The bearded Brit nervously cleared his throat, extended his glass, and made polite overtures to my uncorked bottle of wretched red “vin de table.” The mysterious Aragorn-like Englander looked like he hadn’t had a drink in an eon and that each sentence was framed in his mind like a carefully apportioned shot of whiskey.
Friendly enough. But kind of silent like.
I told the cheerful Australians, who were traveling around Europe in this trailer, with their surfboards, about how when I was in the campgrounds of Portugal there were mostly German tourists.
One of the Aussies said, “So?”
“Well, at the campgrounds . . . “ I paused for effect. “They had signs everywhere for the manager that read ‘Kamping Fuhrer’ [Camp Leader]. I thought to myself, ‘Today a campground, tomorrow the world!!!!!!’”
The laughter was nonstop, and uproarious. Apparently I had made a funny. Emboldened, I couldn’t resist making my most dangerous joke, “The Chosen People were chosen . . . for the campground!” Again, the Brit was snorting like a rutting goat, sheepishly asking me for another fleeced glass.
“C-could I?” I noticed with alarm that over half my Magnum was missing—and I was still on my first glass. The Brit was only an arm’s-length away from the “bouteille,” and was efficiently availing himself of my plonk and getting quite animated. He ran on heavy fuel.
By the time the bottle ended, I withdrew to my tent and was soon fast asleep, hibernating in my dreams, like a Freemason Bear. Next thing I knew, my gorgeous dream of flying was interrupted by the sounds of a rusty-stringed untuned guitar viciously being attacked by a French centime pick. Music of the spheres, for maniacs. So the Brit knew how to play the guitar, and sing, after midnight, badly.
“After Mid-niiiiiight, we’re going to let it all hang out!”
“Monsieur! Monsieur! Arrete! Arrete!” I heard the manager confront Werebrit outside my tent.
“Speak English!” The Brit yelped in an exceedingly loud voice.
This seemed an unfair request, considering we were in France, and in the south, surrounded by pariah National Front members.
“I said, ‘Be Quiet!” the camping leader reiterated. “People are trying to sleep!”
The Brit said something akin to ‘why I oughta’ and began strumming again, crooning like a lunatic. “After Mid-niiiiiight!!!!!!”
There were sounds of a scuffle. Psst!
“Aaaaaaaaaarrrgh!” I’M BLIND!” I could hear the Brit running around outside, yelling, getting dangerously close to falling on my tent. Obviously, the manager had just maced him. “I’m blind! I’m blind!” His yells trailed off into the night. “I’m Bliiiiiiiiind!”
The next day I woke up to birdsong and popped my head outside my tent.
There was the very hungover Brit sitting calmly outside on the blasted heath with his guitar, looking as if nothing had happened.
“Are you okay,” I ventured. “Got a little sauced last night?”
He obviously didn’t have a clue what I was referring to. Like any good actor, he sized me up in a squint, and his look said, obviously an American, probably a New Yorker, not to be taken seriously.
“Cheers, mate!” he decided upon, changing the subject with a nod and a wink, and then began crooning an outrageously bad folk tune, obviously some sort of improvised Oasis cover.
Here we were in the shadow of a Roman aqueduct, and life was grand.