Day 240: Get Bashed.

Illustration by Angéline Mélin

Last night, I took Aurelien on a truly authentic New York adventure: dinner in the Bronx. I figured since he's seen Long Island, is familiar with Brooklyn, knows Manhattan, who cares about Staten Island, the Bronx was the last stone left unturned. He needed a true Boogie Down Bronx experience and no, not like those embarrassing FIAT commercials where Jennifer Lopez drives around (a sound stage in L.A) acting like she's so "down", a real one with current locals. I made arrangements to have dinner with my second cousin Ginger and her husband Freddie in their neighborhood to show him another side of New York.

Although I speak to Ginger every week (thanks to the plethora of social networks), the last time I went up to the Bronx to have dinner with them was almost three years ago - with Lucien. Lucien, the pseudo-intellectual who did nothing short of insulting them while they opened their home to him. To this day, when I'm on the phone with Ginger, I can hear Freddie's comments in the background asking about that "knucklehead". So here we go into another fun flashback from relationships past...

Picture it. The Bronx. Holiday 2008.

Ginger and Freddie picked Lucien and I up at the Castle Hill stop off Subway line 6 in the Bronx to have dinner at their house. After introductions in the car, Lucien thought this was an opportune moment to teach them a new French expression: "Qu'est-ce que c'est que ce Bronx?" Not being a French speaker at the time, I didn't understand and Ginger was excited that the Bronx made it into a French expression and was eager to know the meaning. While I now know that the meaning is something to the effect of "What's this mess?" Lucien, on the other hand, offered a far less flattering explanation. Perhaps it was his lack of vocabulary in English where he wasn't able to yet "flower" his words, or he truly was a jerk because he had no qualms in telling them that the expression meant that the Bronx is a trashy, dirty, low-class enclave of immigrants. May I remind you that he was telling them this as we were pulling into their the Bronx. Ginger who always sees the good in people, cheerfully said, "Oh well maybe it's something that's just lost in translation." Freddie who wasn't so forgiving mumbled "I'll show you who gets lost".

In the words of Betty Davis, "Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy night."

We walked into their lovely home that Ginger, after two years of marriage, finally warmed up with her personal touches and with finesse de-bachelorized it. For about six months, every night Freddie came home from work there was a new "switch-out" where one day the apartment was finally null and void of his days as a single guy. His framed samurai swords and geometric mirrors were replaced with framed wedding photos and autumn in New York scenes, black Formica table tops were replaced with cherrywood tables fashioned with glowing candles and coffee table books, and the stark couch was reupholstered and sprinkled with decorative show pillows and throw blankets in jewel tones, making it a cozy home for newlyweds.

For dinner, Ginger made her signature organic turkey meatloaf, broccoli di rabe, stuffed tomatoes oreganata that we washed down with a 2000 Amarone. Freddie who was getting a terrible first impression of Lucien after he called his burrough a ghetto  still tried to warm up to him by asking him about Paris and telling him that he's always wanted to go there. This should have been a normal icebreaker; travel always keeps the conversation light, interesting and neutral. So you'd think...

Lucien's response to Freddie's dream of sightseeing in a the most romantic city in the world with his wife was that if he ever goes to Paris he will be bashed because of his lack of intellect. What. the. eff. I have never experienced a more awkward silence at a dinner - in my life. I didn't speak French at the time so I couldn't discreetly ask him why he would say such a ridiculous thing at a family dinner, so it went ignored and we moved on to talking about Paris' "exciting" metros which only frustrated Lucien more who so badly wanted to press his point. "No, you don't understand," Lucien said while pointing his finger at Freddie, "You will be bashed if you go to Paris!" Just as Freddie - who now put his fork down - was about to respond, Ginger stopped him and asked him to help her open another bottle of wine in the kitchen. As they were in the kitchen, I turned to Lucien and asked him what the hell is he was talking about because it didn't make any sense, reminding him that Ginger and Freddie weren't looking to go to poetry slams in Paris and shared with him an American expression that if you have nothing nice to say, shut the fuck up.

The rest of dinner was cumbersome with conversations ranging from Lucien telling Freddie that he doesn't agree with his "method" of having his family live in the adjacent home because that they are too close, hinted that we were all alcoholics because two bottles of wine were consumed over dinner (with him at the table, we needed it!) and at one point made a failed attempt at working The French Revolution into dinner conversation. It was a nightmare.

While Freddie was insulted by everything that came out of Lucien's mouth that night, the one thing that truly stands out three years later was him threatening that he will get bashed in Paris. He never fails to mention it when I see him. "All I was sayin' was that I wanna go to Paris, take some photos with my wife, see the Eiffel Tower, drink some wine and this guy is tellin' me that I'm gonna get bashed!" he explains in his thick Bronx accent, "What'd I do? Why do I have to get bashed? I'll send his ass down to East Tremont Avenue and let's see who gets bashed!"

Needless to say, last night's experience with the socially competent Aurelien didn't mirror the night with Lucien except when Freddie asked him about Paris and Aurelien said, "Well be careful, word on the street is that you might get bashed there." Ginger and Freddie who clearly understood that he was joking looked at each other and in unison said: "We love him". So do I.

Night in the Bronx: Success!


  1. Was Lucien the asshole:
    a) who thought your anus was available when you were having your period?
    b) who would put a piece of food next to your thigh to show you where it would end up?
    c) who wanted you to go jogging around the Eiffel tower because he thought your thighs were too big?
    d) all of the above

    My God! Who says things like that?!

    Way to go, Seb!:)

  2. I am so glad that this time around wasn't so awful! I just can't believe how someone could be so cruel! Your cousin and her husband sound lovely.

  3. @Duchess - Choice D! Woo hoo, you get a prize!!

    Just some additions: You forgot the guy who called my family low-class because we ate at 7pm, who thought my friends were dumb drunks and there are other goodies that I think I'll share with you guys. He was a cartoon character of an asshole! LOL!!

    @Dree - Thanks for commenting Dree! Yes, they are lovely..I'm lucky to have them in my life. As for Lucien...he is the big joke of the family..making fun of him NEVER gets old! So I guess we're the cruel ones now! :)

  4. I'm so glad that you're not w/ an asshole anymore!

    Hey and you forgot about Queens! If there's still time I recommend Jackson Heights.. Pio Pio on Northern Boulevard and the bars near it (Antiqua bar my fave) for a Latin American experience.. a walk down 74th to see little India and the posh little ave w/ a bunch of cafes and restaurants (37th Ave between 76th and 82nd streets).. walked up to 92nd if you want a real off-the-boat authentic Ecuadorian experience at Barzola (def order ceviche de camarones) and you can dance to cumbia on weekends for sure (but you will be the other gringos there, so expect attention!).

  5. @D - Me too! That guy sucked! But the stories are hilarious...I have a few more, he gets crazier..stay tuned!

    I did forget Queens!! Jackson Heights is such a great neighborhood! The next time he is in town, we'll go!!

    Thanks for these amazing suggestions!! You're awesome.