To: Christine R.
From: Dennis Brumm
Re: Your interest in cockroaches
Thank you for your inquiry regarding my association, past and present, with cockroaches. It could not have come at a better time for me! Yes, the timing is absolutely perfect for me to be brought to France by your company for an interview regarding my passion surrounding my former pets and, as an extension, all the cockroaches of the world. You see, just two days ago I quit my job (I have some outstanding health issues I'm trying to work on) and I have lots of free time for interviews and travel right now.
First, here is a little background for your consideration. I was in Paris in early spring of 1978. I had planned on staying a few days longer than I was able to, but that nasty American tendency towards violence we folks in the US can experience reared its ugly head in my head, and I figured I should leave for someplace nice, so I went to Nice. This decision to leave happened right after the time the little old lady working in the Louvre took my backpack and threw it into the corner with all her might simply because I couldn't perfectly understand her very fast French, though I was trying my best to figure out where she wanted me to stick my backpack, and, well, after she stuck it to me, I decided it was time for a change of scenery, since otherwise I so really wanted to wring her neck. Do you know if that woman still works there? She had no patience at all, and ran those vowels and consonants together faster than even the average Parisian (I just know she'd taken lessons to do that; it was gosh darned unnatural!). Hmm, I bet she's not around. By now I bet her aorta has split in two and she's on state disability! You guys have such better benefits and things surrounding health issues over on your continent.
To be honest that squabble was actually the second ugly Paris incident in several days I had to deal with during my rather short stay in the city. Of course you remember we (the U.S.) had been fighting in Vietnam not long before this time and the whole world loved to hate us for that, but one would have thought the French would have at least tried to understand the predicament a little bit, since your country had been doing your thing in Vietnam before we North Americans got to come in and take over the fort. Besides, I'd gone out of my way NOT to go to Vietnam, which should have counted for something, and didn't realize by going to Paris I'd still be forced into fighting my own private war of survival.
Here I go, getting sidetracked. I apologize. Anyway, my first bad Parisian experience before the one at the Louvre (which was the last straw) was with one of the crêpe makers on the street — he was over on one of those corners somewhere over in downtown Paris. A couple blocks from the river, I think. Maybe he's still there? I think I remember a traffic light being nearby. It all started because I had forgotten that "miel" was the French word for "honey" and I was asking what it was in my best French possible. Yeah, sure, I had an American accent and all. I couldn't help it; it had been eight years since my fourth year of French, so a little forgetfulness could have been forgiven, you'd think. Well, this crêpe maker didn't like my question, or me, and he seemed devoid of joie de vivre, you know, and he stared at me and it was really really a mean stare, like I was Attila the Hun or something, and I was trying to extricate myself from the whole scene, because I didn't really want to give the guy any of my meager funds for any damned miel crêpe, nor raspberry crêpe, nor tripe crêpe, since he obviously detested me and all I stood for, which only was shopping for food, preferably some dish at that particular moment that not all my 47 aunts back in Iowa used to make.
Things happen in strange ways sometimes. Instead of getting away from the crêpe maker, along came this other older guy, probably my dad's age, probably a WWII veteran or something, too, like my father, and he got SOOOOOOO mad at the rude crêpe maker. He thought I wanted a miel crêpe because I was stammering around about miel, but in fact, I just was trying to figure out what miel was, and to be honest, honey isn't my flavor of choice in crêpes (or in Friday school lunch sandwiches for that matter), but he thought I wanted miel, so he took some raw crêpe goo away from the actual crêpe maker, and put it on the hot crêpe thing and spread honey on it, and the real crêpe maker just stood there and stared the stare of death at this guy as well as me. It made me realize, at that very moment, that people in Paris didn't hate just me for being an American and all, that they hated EACH OTHER, too, and probably the whole world! This was a bold realization in international relationships for me; I mean I was fairly young and naïve at that time. Anyway, the guy that made the crêpe was screaming at the crêpe maker and he then took my money and paid the guy and MADE the guy give him the right change back, which he then gave to me. (That was nice, getting the right change, cause not long before I'd seen what that waiter over in the restaurant by the train station did to those two young German women, whose parents may have been Nazis, but they themselves certainly hadn't been.)
That crêpe scene was a nice scene by the Seine, and you might consider recreating that for your movie about cockroaches. I'm sure it would fit in nicely.
After my assorted experiences in Paris, I concluded it was definitely time to move on, so, as I mentioned, I went south to Nice, and had fewer experiences there in which I felt completely hated by the native population. The most interesting experience I still remember, and can talk about on a public forum such as email, was when one guy in a bar did tell me that the French never really bother to learn to speak English correctly because "it's so easy..." (yet it isn't for us, I thought!!!). And then there was the experience with the young American guy who was walking around with his French girlfriend. He'd gone to Nice to preach Jesus to the Southern French, to save them, and he told me my French had a weird accent, whereupon I told him, truthfully now, he'd developed a very strong French accent in his English. Soon he mentioned Jesus, being that that was his job, and I, not being interested in getting hit upon, because things like that were always happening to me back in Ames (Iowa) with Campus Crusade for Christ and all, mentioned I was about to go eat couscous, which I did, alone, and it was a very excellent secular food indeed.
Soon thereafter I fled to Barcelona for a few days, where my poorly spoken French was highly appreciated. Franco was just recently dead, machine guns were still in vogue among the police, and the paella was just great!
All of this things may seem odd to relate to you, but my little vignettes should show you that even among former cockroach pet owners one can find a multitude of other facets in their personalities. I have never met anyone completely in the throes of passion toward their roaches, unless you consider the folks on the Dark Side of the roach (and insects in general) issue, those who spread forth roach motels, Combat, and so forth, polluting the environment in a useless attempt to rid the world of their own perceived vermin.
It's been six years now since I had any of the roaches for pets. They've dimmed in memory, and I rarely visit their web page on my site. I do have a new bunch of cats around the house (three of them — they are my children, actually) and they seem to really enjoy eating flies, so I doubt if roaches would have a safe haven here if I were to adopt any new ones. What do you think?
Probably if nothing else these final revelations will discourage you from bringing me to your country for an interview, but I would be terribly dishonest if I professed a love of roaches beyond the actual truth. And you journalist types can always root out the truth so well, anyway.
In conclusion, I have attached a little photo of cockroach action in Paris, and hope you will enjoy it in the spirit for which it is meant.