There’s a Place in France: A Story That Never Made it into the Book by Rob Dinsmoor

“So, what happened in France? Why won’t you talk about it?” I asked Rick. as we were walking down Second Avenue toward a trendy health-food restaurant called Eats. We were on our way to lunch, and of course I was paying. Rick owned a compact laser video disk player and plenty of top-quality movies on laser disk, traveled a lot and ate at some of the finest restaurants in Manhattan, but he was always broke. After eating out with the actors for several years, I had just learned to double the price of any meal.
Between shows, I often lost touch with my fellow troupe members. Usually I focused on my day job, trying to get caught up so I wouldn’t get fired for ducking out so much, but Rick generally wound up in some interesting places.
“I’ll tell you over lunch,” he said. “Say, you mind if we cut across on Tenth Street? I have a little errand.”
We walked down 10th, a block of run-down brownstones filled to the brim with students and young, modestly paid professionals. We approached an alley way where a young, tough-looking Hispanic guy was standing. The Hispanic guy immediately recognized Rick. They patted each other on the back and exchanged “muchachos”, but the guy immediately scowled in my direction. “Hey, you a narc, man?”
“No, I’m an editor,” I said, but he continued to glare.
“No, Luis. Why you say something like that?” Rick said, looking hurt. “He’s an amigo! Vamosa!” To me, he said, “I’ll be right back,,” and disappeared into the alley. As I stood there, a young, blonde professional woman in a black leather skirt approached, sized me up with disdain, and continued walking.
Pretty soon, Rick was shaking hands with Luis (“Gracias, muchacho! Buenos Dias!”) and returning to me. “Sorry for the delay. I was out of grass.”
“Rick, I have to ask you. That’s not–?”
“No way, man. I’m not touching that stuff anymore. I don’t like what it did to me.”
Whatever. We continued to Eats. I ordered the steamed monkfish and Rick had angel hair pasta with asparagus and dried red tomatoes, and we both got yogurt shakes. As I was cutting my monkfish with my fork, I noticed that Rick was staring at me.
“What is it?” I asked.
He reached out and gently grabbed my hand for a moment. “Your hand is trembling,” he said accusingly. “Why is your hand trembling?”
He was right. It was shaking. Lately it had been shaking a lot and my handwriting had seriously deteriorated. Who had time to worry about stuff like this? “I don’t know. Lack of sleep. Stress. I don’t know.”
He frowned at me, as if I had just insulted him. “Well, maybe you should lay off the stress for a while.”
I knew what he was talking about. The trembling could have been due to the DTs. But life was too short to worry about stuff like that.
“So tell me about France.”
“Well, it’s a little embarrassing,” he said. “The trip started off well enough . . .” And so he began to describe the trip he took to London with Angie. They were staying with Roy, who was a mutual friend they’d met through a fellow actor, Matt—one of those guys who never seemed to have a job but always seemed to have money. Roy, a Brit who worked for IBM, had traveled to New York last summer. There he’d fallen in love with Angie (in the midst of one of her many separations with Tim) as well as developing a taste for recreational smack with Rick. I vaguely remembered meeting him once. Handsome. Engaging smile. A British voice with an edge to it, like the singers in “Squeeze.” Totally shallow.
Rick and Angie had flown overnight from New York one Wednesday night and landed in Heathrow Thursday morning, where Roy was there to greet them. He escorted them to his apartment so they could take naps, and then took them around to nice bars and restaurants. Rick and Angie paid for nothing. When Rick was asleep or out of the room, Roy and Angie made love. When Angie was asleep or out of the room, Rick and Roy snorted heroin.
“Things didn’t start going badly until we went to Paris,” Rick went on. “We took the (FERRY?) over and spent the entire day there, but when it came time to come home, guess what? Neither Angie nor I had our passports. We’d forgotten to pack them.
“Well, Roy just went ballistic. He said, ‘I can’t believe you two. You’re a couple of fucking children! Do I have to lead you around by the hand?’ And we tried to explain to him, you know, we’re Americans, we’re not all that used to crossing borders all the time. I mean, to us, going from London to Paris was like going to Boston or something, and we didn’t even think about passports.”
“So what did you do?”
“So, poor Roy. He parked us at a hotel, paid for a night’s stay, told us to stay put, and had to go all the way back to his apartment in London to retrieve our passports. Boy, was he pissed. Angie and I got bored at the hotel so we went into this sort of seedy part of town and found a bar there. I don’t remember everything else that happened next, except that Angie and I got into some kind of horrible argument–over whose fault it was we forgot the passports, I think–and then she left on her own. I stayed, hooked up with a bunch of people from Germany, and kept drinking.
“The next thing I remember is it’s the middle of the night and I’m trying to find my way back to the hotel. And, I mean, it’s a seedy part of town, I’m drunk, I don’t know Paris enough to know how safe I am, the streets are deserted, and I’m getting just a little nervous. And then, to top it all off, I suddenly realize I have to go. I mean, bad.”
“Couldn’t you just find an alley or doorway or something to piss in?”
“It’s not pissing I’m talking about. I mean, smack can be kind of constipating and when it wears off, it wears off big time. Every time I found a bar or restaurant or something, it was closed,” he said. Then he looked around, leaned closer, and said, “Promise me you’ll never breathe this to another soul . . .”
I shrugged and nodded, even though he was already telling me.
“ . . . I shit my pants. It was awful. I’ve never done that before. Then it took me another half an hour to find my way back to the hotel. When I got there, it was already coming down onto the tops of my shoes. Luckily I was wearing black jeans, you know, so even though it was seeping through the denim, it wasn’t that obvious. I had to walk really, really carefully past the concierge, who was staring at me the whole time. Then, he says, “Fait attention, monsieur! You are tracking something on the carpet!’”
“Oh my God! What did you do?”
“I turned my shoe up and looked at it, which of course dumped more of it on the carpet. Then I started screaming at him. ‘Merde! What the hell is this? There’s dog shit on my shoes! This is an outrage! Don’t you people ever clean your front steps?’ At that point, he became very apologetic. He offered to have the valet pick up my shoes for a free cleaning, but I declined.
“When I got into the room again, thank God Angie was in bed and on the verge of comatose, so I snuck into the bathroom with a fresh pair of jeans and washed myself down in the bathtub. I had to throw the other pair down the trash chute.”
“Thanks, man. You know, you didn’t have to get that graphic. I would’ve believed you.”
“I just wanted you to know why I’ve been a little reluctant to talk about it. And you have to promise me you won’t breathe a word of this to anyone else,” he said.
“Repeat it? Are you kidding? I’ll be happy if I can just purge it from my mind.”

In the weeks that followed, we struggled to get the show going for the dates we had reserved at the West Bank Theatre. The West Bank was a step up from The Dive. It was run by the Yale Drama School Mafia and generally ran smart and outrageously funny one-act plays and one-man shows.
Friday afternoon I had to show up for the dress rehearsal and figure out the lighting cues. It was my job. At 3:00, back at Biomedical Communications, the small medical publishing office where I worked, all of the important doors were closed—the President’s, the Editor’s, and the Production Manager’s—so I threw on my coat and walked past the receptionist. “Gotta see a man about a horse, Anna,” I said, mimicking my boss’s favorite line when inexplicably leaving early, and even did his hallmark little tap dance. Smiling warmly, I added, “Have a great weekend and see you Monday!”
Her mouth was still gaping as I closed the door and hurried down the hall, past the plastics importing firm and the methadone clinic with whom we shared the floor. Within five minutes, I had climbed to the Queensborough Station and was on an R train bound for Times Square.
The West Bank was just a couple of blocks off Times Square. When I entered, there were a half dozen people sitting around the bar. I gave a quick wave to the bartender as I rushed by and hurried downstairs, where the theatre was. As I descended into the dark and the smell of stale beer, I heard singing—which was not unusual, because the show included musical numbers.
I could tell right off this song wasn’t part of the show. The cast members were all singing, “There’s a place in France, where Rickie shit his pants . . . “
Rick was conducting the chorus.