|Le Genou de Claire, Eric Rohmer, 1970|
Recently I travelled to Cannes, thanks to some wonderful people I work for. We lived in an airy villa near the beach that week. An enchanting photographer named Robyn stayed with us; she spruced the space with white peonies and plates of sliced honeydew melon. The sun, the boardwalks, the palms against the summer sky, the old town with narrow streets leading up to a museum that houses ancient swords edged with pointed animal teeth…it was magical.
One evening a band from London played at our party. Afterwards my friend Tara and I had a drink (or seven) with them in the Carlton Hotel. Someone kind treated everybody to massive bottles of pink champagne. We told dad jokes and talked about music and then Tara invited everybody back to the yacht she was staying on. We crammed into a car and sped towards the port and tumbled out onto the dock and crept onto the yacht.
“Let’s go swimming!” Three of us headed to the water, and stripped off our clothes. The sun was rising now and the sea enveloped us. We swam out to the rocks and climbed around, slipping and laughing and bruising our shins. “I swear my cock is usually bigger than this. It’s just because it’s cold,” the keyboard player joked. I waved towards the shore, “Come on in!” The rest waded in and splashed around. Upon returning to the boat an old man hosed us down. It wasn’t clear if it was his yacht or if he was an important person I vaguely worked for. Who could contemplate such matters on a cloudless morning in France? We drank red wine in our underwear and talked about John Waters’ films. The side of my face stung a bit. I took another sip of wine. It was already warm out.
A few minutes later it transpired that my friend and the bassist had been stung by jellyfish. The handsome fellow turned to show us his welted, scarlet bum. “Anyone want to piss on me?”
“I don’t think your missus would like that,” Tara answered, wrapped up in a big towel. The old man appeared, brandishing vinegar and talc to treat the sting. “Thank you so much, if you ever want to come to one of our gigs, I’ll make sure you’re on the list…” The old man drove us back to our respective dwellings. It was touching how gentlemanly the band was, staying arm’s length from the girls, since they had sweethearts at home.
One afternoon I saw Debbie Harry, one of my heroes, give an interview. She is still the epitome of New York cool, with the grace of Marlene Dietrich. She moved with such finesse. It was thrilling to have her just a few feet away. She even stood up in her Dolce + Gabbana pencil dress and sang “Heart of Glass” a cappella.
Another evening, a friend and I walked into a dark afterparty filled with Canadians. Right away a man came up to me and started chatting. I was pretty blotto so I began arguing with him about what he was wearing.
“What? Girls don’t like this?” he asked, gesturing towards his Quantum Leap blazer and loose trousers.
“Depends what kind of girl you’re looking for.”
“Wait a second…” he unbuttoned the blazer and pulled off the shirt underneath and then unzipped his trousers and stepped out of them – to reveal a completely different outfit underneath. What an impressive move.
“That’s better,” I laughed, and we transferred to the sofa, clutching whisky cokes, and talked for an hour.
Later in the week, after a cocktail party followed by a dreamy Swedish pool party then a stop at the Gutter Bar, some of us meandered home in the moonlight. As we passed a gazebo I scampered over the rail and beckoned everyone to join me. It was perfect weather for dancing around to the songs on my tinny cellphone. After some moves and relaxing in a mint green Mini Moke, we disbanded. Emily and I traipsed home. When we got back to the villa we realized we didn’t have keys to the main house, where she was staying.
Since I’m quite flexible and fond of scaling things, I whipped off my floor-length 70s dress and started the ascent in my underwear. As I stood with one foot balancing on a pile of table and chairs, I reached up and grasped the balcony, semi-dangling, wishing I did push-ups occasionally and hoping my boss, who was sleeping near my attempted break-in, wouldn’t wake to this fracas. I was so close! Alas, at this early hour, it wasn’t possible. I dropped down to the courtyard, put the furniture back, and told Emily she could sleep in my bed.
Two afternoons of winning (three) awards was very exciting and motivating.
The last night was the most decadent, but it’s late, so the story shall end here for now.