19 April 2008

Spring is Here

The wind has stopped howling, and one can sit on the beach eating le baguette avec jambon et fromage without that tell-tale crunch that warns the enamel is being ground away. Kinda makes me think of those animals (we don't get channel 13 here so I cannot remember which they are) who spend their lives chewing stuff, and when the teeth are ground down, they die. This winter had made me wonder how many Barthians have succumbed to that fate.

I confess I was not sure the weather would ever return to normal this year. We are not there yet, but at least getting closer. No islander can recall a winter so cool and windy. People had even taken to wearing long sleeved shirts to dinner, and Pinks frequently found no fish at the market on the quay because the fisherman said it had been too rough to go out; mahi-mahi, which is the staple local fish, is caught some 50 miles offshore. On some evenings, we dropped the hurricane shutters so that we could eat dinner protected from the near gale that was buffeting our outdoor dining table. On those days, the guys who rent boats to the tourists didn't even bother to come to work, and dive boats and snorkel tours were also hit hard. Add to that the high cost of the euro, and lots of Barthian businesses had a poor season.

But it's all relative, I guess. The tourists still filled the island during the good weeks, escaping the cold of the northeast and midwest. They endured the cool evenings and the windy beaches because it was a heck of lot better than what they left behind. Some of the northeasterners,-- I guess those who sold subprime mortgages to the rest of us and got out before the dam breached—even lunched at Eden Rock.

(In my youth, representing a large stock brokerage, I once took an appeal from a District Judge's order. The District Judge had made a mistake, of course. I knew that, even if he did not. So I asked the appellate court to reverse and set the lower court judge straight. Unfortunately for my client, not all wrong orders are appealable. I thought this one was, or that, at the least, it was a close question. Unhappily, the panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals that heard the case did not agree with me, and the sweet, kindly Chief Judge by the name of Irving Kaufman said so his typically ambiguous and tentative manner: he added a footnote in which he likened my client's expenditures in the pursuit of this appeal to the stories of the wealthy colonial landowners who, for sport, would gather on the banks of the Potomac and take turns throwing gold coins into the river, until one of them would shout, "Enough, sir, I say enough.")

That's the way I feel about the restaurant prices at the Eden Rock Hotel.

Nevertheless, real estate prices on the island continue to soar, and one wonders whether we are in the midst of a bubble, a la the United States. No subprime mortgages here, though. French banks are far too conservative to lend 90% of a property's value. What's more, when they do loan money, they insist on being named beneficiary of a policy on the life of the borrower. Sort of reminds one of the way Tony Soprano did biz: pay or get whacked.

We approach the last roll of the dice for local businesses. April 15 is the universal start of the reduced rate "low season" here and lots of sun starved northeasterners have been crouched at the start line waiting for that gun to fire. But let's face it, the springtime visitors are not going to undo the economic damage done by the Bush dollar. Everything here is wickedly expensive for the dollar crowd. It is difficult to eat at a moderately priced restaurant for under $100 per person, groceries are about double what we pay at home, except for fruits and vegetables which are triple. Gasoline is pushing $8.00 per gallon. The list goes on and on. The only bargains are tobacco and alcohol, and given that we abjure the former, we see it as in our best economic interests to capitalize on our fondness of the latter.

Okay, it is getting to be time to recover Frank's travel crate from the shed and assemble it for the trip home. M. Franck, who is approaching his fourteenth birthday, was happy with cooler weather this year, but found going up and down the steps increasingly more difficult. Me too.

On another note, I read in the NY Times that David Tarloff, the guy who in February used a meat cleaver to hack to death the Park Avenue psychiatrist, will plead not guilty by reason of insanity. His lawyer is quoted as saying he has "very strong grounds" for such a defense, inasmuch as, "He believed through prayer that God had approved what he was going to do."

Didn't I read somewhere that George Bush said the same thing about his invasion of Iraq?

A bientot.

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