Finally he ran out of citations -- or breath. "None of them? Nothing like that?" "No," I said, abandoning a terrible performance, and opting for my only remaining option, honesty. "It's just the opposite. This is my first night in Paris -- in Europe! I've never been so happy in my life!"
His eyes lit up. "Ah!" He snapped his fingers and murmured something to the sommelier, who hurried away and returned in a moment with a bottle of wine, which he opened with a flourish and poured into two new glasses. Pierre sat down at my table. "Now, taste your wine." I took a sip of the first wine. He pushed my water glass to me. "A little water. Now -- this wine." He sipped from his glass as I followed his instructions. It was a thunderbolt. I'd never sampled two tastes side by side. Even to this neophyte, the two wines were now as unlike as syrup and vinegar.
"Which one do you prefer?" Pierre asked.
"This one!" I said, brandishing the new glass.
"Of course," he said, regarding the wine deferentially as he revisited his litany. "Your mother was ill, but you've just learned that she's going to recover. Your favorite uncle has been cleared of all charges, with an apology from the little girl. Your rich aunt has died -- and left you everything! You've got a fabulous new mistress! Your dog has been run over -- but by you in a brand new Citroen. You've made a killing at the racetrack. Your worst enemy has contracted a venereal disease ...."
Pierre remained at my table, and a man who was watching the spectacle with evident amusement from an opposite table got up and joined us. The three of us polished off the favored bottle of wine as the newcomer, who was a Swiss business-man in town for two days, explained that he'd bought two of the best seats for the Folies Bergeres, and had come to Chez Pierre in hope of finding a young woman who might be interested in his company. "But ..." he said, gesturing at the empty restaurant.
Pierre, our genial boniface, genially suggested "notre ami americain." The Swiss concurred, and my first evening in Paris ended at the Folies Bergeres, the charms of which hadn't been so much as hinted at by the posters lining the walls of the Ask Mr. Foster Travel Bureau in Detroit. Clearly, I concluded, Mr. Foster had led a pathetically sheltered existence. In less than twenty-four hours, I had been blooded. A happy New Year, filled with adventures, licit and illicit, to you all.