“We Might Be Laughing a Bit Too Loud…”
Adrienne was a hit and moved in. It made for some uncomfortableness because my partner was not out as gay at work. As a result, we had to sort of play it cool while Adrienne was around. He was heading back to France in late December and would be coming back a few weeks into January of 2000, if memory serves.
There was a Halloween party. There were Thanksgiving dinners. There were nights out at bars Frequently only Adrienne and I could go because my partner was working hectic hours. My work was often like that (resulting in a lot of fast food, hence the former medical condition), but typically slowed in the Fall for some reason.
By this time, I had actually switched companies. The asbestos abatement program was nearly complete and the building owner at 1251 had decided to hire my old boss directly to handle that and some other projects (building upgrades, getting spaces ready for incoming tenant buildouts, that sort of thing).
Two co-workers and I went over to another consulting firm, also located at 1251. We had worked with them from time to time, and had even shared office space with them on two occasions. This other firm, two partners who mostly did what was known as Owner’s Representation or Tenant Representation work, had been there even longer than the environmental consulting firm, my former employer, had been.
(By the way, that company, which also had a geotechnical side, was one that Bain Capital, Mitt Romney’s investment firm that bought and sold companies, had purchased. I didn’t really know much about the governor of Massachusetts at that time.)
This new job started out as finishing up a project that I had begun with my former employer. We were in the process of scanning and putting into a database all drawings of the building and several documents, the latter of which were usually related to maintenance. Later, there had been a desire to connect the system to the Internet. I fought that notion in meetings. The structural drawings were included in the database and that seemed a very bad idea post-9/11.
Among the building improvements later, they upgraded the plaza. They included some structures that might make driving a vehicle full of explosives up to the doors or lobby windows a bit more problematic.
But it was still Fall of ’99. Adrienne and I spent many nights out. I learned a few old French drinking songs. I could not help but find the Frenchman (and others I met) a little naive, but at the same time there was a maturity beyond his years. It was as if he knew the world was a troubled place but refused to allow that to intrude on enjoying life. It wasn’t naiveté. It was joy of life.
One night he explained the me the French concept of “Work to live” versus the American of “Live to work.” There was a strange dichotomy.
He had studied economics in college and had learned to love Coca-Cola, the corporation. He even collected Coke memorabilia. Companies like Coke and Loreal, his professor had said, often had trends or were expected to see their stock share prices double every ten years.
At the same time, there was an aversion to work beyond what was to them reasonable. The French worked hard, but coming in on a Saturday, no matter who had requested it, was often to them either optional, or sometime within the next few weeks there would be a weekday with a throat itch (there was a French word for it that I’ve forgotten) that meant they would not be in.
Adrienne was a blast and I think in retrospect that I had a huge crush on him. I should probably make it clear: I never even considered hitting on him. I was loyal to my partner and loved him very much. The idea of even considering screwing that up was out of the question.
On top of that, Adrienne was straight. He had a different personal space zone than my American friends and it was not unusual, especially after some wine, to be walking with arms around shoulders and singing or laughing.
That kind of thing, entertaining each other, became the norm. There wasn’t a party or get-together where that didn’t happen. It got so bad, that one night on the Upper West Side he and I cleared out a bar. The other patrons were, for some reason, more in the mood for quiet or brooding, and the pair of laughing clowns just ruined it for them. My partner and other American friends (who also worked at the bank) were there and noticed. We didn’t.
That was I think the straw that broke the camel’s back. From then on, whenever that group got together for dinner or a party, they tried to keep us apart. It was especially hilarious one night when their attempts to do so failed despite the fact that I think neither of us realized that that was what they were doing.
Adrienne and I spoke of love. He explained that in Paris the most romantic place in the world for most people was Rome. He was surprised when I explained that for Americans, it was Paris. I don’t know that he believed me so I directed him to look for movies with Paris in the title or that were shot there.
I had not yet been to France myself. On occasion in the 90s, my partner and I would wind up with tickets to the New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center. I saw many foreign films there, including many from France and a few from Belgium.
One such film, Les Voleurs (Thieves), was an interesting experience. One star, Daniel Auteuil, was there to answer questions after the screening. (Catherine Deneuve was also in it but not present). There was a slight problem in that the translator did not speak as good French as Auteuil spoke English. There were moments that I found incredibly funny building up to when Auteuil finally stopped the man and said, “That’s not what I said at all.” My partner had noticed the problem as well, and the look on Auteuil’s face as that happened meant he noticed as well.
The film, interestingly, was a blend of French and American film. There was nearly philosophical drama, sometimes slower pacing than we are used to here, and angst. But there was also crime action as we might expect in a Hollywood crime drama.
One little old New Yorker asked Auteuil if he thought that there would ever be a successful blending of American and French styles, perhaps not yet having realized that that had in fact been one of the creative points, the experimental portion of the production.
We never actually got to hear Auteuil’s answer translated into English and didn’t hear all of it in French. We didn’t need to. He looked the woman square in the eye, pointed his right arm backwards at the screen, and before he got three words out, the entire audience erupted in laughter and applause.
“Die Hard meets Jules et Jim.” Maybe not, but there’d have been someone thinking about making a similar pitch if it were a Hollywood production.
In my and Adrienne’s case, it was clearly a buddy picture. I’ve sometimes since thought of it as what Mercutio and Romeo must have been like before the Bard’s play begins. I did in fact on several occasions try to get him to meet girls in the places we went. It didn’t always go as I expected it would. I thought he was a real catch.
When it got close to time for him to fly back to France for the holidays, he had gotten us presents. I was shocked when I opened it. A DVD. Saving Private Ryan. I got emotional for some reason.
He explained that his grandfather had told him, and Adrienne’s’s father long before that, about Normandy and that no Frenchman should ever forget it. Americans were the good guys. They represented freedom, protected it selflessly.
As written earlier I did have an uncle who served during WWII, but he had been in the Pacific. I didn’t even have a relative that I knew of who had been in the European theater during the War.
So I went out the next evening after work and bought him some Coca-Cola memorabilia. He was about as choked up as I had been.
Of course what I didn’t know at the time was that the United States had tested…something…on a small French town called Pont-Saint-Esprit in the 1950s . Seven people died, most behaved as if they had gone insane.
That had been part MK/Ultra and part chemical weapons test on non-consensual human beings, among the worst kind of things that the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Defense generally ever did. And they had tested it, not on the Germans, but on the French. A country that they had liberated just years prior. Some of those same former Nazis were undoubtedly involved. They had been brought in and worked at Fort Detrick.
But the larger point: MK/Ultra on a community scale. Why not later a regional, national, or even multinational scale?
Former President Carter said recently in the wake of the NSA spying scandal, that the US no longer has a functioning democracy, but/and:
“…the triumph of modern technology,” which enabled the democratic uprisings of the Arab Spring; however, “the NSA spying scandal,” Carter said, according to Der Spiegel, endangers precisely those developments, “as major U.S. Internet platforms such as Google or Facebook lose credibility worldwide.”
Advances help and hinder.
The defense industry doesn’t seem to be doing some of the other industries any favors, does it? You’d think there’d be some backlash, and that that article would appear in English some place by now.
But you have self-dealers like former chief of CIA and NSA Michael Hayden stating that the US needs “digital Blackwater.”  I posit that it is precisely to hide the truth, the corruption, to profit while gagging people using their Constitutional right to free speech and addressing grievances with their government. It is a fascist takeover.
“Enemies foreign and domestic,” the oaths say. To forget that is to forget what it means to be an American and become something else.
1 See again A Terrible Mistake.
I should add that the United States has never confirmed that they conducted this experiment. Given other, similar experiments on US soil (most to do with crops and watching air patterns), what came out of MK/Ultra, and something I cannot quite explain, I think it’s absolutely what happened.
How is another question. LSD would not have survived baking inside bread. There would be assertions that it had been the substance from which LSD is derived (ergot) but that claim would later have some holes poked in it.
I’d later, standing next to the water tower in Minneapolis, the one that was the basis for Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”, made famous by Jimmie Hendrix, get an odd explanation. It was that France was viewed as being too Soviet friendly by the Pentagon after the War. The man who said this was a photographer and a security guard at a megachurch. We didn’t speak at all of the Pont-Saint-Esprit episode, but neither did I bring up France at all. He did. I doubt he even knew why.
But then he also suggested how “fun” it would be riding a bicycle down the very steep and treed hill at the base of the tower. I decided, despite being very much out of sorts due to the harassment, remote torture and surreptitious drugging, not to take his suggestion.
2 Salon, “Jimmy Carter: U.S. has no functioning democracy”, Alberto Riva, July 18, 2013:
3 Crooks and Liars, “Former NSA director Michael Hayden calls for ‘digital Blackwater'”, David, July 30, 2011: