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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

One Step Forward, One Post Back

So I’ve got a new gig writing some articles for a site online. I’ll pass along the details in a few weeks, as things develop, but it’s nice to have another spot to fling my nonsense. All these other ones are getting kind of crusty and gross.

Try not to think about that too much.

Of course, finding a place to write isn’t always a straightforward proposition. For every gig or Bugs & Cranks position, there’s a poor fit or a rejection or an email that’s never answered.

Or two. Or nine. At least.

On the bright side, some of these aborted writing gigs sometimes involve writing sample pieces of various kinds. And occasionally, rarely, happily, those are pieces I haven’t used here. Like this one, which was very enthusiastically received by some guy on the other end of a Craigslist ad I answered looking for travel stories.

That was in June. And that was the last I heard from them.

So their loss — yes, I’m being self-generous here, shaddup you — is your gain. Such as it is. Anyway, here’s the piece. It’s even vaguely kind of true. Bon appetit.

Buffoon in a Bistro

Dining can be one of the most enjoyable aspects of travel abroad. Exotic dishes, rare delicacies and sublime flavors are all around, waiting to be ordered.

Of course, sometimes it’s the “ordering” that’s a problem.

“My request for bread was apparently taken as an insult to his mother, and it was all downhill from there.”

A few years ago, I spent a long weekend in Paris. Most places could conduct business in English, but one afternoon I found myself in a charming out-of-the-way bistro that stubbornly held the belief that ordering French food in France was best done _en Francais_. And outside of “oui”, “s’il vous plait” and a mostly-irrelevant verse of Frere Jacques, I didn’t know any.

Still, when in Rome, you speak Roman. I was in France, so I made the effort to speak Frenchian — with predictably disastrous results. I tried to ask about the specials, but the waiter didn’t understand. I ordered tap water, and I think he told me the time. My request for bread was apparently taken as an insult to his mother, and it was all downhill from there. I was just about to ask “Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous?” as a last resort, when another, less mortally offended waiter mercifully came to help.

Not wanting to upset another native — the French being known, of course, for their tireless hospitality and undying patience with non-French-speaking visitors — I tried a different approach. I pointed to menu items that seemed promising, and he acted out the main ingredient in a game of cross-continental culinary charades.

I pointed to “boeuf braise”, and he mooed like a heifer. I indicated “pochouse”, and he breaststroked around the table, puckering his lips. I took that to mean either a fish dish of some sort, or the chef had netted Steven Tyler swimming in a local pool and chopped him into filets. Finally, I settled on “poulet frites”, which sent the waiter clucking and flapping and pecking at the floor. I hoped that meant chicken. Otherwise, I’d probably insulted someone’s mother again.

In the end, I had a delicious meal, a lesson in French, and the best floor show in town outside the Moulin Rouge. I tipped the waiter a bunch of Euros — those are like yen, right? — and showed my appreciation as best I could. In the end, I had only one regret:

I wish I’d pointed to the “escargot”, just to see the waiter’s interpretation. Ooh la la, indeed!

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