Jan 122017

Palais Garnier / Opéra de Paris Interior. Postcard from 1909

Now that I had money, I bought a four-seat loge at the Opéra. I asked Captain Pinckney and his Ani to the ballet as my guests. There were three in the box the first two visits, but at the third ballet, there was Tina Soubiran who worked with Ani. She was alone because her boyfriend was a French Colonel parachutist in Indo-China.

I found her very,very,very pretty.

Charles said “She needs some companionship. And she wants to improve her English”

”So do I. My French needs work.”

“The rest is up to you, soldier.”

In deference to the French effort in Southeast Asia, at first I made no moves towards Tina. Two dinners were followed by nods and verbal good nights at her Métro stop.

Because of my manners Tina invited me to see a stage version in French of “Raffles.” I didn’t understand the play at all but I picked up an irregular verb or two, and that the French word “con” was not as pejorative as it is in English. I invited her to see a sub-titled film at a local cinema down the block from my hotel. She told me that it was Picasso’s favorite Paris movie house.

“Howdee Pard!” she said after the movie. “That’s how Pablo greets his friends.”

I asked her why she was so amenable. Between fractured French and eccentric English, I think this was what she said:

“You are teaching me English. And my French girl friends are amused that I am with an American enlisted man. There are so many of you. It is like having a pet gorilla as an escort.”



She had gone too far and she knew it.

She said something like this, in a longer version, but this was the exciting essence.

“Two years is a long time to wait for my Colonel. I am lonely. Perhaps you and I should know each better.”

Unlike Andrée, Tina was neither in conflict with Catholicism nor Jean Paul Sartre. We got to know each other much better that night, and the next day, and the night following.

This time it was I who went too far, too quickly. And I knew it.

As an older woman, she rebuked me tactfully, diplomatically.

“Now that we are —as you Americans put it—-seeing a lot of each other—have you noticed that I eat sugar only at night, at dessert?

“You Americans have sugar with your coffee in the morning, sweet drinks with your lunch, a Coca Cola in the afternoon, cranberries with your fowl, and dessert at night. You eat too much and you eat took quickly.

“Slowly, dessert should be eaten slowly. I prefer my treats slower.”

Since then I have taken French diplomacy more seriously.

Captain Pinckney translated their fashion for me. Both women had let their hair fall loosely. For years the French women had piled their hair on the top of their heads. It was a chic sign of resistance. But who had resisted, and who had not?

Ani told me a month later that Tina’s Colonel had returned from Cambodia. She also told me that Tina thought I was nice and wished me good luck.

There were only three of us in the loge from then on.



Auditorium. Postcard from 1909: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palais_Garnier