Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Say "la même chose!" Go on - I dare you!

What with it being the anniversary of the French Revolution (1789), I celebrated Bastille Day as most of us do around these parts. I had French toast and a Napoleon for breakfast, put on a Lacoste shirt and a beret and headed out for the day, and paused for lunch (Beef Bourguignon dipped in French’s mustard.) For dinner, we enjoyed French dip sandwiches with a side of haricots verts amandine and, of course, pie à la mode. I decided to skip the escargots…they give me the crepes.

Man, that was a long way to go for a cheap plaisanterie, no?

But…the French celebrate the storming of the Bastille annually on this date, and it’s sort of hard to imagine a huge revolution taking place over two hundred years ago, before people had mass media pundits (aka “pundints”) to tell 'em where to direct their outrage. And it really mattered not that there were only seven people being held in the French prison, which had once held many political prisoners, when the time for action arrived. Actually, the Bastille held people of explosive thought, held for being enemies of the monarchy, as well as large caches of ammunition and battle supplies. During that tumultuous summer, King Louis XVI (best known for the biographical song "Brother Louie" by Stories) had convened an assembly to listen to the citizens and better understand their pleas for democracy and an end to the monarchy. One group – members of the Third Estate (peasants, the lower working class bourgeoisie, and vodka drinkers) - took what became known as the Tennis Court Oath that 20th day of June, when they vowed to see the revolution through to its end because they loved to see what the King would serve up next and what sort of net profits they could win from all this volleying.)

The people arose as one, many minds with a single purpose. Just storming the Bastille (so named because when they ordered construction material, the French contractors made sure to use the bastille they could buy) would have been enough, but they got a little too worked up and beheaded the guy who ran the joint, which really made for a lot of hard feelings later on that summer.

To celebrate the first anniversary of Bastille Day a year later, the French decided, why not just make it all official? And so they threw a huge party known as the Fête de la Fédération (literally, Feet Federated, a popular dance troupe.) There were fireworks, plenty of wine, and naked crowds line-dancing in the streets.

In Baltimore, this is known as Fells Point on a Friday Night. Vive le revolution!

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