A continuing tale of life in the boonies

No. 054

Travellers' tales, Part 2 (finally)

Several readers may have noticed that the column did not appear last week - this was entirely due to the recent heat-wave in Georgia. Friends from Atlanta scrambled gratefully under the New England cloud-cover and knocked at my door 24 hours earlier than expected, on the evening before deadline. Fiddles and mandolins, banjos and whisky won out over typewriters and correction fluid. (Nobody missed ya! - Typesetters)

Reasons For Coming To Farmington - Number 17, part 2: Esaias Baitel, a Jewish photographer, has penetrated a Parisian gang of Nazi motorcyclists. He has been joined by John Nolan, a Scottish dumbo, who had anticipated a quiet vacation, but who is now being held at gunpoint in a dimly lit street at 3 a.m. - this following a rapid panicky exit from a soiree thrown by Pineapple Eddie and the boys, after the arrival of a mysterious prosperous Egyptian.

Nolan has proved no friend of music, being prepared to let his banjo take the slug intended for read on:

Plainclothes cops, they turned out to be, yelling for papers. Esaias and I handed over our passports and these were closely examined, revealing that he was a journalist and I was a policeman, that in recent years we had been together in Portugal, the U.S.A. and Sweden, and that we had both entered France in the last month, though from different directions. We seemed to be more than we were, and our documents were handed back to us without a word.

We headed north across the city to Esaias's apartment near Porte de la Chappelle, to catch some sleep. Tension returned the next day, however, when Eddie and the gang failed, for the first time ever, to keep a rendezvous. Esaias still needed a few shots before he was ready to turn over his feature to a well-known German weekly magazine. He also felt he had to risk contacting the Israeli Secret Service, Mossad, the only organization in Paris that he was prepared to trust. He called the Israeli Embassy and received a stern announcement that only regular diplomatic staff were available but he was granted an immediate appointment. Downtown he went, leaving me alone wondering if, at any minute, one of those fruit bowl grenades might come bouncing in the window. I wished I played the string bass for the greater protection that instrument offered.

Three nervous hours later, the door flew open and in came Esaias to spill out the tale.

At the Israeli Embassy he had seriously impressed some diplomatic clerk at the foot of the totem pole by giving an account of his investigations to date, backed up with photographs. This information was all the more vital, given that in the early 1980s synagogues and Jewish schools in Paris were being bombed and vandalized in a well-coordinated campaign of anti-Semitism.

The clerk retreated from view, and re-emerged with instructions for Esaias to go to a certain cafe on the Rive Droit. Off went Esaias, got to the cafe at the appointed time and played pinball, as is his wont. After a few games he was joined by a stranger who quietly slipped him a car key to a blue Citroen, allegedly parked nearby.

"Instructions are on the seat," whispered the man in French. Esaias sidled out of the cafe, found the vehicle, let himself in and read the note telling him to drive to yet another cafe in a different area of the city. At this destination, he parked the Citroen and was beckoned out and into a second car by a man who subsequently proved to be a Mossad agent.

For the next hour they drove around the Peripherique, the motorway encircling Paris, with the man from Mossad giving Esaias the third degree. Everything he had to know! Parents, childhood, political views, who's the Scottish dumbo? Then he told Mr. Baitel that he was in grave danger (I could have told him that) and that an agent would be put in to work with him. That was on a Monday. On Tuesday, the newspaper headlines screamed about a daring assassination of a prominent Jewish businessman in broad daylight. The killer, who appeared to be an Arab, escaped on a motorcycle driven by one of Eddie's boys, from the description. On Wednesday, I quit town - I mean it wasn't my war.

A few weeks later Esaias published his article and left on the next plane to live in the Negev Desert and work for U.P.I. covering the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Lucky for him, surrounded by an army. In Glasgow, uncomfortably close to Paris, I felt vulnerable. I sold my house and shortly after was relaxing in the tranquil anonymity of Farmington, N.H.

Notes From The Underground: Tranquility, that was until the rise of a shadowy group known as Farmington Revolutionary Existentialist & Eristic Brotherhood Unacquainted with Decorum. These guerrillas, over the past two years, have struck out at several key installations, with the dump padlock and East Grove Street stop signs suffering direct hits. Just last week, two metal plates bearing the words "No parking this side" were captured from under the nose of the authorities, on Main Street, the purpose being, one assumes, to destabilize the Board of Selectmen and seize power. Though little is known regarding the political complexion of these freedom fighters, some observers say a clue to their aims may lie in their organizationís acronym, FREEBUD!

Bridges And Culverts: Relax Clark Hackett, we're talking about Tilcon! In this column, at the end of June, was a short piece regarding the twin culverts belonging to Tilcon, into which the Cocheco disappeared with loss of dignity. Tilcon now plans to replace these culverts with a "70-foot clear span bridge of steel and concrete." This is wonderful news, providing as it does, on completion (scheduled for spring '87) clear passage for canoeists, duck-hunters, Libyans, fishermen and whosoever chooses to use the river. Praise should be directed to Jonathan Oakes, manager.

Old Friend: Mr. Percy Day, whose name was often synonymous with Bridges and Culverts, has clawed his way back into the news by winning the top prize in the Puddledock Press Crossword Puzzle Competition for July.

Long John Silver News: Latest recruits are four anonymous ladies from the Farmington/Milton area and a sea-chantey singer from Loudon, not to mention the renowned journalist from Fosters Daily Democrat (Never heard of it! - Ed.) called John Bohn. A chantey will now be sung by the assembled Silvers, prior to the commencement of the agon (words will arrive in the mail, me hearties) after Mr. Lefty Lee's harmonica solo and immediately before Mr. Ellsworth Hancock's explosion. Thanks also to Gary and Jean Randall for a donation of 10 parrots...still a few needed, along with three padding pools and some old shovels. Everything returned on the day! Call 755-2405.

Other Hay Day News: Wonderful T-shirts designed by Joyce Nutter, depicting a maiden earnestly pursuing a gentleman along a ridge, with a pitch-fork, are on sale, all sizes being $5. A Hay Day must. A collector's item. Stop me and buy one. They are also on sale in Barratt's 5 & 10, with all money going towards the cost of putting on what is assuredly going to be the best Hay Day yet, if the gods grant a dry one.

Not Quite: Rain sure makes the weeds grow. I was tugging them out from between the petunias in front of the War Memorial at the Town Hall the other day when young Jeff Herring stopped to watch. His eyes rose up to the list of names on the bronze plate. "Is that all the people that's had the jail?" he asked.

Still More About Hay Day: Stuart Pease will be accepting entries for the bed race up until Aug. 17, but will probably listen to pleas after that date. Remember, kids, to bring down your dogs for the gymkhana, right on Main Street this year. Trophies and valuable bones for various attributes including the dog-owner look-a-like contest.

Aug. 11, 1986

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