French Lessons 1 Le Premier Acte

I arrived in Bordeaux after a seven hour delay, one missing suitcase, and 92 steps to climb to my apartment, the elevator was out. It was Friday September 28. School started Monday October 1.


Right off the bat I was preoccupied with school: grammar, pronunciation, vocabulary, accents, élisions, speaking and writing more formally, and homework

there were also my personal preoccupations of daily life in Bordeaux

mosquitos, rain, the 92 steps, carrying my groceries up those stairs, taking the garbage bins down those stairs and back up again, pronouncing the word yogurt properly in french so the cheese ladies at the Marché des Capucins would stop snickering, cheese exploration, wine exploration, food exploration, street exploration, explorations in general, and after November 17: the Gilet Jaunes

School was hard, four hours a day, five days a week. There were lots of subjects, 3 different teachers, multi-national students with multi-functioning/non-functioning accents, too much grammar, a lot of tests, written, listening and oral comprehension, official level testing for the standardized Delf/Dalf exams

and, we had to write formal letters, defend arguments, elevate our vocabulary, use connectors and the subjunctive, know the differences between colloquial, familiar and formal language, work alone, work in pairs, work in groups on projects ranging from Utopias, the Media, the Senses, Politics, Literature, Art, and Street Art. We gave book reports, discussed art, chose utopian spaces, talked politics, presidents and the Gilet Jaunes and wrote essays in a Proustian fashion. Our course capitulated with a 30 minute oral report complete with power point on a bande dessinée. I read “ “Au Revoir Là-Haut”, “Tintin et Le Lotus Bleu” and “Le Tour de Gaule d'Astérix”, I chose Tintin



there were expressions

all of a sudden our French teachers were willing, no eager, to share that elusive part of their language, the vulgar, un-pc, standard, colloquial, bizarre, incomprehensible, and laughable


Je suis presque tombée dans les pommes!

These slang expressions perked me up and with images arriving helter skelter, the artistic side of me came off life support

A story started to unfold and I dreamed up Bob, well I borrowed the name Bob from “Bob le Flambeur” the 1956 French noir movie and the American 2002 remake called “The Good Thief” with Nick Nolte as Bob. However my mec looks nothing like those two but is rather reminiscent of Serge Gainsbourg and that kind of stereotypical french dude. Here’s what I got so far

Les cartes ne marchent plus, je suis fauché, et je suis mort de faim

Les cartes ne marchent plus, je suis fauché, et je suis mort de faim

C’est la fin des haricots!

C’est la fin des haricots!

the bare bones

Bob is a gambler, he’s broke, has been working for nothing and is down on his luck with the cards. He lives in a flop house hotel, he’s perpetually starving, perpetually out of cigarettes and wine, the “rat-de-ville”, his co-locataire, stole the last bite of camembert, the dog next door won’t shut up and being Bordeaux, it is raining. Bob is at the end of his rope

Il travaille pour des prunes.

Il travaille pour des prunes.


One day he hears via the grapevine, (le téléphone arabe) that there is going to be a big party April 1 (Poisson d’Avril) at Le Petit Commerce, a restaurant down the street, to celebrate their first Michelin star. Also mentioned; the Mona Lisa is going to be on display for the fête that evening. The dim lightbulb in Bob’s head goes off, and not being too bright, and knowing nothing about art, he thinks, bien sur, La Joconde is the real painting. Bob le Flambeur becomes Bob le Voleur. Or tries to anyway

Le Téléphone Arabe

Le Téléphone Arabe


Dreaming of riches, he makes his plan, and does some recon


Je joue ma dernière carte


Then he calls his fence Jean-Luc WHO

Il raconte des salades, et il ment comme il respire, BUT gets the job done

Il raconte des salades, et il ment comme il respire, BUT gets the job done

et entre chien et loup il commence

et entre chien et loup il commence

There are about fifteen more paintings to do for my bande dessinée, the story to write in french and a proposed exhibition at L’Alliance Française for June -September 2019 in Bordeaux

on verra

Everyday there was a leçon but some were out of the classroom

My final lesson for part 1, was that you can always change your plans. So I’m returning to Bordeaux in March to commence French Lessons 2. Hoping to finish my paintings, write my story, explore more places, cheese, wine and other stuff, and to learn a few more things.