E., using the gear and clutch to FEEL and CONTROL the car/road interface.

    Posted by Saltydog  on  07/19  at  08:50 AM
  24. Bypass driving altogether with this latest offering for tourists:

    A comprehensive virtual tour of Lebanon! Spectacular aerial shots!  All the major sea ports, mountain resorts, Roman and Phoenician cities, Crusader ruins, etc., etc. 

    One such tourist, recently ‘unplugged’, was so fascinated and mesmerised by the view he wants to see more.

    Posted by  on  07/19  at  09:26 AM
  25. This didn’t by chance bring about the onset of anrcissim, did it? If not, it sounds like it might be worth trying to replicate.

    Actually, when I clicked through on JP Stormcrow’s very illuminating link in comment 21, I learned that self-deprecating anrcissism is, in fact, linked to drinking before noon.  Drinking four glasses before 8 may have helped me become especially self-deprecating and especially anrcissist.

    there it was, right in front of us (or, more accurately, around us)—the cows walking right next to the car, and the farmers leading them giving us looks that seemed to say, “Oh, feck off.  We’re obeying the speed limit.”

    You’re right, Matt, it does sound like one of the scenarios in those single-malt ads.  But I do like the nice touch of “feck,” which is indeed indelibly Irish.  No doubt the cows had similar thoughts, similarly expressed.

    not renting a standard transmission means you get to rent a car like the one we did when we were in France last October.

    Dang it all, George (not yesterday’s), the link didn’t work.  But I gather that there was a Benz in there somewhere.  Which reminds me that although Matt’s right about American cars, in comment 15, we got ourselves a Citroen with a very loose kinda transmission—the kind that allows the car to roll forward 10 or 15 feet when you’re in reverse trying to back up a hill.  Much fun getting out of parking spaces in medieval hill villages!

    I’ll take the part from 1671 to 1672.

    Oh, sure, claim the really naughty passages for yourself.  At least until we reach 1994 and that incident at the Esquire Lounge.

    Which one, mds?  The one that involved the naked table-top dancing on Cigar Night?  That’s in chapter CCCLXXVIII.  And yes, Chris, in that episode the Corn Laws play exactly the role you might suspect.

    I once rented what appeared to be a shoebox (for sandals, not even sneakers, never mind boots) in the Cayman Islands.

    Oh, I forgot about the whole Brittania-rules-the-waves phenomenon.  In 1999 I spent a week in Brisbane, where everything is upside down and backwards but the streets are all named George and Henry, then flew to Hawaii where I was back in the U.S.A. and driving on the right side of the road down Kaaaulaiina’a Avenue and Lanauiiainauui Boulevard.

    Just where was the Berube anscestor when Montcalm and Wolfe had their mortal battle on the Plains of Abraham, circa 1758 (or 1759, can’t remember which)?

    See Dancing, Table-top, Chapter CCCLXXVIII.

    One interesting and unexpected thing about renting a car in Ireland, we were instructed to return it with an empty gas tank, or as close to empty as we could get it.

    Jamie and I did that in Seattle, Justin.  And we did it with nary a dram to spare.

    Blister, thanks for the tip!  It would involve a little juggling, but no more so than the airport rental did. . . .

    JP, the Thurber bit reminded me that this post isn’t nearly Thurberian enough.  Because after we got that replacement car in 2004, we learned that the right rear tire had a slow leak, and we had to bring it in to be looked at.  Needless to say, although I remembered the word “pneu” I had no idea what kind of pressure the pneu required or how to ask about its . . . er . . . embrayage.

    Bad Jim, “logorrheic English professor” is indeed redundant, which is why I use it at all times and also whenever I can, at every opportunity.

    Saltydog:  the analogy is perfect.  Except that few video games are as much fun as driving those mountain roads. . . .

    And manal, many thanks, but I can’t manage even the faintest attempt at humor about Lebanon.

    Posted by Michael  on  07/19  at  10:11 AM
  26. ...and not intended to be so, Michael.  Perhaps more like pain that needs to be contained, somehow.  Lebanon was my home for three decades.

    It does hit the mark.

    Posted by  on  07/19  at  10:47 AM
  27. re: The Lebanon. Who’d’ve thought that the Human League’s rather crass sounding song named after said country would be so relevant 22 years after it was written.

    “She is awakened by the screams
    Of rockets flying from nearby
    And scared she clings onto her dreams
    To beat the fear that she might die

    He left his home the week before
    He thought he’d be like the police
    But now he finds he is at war
    “weren’t we supposed to keep the peace"?"

    Posted by Saltydog  on  07/19  at  12:01 PM
  28. My mistake, manal.  And my apologies, and my sincere sympathy.  Like a lot of people, I’m having flashbacks to 1982, though of course mine are like your virtual tourist’s, since I’ve never been there.

    Posted by Michael  on  07/19  at  12:11 PM
  29. You can’t fool us. This wasn’t a post about driving in Europe, this was a post about Hockey! Sly, but not quite “shifty.” At least you didn’t have some English bloke going on and on about whatever while you were trying to enjoy a perfectly buttered roll. The nerve.
    catcha: europe

    Posted by  on  07/19  at  01:15 PM
  30. So Nick got all the Irish genes, eh? Must be, as he - unlike you - knows all about the hurling.

    Posted by Kevin Hayden  on  07/19  at  01:31 PM
  31. JP, “A Ride With Olympy” was exactly what I had in mind in comment #5, above—but due to an advanced case of 43-year-old brain I couldn’t think of the name of the story.

    Posted by  on  07/19  at  01:37 PM
  32. Which one, mds?  The one that involved the naked table-top dancing on Cigar Night?

    Wait, that was you, too?  I was just referring to the mildly risque incident with the vacuum cleaner and the tenure committee.  But Cigar Night…

    See, folks, to many, downtown Champaign’s Esquire is merely an eatery/drinkery, and First Wednesday Smoker is a chance to enjoy cigars.  But for the masked man known only [until now] as “El Tigre,” the Smoker was an opportunity for naked table-top dancing the likes of which Illinois had never seen (and it had seen a lot, believe me).  Bus tours had to add an extra stop.  As we moved into the 21st Century, El Tigre mysteriously disappeared, though the legend remains.  I am so going to skip to chapter CCCLXXVIII when the paperback comes out.

    Posted by  on  07/20  at  12:23 PM
  33. All I can say is rowrrrrrr.  Oh, and it would help if you bought the book in cloth.  There are no guarantees about the paperback.

    Posted by El Tigre  on  07/20  at  01:27 PM

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