The Fog of Love

December 4, 2012—A few years ago, I had the pleasure of attending a life-long friend’s wedding. Joe was marrying a creative, pretty French girl named Christine. I was excited for them and eager to attend because weddings are typically a blast—music, food, alcohol, dancing and the spirit of love. But this was no local, social-hall wedding; it was taking place in a tiny town in the French Alps. I was ready to go!

I had never been to France before and after flying to Milan and taking three different trains and a car across national borders I arrived in Aussois, a village of maybe 200 people whose population was increased by fifty percent that July weekend. Even though it was mid-summer, fog often shrouded the surrounding mountains and the temperature hovered around sixty degrees during the day. Fog notwithstanding, it was as beautiful and romantic as any Alpine fantasy.

Aussois France

I spent much of my time hiking the mountains and swimming in cold creeks during the day and eating my fill at night. I was in paradise. The night of the rehearsal dinner at Christine’s childhood home (where her folks still lived), after everyone had finished eating and toasting, I was talking to a girl who I was trying to impress.

She suggested that we should get some others together and head to an uncle’s house for an after-party. I said great, but how would we get there? She replied that she had the keys to Christine’s mom’s car and that we should totally go. Cool, she had the keys. We said some goodbyes, grabbed three more people and got to the car. It was a Renault something-or-other station wagon. I was a bit disappointed, I was hoping for a Lamborghini Gallardo 570-4 or at least a Euro Ford Focus RS.

I was handed the keys to the Renault because I sort-of knew the way. I buckled up and fired the engine, which anemically coughed to life. Whatever. Headlights on, fog lights on. Let’s go! I got into the first corner and whatever French pop song the back seat occupants were singing turned to howls. That wagon couldn’t handle but it sure could lean. And terrify (that was the wagon, not my driving).

But screw them, they were drunk, what did they know? Second corner came up and I braked aggressively, downshifted and flung the car hard to the right. My passenger, the girl I wanted to get cozy with, nearly wound up in my lap. Of course she was impressed. We apexed and I mashed the gas. That little wagon sure was scrappy. I revved it to seven thousand out of the corner and shifted back up. After roughly a minute, the protests wore down my resolve and I calmed my driving, a little.

I was saddened because I had been having fun playing Angeles Crest hero in France. But I perked right up when the road turned to a gravel-dirt mixture. We went into the corner and I cranked the wheel while lifting off of the gas pedal. That tiny front-wheel drive wagon oversteered nicely through the turn. Even packed with five occupants the rear came out. I was Ken Block.

Finally, we made it to the uncle’s house. When the doors opened, someone in the back seat climbed out, fell onto their hands and knees and vomited. Lightweight. In spite of my rallye-driving delusions of grandeur we made it safely and were happy to resume our partying.

A little while later Joe showed up in a violently angry mood and demanded to know how I got the keys and what possessed me to ‘steal’ the car. I refused to tell him because I was trying to protect the girl, who was dumbfoundedly looking on in fear because Joe and I were close to striking one another. We were right in each other’s face (more-or-less, he’s five inches taller) when his sister and our friends stepped in.

The fog eventually cleared. The following morning I got dressed in a nice suit and walked to the village square where the procession to the castle and ceremony would take place. I wished him luck and we made up. I never did get that girl. [kiWO]