Monday, September 20, 2010

Coffee with Perry

Charmante, n'est-ce pas?

A lovely corner cafe, situated in the romantic and enchanting city of Paris France. What's more, the prospect of, ahem, coffee with me.

What could be better?

What's that? The only thing that wrecks the mood is that thing about coffee with ..... That's not nice!

How did all of this come about?

“Let’s pull a swap,” my friend Carrie Bailey, a very good writer, tweeted me one unsuspecting Sunday afternoon.
“Whatever could she mean?” I wondered. Oh, how I had longed to hear those words 20 years ago or so from at least a half dozen of my male friends!

But that was not her meaning, that much was clear. My life could never be that hot and kinky!

“What are we swapping?" I tweeted back. "Or are you still in the fur-trading business?"

Carrie had a hunter-trapper background, being a United Nations of ethnicities, most prominently Metis (an indigenous Canadian people) and Jewish (a highly indigenous to me people).

Bet you’re just waiting for a Jewish/Metis joke here, aren’t you, dude? Well, I’m sorry, in the time I allotted, I couldn’t think of one. Write your own damn joke!

“We are swapping stories,” Carrie tweeted back. “On our blogs. You write a story to post on my blog, I write a story for yours.”

"Oh," I typed, making sure to spell it correctly. "But what do we write about? Do I write about Metis stuff? Do you write about being un-athletic and insecure?"

“We pick a common topic and both write about it from our own perspectives. Any ideas?”

A common topic? Aside from our modest ethnic linkage, about all that Carrie and I have in common is that we are both carbon-based life forms.

"I’ve got it,” tweeted Carrie. “You and I are each in Paris.”

So far, so good.

“And we decide to meet for coffee….”

Hmm, provocative!

“And then we save the world!”

“Umm, Carrie?” I tweeted back. “I don’t even save string, let alone the world."

“Perry,” Carrie tweeted firmly, “it’s fiction and you’re a writer. You can do it!”

And so, Carrie and I have done it.

What follows below is Carrie’s unique take on the story entitled “Coffee with Perry.” I know you’ll enjoy. And if you want to read the version from the guy what brought you to the dance, my story "Paris France" is on Peevish Penman, the blog that Carrie edits and writes for.

If it's still there. 


Writer Carrie Bailey on the streets of Santiago Chile, 2009

Coffee with Perry
by Carrie Bailey

On one of my trips to Paris I had the opportunity to meet Perry Block, a friend and fellow writer. A month ago he had misdialed the number for some take-out and won a free weekend vacation to the City of Lights. That’s right, Paris. As I was in France too on an academic assignment, he agreed to meet me for coffee.

Perry chose a café close to Notre Dame. The Eau de Paris catered to the American tourist breed of awkward and frightened travelers who generally don berets in an attempt to “fit in,” yet fail to notice they are the only ones wearing them. Beneath the gaudy cathedral, I quickly identified the awkward Jewish baby boomer amongst the veritable sea of striped shirts.

Perry had emailed me this picture:

Yes, it wasn’t hard to pick out the only late middle-aged guy in the bunch lame enough to try to pass himself off with such an obviously bogus picture!

Perry shouted “Howdy!”

“Is that how you think Oregonians speak?” I asked. I went to shake his hand and missed, hitting him mid-chest.

“You done touched my breast!” he said.

I ignored his dazed and shocked expression and pointed to a group comprised of angry looking Koreans, Saudis, and Bolivians that were entering the café. As soon as they entered all the dumpy beret-wearing American tourists vanished, and the café was almost as empty as that one social networking site, what was it called? Oh yeah, MySpace.

“Baby-boomers,” I sighed under my breath so Perry wouldn’t hear me.

“Have you caught anything here in Paris yet, Carrie?”

Confused for a moment, I didn’t know what to say, “Nothing, aside from a case of airborne mono.”

“And your traps made it alright through the metal detectors?”

My traps. Of course! I’d told him that the French Canadian fur trade was responsible for the formation of my ancestor's language. As a linguist and expert on the dying language, I was asked to give a speech on the subject at a local college there in France.

As our coffee arrived, Perry began to regale me with the highlights of his career in Human Resources. I reached for a second dose of my Adult ADHD medication.

In a way, he was very charming, though every element of this man was wrong. An East Coaster through and through, he was able to punctuate his speech with vowel sounds I couldn’t even begin to attempt to reproduce. That kept me entertained at least. And there was something sweet about how he thought I was interested in every minute detail of his life. After all, we were both writers, and I suppose he felt some sort of common interest or bond even...

“You gettin’ this down?” he asked, apparently in another attempt to use proper Oregonian dialect.

“Huh, what are you TAWLKING about?” I asked to my embarrassment. I covered my mouth. Since childhood, I had often been afflicted by the compulsive need to imitate other people’s accents. Perry didn’t seem to notice. He handed me a pen. Then, I remembered I was incapable of making the 15th vowel sound, the “AW” of “CAWFEE” that East coasters take for granted.

Listening to Perry continue his soliloquy of things-he-purchased-from-a-catalog-when-he-was-36-years-old, I nearly snorted coffee through my nose when he asked if I’d like to “rustle up some grub” with the Daniel Boone meets Wild Bill Hickok accent he was using to put me at ease. “East coasters,” I muttered under my breath.

But things only worsened as Perry soon slipped into his natural speech pattern. I now had to hold in the giggles with one hand and prevent my body from convulsing with hysterics by gripping the edge of the table with the other. This was the worst sort of liability for a linguist...

“...yes, I have always regretted not having ordered the red staplers,” said Perry, continuing unaware of my difficulties.

I excused myself so I could hide in the restroom for a giggle fit. On my way back through the café one of the Saudis pinched me and then flicked the ash from his cigarette directly onto the hardwood floor. Back at our table, I saw Perry had ordered for us.

“Perry, at least take your beret off while we’re eating,” I requested kindly before I noticed that in front of me sat a spoonful of pâté wrapped in prosciutto and coated with sausage gravy made from the milk of a hand fed sow.

“I’m not eating that,” I said.

“I thought you said your mother’s family had a ranch in Washington?” Perry replied, sounding a little wounded.

“I also said they were Jews, Perry.”

“You told me that they homesteaded!”

“For six months in 1881! At which point they hired ranch hands and moved to the cities. That was six generations ago. You do know we have cities in the Northwest, right? And listen to me talk. Yes, I quilt. I organic garden. I cook from scratch. I know a lot about farm animals, but I’ve not touched one...well not many. "

"I spent my summers in the general store of my grandfather’s ghost town generating business documents on an old jeweled key typewriter. And on that ranch I was never allowed outside because of rattlesnakes. I had a dull childhood, a dull, drab dreary, despicably uninteresting childhood! THAT is why I… ”

Overwhelmed with my repressed-childhood frustrations, I hadn’t immediately noticed that Perry wasn’t listening. He was staring off across the street. I pulled out my iPod and did a quick search for rattlesnakes+habitat+Okanogan County to show him how perilous it would have been to leave the ghost town. But the entry read:

No rattlesnakes have ever been observed on the Eastern side of Washington and especially not in the turn of the century mining boomtown, Nighthawk… not ever.

I screamed. Perry was nearest to me so I tossed my water in his face. He appeared mildly puzzled like a man who was used to being drenched. Horrified by my own impulsivity, I immediately started to clean it up. Then, I thought, was it really Paris if you didn’t throw water in somebody’s face? Or, as in Perry's case, get a little water tossed at you? Or was this a classic instance of what my therapist would call “transference?”

I reached over with a napkin and attempted to dry Perry's shirt. Unintentionally, I touched his “boob” for a second time that day.

“I get these muscle spasms in my arm… ” I tried to explain, but just then the sound of a thousand angry voices erupted from a hotel across the street. “DIE OBAMA DIE. DEATH TO AMERICA! DEATH TO ISRAEL! KILL THE COWBOYS!” The maniacal laughter peeled through the streets.

“What is THAT?” Perry asked Gaston, our stereotypical French waiter.

“Why she is but a small gathering of ze members of the International Coalition of Anti-Americans. It is a sort of, how du you zay ‘pep rally’ for ze next attacks on your vile country.” They toasted the demise of America. Perry looked green, but I knew what we had to do, so I grabbed him by the shirt.

“Come on.”

“I’d love to go” said Perry, looking at his wrist as though there was a watch on it,”but I have an appointment with some people. Uh, they’re doing a trailer for my book. Yes, I’m sure it won’t last long.”

“Here, stick your hands in the avocado tree pot,” I offered.

“What?” Perry and Gaston said in unison.

“It’s a disguise. They’ll never know you’re an American Jew if your fingernails are dirty.”

“What about you?” asked Perry reaching toward the plastic fern.

“I am a tribally enrolled Native American as well as a Jew, Perry." I said. "It’s practically written in international law that you have to love me and buy my handcrafts."

I dragged Perry from the café after prying his hands from the doorknob.

In the hotel’s lobby, the speaker’s face contorted and spit flew from his jagged American-hating teeth. I had no idea an Englishman could emote with such raw passion. He was followed by three African Bushmen who clicked away in their native tongue while a tiny Yemeni translated. I muscled my way on stage after him. It wasn’t difficult since they left the Kuwaiti students in charge of security.

“Friends,” I said, "while some Americans are evil, we cannot condemn an entire population based on the actions of a few.”

Perry passed straight out.

“She’s an American!” one screamed.

“Want fire water now!” I cried.

A hushed awe descended upon the room full of angry men and women, obviously familiar with old TV sitcom stereotypes. I continued speaking.

“Many moons ago my father had vision to kill white man. But other tribe was too strong. At Wounded Knee they were surrounded by FBI agents. Many warriors died.”

“Can I touch you?” asked an Asian Kiwi.


“I’m blind and I was wondering if…” asked a Pakistani man.

“No,” I said more firmly. I knew my grandma wasn’t just rolling over in her grave as I spoke, she had undoubtedly grabbed a shovel and was digging herself in deeper to hide from this embarrassment. On the floorboards beside the podium, Perry stirred, took a look around, and passed out again.

“Good, this is good dialogue," said what appeared to be Hugo Chavez. "Then we will leave the white Americans up to you. Good luck! Now this specimen …. he’s ours!”

After that, I walked through the hushed crowd, shook a few hands, kissed a baby’s forehead, and dragged "the specimen" protectively back to the café and tossed more water on him until he woke up. I filled him in on a few of the details of the coalition meeting that he had missed.

Before we parted, he asked me when I would have his biography ready to edit.

“What are you TAWLKING about?” I asked.

I couldn’t believe it. Perry must have thought I’d invited him for coffee in order to interview him and write a biography about his career in Human Resources. Gaston appeared with the check in hand.

“Aren’t you going to pay?” Perry asked.

“You… after I just saved… you want me to pay for our meal?”

“Saved? I'm thinking you're going to scalp me before I make my return flight to Philly!”

I took his cold damp hand and told him calmly, “Perry, Indians have never given up trying to back the country.” I shook my head and smiled at his naiveté.

“The indigenous native American population comprises only 0.5% of the total U.S. population. Between organizing AA meetings and placating people who want to find out about distant Cherokee Princesses they believe they’re descended from, we don’t have the time or the resources to organize to take back a gift to Walmart, let alone take the whole country …. ”

And it was at that very moment, a metaphorical light bulb appeared only five or so inches above.

“So, Perry, Human Resources, huh? That’s very interesting… Retirement must be boring for you… Have you thought about volunteering? I know a few reservations desperately seeking the kind of skills you have to offer… ”

And that was how Perry Block and I saved America.

The End


Anonymous said...

I remember the swapping scene. Ah, those were good days...

Great tale. :)

ps. If you don't visit a certain bookshop when you get to Paris, you'll miss out on discovering how so many writers can afford to stay in the city. That is, if you are as cheap as I am...

Susie McCray said...

Very nice story, Carrie. I thought you and Perry were going to become an item with all of that boob touching. LOL.

Perry Block said...

bigword88 -

I, of course, well remember the swapping scene too. It was so cool! And I was right at the center of it!

Uhh, bigword88? We're talking baseball cards, right?

I had a Harry Hanebrink of the Philadelphia Phillies that would've made your eyes pop!

Perry Block said...


This is Perry answering because unlike Carrie, I am always here to satisfy my loyal readers.

In response to your question, Carrie and I wish to fully debunk the rumor that we are an item. That said, Carrie fully wishes to bunk me and to become an item!

Frankly I've had to hose her off on numerous occasions when the sexual tension between the two of us became too great.

Isn't that the way it always goes? You arrange a simple blog post exchange with a charming, witty, urbane and very hot-looking 30 year old, and right away they think you're their sex slave or something.


C Bailey said...

Everything Perry just said is true and I have absolutely no excuse for myself...except the part about not being here for my readers.

Them's fightin' words, Perry. Wanna wrestle?

Perry Block said...

There you go again, Ms. Penman!

Suggesting close physical contact with me under the pretense of being angry. You're not fooling anyone, you know!

Will you never give it up?

C Bailey said...


Marisa Birns said...

You faint a lot, don't you, Perry? And what is this about bunk beds? That's no way to get close to Peevish.

Perry Block said...

Surprised at you, Marisa! A writer of your perceptivity totally missing the point!

This is Peevish's highly fictionalized version of the story. What, me faint? You might as well ask "what, me worry?" Don't you worry, in the face of danger, I'm a rock!

Bunk beds? Nah, it's just an expression. Peevish (or Carrie Bailey) is just dying to "bunk down" with this 60 year old body! I've tried to let her down easy, but I hear she is so devastated that she's running off to New Zealand to lose herself. Poor girl! Not the first time this kind of thing has happened.

For the true version of the story, check out which reads like a rip-snorting James Bond thriller while possessing the veracity of a David McCullough biography. Then you'll know who to truly thank for saving the world!

Marisa Birns said...

Okay, going over there right now to get at the truth of the matter. New Zealand is an awesome place so I think Carrie will lose herself quickly.

Perry Block said...

Yes, but I doubt she'll be able to shake the persistent dreams of what might have been.

angelica said...

as an Aid worker, I particularly enjoyed this bit:

“I am a tribally enrolled Native American as well as a Jew, Perry." I said. "It’s practically written in international law that you have to love me and buy my handcrafts."

and the sexual tension of course.

Perry Block said...

That line about Carrie Bailey being "a tribally enrolled Native American as well as a Jew," and that "it's practically written in international law that you have to love her and buy her handcrafts" is a classic!

Especially since Carrie has been using it for 2 or 3 years now to bilk me into buying her gifts for Hanukkah and just about every Native American tribal celebration held in North America short of Tonto's birthday.

As for the sexual tension, yes, it fairly well oozes right off the page and onto your keyboard! It's hardly surprising; I've been known to incite uncontrollable sexual urges just by sending a Direct Message on Twitter.

BTW, I'd clean it off the keyboard if I were you, before something short circuits.