This week's Fun Monday is being hosted by Willowtree; he wants to see some clothing art. That's tee shirts, baseball caps, hoodies, sports uniforms or any bit of clothing that you or your kids own that have interesting, funny or artistic graphics.
since this is my first participation in fun monday, i'll probably get some of the protocol slightly wrong. but what the hell; it's my blog. this is the story of a green and blue baseball cap.
doug and i were in quebec city, on our way up the cote nord. we had spent a week in montreal, where we were solicited by bilingual panhandlers and ate every meal outside, like in paris. now, we were in quebec. it was not quite as charming as Montreal, but it was still quite interesting. we toured the Plains of Abraham battlefield, and took the little funicular to the second level of the touristy area down by the river, and one afternoon we toured the National Assembly. the building was gorgeous, and as we were leaving we stopped in the gift shop and doug bought himself a hat.
this is pretty unusual; doug is not much for gift shops, and he is not much for souvenirs in general, and he pretty much never buys himself anything. but he liked the simplicity of this hat: the plain blue front, the green bill and button, and then, in lovely green script on side, the very understated "l'Assemblée nationale Québec." very subtle for a ballcap.
he wore the hat every day for the next week as we tooled north in our rental car. we sloshed around Baie St. Paul in the pouring rain, visiting art galleries; we went on a whale-watching boat up in Tadoussac and hiked along the Saguenay fjords; we spent an afternoon hiking in parc des grands jardins. every day, the little blue and green ballcap went with us, on top of tall doug's blond head.
and then, on our last day, he left it in the taxicab on our way to the Montreal airport.
this was worse than the time he left his glasses in a taxicab in dublin. glasses you can just re-order; but the quebec hat? we weren't going back to that gift shop probably ever again.
still, that christmas, i decided to replace it. i wasn't entirely sure how, but i was up for a challenge. i found the general number for the national assembly, and placed a call.
after two rings, a pleasant-voiced woman answered: bonjour, c'est l'Assemblée nationale de Québec. comment puis-je vous aider?"
"do you speak english?" i asked.
long pause. "a leetle," she said.
i tried to explain that i wanted to order a ballcap from her gift shop. it was a lengthy and arduous conversation. i was transferred here and there; surprisingly, few people spoke fluent english. eventually, one kind woman explained in halting english that i could not order the hat over the phone. i needed to write them a letter, and enclose a cashier's check for the proper amount. they could not take my credit card. she gave me the address, and the amount. (i was so happy by then to be making progress i didn't even ask if they needed american or canadian currency.) and then she added, "in french, s'il vous plais."
i tried writing a simple letter and translating it with my old college english-french dictionary, but i didn't get very far. that seemed fraught with peril. with simple clunky sentence fragments lacking articles and, possibly, verbs, i feared it would read like a ransom note.
i tried writing a simple letter and pasting it into one of the free translation sites you find on google. again, i just wasn't sure.
and then i thought of Uncle Al.
"uncle al" sicherman, the newspaper's elder statesman food writer, engineer, and secret bon vivant. (you should see his car.) he had lived in france at one time. i bet he could help. (here he is at his retirement party earlier this year, with the mayor of minneapolis.)
i didn't know al very well, but that didn't stop me. "al," i said. "i need to order a baseball cap in French."
al didn't even blink. "you came to the right place," he said, shoving aside his box of little debby nutty bars and picking up a pen.
i told him what i needed, i described the ball cap, he asked me a few piercing questions, and then he wrote the letter. at noon, i walked out and bought an international money order, and....voila! for christmas, doug got his ballcap.
which, i feel compelled to add as a small ps, he never wears.
19 minutes ago