Vacation: Return to the Harbor

We’re going to Le Havre!

What a lark!  What a razz-matazz, living in a harbor town full of alternatives and sailors.  It was the moment life went BOOM.

YOU HAVE ARRIVED.

Hello, world!  Hello, beach!  Hello, midnight!

And now we’re on our way back, my friend Laura and I (she of the cheese-tour-meltdown, who once exploded her phone all over the pavement between Neufchâtel and Pont l’Evêque.  What a gal!)  We’re putting on our top hats and polishing our tails.  Because what else is there to do when you’re jumping into a red-hot rental car headed for the past?

Waiting at the harbor in a stationery tableau of what was and still is: the downtown bar full of rugby players and cooks, the rocky boardwalk that smells like the wrong end of a dog, the little restaurant where I first ordered veal’s head and was confronted with a taste-budded tongue standing on end, buried under frisée and shredded cheek.  Happy birthday.  There’s the hanging garden with elevators that look like toilets (or was it the other way around?) and flora from the world over–Australia to Bangladesh to Texas, which had a verifiable pine tree.  Now that’s what I call impressive.  Somewhere between the church plaza and the coastline is a secret bar called the Black Horse, where the door only opens if you knock and hope to look like a good time.

And that’s to say nothing of the memories, which are infinitely more fluid than the monuments to our past.  They’re so transmissible that every time I see a white Peugeot I am delivered to the beach and the french fries and the mustard.  Don’t even get me started on the beer.

Brown suede shoes, sea glass, cargo ships, bad carpeting.  Five a.m. pasta with crème fraîche and lardons.  The miracle of a hot radiator.  My first rooster with his head still attached.  My first mayonnaise.

And even more transient than the memories and the monuments are the things that disappeared.  The plane trees on the main street, the discothèque on a sailboat owned by drug dealers that was shut down for violence and cocaine.  What was it called, girls?  That’s right.  Le Duplex.  The Mount Olympus of night clubs.  Ye shall be missed.

And the people have gone, too.  The sailors, the Pierres and the Charleses.  Never in my life have I witnessed something more wrenching than a boy who leaves on a cargo ship bound for Russia and comes back a man.  As corny as it sounds, it was true.  He parted with a tub of Nutella and came back with facial hair and a captain that made him give us all lap dances in a tiki bar.

Oh, the memories.

We’re on our way!  Today’s the day!  Toot toot and skiperidoo, back to the Harbor we go!

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