On a boring bus ride through the Bohemian countryside, headed from Prague to Nuremberg, I restart Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast in hopes of acquiring new inspiration from it. At the end of the trip we’ll spend a short time in Paris that I hope I’ll spend exploring the old master’s steps in the Latin Quarter where he lived and wrote in the 1920’s.
It is slow going, both the ride and the read, for a young woman, our tour guide, keeps interrupting with random proclamations in the P. A. system. “The yellow fields you see to our left and right is canola,” she says.
“Then there was the bad weather,” Hemingway says.
What a peculiar way to start a book, with a word that implies a precedent that does not exist. The chapter, entitled A Good Cafe On The Place St. Michel, will go on to describe La Closerie de Lilas, a cafe that I have missed in my numerous prior Paris visits and hope to visit this time.
The old guy sitting in front of me launches into a proud explanation of the editorial capabilities of his latest iPhone 6 with a couple across the aisle.
Damn! I close the book and look out, at the canola fields. Yellow flowers about knee high, the fields interrupted here and there with meandering rows cut into them. Why, I wonder.
The friendly tour guide now launches into a description of different beers of Bavaria, Helles, Pils, Weitzen. She describes their characteristics.
I return to Hemingway. He does not like the Cefe des Amateurs, full of smelly drunks, where the shit is never collected. He describes squat toilets on each floor of old apartment houses, emptying into cesspools that are pumped into horse drawn tank wagons painted brown and saffron, clambering along Rue du Cardinal Lemoine, smelling awful.
I look at the fields and think canola oil, my mother’s favorite, she hates butter. I think saffron risotto. I free associate. Will I think of Parisian shit collectors next time I have saffron risotto?
Hemingway describes a pretty girl that comes into the cafe (Closerie). She looks at him. He looks back. He is disturbed and very excited.
Our guide stumbles through the aisle to the back of the bus. I put the book down. “Is this your first time in Germany?” she asks me. She is impossibly young, dark hair, slim and short, orderly teeth as she smiles. I give her a curt, polite answer.
Soon we arrive at a rest stop where she says we can get good “Italic coffee.” Hurray!
“The story was writing itself and I was having a hard time keeping up with it,” says Hemingway before I leave the bus. I hope so….