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Thanks for resting your eyeballs here for a moment.(They are resting, right?) If you rest them a little longer, you may learn some interesting,(hopefully)entertaining, and, yes, ocassionally BIZARRE things about FRENCH COUNTRY LIFE (more…)

| January 27th, 2017 | Continued

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Christopher Strong Bicycle Gourmet – Born at the Right Time – Part Four


Christopher Strong Bicycle Gourmet – Born at the Right Time – Part Four…


brings us to the inevitable conclusion of my French-Mexican adventure. Checking out Parts One, Two and/or Three may help you connect the dots more easily.

After two plus weeks of Ten hour “Mr. Fix-It-Up” days Paul returned to France for Christmas. DA BG had agreed(with no arms twisted) to stay on until the end of January to provide a “security presence.” (my greatest unhearlded talent.)

With Paul gone my routine remained basically the same. With one exception: Wine Rationing! I had only three bottles of White to last seven weeks! Which meant less than a quarter (tiny)verre per meal. And(shock horror) only once per day. This, dear reader was wine appreciations most challenging  hour. Why didn’t I just buy more from our tiny village “supermercado?” One word: “Undrinkable!”

Like all good things, my mission of “Mexican assistance” came too soon to an end. Again I was on the same bus. This time in the opposite direction. And this time – no Ramon . Wait – it gets worse. Yes, dear reader, this driver/DJ was into hard core Country Music. “Big eight wheeler rollin’ down the track means your lovin’ daddy ain’t comin’ back – I’m movin’ on” (sung with a closepeg on your nose for maximum fidelity)

After two weeks back in the land of drinkable wine(almost) everywhere, no “bon mots” from Paul or Denis. I was just about to phone when Denis appeared at my door. With a shoe box.
I sensed correctly from his uncharacteristically somber mood that a shoe-based joke would not be appropriate.

After a long pause Denis murmured softly: “It’s Paul……last night…..” He didn’t finish the sentence. Nor did he need to. “How” I asked. “In his sleep” Denis replied.

No further words were needed. As we each silently savored our connections to this treasure of a man.

Finally, Denis offered me the box. “He left this for you.” You know what was in the box, dear reader. Do you not? Inside the glass was this note. In Paul’s elegant calligraphic hand : “Whenever you drink from this I hope you’ll remember your time in Mexico with an old pal.” And I do, dear reader. I do.


Christopher Stong Bicycle Gourmet – Born at the Right Time – Part Three

Christopher Stong Bicycle Gourmet – Born at the Right Time – Part Three

Part Three brings us futher along the road of this saga. PARTS ONE and TWO may add to your understanding/enjoyment/desire to nominate me for the pulitzer.

Like Klimt inVienna, Paul was “born at the right time.” My take anyway – considering when I was born. But then isn’t every fascinating period of History we never lived through “the right time?” Especially when we know someone who did? (tee-shirt idea – “NOW is the right time!)

Paul knew(and turned down an offer to work with) the legendaryFrank Llyod Wright. Ditto Paola Solari the “visionary” who created (the World’s first?) “eco city” in the Arizona desert. However Paul did advise him. For free.

Peyote with the Indians? Commissions from Heads of State Worldwide? Rafting the Amazon? Designing affordable inner-city housing? Rapping with Kerouac? Been there. Done that. Got the tee-shirt.

The best sunsets at Chez Paul arrived courtesty of L.A. smog.(Probably the only benefit, n’est ce pas?) For whatever meterological reason the noxious gases that regularly caused L.A. schools to close – opened our eyes wider with a cavalcade of irridescent colors.This was our “apero entertainment” as we caught the last rays of the day.

With his mirror shades and full head of steely gray hair, Paul was every inch the Hollywood prototype of Worldly “tough guy.” Add the wirey frame and working man’s jeans, and it wasn’t hard to imagine this is how James Dean might have aged.

Paul didn’t say much during our “patio sunsets”. But, to paraphrase Spencer Tracy’s description of Katherine Hepburn, what he did say was “cherc.” Particularly about his first wife, Ravi. Clearly the great love of his life. A native of the Ivory Coast, she met Paul during his time there helping to create housing for the locals. As her’s was one of the families Paul had helped, she wanted to give him a thank you gift.But no cash in the cupboard.

So Ravi presented him with a family heirloom. Small. Fragile. With a unique understated beauty any artists would appreciate. A glass. A (soon to be) Whiskey glass. The one Paul now cradled fondly as he silently tracked it’s History. Bathed in sunset’s last gleaming.


Christopher Strong Bicycle Gourmet – Born at the Right Time – Part Two

Christopher Strong Bicycle Gourmet – Born at the Right Time – Part Two


The first sound I heard on Bus no. 2 was a familiar voice. A singing one. The lyrics were “OO Who Who I feel my temperature risin’.” Yes, dear reader, it was Elvis. Tearing into the chorus of “Burnin’ Love.”  The original version. Not the “Live in Vegas” one.  Although I was to hear that, plus the Astrodome version, plus “Elvis’s greatest Hits – Vol 1 +2”.

Because in Mexico, your Bus driver is not just your chauffeur, He is also your Disc Jockey! And my DJ – Ramon – in his “The King Lives” tee-shirt was clearly not into country and western. Yes, dear reader – that’s what could have been worse.

As the “mile 95” marker appeared, the King was feebly warbling “regrets….I’ve a few..” (from the Las Vegas-I-wear-diapers-to-bed-years) Wishing Ramon a safe return to Graceland (He’d been 3 times) I descended onto the dry Mexican tundra.Behind me, desert and mountains. In front, desert and sea. No gps needed here.

Paul’s house was the first. Happily submerged in the Roy Rogers landscape.(Think catcti, cow skulls and tumbleweed) Beyond, and closer to the Ocean, a not-rag-tag-but-not-fancy collection of abodes. Of varying styles and materials. Their owners mainly Canadians, who fled their “home and native land” at the first breath of winter. (And who would not?)

Although I’d been to Hawaii, my senses weren’t prepared for the overwhelming perfume of the flora and fauna that graced Paul’s front entrance. Butterflies with Miro-esque colors cavorted happily among the cacti. Two huge palms shaded the driftwood pathway.

Several short steps after entering, I was in the circular courtyard. Under the Azur blue sky. Ringed by the rooms. A strange but welcome sensation. However, not a Paul in sight. What else for a gringo whippersnapper to do but yell : “Paul?…Paul?……which, I, in fact, did. No response. For about 10 seconds. And then: “Howdy!……”

Heard him. But couldn’t see him. “Paul” I repeated “Where are you?” “Up here!” Looking up I discovered Paul was not fibbing. He was up there. An 83 year old dynamo tinkering with his roof under 83°(+) heat. “Make yourself at home….I’ll be with you in a bit.”

Always one to follow the wishes of my host, I quickly found the kitchen,put my wine in the fridge, and made a very welcome avocado and tomato sandwich.

Suprised to find TWO fridges, a not too shabby sound system and several other electrically powered goodies,obviously I was thinking – glad I don’t have his electric bill!  I was soon to learn this bill was virtually zero. Due to the solar panels ON THE ROOF. Yes, dear reader, DA BG did (finally) connect the dots. That’s what Paul was tinkering with when I arrived!

“A bit” – as in “I’ll be down in a bit” elasped into a hour before Paul finally joined me. When I asked him what he’d like for lunch, the reply was: “Oh, I’ll just have a piece of toast.” A piece of toast? After working (at least ) two hours on the roof, under the sun he only wants toast? What’s this guy made of? Some very unique stuff, as I was to discover.

Part Three – Next Time